ROK Hotel Kingston is the newest hotel in Jamaica, owned by Hilton, opened on July 19, 2022. The Resort Caribbean team is proud to be one it’s first set of visitors. We know you too are eager to see what they’re all about, but before you book your trip, you need to know these things ten(10) things.
It’s the closest hotel from the Norman Manley International Airport
Rok Hotel is the closest hotel from the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. It’s only a 19 minutes drive, which strategically makes it the best option to stay if you’re seeking somewhere close to the airport.
It is pretty affordable to stay there, but…
In addition to it’s close proximity to the airport, for now, it is also one of the cheapest hotels in Kingston, as low as USD $180 per night, depending on booking date, booking site and room. Their fees are also fully refundable. A detractor is that breakfast is not included, and you have to purchase your other meals. Be sure to not waste your meal because it can be a bit costly, but no need to worry. You can reheat your meals for USD $10.
The hotel is new, so they are still in development
Don’t go there expecting a castle, chariots, horses and royalty treatment. The hotel is fairly new and was opened in 2022. With this, it is expected that many things will still be in development, and somewhat of a trial and error. This ranges from the features, programmes and facilities, to the services. Even while we were there, we were told that we couldn’t take photos at one side of the lobby because they were still doing infrastructural developments. We thought it was a sham, but then, by the next morning, we saw an army of work men.
This probably also includes their entertainment, or maybe we simply visited at the wrong time. There was no form of entertainment, so that was severely lacking. I felt like something very important was missing, and I think it was that. Yes, there was a DJ playing music, but come on, we hear music everywhere on a daily basis, so that mostly went through the subconscious. Based on the website and other reviews, the hotel has a casino, however, we didn’t get to explore that aspect.
The rooms are comfortable and the property has special facilities for the disabled
The rooms are cozy and comfortable and has similar interior design, feel and aesthetics like other hotels/resorts. When you sleep and wake, you will not even remember that you’re even Downtown. I illustrated this due to the known discomfort and safety concerns that others may have preconceived.
The bathrooms are specially designed to facilitate those who are disabled and who may be confined to wheelchair. Throughout the hotel, especially on the doors, in the elevators and main sites are braille codes. We thought this was pretty cool. The automatic light in the closet when the door is opened was also a unique feature of the bedroom. There were however no robes, which was a bummer.
It is safe to stay there even though it’s in Downtown Kingston
You might have heard horrors about Downtown, Kingston…or maybe good things too. We however know that some of these stories are perhaps not the most tourist friendly. Even for us Jamaicans, there is a particular stigma about Downtown, but these aren’t random and unreasonable. It is a fact that it can be volatile at times, but that still doesn’t take away from it’s commercial importance, cultural and historical significance, and the beauty that exists therein.
I believe that the part of Downtown, called Water Front, where ROK Hotel is located is the safest region there. For one, police regularly patrol the area, and even if they don’t, the chances of getting robbed or getting caught up in a cross fires is pretty low. I do not fully understand the contributing factors, but I personally feel safer there. I have even walked around with my DSLR camera taking photos of ships and birds, and didn’t feel threatened. If you go across the road, which is a social hotspot, you’ll see persons with expensive devices out, or parked vehicles with valuables (I assume).
There is no parking space on the compound
Talking about vehicles, there is actually no parking at ROK Hotel, and yes, that sucks. Funny enough, they market that there is parking, because who wouldn’t? But when you go there or research, you realize there’s a twist to it, so all hope is not lost. They have a deal where you may park at an adjacent parking lot by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), but that could be a healthy amount depending on your length of stay, as it is USD $20 per night. The option exists to park on the street, but Jamaica’s law is tricky when it comes on to that, so that may not be the best decision, plus it’s less safe. Regardless of what route you decide to take, prepare to spend a few extra bucks on parking.
It’s the perfect location to experience the authentic city life and culture
Rok Hotel is right in the heart of Kingston. Even I was surprised by the development of that area, though I’ve lived in Kingston all my life. The developments at Victoria Pier are pretty recent, plus the later establishment of the hotel, which experienced a two years delay due to COVID-19. Apart from what can be found in the vicinity of ROK Hotel, there are a myriad of things you can do and experience in Kingston and St. Andrew, amongst popular attractions. This is the ultimate location to tour the streets of Kingston and immerse yourself into the raw and authentic culture. Before you tour, ensure to read these safety tips, as the City of Kingston is a bit different than Montego Bay or other towns that you may have heard about or have visited on the North or West Coast.
One of the closest attraction sites is the National Gallery of Jamaica, which is a historical museum, which is a 1 minute walk. About 7 minutes from there is another museum, the Institute of Jamaica, and about 4 km from there is the Bob Marley Museum. Amongst these are countless historical attractions, as well as nightlife and daytime events and activities.
You may also book a catamaran cruise on the Loose Canon Tours that docks at Victoria Pier and travels throughout the Harbour. If you want to know what it’s like being on a catamaran cruise, read about our experience here on the North Coast.
You don’t have to book the hotel to dine
Just like Spanish Court Hotel and R Hotel, you don’t have to be staying there to dine. I think this is a common feature of hotels in Kingston. They aren’t only for vacation, but they also serve as local hangout spots.
You don’t have to dine at the hotel
In the same breath, you also don’t have to dine at the hotel. In fact, it’s not recommended, unless you don’t want to leave the premises, or you don’t mind the flavor of food. They serve a variety of Jamaican cuisine, but there isn’t anything significantly delectable about the flavor. Additionally, they served the meal in a deep metallic container, which was very interesting. Maybe they wanted to insulate the meal. The flavor of the food reminds me of the flavor at R Hotel.
We are not telling you to not try their meals, but you could consider trying food from right next door at Victoria Pier. They have a variety of options: Ocean 7 Sky Bar, Gloria Seafood City, Ribbiz Ocean Lounge, amongst others. Most of these do only dine-in and takeaway, but not delivery. You are also able to get the best ice-cream in Jamaica! We couldn’t leave without getting a Devon House ice-cream, minus the crowd that’s typically at the actual Devon House location.
They have very good customer service
This opinion may differ based on individual experiences, however, for us, the customer service was very good. Who knows? Maybe it’s because the hotel is new and they are trying to display a perfect image, but whatever it is, it is better than what we’ve experienced at a few other hotels/resorts…or maybe we should check back in a couple years to prove/disprove this. I cannot get over the experience of leaving my earbuds in the room and returning two weeks after and had it returned. This is highly commendable. They have a lost and found keep, so if you happen to leave anything, I have no doubts that it’s safe.
The hotel is secure but a bit confusing
I don’t know how else to phrase that, but we spent the entire first day at ROK being confused by the elevators, floors and locations. I remember ending up in the staff elevator, totally clueless, then embarrassingly being told that I’m in the staff elevator. The access card was annoying to use. This is what we were given to access the rooms and elevator. Props to them for giving us two, but it complicated the use of the elevator. Other resorts/hotels we’ve been to, once we accessed the main doors with/without the card, we could just access the elevators. We also weren’t able to access other floors apart from the ground floor, second floor that has the pool, bar, restaurant and gym, and the floor that we were staying. With this, if you’re worrying about security in the room, I think you should be safe.
The ocean close-by is not swimmable
I know hearing that it’s not a beach will not stop the most adventurous from trying it out, but please, for the love of yourself and your loved ones, do not attempt swimming in the ocean. The water in that area, officially known as the Kingston Harbour is the most polluted body of water around Jamaica. This is basically the drainage basin for all the filth that runs of the streets, out the gutter and sewers on land. Notwithstanding the hazardous waste from ships and factory run off. Still not convinced? Well, maybe you still don’t mind any of the above. So unless you also don’t mind sacrificing yourself as a meal for crocodiles, you may take the risk.
The swimming pool is small but enjoyable
If you want to swim, though small and shallow, Rok Hotel has a swimming pool. You have the option of swimming, wading or just laying around on a pool bed. The pool is said to close at 7 pm. however, we were in it a bit over 7 pm re-living childhood memories.
Overall, ROK Hotel is a decent hotel to stay. Factoring it’s geolocation and aesthetics, I would revisit. If you have a fancy occasion or simply want to get together with friends or family, while enjoying the view of the harbor and the busy life Downtown, then you can stay there. While the flavor of the food is a detractor, I won’t stress that because at least there are options right across the road. It has the potential of becoming 5-star as it develops, but for now, we can only wait to see what direction they head.