10 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
#3 out of 3
"My husband and I just returned from 2 wks in Jamaica; 5 days at Sandals Negril, 5 days at Couples Negril and 4 days at Tensing Pen. After the incredible reviews I read about TP, I have to say we were dissappointed! We got there early (because we had to check out of Couples at noon) so our room was not ready. They told us to wait in the lounge and they would have our room done right away and come get us. 1 1/2 hrs later I went to check and our room was ready, they had just forgotten that we were waiting. I had called the resort directly several months earlier to make our reservation and knew exactly which room we were getting, and was assured it had a kingsize bed. Well it didn't and none were available. Not a great start.
Our room was South Pillars, a lovely room but one night told us it wasn't the room for us. The ocean noise we were so looking forward to, unfortunately was a little too much. The map of the resort doesn't show it well but the ocean is on 3 sides of you in SP and quite loud in January. Also, the sun beats on your balcony all afternoon which makes for gorgeous sunset views, but it also makes your un-airconditioned room unbearably hot. No afternoon naps here. (The couple who moved in to SP after we moved out also moved out -- maybe its the time of year, who knows). Luckily we were able to move to Cove Cottage which is right behind South Pillars but entirely in the shade and, with the ocean on only one side, it's quieter too. The bed was comfy, the room clean, and no crawly bugs -- just lots of mosquitoes which eat my husband alive no matter how much spray he uses, and pretty much leave me alone (cuz he's so sweet, oh yeah I've heard it before).
The resort itself is beautiful. The colors of the water, the flowers, etc. We were really looking forward to snorkeling off the rocks at our leisure (and not having to sign up for an organized boat trip with 30 other people) but the snorkeling was pretty bad. The water is fairly deep and even tho you can see clearly to the bottom, there's not much to see. VERY dissappointing.
The food wasn't great. As a mattter of fact on our last night there we paid $18 for the "chef's special pasta" which is something my mother would have called goulash, with pasta, tomatoes, corn and whatever leftovers she had. No meat in it whatsoever, no cheese for the top, just boring, overcooked and (yep) very dissappointing. Lots of people have said that you can have the cook make you eggs or an omelette for your "continental breakfast". Well I don't believe anyone has said that that will cost you $7 a pop! Ricks is a fun place to watch the sunset and the cliff divers. Dinner wasn't bad and we really enjoyed the live music, but one night was enough. I think everyone in Negril was there!
With the exception of the office staff (one woman in particular who helped us change rooms, but I neglected to get her name), the people were mostly unfriendly. I may have figured out why, tho. TIPS. We didn't tip anyone. They don't make you pay for anything until check-out. You sign a receipt at the time, but it has no amounts or anything. Having come from 2 all-inclusives we were not carrying any $ and most of the time just lived in our swimsuits. I figured maybe when you check out you leave tips, like is the custom in some South Pacific resorts we've visited, but no, we were just presented with a list of our charges (until then we had no idea what we were paying for anything we ate or drank). Then we got in the cab and left. It wasn't until we were halfway home that we wondered outloud if they were miffed cuz we weren't tipping them. But you know you tip for service well done and we just didn't get it. I made it a point to tip one of the staff at an all-inclusive on the day we left because that person deserved it. Then they swore me to secrecy because they would get in trouble if management found out they accepted a tip. We're not cheapskates, but are actually quite generous when warranted. So now we know how TP works but because of the cold shoulder we received from most of the staff, we will not return to Tensing Pen.
If you go, tho, have Sheldon make you a Dirty Banana. Fantastic..."every time"."
- Travel date: Wed 24th of January 2007
Loved Tensing Pen
"We traveled to Jamaica over the Christmas holidays in 2005. We rented a car and traveled around the northern, southwestern and western portions of Jamaica, staying in Negril (at Tensing Pen and Rockhouse) and in Ocho Rios at Chrisanns. We'd never driven on the other side of the road before, so it was quite an experience. However, I would NOT suggest driving at night or driving up into the hills, off the beaten path (hire a driver!). We did not want to stay in any of the all-inclusive hotels as we wanted to experience more of the Jamaica feel, so we stayed in Negril (at Rockhouse Hotel and Tensing Pen Resort) and in Ocho Rios at Chrissans (3-4 miles east of Ocho). All three places we stayed were different.
Tensing Pen was probably my favorite. Though we didn't have air conditioning in our bungalow (we were in the Seagrape 1, on the bottom floor), we were fine without it. Since we are from Miami, FL, we are accustomed to the heat, so that was no problem, especially with the breezes that blew through the bungalow. Others not accustomed to the heat might be bothered by it, but there are other bungalows that offer air conditioning, so request one of those (and the bungalows go quickly so allow yourself plenty of time when making your reservations).
The food at Tensing Pen was the best we had during our entire stay in Jamaica. The cook would write the menu for the evening meal, and you signed up for it or ventured out to eat elsewhere. The ambiance was fantastic. On one of our evening meals, we ate with the family who owned the hotel--very nice and interesting people. The employees at Tensing Pen were fabulous. It's been a year since I've been, so I cannot remember their names, but everyone from the man who managed the property (and likes fishing the cliff) to the cook to the masseuse were exceedingly friendly. We thoroughly loved those guys and enjoyed just hanging around and talking to them. And if you are sweet and tip the cook, she will go out of her way to pack up lunches for you to take out on your daily adventures, etc. If you want great food, great people, and great views, youâll love Tensing Pen. I would say it is one of the best places we have stayed and weâve been to a dozen different countries and multiple places within those countries.
Rockhouse was also a beautiful place. It wasn't as friendly an atmosphere as Tensing Pen since it had more of a hotel ambiance (though not that of a big or all-inclusive hotel). The villas were spectacular. We were in one at the end of a cove, so it was secluded and removed from the bulk of the activity. It didn't get as much of a breeze as some of the other villas right on the outcroppings of the cliffs, but it suited our need for privacy quite well. The hotel served good food (not anywhere near as good as Tensing Pen), but it was overpriced. The best service we had was at the pool bar, not because we liked hanging out at the pool (we typically donât), but because the cook/bartender was great company (and made some killer drinks!), the food was pretty good and decently priced, and the ambiance was lovely.
I would highly recommend that anyone staying at Rockhouse snorkel the cliffs right below them. We saw more color and more activity at the base of the cliffs right by our bungalow and around the hotel than we did when we went out sailing and snorkeling the reefs. In fact, we even got to watch a stonefish and needlefish fight (the needlefish lost and was subsequently eatenâNational Geographic Channel without even turning on a TV!). The coral and anemones are brilliant greens and blues and reds. What a healthy reef system--all right below your feet! You just walk down the corral rock stairs cut into the cliff, right into the water. (We took our own snorkel gear with us, but I'm sure the hotel offers some for rent.).
Chrisanns in Ocho Rios is more like an apartment complex. The locals own these apartments, I believe, and rent them out for part of the year. I forget the apartment number of our rental, but it was a studio apartment (it was just me and my husband), the first apartment located to the right of the check-in desk (as you face the ocean). We met some of the locals and got some great tips on where to go and where to eat. There is no restaurant at Chrisanns (itâs an apartment complex, not a hotel), but there is a fantastic little restaurant right across the street and a dynamite (expensive and worth it!) Italian restaurant less than a mile west of the restaurant. Itâs the only one around, so you can ask for the Italian restaurant near Chrisanns and get the name of it. Absolutely fabulous food and wine! And a very friendly atmosphere!
The employees at Chrisanns were all very nice and the accommodations were comfortable and quaint. One of our favorite activities at Chrisanns was sitting out by the end of the pool, facing the ocean after a long day gallivanting around the countryside (we arenât beach/pool/sun worshippers, preferring to spend our time actively doing things during the day rather than laying in the sun doing nothing). If you are loglitz and activity, donât stay here. If you are looking for nightlife, donât stay here. Go to an all-inclusive for that. If you want a local feel, a laid-back atmosphere, and some privacy, then check out Chrisanns. Also, if you set up a tour (e.g., a dive trip or zip line or tubing adventure, etc.), get a driver to pick you up. Itâs a minimal charge and they all know where Chrisanns is located.
oking for Enjoy!"
- Travel date: Thu 4th of January 2007
fantastic new year break
"Beautiful, romantic, cosy resort. High quality service and fantastic location. Really good value for money. Only request would be for air con but it's still fresh with fans so not a problem. Enjoyed the huge breakfasts, which are included and the dinners by the sea. All in all a truly wonderful place to stay."
- Travel date: Sun 31st of December 2006
"Tensing Pen was amazing. My friend and I traveled together - we are both 20-something women. We stayed at one of the cheaper houses with a porch on the front but no view of the water, and we felt very secluded (in a good way!). The main lodge is gorgeous and we would often sit there for hours in the morning, drinking coffee and eating the delicious continental breakfast while watching the waves crash on the cliffs. We would then proceed on to a long day of reading and lounging. There were lounge chairs everywhere, and most were near just one or two other lounge chairs so it was a little more private than a mass pool or beach scene. There were some shaded huts where you could relax if you had too much sun. The bridge over the water was a little scary at first but fun to jump off of. They had mats that you could use in the water, which were fantastic for napping on the water or playing and splashing. The dinners they offered were delicious but seemed a bit pricey, and you were forced to socialize with other people at the resort, which is great if you like that small talk and meeting a wide variety of people but not great if you want to be alone or are not a people person and have trouble connecting with strangers. The one major downside was lunch - there was no lunch available on the property, so we had to wander to find a bite to eat (I might recommend bringing lots of snacks for lunches if you don't want to leave the property - we found that breakfast was very filling and we didn't need much for lunch, just enough to hold us over until dinnertime). Luckily, Rick's Cafe was just a short walk down the road and they had delicious (but again, slighly overpriced) food, along with many many drink options. Rick's was a great place with live music and large crowds watching the cliff divers almost every evening, as well. I would definitely recommend Tensing Pen to anyone looking for a romantic getaway or just a getaway from life in general - if you have a large family, try to stay at the big house, which has sleeping for six and has probably the best view of the whole property. Staying there in off-peak season made the prices VERY reasonable and I would love to go back."
- Travel date: Sun 31st of December 2006
Tensing Pen Review
"Stayed at both Tensing Pen and Rockhouse over 9 days during the Thanksgiving holiday. I'll review Tensing Pen here and submit a separate review for Rockhouse..
First: Tensing Pen. LOVED IT. This place is a quiet oasis for people who are looking for peace and tranquility. The staff was incredibly nice, including being genuinely concerned when we had a bout of food poisoning after eating at 3 Dives (more on that in a minute). We stayed in Sea Grape II, which I thought was very nice. The place just has a warm, friendly feeling to it. Most of the people there during our stay were repeat visitors. That should tell you something. I think we may have been the
only "newbies" there. The food was consistently good and the service very good. (Thanks, Nevarda and Sheldon. Sheldon the bartender is extremely friendly and very good with a blender!.) They have just put in a small pool, which is very cold, but which we enjoyed. The main house where we ate and the room we had, and the grounds all have a luxurious feel to
The drawbacks: (1) It would be great if they offered a lunch service (nothing fancy, but just the option.) We ventured out to lunch at 3 Dives on our first full day and soon after became violently ill (this lasted about 4-5 days for me, 3 for my husband). I've heard many people say 3 Dives is excellent, but after sharing our story with some folks, many did admit to us that it has gone downhill. A chef later told us he would never eat there. (2) Air conditioning would be a definite plus. While most of the
days we were there, we had sufficient breezes to keep us comfortable, we did get very hot a couple of times. I don't know how you would be able to stand it, particularly in the summer/early fall months. I understand they may be adding A/C to the rooms at some point. (3) It would be nice to have the option of having TV, particularly when you are stuck in
the room due to a long rain shower (or because you had food poisoning!) Not a big deal to us, but it would have been nice to have the option. (4) There was a baby there while we stayed there and it would have been nice not to have crying children breaking the peaceful idyll. A strict no-children policy would be great but I could see how some people would not want that.
In short, I really loved Tensing Pen. My husband also liked it, but he seemed to enjoy Rockhouse better. We would definitely return to Tensing Pen."
- Travel date: Thu 28th of December 2006
So beautiful and peaceful
"All the reviews are true, well except the couple bad reviews. My boyfriend and I stayed there for a week in November and it went by way too fast. The check-in was very simple and fast and afterward you get a tour of the grounds while the staff takes your luggage to your room.
We stayed in the Pillar room and it was so beautiful with fantastic views. This room does not have air conditioning, which wasn't as bad as I thought it might be, in fact it was quite cool at night. I don't know how hot it would be during the summer but I am glad we went during the down time and fall. Don't get me wrong it is very hot but not unbearable and the ocean breeze, floor fan and ceiling fan help. The shower in this room is downstairs and outside and very cool. However, if someone walks up to your door they can see directly into the shower but this was not a problem for me and it probably won't be for anyone else.
The grounds are just like the pictures and there are a lot of places to go snorkling or swimming. There is also a lot of places to jump from the cliffs, which I definitely recommend. It is a little scary at first but once you do it you will want to do it over and over again, well at least I did. The food is quite expensive ($25 per person) but very good and it is a 3 course meal. Usually a small salad, the main course, and a piece of cake. The only downside was the size of the portions. They were not that big. Afterward or before you dine there, which takes place at 7:30 p.m., you can enjoy a drink from the bar. The bartender, Sheldon, is in my opinion the best bartender ever. He is so friendly and outgoing and just the best. You can go to the dining area before 11am and get a free breakfast, which we didn't do too often but you can get an omelet made for you and there is also coffee, tea, fresh fruit, orange juice and ceareal.
If you want to get some provisions for your stay you can just go across the street to the local store and get some snack foods and beer or soda. When I went with my boyfriend we were not approached to buy drugs or anything like that but when he went by himself he was approached a couple of times in one trip. If you are not interested then just tell them you don't smoke and they should leave you alone, well for this trip.
We didn't really leave the hotel a lot because I really didn't like to be hasseled and who would need to leave this place! However, we did go to Pirates Cave, which is a tourist spot but it was quite good food and it is where scenes from Papillon and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea were filmed which is the main reason I wanted to go. Unfortunately, the cliffs weren't as stunning as i was hoping. Although, if you do go here you might want to wear your bathing suit under your clothes and if you have snorkling gear bring it too because you can walk down into the cave and down a ladder and go swimming. We didn't know that it was there so all I got to do was take pictures. We also went to Norma's at Seasplash with a couple we met at TP and it was really good food. I had the biggest pork chop ever! It is quite romantic as well as we got to sit at a table on the beach. When we went there was a local reggae band and they played inside as well as on the beach in front of our table. They played an awesome rendition of Lady in Red. For the most part a trip to the center of town should cost between $300-$500 jamaican dollars. The jamaican dollar is $65 per one US dollar. You should exchange your money if you so choose in town and your cab driver can stop there for you prior to arriving at the hotel. If you don't have airport transfer to and from I would recommend Dudley of Big Ship Transportation, [--]. He is very nice and informative and it is about $60 for two people each way.
The ride is about and hour and a half but you get to see a lot on the way there. It is really quite a shock because it is such a poor country. We found out that about 40% of the people there are unemployed. Anyway, they drive very fast there and pass a lot of people and honk a fair amount. Although they drive fast they seem very safe because they have been doing it a long time and the hour and a half that it takes doesn't seem long at all.
To finish this up if you are planning on going to TP you are making an great decision. There are a few bad things, well they aren't horrible but not great. There are dogs across the street that bark, a lot, but like I said it is not horrible. If you don't like wildlife then you may not want to go here. There are a lot of lizards and other tropical animals running around but what do you expect. There were never any in our room, well not that we know of. Another bad thing was that our driver left us a message confirming our ride back to the airport and we didn't get it and we asked to be woken up at 8 am the day we left, as there are no alarm clocks and the cell phone alarm wouldn't wake a baby, but we never received it. Thankfully I woke up in time for our 9 o'clock ride. They airport likes you to be there 2 hours before you plane takes off. Oh and if you are still reading this you should definately go on Famous Vincent's Glass Bottom Boat ride. There are quite a few glass bottom boat tours available and they will try to pick you up as you are laying on the cliffs as they just pull up and ask but you can also have the front desk call him to come pick you up. We weren't going to go until we found out that he takes you out to a reef and you get to go snorkling for $20 per person and believe me it is worth it. So much life there and don't forget the underwater camera!
Ok to end this these are some vital things that you might want to bring:
Underwater camera or two, sunscreen of course, bugspray and I can't express that enough, and an alarm clock.
Don't worry about beach towels as they are provided to you and are in your room when you get there. Oh and one last thing they have added a swimming pool so you don't have to do all your swimming in the ocean."
- Travel date: Fri 1st of December 2006
A rare find for Jamaica
"After three days at an all-inclusive that was little more than a holiday inn with free booze (Couples, Swept Away), we arrived at TP. It was our 4th day of a 10 day vacation and we were already ready to come home. We were tired of dealing with disappointing rooms, incompetent management, and pushy employees demanding tips. Tensing Pen changed all that.
Our check in was prompt, professional, and with little hassle. After a brief tour of the grounds, we were helped to our room by the groundskeeper/porter/general flunky named âWinstonâ. We affectionately referred to him as âthe hardest working man in the resort businessâ for the remainder of our time at TP. He was the first of many positive customer service experiences at TP. It was nice to have someone do their job and be happy to receive a gratuity as opposed to doing the minimums and saying âgive me a tipâ. The remainder of service in TP ranged from better than average to excellent. We were particularly fond of Winston and Derrick the security guard.
Meals were pricy ($25.00 +/- but not so much in comparison to other restaurants in the area) but very good and served with the great service already mentioned. The kitchen was available to us but we did not take advantage of this service. By no means is TP your destination if you are traveling to experience white-glove service, but it was more than adequate for hotel food.
Our room was clean. We had the Rock Cottage II. Selecting the right room is the difference I would guess between loving TP and thinking it was just good. The air conditioner worked well. The view was stunning. The furniture was more than adequate. Hot and cold water worked fine. It was the nicest room we stayed occupied in Jamaica. The room had some bugs- some small, some large enough to help us with our luggage. But, hey, itâs the tropics. This happens. The bugs seemed in no way to be an infestation.
The grounds are well groomed, beautiful, safe and clean. The stars at night and wildlife are amazing.
The downsides of Tensing Pen-
1.The rooms have no television, no phone, etc. This is a plus for some (me) and negative for others (my wife).
2.Some rooms lack air conditioning.
3.The exchange rate offered at the Hotel Desk is crappy. I suggest changing in town at the cambio or even better at the Western Union desk (not the grocery office) at the Value Master in town.
4.The property was very peaceful. However, our last night, small children arrived. They are not so peaceful. There is no way to seclude the children (their noise) from the other guests. Our view of TP would not be so keen had we listened to wee ones scream our entire stay.
Tensing Pen is by far the best part of my Jamaican experience.
A note on the small store across the street- There is a small store across the street that is an excellent source for snacks, Red Stripe, and other quicky-mart style needs. Unfortunately, it is not free from young male Jamaicans who make their living selling things- things like marijuana, mushrooms, and cocaine. If you are looking for these things, worry not about finding these guys, theyâll approach you no less than twice on your trip to the store. The exchange rate at the store is also not great. Once inside you are fairly safe and the staff is friendly. Shirt and shoes are required for service.
A note on getting around- Jamaica lacks cabs as you know them. A ride to and from the town center round-trip should cost you between five and ten US dollars. If you are Jamaican, the same trip would cost you between $100J and $200J ($1.50 to $3.00). You are a foreigner. You are a target. Expect to be exploited. The hotel staff, security guards, and others will not help you negotiate (meaningfully). Do not be hesitant to tell a cabbie that youâll âjust get another cabâ- their rates will get reasonable quickly. I recommend getting a cab for even short trips such as Ricks (sortaâ worth seeing), LTU (so-so, go to see real Jamaicans doing what Jamaicans do best at noon on a workday- smoking pot), or Three Dives (great food, inexpensive, authentic) if you want to avoid being hassled and run over. I would not want to walk the road at night.
Others have suggested that you take mosquito repellant and flashlights- we concur."
- Travel date: Sun 26th of November 2006
beauty NOTHING but peace
"My wife and I spent half of our honeymoon at Tensing Pen. We had never been out of the u.s. before. With all of the beautiful pictures of tensing pen our expectations were sky high.
I was neither impressed or disappointed. We are in our mid 20's and after two days we were ready to move on. There is no better place for relaxation--I wouldn't doubt it a second. It is everything as advertised. I went in thinking that maybe the pictures on the website are of just the few good spots but the whole thing is absolutely gorgeous. The room was bland but perfect for the relaxation. We stayed in the cove cottage which we think was the best because of the view and the sound of the waves really puts you to sleep. There is NOTHING to do there except for relax. We rented snorkling gear from TP for like 8 dollars (though I don't think we were ever really charged) and spent one day floating in and out of the coves which was nice however another couple stopped us in the water and asked if they could have a turn as apparently it was the only set of snorkling gear TP had. Everyone was really nice, service a little slow by US and the food was pretty good, but only got two choices which didn't offer much variety.
Here's the overall scoop...
GOOD-absolutely beautiful grounds, quiet (though we could here people across the street music all night), relaxing, like having a resort all to yourself. A shack across the street called Shark's was the best food we had in 9 days of jamaica---not for people afraid of germs.
BAD-we had to spend extra money we weren't planning to because we got bored. We saw one or two other couples there but no one to talk to, no tv, no phone, no pool, (they were putting one in while we were there), pushy locals across the street, $8 dollar cab ride to go anywhere.
Bottom line---if you are just going to relax, and I mean strictly relax, then TP is for you. If you want a little more excitement or human contact---check out rock house."
- Travel date: Sat 11th of November 2006
Tensing Pen - The place to relax
"My wife and I spent our honeymoon at Tensing Pen after finding it through this website. And all the great reviews are true - Tensing Pen is paradise.
Here our assessment of our 9 day stay:
- Wonderful resort with only 17 rooms. Hence privacy & relaxation guaranteed
- Food: Breakfast and Dinner was fantastic, always freshly prepared by the local cooks. We mainly ate the 3-course dinner in the evening, each of them being very delicious
- Staff: Very friendly & accomodating. Whenever we needed some assistance or wanted to arrange an activity, one of the staff was going out of their way to help us to our utmost satisfaction.
- Ocean: it is as great as it looks like on the pics:-) TP provides basic snorkelling gear and there is plenty to see when you jump off the bridge
Not so great things:
- If you go to the Carribean for the first time, be aware that there will be plenty of wildlife around (lizzards, bugs etc)..Some people like it less than others
- Dogs: We never heard them, since we were next to ocean, but when you are at some rooms closer to street, this might affect your stay
- We stayed in the South Pillar, right next to the bidge. The Pillars are very private. The cove cottage is in the middle of the resort, so people are passing by a little more frequent. The rock cottages seemed very private & nice, but are not directly next to the water
- If you are on a budget, buy your drinks/food at the supermarket and store them in your fridge (every rooms comes with one)
- We booked a honeymoon package which included the transportation from the airport (Montego Bay) to the resort. The ride takes about 1.5 h & can be booked though the hotel for ~75$. Makes a lot of sense when being in Jamaica for the first time and Melvin (our driver) was fun to talk to.
- Don't miss having Jerk Chicken @ the 3 Dives restaurant. This is a local outside dinner place...Very basic set-up, but the best jerk chicken we ate. 3 Dives is a 10 min walk.
- Negotiate your cab fares before entering the car
- Snorkelling tour with Vincent (can be arranged w/ TP) is fanastic"
- Travel date: Sat 28th of October 2006
Absolutely perfect in every way
"My fiance and I stayed for 5 days in January. We found Tensing Pen thanks to Trip Advisor. We were pleasantly surprised with everything there. The rooms, all individual grass roofed, cottages were fantastic, private, and romantic. The staff were friendly and helpful. We watched the sunset over the gulf/ocean every evening from our private porch (furnished with a hurricane lamp).
We ate dinner every night at the restaurant. You have no choice of your dinner as the menu is posted each morning. The food was fabulous and the setting is beautiful. The meals were very reasonable. It was approximately $23 per person for a 3 course meal. Breakfast was included and was also good.
For rest and relaxation, Tensing Pen can't be beat. If you are looking for beach and action, it is not for you. Also, the rooms are not air conditioned which might be tough in the warmer months."
- Travel date: Sun 10th of September 2006