Swing your hips to the groovy sounds of reggae, while peering out at the golden sun, sandwiched between azure sky and sea. As relaxation seeps into your pores and the smell of heady, spicey and fresh island cuisine wafts up your nostrils, you’ll know why so many flock to the island paradise of Negril. With soaring cliffs, vibrant wetlands and spotless beaches, this is nature at its finest. Combined with a lively pub culture and friendly, welcoming locals, you’ll fall head over heels for Negril’s cheeky but light hearted charms.
Jamaica is an island country situated in the beautiful Caribbean sea and is comprised of numerous little parishes, but it’s many travel guides will speak of Negril, a small beach resort town that is widely dispersed across the parishes of Westmoreland and Hanover. The little town has a long, colourful history but has only come to prominence now, specifically as a tourist destination. In the past, Jamaica was taken over by the Spanish, which is where Negril’s name stems from. Close to the Spanish word for ‘little black ones’, the name is said to refer to either the great, dark cliffs the town is so famous for or to the vast population of black eels that once inhabited its coastline. In the late 1950’s, the town started to develop into a popular tourist attraction where vacationers would be put up in extra rooms of Jamaican families, or pitch up tents outside on their yards. The establishment of the first guest house, the Negril-Palm Grove, led to the creation of numerous more guesthouses and resorts, thus seeing the town’s popularity soar as high as their cliffs.
Today, Negril is one of the most prominent towns in Jamaica, attracting visitors from all around the globe. Tourist information is pretty easy to come by. Its spotless, pristine beaches are recognized as some of the best in the world and the local culture is extremely vibrant. That’s why its such a popular honeymoon destination. The people seem to love playing host, as they’re warm and welcoming, and the tourism industry supports and is supported by various local level enterprises. For example, when Hurricane Ivan destroyed the rustic Floyd’s Pelican Bar, the hotels nearby made sure it was rebuilt, plank by plank, back to its former appeal. Just chatting up the receptionist at your lodge will enable you to find the best places to go, to eat at and to explore. Negril is also home to a highly diverse environment, with beaches, swampland and forest adding to the geographical composition of this tiny space, as well as a wealth of wonders underwater. The beauty of this island was immortalized in Ian Fleming’s novel ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’, and the movie ‘Thunderball’, both of James Bond fame.
What makes Negril particularly charming is its underdeveloped nature. There’s an unmistakably calm vibe on the island, which the locals seem to exude like a golden aura. Perhaps this is only natural since Jamaica famously celebrates marijuana use, and if you’re surrounded by nature, music and good food like these guys are, you can’t help but slip into a state of Zen.
- Visitors looking for a languorous day in the sun can scoot on over to the famous Seven Mile Beach and soak up some rays. You’ll be exposed firsthand to the touristic madness that takes place on this beach as you hop from pub to pub, feasting on fresh seafood, sipping on cocktails and watching the lean, brown bodies of local divers leaping of Negril’s Cliffs. This beach is food for party lovers and those who intend on visiting vendors galore!
- Those looking for a quiet time will love the solitude of Half Moon Beach and Booby Cay Island, where you can also snorkel or scuba dive and witness the gorgeous coral reef and the host of life that lives and thrives under the sea. You can rent out a private cabin at the beach, complete with verandah that will look over your own little private beach.
- For those who like a little more action, KoolRunnings Water Park is just for you. You can unleash your inner guerrilla soldier as you slink around on the defense (or attack!) during a round of paintball or laser tag. You can race bumper to bumper at the go-karting tracks and even go kayaking and canoeing through the lush, Negril marshland. If you feel like getting wet, there are so many crazy, sky-high waterslides to choose from, you’ll feel nervous just looking at them!
- There’s a wealth of natural beauty in Negril, and you can witness it by exploring numerous trails, visiting the Royal Palm Reserve, chancing upon the little gem-like fluttering wings at Barney’s Hummingbird garden or by sailing the sea, with dolphins by your side! Go snorkelling and diving from almost any part of the island, especially the seminal The Throne Room, and get acquainted with our neighbours under the sea. Crocodiles, booby terns, stingrays and manatees are just a few of the different species that co-inhabit this little island area.
- For a more spiritual experience, you can visit the Mary, Gate of Heaven Catholic Church and offer your prayers. Alternatively, you can discover the local movement of the Rastafarians at Abba Jahnehoy Place. A culture based out of love, peace and respect for brotherhood, the Rastafarian way of life is a lot more than just smoking weed, though, much like the holy men of India, they do use marijuana for spiritual practices.
- Negril also has a number of offbeat attractions such as Floyd’s Pelican House, a little wooden shack built in the middle of the ocean and the Peter Tosh monument, the final resting place of the legendary singer and social activist.
Island picnics, river cruises, shows and dancing, cricket, yoga, hair braiding, massage, outdoor barbecues and animal watching don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the multitude of things one can take part in here. You’ll find boats with glass bottoms, cafes filled with cliff divers and opportunities to swim, dive, and whatever it is that tickles your fancy. You’ll also be able to relax and just unwind, without any kind of pressure creasing your brow. Let the sounds of reggae make your lift your spirit as the island air calls out to your senses like a secret, sultry, sun-tanned love affair. You’ll feel exhilarated, rejuvenated and craving for more time in this beautiful town.
Essential travel information and Negril tips for your visit
- Smoking marijuana is very popular in Jamaica, so if you find that offensive, there’s really no point of visiting and complaining. A pleasant "no thank you" or "yes please!" will usually suffice if someone offers you a smoke.
- Though most tourist attractions and things to do in Negril are free, tips and donations are expected in most places.
- Traffic mostly comes from the left side in Jamaica, unlike in the US, so do be careful.
- It’s advisable to wear sunscreen and get off the sand by 5pm, before sand mites come out and start nibbling at you.
- Lock up your cash, passport, electronics etc. in the hotel safe when not in use.
- Only take taxis with red plates as these are the only licensed taxis in Negril.
- Always use reputed tour companies and guides to save yourself from any trouble.
- Treat everyone around you with respect, from the vendors, the drivers to the other tourists.
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