For our 2017 annual “grand family getaway” we rented the Haystack villa at the Tryall Club in Jamaica. It is easy to see why this classic Tryall villa has been popular with guests for years. Haystack offers luxurious service and amenities with a relaxed casualness that is perfect for families.
Staying at Haystack is like returning to a retreat that has been in your family for years. The décor has a casual tropical feel. Antiques and local artwork are mixed in with more modern beach house pieces. Everything is lovely, but not super new. The main home, which has eight bedrooms, is certainly ample but not awe-inspiring. However, as a parent of little ones, these features can be preferable, both in terms of keeping everyone just a bit closer and of not having to worry so much about spills and mishaps.
Haystack is perched on a hill overlooking the Tryall Club and offers lovely views of the sea. You enter the villa through a foyer with striking black and white marble floors. Once inside you can immediately gaze out through the sliding back doors into the balcony, pool area and sea in the distance.
The main floor has a large living room and indoor dining room, wet bar, and powder room. Off of the living room and dining room areas is a large balcony where there is an additional covered sitting area and a large outdoor dining table. Our group of 16 ate all of our meals outside in this area. The kitchen, which is mostly used by the staff, is also here, along with 5 bedroom suites.
The lower level of the home has a large family/game room that opens to the pool deck, an adequate and well-equipped gym, another bathroom, and a very private master suite.
The top level of the house has two more bedrooms, both with two twin beds each, which share a bathroom. There is also a small TV/lounge area upstairs with a futon and several beanbags.
One of the best reasons to rent Haystack is the flexibility of the bedroom set up. There are three master suites of comparable size and quality. This arrangement makes Haystack a great option if multiple families are splitting the cost of the rental. These rooms, located on the ends of the main floor and the very private suite on the pool level, all have large bathrooms, king beds, direct access to a balcony or outdoor sitting area, and lots of space. You could easily put a crib (or two) in any of these rooms. One of the suites on the upper floor also has a small attached office with a couch. This room would easily accommodate a crib or toddler.
There are three additional suites on the main floor. One of these rooms is also considered a master, but has a queen bed and is noticeably smaller than the other three suites that I call “masters”. Two other bedrooms have twin beds that can be pushed together to make a king-sized bed if desired. Given their proximity to the master suites, they can be a great option if you have younger children who need to be next door to their parents. All of the bedrooms on the main floor and the lower level have televisions, ceiling fans, air conditioning, and their own en-suite bathrooms.
As I mentioned earlier, the top level has two bedrooms with twin beds. These rooms are much smaller than the others and would be best suited for children or teenagers. These top level bedrooms are the only ones without their own television and they share a bathroom. In between the two bedrooms is a small lounge area with a TV.
It is worth noting that the lower level master suite is somewhat shut off from the rest of the house at night. There is no route through the house to get to this suite. At night, after the staff has locked up the house for the evening, it would be difficult to get into the main house without waking up someone or having a key. Therefore, this would be a poor choice for parents who prefer to have their kids nearby at night. Given that this room is located on the pool level, it may be best suited for someone who finds stairs challenging. If your group will be hanging out by the pool most of the time, someone staying in this room could be part of the action and only need to go upstairs for meals.
The family and game room is well equipped with foosball and ping pong tables, a large couch and TV, and an additional game table. The room is not particularly luxurious, but it would serve as a nice escape for teens if the adults are all hanging out upstairs.
If your group needs more than 8 bedrooms, you are able to request the two-bedroom owners’ cottage. I did not see this as it is separated from the main house by a row of trees. The cottage offers two additional master quality suites, a kitchenette, small living area, and additional infinity pool. While we were staying at Haystack, the owner may have been staying in the cottage. But as it is private and separate, I am not sure. If you do think you would want the additional cottage, be sure to request it initially to ensure availability.
The Pool Deck
The pool at Haystack is definitely not over the top, but we found it great for our group with a handful of younger elementary/primary school-aged kids. It is basically just a rectangle, but you can jump in from all four sides, which our kids loved. The shallow end has about three steps and starts at 3 feet deep. The deep end is about 8 feet deep.
At one end of the pool is a covered outdoor bar with seating for 6 and a television. The bar is a relatively new addition to the villa and makes it convenient to grab a quick drink or snack while hanging out downstairs. Plus, if there is a sporting event that can’t be missed (and there is always at least one during our family getaway), everyone can still watch and be part of the action at the pool.
The far, sunny side of the pool is lined with plenty of cushioned chaise lounges and couches, along with several umbrellas, making it ideal for relaxing. Beneath the upper balcony is a covered seating area and a table that could seat six.
There were a variety of pool toys and inflatables that the villa had for the pool, accumulated, I would guess, from previous guests’ stays. They were certainly nice to have, but I suggest that if there is something that is essential for your group to enjoy the pool (such as a baby float) bring it with you.
We found the service to be very good at Haystack. Donna, the butler and head of house, works endlessly to ensure that your group is contented. Having worked at Tryall for more than a decade, she is well-connected to everyone around the resort and uses her knowledge to your advantage. She also makes a killer rum punch!
The chef, Rodney, was phenomenal. The meals he turned out, three times a day, were fantastic. While the presentation was more relaxed and casual than at some of the other Jamaican villas where we have stayed, the quality of the cooking was top notch. Additionally, he did an amazing job at catering to the special dietary needs of our family. Our family has been lucky to experience quite a few villa chefs and Rodney is now tied for the number one spot. (Our other number one chef, Lenox, from Tryall’s Harmony Hill villa, we learned, sadly, has retired.)
The housekeeping staff was also great. They even did their best to put our laundry away every day. (Because, hey, one of the annoying things about having a laundress deliver freshly washed and ironed clothes to your room daily can be the chore of putting it in the right drawer. (Is that too much of a first-world problem?) The house was meticulously cleaned throughout the day. Rooms were straightened and beds made at least twice daily. And one of the housekeepers even located a missing doll accessory, a plastic necklace no bigger than a half inch, while sweeping and returned it to an extremely grateful 4-year old.
I did feel that for the size of our group some additional butler/kitchen assistants would have been beneficial. Often when we would request a cocktail, we would find that the staff were busy setting the table for dinner or assisting the chef. While this delay is definitely another first world problem, we have stayed at other villas where additional staff was brought in due to our larger group size, and this made a difference in our enjoyment of the holiday.
The property that Haystack sits on is lovely, but not remarkable. There is a large grassy hill which served as a great location for our family Easter Egg hunt. Another recent addition is a great stone firepit where we all enjoyed roasting s’mores. But the grounds are not as extensive or as elaborately landscaped as some other villas around Tryall. Additionally, as there was a severe drought when we were visiting, the lawns were not being watered regularly, making everything less lush.
Activities and other amenities
As I mentioned before, Haystack has its own well-equipped gym, which has recently been redone. There is also the game room and, of course, the pool. However, beyond these features, the amenities and activities are those offered by the Tryall Club (see my blog post Tryall Club Overview detailing all of the activities that are offered). Haystack has three golf carts so that you can easily access everything on the Tryall grounds.
The villa also has baby gates and a high chair. Additional cribs and roll away beds can be rented through the Tryall Club for a minimal cost ($10-15/day).
Who should rent Haystack
In summary, I recommend Haystack to groups, particularly those with younger children. The layout of the bedrooms makes it an excellent choice for families that need to sleep closer to their children or have the younger ones stay in their parents’ bedrooms. I think the pool is particularly good for kids between 3-12. And finally, if you are splitting the cost of the villa rental, the multiple master bedrooms make this easier to do.
Haystack can be rented with as few as five bedrooms or as many as ten, making it additionally appealing for groups where not everyone will be staying the entire time.
I did find the villa to be slightly overpriced compared to some of the other options available which are newer or more luxuriously appointed. However, if you are going during non-peak season, you may be able to negotiate a better rate. The amenities of the Tryall Club should definitely be of interest to your group in order to justify the price of Haystack compared to other villas on Jamaica.
Finally, I would not recommend this villa if any members of your group require a wheelchair or have severe mobility limitations.