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Tensing Pen Resort
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Reviewed 15 October 2013

My husband and I had a marvelous time this past week! The highlights:

Rooms:
We spent three nights in Pine Pillar and two in Rock Cottage II. Pine Pillar was way on the south end. It's like a tree house - very fun! Spacious inside with a huge deck. Shower is down a flight of stairs and underneath the deck. Pine Pillar is not air-conditioned but there are two ceiling fans and a large stand fan. We knew going in there was no A/C and also knew it would still be pretty warm - overnight lows are still in the mid-70s. I didn't think it was too bad but my husband had a tough time getting comfortable enough to sleep the first night, so we just asked if any A/C'd rooms were available. The office staff was very accommodating and helpful and let us switch - the difference in room rate was $6/night, so no bigs. Rock Cottage II is on the north end of the property with an equally gorgeous view. It has very effective AC and a regular shower inside. Also very spacious - there is a separate dressing room with shelves and hanging rod; it was nice to have room to keep the suitcases out of traffic.

Lounging:
There are many little "patios" with two lounge chairs and an umbrella spread around. Pool has a dozen or so chairs around it. Two sets of hammocks. Never had any trouble finding a place to hang - no rushing out first thing in the morning to try to save chairs like at the huge chain resorts. Chairs have nice cushions and are very comfortable.

Swimming:
Pool is smallish but clean. It used to be an infinity pool but on our first day, the "infinity" wasn't being used and on our third day, the pool was closed for several hours while some workers filled in in the infinity edge with stones. No bigs. You can get in the ocean by jumping off the bridge or one of several cliff platforms, or just climbing down a ladder. There are a couple of stairs doing down into the water in a few spots but there were a lot of sea urchins on them. Have to watch your step. Water is clear and warm and completely delightful. There are several floaties for everyone's use.

Food:
YUM. Continental (included) breakfast - 3 different kinds of bread (toaster is put out for your use), PB & J, juice, yogurt, 2 kinds of cereal, 3 kinds of fruit. Coffee and tea. You may also order omelets, French toast, etc. Average about $8. Lunch - burgers/sandwiches/salads. Average $8-10. Both the b'fasts and lunches were good. Dinner entrees were GREAT and very reasonable - I think the lobster tail was the most expensive entrée at $26. Most entrees were $18-20. Wonderful fresh seafood - conch, shrimp, snapper - all perfectly cooked, creative, and TASTY. Don't be in a hurry - this is Jamaica - no one moves too fast and they are not cooking Anything ahead of time. You will have a delish, freshly prepared meal, with plenty of time to enjoy a few drinks while you are waiting for it.

Drinks:
Cocktails were a little spendy - about $10 for a juice-glass size but Red Stripes were $3 and ice cold. :)

Staff:
Other reviewers complained the staff wasn't friendly. Those people are wrong or overly sensitive ;-) Every single person we encountered was friendly and helpful - but they are not annoying about it. We thought they were trying to not be intrusive - but if you strike up a conversation they are more than willing to chat you up.

Dogs:
The three Rhodesian Ridgebacks are the sweetest, most mellow dogs ever. I never heard a peep out of any of them. They wander around some and can be found napping in their spots. They walk around the lodge at meal times but if you don't pay attention to them, they will pay no attention to you. I love dogs and went out of my way to make friends with them, so yes, I ended up giving them my bacon a few times but they aren't beggars.

Atmosphere:
Quiet, peaceful, restful, relaxing. This is slow season but I think the hotel was nearly full most of the time we were there and we just felt like we were practically the only ones there until meal times, when everyone congregates in the lodge. The coves make for great crashing waves and you can actually hear them as you are falling asleep. It's very chill and laid back.

Massage:
I got a deep tissue massage from Maxine. It was $85 for an hour. It was lovely. The massage hut is on the far north end of the property. Can't beat the ocean breeze and crashing waves while getting a rub down. :)

Minor minuses:
- the shower at Pine Pillar (outside) had ants. Like, a lot of ants. They crawled out of the faucet hole and up the wall every time you turned the water on. I just turned around and tried not to think about it. But if you don't camp - you might not like the outside shower scene.

- gift shop doesn't have snacks. There are bottled drinks to buy, but we were looking for chips or something. There is a small grocery store down the road where we found some snacks (and six packs of Red Stripe for our mini-fridge), so no bigs.

- We got a little hassle from a crazy dude when we were walking to Rick's one day at lunch time. We passed him and he grabbed my hand, acting like he was just saying hello, but then he tried put a yarn bracelet on me so I yanked my arm away, said, "no thank you" and kept walking. He got mad and came back after us saying we disrespected him and he was just trying to tell us about Jamaica. We ended up giving him a few dollars and got two bracelets. Watch out for crazy Russell!

-Along that same line - all the hotels on West End Road are gated with guards. We went to Ivan's at Catcha Falling Star, literally two doors down, one night for dinner. It was dark when we were leaving to go back Tensing Pen and the guard asked us how far we were going - implying he didn't think we should be walking far in the dark.
Unexpected plusses:
- other reviewers complained incessantly about bugs, so we brought citronella candles and bug spray and lotion. I believe we saw exactly one mosquito the whole week. Did not need the netting on the beds, this time of the year anyway.

Overall:
Wonderful. Peaceful. Good value. Gorgeous. Do it!

  • Stayed: October 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
8  Thank HilaryFox12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 October 2013

First, I was so tempted to give a “bad” review because I don’t want this secret paradise to be overrun with visitors (I feel blessed that we found it, but would love to keep it our little secret)!! Too bad the place is so unbelievable that I cannot keep my excitement held inside!! Now I will put a very small disclaimer right at the beginning… this place is not for everyone (I just read a review from someone that left the day we arrived and my jaw hung open the entire time because I was shocked at their thoughts on the place and even more by their thoughts on the staff, but hey that is why we have this website to see so many different perspectives and I respect that)!!! Now for the reason your reading, the review…

The Staff

I am starting with this because I feel like the staff really sets this place apart from just an amazing property in Negril, Jamaica! From the time we arrived until the moment we departed, I felt like we were visiting family not at an amazing hotel! The staff size is very limited which we loved because it allowed us to actually get to know and interact with each one of them (they even talked to our son back at home via Facetime which he thought was awesome)! Razor Blade was a definite highlight, he brightened our afternoons with his smile and humor! I will always remember his favorite phrase, “RESPECT, worth more than money in your pocket”!! Camilla in the front office was so friendly and accommodating with our few requests before and after arrival. She coordinated our private 10th Anniversary dinner in the hammock hut and made sure to check with us that everything lived up to our expectations (which they exceeded in every way). I must say that they could charge for internet and even phone calls home, but they offer it free of charge. “The Lifeguard”, Rasine, is really like a “jack of all trades” guy around the property. He set up our Anniversary Dinner, he would walk with us to collect our stuff when we went snorkeling so we could be free to come up at a different spot without having to retrace our steps to gather our things, he helped clean up, he entertained us with his skills flipping off the bridge, he helped with our bags, the list goes on and on… he basically did anything to make our stay more comfortable and made sure we didn’t have to exude any energy that we did not want to ;) Owen is the daytime bartender and also was really friendly and accommodating, he is just not as talkative a Razor. There is a security guard 24 hrs a day that mans the gate so you feel safe leaving your doors open (we also felt safe walking down the street to explore other places so don’t be scared to leave just because there is a locked gate). The housekeeping staff was wonderful and very friendly as well! Taneisha was so sweet!!

The Grounds

I am sure you have seen the pictures already, but this is one of the few places we have been that I actually feel the pictures do not do the beauty of the place justice! I want to clarify that the pool was resurfaced (it was finished on September 28th) and it looks beautiful, but the ocean is a much better “swimming pool” and almost as crystal clear. There are beautiful and colorful flowers throughout the resort that made me smile on my morning walks with Beezy (the puppy of Tensing and Shuga) to my favorite cove for a quiet moment enjoying a cup of coffee. The snorkeling was beautiful and so convenient (just jump off a cliff and swim till you decide to climb out at one of the many sets of steps located throughout the property). Once we had our morning swim in, we would rinse off at the seaside showers and choose a lounger to relax and soak in some sunshine. We loved that we were there during “the slow season” because we could go hours without seeing anyone, but we also like to interact with the other guests as well so we would relax alone in the morning and then seek out others to hang out with about midday. The bridge is a must jump spot (if you don’t do it, I think you will regret it)! The water is so clear, you can see any sea-life that might be below you. The only things that I saw of concern in the water was the occasional jelly fish and sea urchins along the rocks that you should beware of near the steps (my husband got one in his foot, but it just took a minor “surgery” with tweezers to make him good as new). The gift shop had everything you could want to commemorate such a great trip and Carlene was very helpful!

The Room

We stayed in the Pine Pillar Suite and I immediately fell in love! Although it is a thatched hut with no A/C, it has a rustic yet sophisticated feel. The room was much larger than I imagined and had plenty of room for storage. The bed was so comfortable and the bug net kept us safe from mosquitos at night (I am highly allergic and only got a few bites throughout the stay). The bathroom was definitely nicer than I imagined and large. The shower was located outside under the cottage and the view was breathtaking. The balcony extends across the entire length of the cottage and is large enough for two lounge chairs, a table with chairs, and a large comfy chair. There were two private verandahs by the sea that we loved to relax at in the morning. I will admit that my husband was hot the first night, but after that he adjusted and didn’t complain the rest of the trip (there are two hanging fans and a floor fan to help circulate the air and the breeze off the ocean is so calming). I highly recommend this room for a special occasion or a first time trip, but we will probably explore the other cottages next time. We went through the Long House because we met some cool people from Atlanta that were staying there and if you are traveling with a group, it is definitely the way to go (A/C in the bedrooms and an open air sitting room/kitchen). We also liked the Cove Cottage layout and view, but again no A/C.

The Food

I will review The Lodge separately, but wanted to briefly mention it here too. The food was AMAZING!! We had a lot of different offering for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and we did not find one thing we didn’t enjoy! From the breakfast smoothie (I think I miss this the most of all the foods) to the lobster, it was all fresh and delicious! Also, the continental breakfast had plenty of offerings, we just liked to try different menu items too. The coffee was so yummy we both had several cups a day (and my husband is not a big coffee drinker)!

If you are looking to escape reality for a few days and travel to paradise, this is THE PLACE!! We can’t wait to go back and can see exactly why people return year after year (we hope to be one of them)!

Room Tip: I think you would be happy with any room on the property, they are all unique!
  • Stayed: September 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
5  Thank Jen T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 September 2013

My Husband and I stayed in Garden B for two weeks. The property is gorgeous, here are my thoughts:

Property
Amazing! Cliffs overlooking the ocean in the most beautiful part of Jamaica that I saw. It's basically set up with little hut-rooms throughout a jungle. Everything feels very private. The property is extremely clean and little pockets of comfy lawn chairs are everywhere. There are also four hammocks (2 pairs of two) that were super comfy. The pool area is in a lovely location and while the pool had many rust stains (it should really be resurfaced) it was always clean and a fun spot to hang out in. Be prepared for crabs and little bugs and lizards everywhere. The three dogs on the property are super friendly and they made our stay so much more fun!

Room
Oh man, were we glad we had AC! We're from Southern California and not used to humidity so this was a life saver. The AC always worked super well. Wifi was super-spotty and only ended up working on our laptop and iPad, never on the iphones because the signal was too weak. If you see a wifi name that you get signal for that doesn't look like it belongs to Tensing Pen - ask the front office for the password. They have it and that's what we used the whole time ;) The bathroom's door was only wooden slats so you could hear absolutely everything going on in there. I hope you know your travel partner well and feel comfortable with that, lol. The room was small but fine. Bed was relatively hard and 3/4 pillows were lumpy. No soft bedding, just a sheet and stiff, thin, blanket. We would have loved it if the housekeepers had kept the front doors closed while they cleaned because they let in a lot of mosquitos and flies that way and we had to go on a killing spree each night before bed. There is no net over Garden B's bed. The bathroom windows don't have any glass, just screens so ants got in but nothing we couldn't handle. The bathroom had a little mold in the shower which I think they should work on as some people are very sensitive to that but I think that's just part of being by the ocean.

Location
Negril is a poor town and Tensing Pen is in the heart of the more rural part. We were there in slow season (September) so perhaps it seems less lonely at other times of the year but many times we felt like the only tourist in Negril. There are a few so-so food places nearby and plenty just a short cab ride away.

Staff
This is where everything about this place goes wrong. With the exception of Mike, the Lifeguard (can't remember his name), a younger guy at breakfast sometimes, and Razor Blade, the staff was completely unfriendly. When we check in, we were not given any overview of the property. They did not tell us about the ocean/pool rafts and toys that we could use, they didn't tell us that there were several ladders off the cliffs to get into the ocean, they didn't tell us that they offered private dinners in the hammock hut...nothing. Someone took our bags, walked us through the jungle that is Tensing Pen, and left us at our room. We weren't even sure how to get back to the front from where our room was. A little time spent orienting a new guest would have been wonderful. We also had problems with the wifi and asked the front desk about it. They did call someone to come out on Monday but they didn't seem like they cared. I was given bedding with holes in the sheets one day and when I asked that they be changed the next day because they were full of holes, I received an eye roll and a "fine." The staff wasn't mean per say, just really not friendly at all. Some would say hello as they walked the grounds but the front office staff was always cold. So much so that we avoided asking any questions even though we wanted to for fear of bothering them.

Restaurant
Food was pretty good. The jerk chicken and jerk chicken pasta at dinner were delish and the grilled cheese for lunch was pretty good. Stay away from the spring rolls and beef medallions. Service was slow but that's true for everywhere in Negril. The continental breakfast was nothing special but sufficed to keep my stomach from growling. However, when the older gentleman was working would would wait 30-45 minutes just for water. He would disappear. He was never friendly...surprise, surprise.

Conclusion
What it comes down to is this. This resort is beautiful but the owners and staff are relying on that keeping them going. We really felt awkward around the unfriendly staff and wouldn't come back simply for that reason. We ate dinner at the rockhouse one night and would stay there if we came back to Negril. It was more modern and the staff was much more friendly.

Also
We found this amazing cab driver that we ended up using for the whole second week of our stay. His cab was clean, prices were reasonable, and he was an on-time, stand-up kinda dude. Message me if you want his number. You can call him from the front office whenever you want a ride.

  • Stayed: September 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
6  Thank Lotti-Ann
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
TPManager, Manager at Tensing Pen Resort, responded to this reviewResponded 4 October 2013

We thank this guest for the review of our resort.

The owners and the management are certainly not resigned to reliance on the physical beauty of the resort for our success. We believe that we have the best staff in the world and while we encourage them to serve well with a smile we also ask them give our guests the space and privacy they need to truly enjoy the resort. Our style of service is simple and unpretentious - friendly but not overwhelming.

Again we thank this guest and we will certainly take note of the guest's comments in our efforts to improve our resort.

Joseph Smith
Manager

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 September 2013

No phones, no TVs -- in our case no Net and no A/C -- and that was the point for my wife and me. If you replace the black coral with black lava, this place could easily be on the Kona coast of the Big Island, and is at least that beautiful. Because it is on a shallow point jutting into the sea, you rarely see anything but the grounds and the ocean, so it could be an island all unto itself. The point has a few coves cutting into the cliffs, where I dove into the sea at sunrise every day and it couldn't have been more perfect.The North Pillar where we slept was super-romantic, the sunsets are exquisite, the whole place is very clean, the staff were friendly (thanks Owen, Razor Blade, and Mikey), the dinners very good, and the breakfast protein shake (made with oats) was something completely new (and delicious).
Not a great place for kids, and if you're expecting 'amenities' (who uses that word?) move on. The Wi-Fi on the property reaches beyond the restaurant/bar area now, but I really can't imagine anyone surfing the net when they could be enjoying the cliffs and dogs and birds and lizards and water of this gem of Jamaica. Some rooms have A/C so request at the time of reservation if you must -- we were there for the hottest & most humid time of year and never missed it (tropical breeze + ceiling fan + standing fan).

Room Tip: The Pillars are the unique rooms, but I'm sure there's not a bad acommodation on the property.
  • Stayed: September 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
3  Thank Amsden
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 September 2013

We absolutely loved everything about Tensing Pen! We stayed in the South Pillar and couldn't get enough of the view. We watched the dolphins playing several mornings. Our room was clean and well equipped, although as mentioned before the bathroom is a tad small. We got along just fine though! The outdoor shower actually turned out to be really nice and no worries, its pretty secluded. The food was very good and I thought it was fairly priced. My favorite was the grilled cheese at lunch and jerk chicken for dinner. We found the staff to be pleasant and friendly. They were always helpful but were never overbearing. We had a great time and will definitely stay at TP again if we return to Jamaica.

  • Stayed: September 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
3  Thank Traci H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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