After 3 months travelling all over the island, I decided to visit Negril to find out myself whether it’s an awesome place to hang out, or just an annoying little village ruined by tourists and hustlers.
But first I needed to make a decision: What is the coolest place to stay, at the cliffs or at the 7 mile beach?
Negril, a lively village in the west of Jamaica, stretches from Bloody Bay, Hanover, too far beyond Negril lighthouse in the parish Westmoreland. Spaniards gave the name Negrille, which comes from negro: black (as the blackness of the Negril River), in 1494. It was the perfect place to give shelter to ships. Negril, in fact, a swamp in that time, is discovered by hippies around 1950. They di put up tents on the beach and started a new living. The first tourist accommodations appear in 1960.
According to the law in Jamaica, no building may protrude above the highest tree. This is why smart guys did introduce some high palms. Still, Negril has the look and feel of a small village.
Negril, with its 7-mile white sand beach, is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. You can swim, (para) sail, snorkel, water ski and dive.
West End versus Boulevard: cliffs versus beach
West End starts from the roundabout, around the corner, at the ocean side and leads to the West.
The street follows the coastline, meandering limestone cliffs, which actually is a former reef, uplifted and poised above the sea.
West End is a narrow and busy street, therefore a little tricky to walk, especially in the dark, but it has its charms to walk in the daytime and explore the surroundings.
The Corner Bar, to begin with, is famous by locals and tourists for music, pool table games, a terrace overlooking the ocean and most of all local food. There is always something to do at Corner Bar.
A little further you’ll find a post office, a hardware store and print office. The well-known supermarket ‘HiLow’ in the shopping mall, is great for all kind of (imported) food. Besides the supermarket, the mall offers souvenir shops, a travel agency and a medical center.
Back on the West End road along the curly way lays many hotels, (Spa) resorts, guesthouses, bars, souvenir shops and local restaurants like Mi Yard or Canoe Bar.
A must visit on West End is Rick’s Café, which is located at the top of a 35-foot high cliff.
The restaurant and bar with live reggae music entertainment became a famous hot spot, because of the heart throbbing cliff jumping. Brave ones jump from 35 foot into the ocean, while others watch or take the safer lower point. Rick’s Café is best at sunsets.
What else to find on West End?
There is a lighthouse, Ital food restaurants, Love Lane and the best pizza in town at the German Bar. Are you on a low budget? Backpackers love to stay at ‘Judy House Cottages’, at the side road ‘West Mountain Road’.
With a scooter bike you can explore all the way to Little Bay, Bob Marley Beach and Jamwest Speedway. Be aware it will get very quiet along this dirt road though.
West End hotels of all kind of classes can be found anywhere on the Internet.
Some are completed by a pool, because access to the ocean is by a staircase. The blue, clear ocean is deep down below the limestone cliffs. The cliffs are beautiful though with amazing views and fantastic snorkelling options. Do you get the picture?
In this blog I only want to mention Tingalaya’s Retreat because of the yoga facilities and the boutique Banana Shout resort with the stunning view.
7 mile beach at the (Norman Manley) Boulevard
From the same roundabout in the village, the Boulevard leads east. It is the main road to Lucea, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. At both sides of the road are bars, restaurants, minimarkets, rental car or bike shops and rooms for rent in guesthouses, hotels and resorts.
The huge arts & crafts market will be found when you cross the bridge and look over to the left. You will pass the colored fishermen boats and reach the local beach. The whole stretch of 7-mile beach Negril is accessible for locals, although resorts can have some restrictions.
Some of the hotels along the beachside, like Margaritaville, are packed with tourists. It is the place to be for party with all kind of activities as long as there is plenty alcohol.
Most accessible ‘for all of we’ is Bourbon Beach, where tourists and locals are welcome to chill and chat while listening to music and having a drink. In general, tourists will take the beach chair in the sun while locals chat in the corner, under the tree, next to the stage. Evening entertainment with live bands showing you the real reggae, dancehall or old school vibes.
Bars, Beaches and hotels
Alfreds Ocean Palace, Roots Bamboo Hotel and Bourbon Beach are the main hotels / bars for night party.
Bourbon Beach offers (live) music events seven nights a week. And during the day it is perfect for having a drink, taking a swim in the crystal clear waters or relaxing on a beach chair. They offer a freshwater shower in the back. These three places have access to tourists and locals, so it is easy to meet up and get to know a bit of culture. Hotel Bourbon Beach Jamaica is also known for their jerked chicken.
Roots Bamboo Hotel
The more laid-back vibes of Roots Bamboo Hotel is great for sunbathing. I love this place most speaking of the good, friendly atmosphere and the live music on Mondays and Wednesdays where great artists performing on stage and everyone seems happy and having an awesome time.
Choose the little bar Alfreds Ocean Palace for having lunch or dinner. Parties in the night, with DJ’s or at some day’s live bands, are famous too. Take your rum punch and meet up. And oh, Hotel Shields serves great cocktails, good for ‘Happy Hour’ and watch the sunset.
The upcoming Woodstock, next to Roots Bamboo Hotel, is perfect for relaxation: reggae music in the background, comfortable beach chairs – light enough to move them under the thatched roof umbrellas when the sun gets too hot and a beautiful wooden interior with amazing carvings.
They are still building on the high wooden building in the back, which will be turned into a club in near future.
The little Boat bar next door is a good alternative for having a drink in day or evening time.
Where to stay in Negril?
As I did not bring a travel guide and didn’t do much preparation for my visit to Negril, I needed to make up my mind before reaching the town. I could make my mind up quick and fast and decided to leave West End for exploring by foot or bike and choose for the beach to stay.
The main reason: I do love daily walks on the beach and I like the sandy beach for having a swim. Besides that, it would be more easy for me to have access to parties in the evening: no taxi necessary to go up and down from and to a hotel at West End.
So I asked my driver to stop at a few places on the boulevard and I did find a couple of perfect accommodations, which I am sharing with you!
Which accommodation should you choose?
But both West End and Boulevard have plenty good and beautiful resorts. To name one along the beach, when choosing a resort and booking a flight and a hotel room together: Country Country Beach Cottages. This handcrafted resort, with 30 cottages, looks lovely. The garden looks beautiful and the rooms nice, natural decorations like bamboo and woodcarvings.
Now I am a great fan of supporting local owners and I also like to be flexible and choose a hotel of my own choice, separate from my flight, being free to move on when I feel too.
My top 3 accommodations on the boulevard:
- Mom’s Place
A nice, friendly and good family hotel directly on the beach. Mom’s has her own charm, it has 8 rooms with veranda, a bar and beach chairs. A chat with locals is possible as long as everybody is happy. Located close to Bourbon Beach, next to the alley.
- Travellers Beach Resort
This family hotel offers 42 comfortable and well-equipped, guestrooms some overlooking the garden. There is a swimming pool and the bar / restaurant has a great view over the ocean. ‘Travellers’ is also well known for its karaoke with, as I noticed, professional artists. Located at the beginning of the Boulevard, close to the roundabout.
- Barry’s Bold As Love Guest House
Barry’s Guesthouse, just behind Mom’s, is a great guesthouse if you want to meet locals. The bar is open 24×7. The vibes are chill and easy going, the garden is truly beautiful and the staff is superb. Rooms are clean, painted in bright colours and decorated with natural arts&crafts.
What do you prefer?
The question you have to ask is what you want to do in Negril and what you prefer?
For me it was immediately clear. I like to walk along the sunset-facing beach, overlooking the jade coloured and reef-protected ocean. It’s calling me for a swim, I can relax on a beach chair, read a book, gaze round. It is definitely the beach for me!
Now you can make up your mind where to stay, whether you are a cliff lover or beach worshipper. At both sides are many options for finding the perfect accommodation. From low budget to regular or 5 stars resorts and the ones which are perfect for your honeymoon celebration. Too much to mention here.
After many travels, I experienced the same vibes in Jamaica as in Africa. Every time I am reaching Jamaican ground I feel happiness and joy as I am coming home. My travel guides and blogs led through having a travel agency: Rappa Rasta Tours. ‘Explore the Real Jamaica in the Natural Rasta Way’. With my love for nature and people I am traveling a fair way, ‘full-joying’ every moment, and sharing it with you.