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Negril, Miles of Beach

Ask anyone about Negril and the first thing they’ll mention is its beach. Nearly 5 miles long (though everyone claims it to be 7 miles) of unobstructed beach, it’s the place to go if you’re looking for the best white-sand beach and spectacular sunsets.

Negril straddles two of Jamaica’s western parishes – Westmoreland and Hanover – and hugs the coast from Bloody Bay (Hanover) to the lighthouse, in Westmoreland, which was built in 1894.

The lighthouse near the west end of Negril

Lighthouse, built in 1894

Along the rugged cliffs of the southwestern stretch in Westmoreland, the so-called West End, there are several underwater caves, restaurants and cottages and exclusive guest houses.

Negril boats

Boats

Negril cabanas

Cabanas

The northern end is home to the larger hotels and all-inclusives such as Couples, Riu, Hedonism II, Sandals by Beaches, etc.

The first time I visited Negril, I wasn’t yet in high school. The youth group I belonged to had our first camping trip there. Back then, Negril was a quiet place with a few houses, even fewer hotels, lots of land and sea crabs and its now famous beach.

Negril crab

Small sand crab

Today, Negril still has the best stretch of beach in Jamaica. However, in the space of thirty years, it has been transformed from a tiny village to a bustling resort town with a mix of accommodation, an assortment of places to eat and an active night life. Negril however attracts couples, singles and families – some come year after year to this beautiful spot.

Negril sunset

Sunset

Beside the beach and the clear blue water of the Caribbean Sea, Negril is also known for its spectacular sunsets. As evening draws to a close, legions of visitors and locals alike flock to Rick’s Café, or one of the resorts on the water side, to watch the sun turn crimson and orange and purple before it disappears from view.

Getting to Negril:

Negril is about an hour and half’s drive from the Donald Sangster Airport in Montego Bay. You can also fly there from either the Montego Bay or Kingston airport.

Accommodation:

With more than 90 places, from luxury retreats at $500 or more to rooms for $50 a night, you are sure to find the perfect place to spend a night, or two, in Negril.

Rick’s Cafe, Negril Jamaica

Rick’s Cafe has been a fixture in Negril’s West End since 1974. That’s when Richard Hershman, after whom the bar is named, decided to put a bar on a slice of land with a beautiful cove. Rick’s Cafe was the first establishment of its type in the West End and soon became the place where mostly visitors meet, drink and watch the spectacular sunset for which Rick’s Cafe is now famous.

When we arrived at Rick’s Cafe just after 1:00 p.m., only a few tables were occupied. By the time we finished our lunch and had a few drinks, the place was crawling with people. Most came to watch the divers —  local guys who began taking headers off the cliffs and performing acrobatics at Rick’s as a way to make some money. I was surprised to see that visitors are now cliff jumping as it can be very dangerous for the inexperienced and especially for anyone who’s been drinking. I wasn’t close to the jump area or watching those who did to see if they had had anything to drink prior to jumping. To their credit, one of the lifeguard/divers did warn people loudly not to try a hand walking stunt as it could be dangerous.

If some come to watch the divers, the overwhelming majority visit Rick’s Cafe to watch the sunset. And it’s breathtaking. It’s always amazing to watch how quickly the sun seems to drop behind the horizon. I’ve promised myself that the next time I’m at Rick’s Cafe, I’ll just sit and watch the sun set instead of catching glimpses of it between shots.

Once the sun sets, the house reggae band takes over the stage and those who want to, can dance or just vibe to the music. Rick’s Cafe is available for weddings, reunions and corporate retreats for up to 300 people.

Rick's Cafe's cove

Rick’s cove

Seeing Rick’s now, it’s hard to remember what it looked like back in the early days. Harder still to imagine that this bar has been destroyed by hurricane twice (Gilbert, 1988 and Ivan, 2004) and rebuilt, bigger each time.

Nighttime at Rick's Cafe

Nighttime at Rick’s Cafe

Getting to Rick’s Cafe

Rick’s Cafe is located in the West End of Negril, about an hour’s drive from Montego Bay. Open daily it serves typical seaside and bar fare. In addition to beer, it also serves drinks with suggestive names like Sex with Rick, which is recommended for women and Front End Lifter (for men) 876-957-0380. No entry fee.

Jamaica: Royal Palms Nature Reserve

Just beyond the hustle and bustle of Negril‘s Hip Strip, that stretch of road that marks off the

beach and the hotels that spill out on to the famous white sands, is a secluded place known mostly to nature lovers.

The Royal Palms Nature Reserve, part of the 6,000 acre Negril Morass, is a 300 acre expanse of towering Royal Palms – the largest stand in the world – and long thatch palm.

This popular eco-tourism spot teems with about 300 species of animals, reptiles, birds and butterflies as well as over 114 species of flowers.

The boardwalk at Royal Palms

Walk the half-mile boardwalk and see up close the variety of birds that live among the mangroves – from egrets and herons to ospreys and hawks – the West Indian Whistling duck, an endangered species, and plants such as anchovy pear, wicker vine and saw grass. Some plants are endemic to the area, others have medicinal purposes.

View from the 30' observation tower

Or climb the 30 foot observation tower to get a bird’s eye view of the area.

Royal Palm Peat Lake

The black lake at Royal Palms is evidence of the extensive deposits of peat in the area.

Next time you’re in Negril, plan a day to take a leisurely stroll through Royal Palms. It’ll be a relaxing experience.

Tours can be arranged through hotels and guests houses or you can go on your own. Royal Palm Nature Reserve is just outside Negril on the Sheffield Road in Westmoreland. Open daily 9-6. Cost $15/adults; $7/children. 876-364-7404