Discover Caribbean Port Guide: Negril
People’s idea of Jamaica as a laid-back place where people stroll down beach going “Ya mon” to each other, and where tourists sit in little cafes sipping tea next to locals, really only exists in Negril. Though this little town on the cliffs is nearly as touristy as Montego Bay, it’s got an authenticity and accessible local element about it that people just love. Activities range from the new Dolphin Cove to Chukka ATV tours at Sandy Bay. Sunset at Rick’s Café is more than just a tourist tradition, it’s a legend.
Airport: Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay (MBJ)
High season: mid-Dec through April
Currency: Jamaican dollar
Negril’s Best Unique Hotels
While Negril has plenty of big, busy, all-inclusive hotels, one of the things that makes it different from other Jamaican towns is its unique boutiques. They range in price from inexpensive to super-luxe, and each offers its own charming version of Jamaican flavor.
Set on the dramatic sea cliffs, with an ocean-fed freshwaterpool accessible by a slightly scary path cut into the rock, Rockhouse hasmillion-dollar views for a hundred-dollar price tag. The rest of the propertylives up to first glance, too. Drinks are cheap and cold and yummy; the food isspicy and local and delicious; the expat owners become friends at first sight;and the sunny but comfortable shaded patio bar is the kind of place you caneasily while away many afternoons.
With Nirvana in the name, you know you’re in for a trueNegril experience. This “un-hotel” has only eight guest cottages. It’s the kindof place where your neighbors might become your new BFFs, or where you mightnot ever talk to a neighbor—all depending what your mood is. What you’d pay fora room in a normal hotel gets you a cozy three-bedroom cottage here. No onsite restaurant, but each unit isequipped with a full kitchen, and if you don’t want to go out, the room rateincludes a cook for one meal per day. (BYOG—that’s “Bring Your Own Groceries.”)
Of all record mogul Chris Blackwell’s beautiful Jamaican boutique hotels, this may be the masterpiece. If you’re wondering how luxurious caves can actually be, this wonderfully picturesque, romantic and indulgent little gem sets the standard for the Western Hemisphere. Enjoy your dinner in a candlelit grotto. Visit the spa and have a massage in a tiny private cave honeycombed into the sea cliffs. At night, sleep in a cliffside cottage surrounded by lush tropical foliage
Another one you’ve got to love from the minute you catch the name. This cluster of cottages is recommended by local experts and guests alike. Colonial trimmed but reggae flavored, these digs deliver exactly what Negril is known for: “the greatest level of interaction with the local residents…and the feeling of the island,” to sum up one local recommendation.
Locals Dish Negril’s Best
No matter where you go, people always say, if you want to know the best stuff, ask a local. Since Jamaica isn’t exactly the kind of place where you can ask a taxi driver to take you to his favorite dive bar, we did something even better for you and asked two locals.
Tour guide Mark Hylton, owner of Real Jamaica Adventures,says many of his Negril visitors want nothing more than a day on Seven MileBeach and a few sunset cocktails at Rick’s Café. However, if you want somethingmore active, he opines that Negril is “really the leader on the island when itcomes to water-based adventures.” Jet Skis, catamaran rides, river fishing andkayaking are just a few ways to explore the waters around Negril.
Local entrepreneur and promoter Graham Rowe recommends thespa at Grand Palladium for a day of relaxation, or the bridge at Tensing Penfor 15 seconds of sheer adrenaline (achieved when you jump off it into the seabelow). If you’re traveling with young children, visit Dolphin Cove at TreasureReef and Kool Runnings Water Park.
Finally, everyone agrees: By sunset, get back to a friendly local place like Rick’s or the indoor-outdoor restaurant at Rock House, to kick off a night of Red Stripe and rum punch, reggae and great conversation, and sampling from all the great local restaurants, cafes and food carts.
Looking for a different type of adventure? Check out our North America Cruise Guide: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico