Negril’s legendary 7-mile white sand beach and its laid-back attitude draw thousands of visitors annually. Most are content with relaxing on the beach that straddles two parishes, Westmoreland and Hanover, but there are several reasons to get out and explore what lies beyond the sand on the Westmoreland side.
The eighth largest of Jamaica’s 14 parishes, Westmoreland takes up the south western end of Jamaica. It was first settled by Taino and Ciboney Indians, remains of whom have been found in Negril and Bluefields, which lies several miles up the coast from Savanna la Mar, the capital. Christopher Columbus stopped in Bluefields, known then as Oristan or Oristano, and a settlement was formed there in 1519, making it one of the oldest settled areas in the island.
Westmoreland is also home to a large population of the descendants of indentured laborers who came from the Indian subcontinent to work on the island after slavery was abolished.
Royal Palm Nature Reserve: Part of the 10,000-acre Great Morass, the wetland area extending from Westmoreland into the neighboring parish of St. Elizabeth, this 300 acre expanse of towering Royal Palms, is the largest stand in the world. The half-mile boardwalk allows you to see up close many of the more than 300 species of reptiles, birds, and butterflies, and over 114 species of flowers. There are also extensive deposits of peat. Open daily, 9-6. Cost: $15 adults, $7 children. Located in Sheffield, a few miles from Negril. 876-364-7404
Mayfield Falls: Billed as Jamaica’s #1 eco-tourism destination, Mayfield Falls boasts waterfalls, 21 natural pools, 52 varieties of ferns, and flowers, butterflies and birds. 876-610-8612
Roaring River Park & Cave: The park and cave are located on the Roaring River Estate that was once owned by the Hay and Beckford families and later taken over by the West Indies Sugar Company (WISCo). The property gets its name from the river that provides water for much of the parish of Westmoreland. The limestone cave and a blue hole, which sits on private property, are both major attractions for the area. Guided tours of the cave and community can be provided by residents of the community for a fee. Located near Petersfield, a visit to Roaring River can be paired with a trip to Abeokuta (below) a few miles away.
Abeokuta Private Nature Park: When slaves came to this part of Jamaica, they brought with them the memory of the place in Nigeria where they had come from. To them, this small corner of Westmoreland reminded them of it and they named it Abeokuta. Now a nature park, it was officially opened in 2003 by the Nigerian High Commissioner to Jamaica. On the grounds are the ruins of an old great house, an aqueduct, which channels water from a river a quarter mile away into a near Olympic-size pool. The pool is possibly one of the oldest swimming pools in Jamaica. From Abeokuta, you can see as far as the coast. 876-891-0837 Located near Dean’s Valley.
Blue Hole Mineral Spring: I have not checked out this spring yet but it looks very inviting. Pool and mineral spring. Wabba 876-860-8805 Near Negril.
Negril Hills Golf Club: 18 holes, par 72, 6,333 yards, tennis court, pro shop and restaurant. 876-957-4638. Negril
Seaford Town: One of Jamaica’s best known German communities, Seaford Town, welcomed immigrants from Germany in the 1830s. A small museum documents the history of this community.
Hilton High Day Tour: A day tour of Hilton Plantation can be combined with a trip to Seaford Town, a few yards away. The tour includes a buffet lunch of roasted pig. Enjoy a relaxing stroll around the plantation, which is located in Westmoreland’s Montpelier Mountains.
Although Seaford Town and Hilton Plantation are located geographically in Westmoreland, they are best reached from Montego Bay.
Manning’s School: Although not a tourist site, Manning’s, founded in 1738 on land bequeathed by Thomas Manning in 1710 for a free school, is the second oldest high school in Jamaica. Its main building, now a library, is a Georgian structure that was constructed of timber. It has a vented gable roof, a cupola with fixed jalousie to provide ventilation, and deep verandahs on the sides. Located in Savanna la Mar, the capital.
Negril Point Lighthouse: Built by a French company in 1894 on a 14 foot deep tank which is filled with water to keep the lighthouse stable in the event of an earthquake. The lighthouse is painted white and rises 66 feet above ground.
Chebuctoo Great House: This Georgian style great house was declared a national monument in 2008. Chebuctoo, which is located on a pimento farm in Cave (near Bluefields) got its name from the Indian name of Halifax, with which Jamaica had significant trade in the 18th century, especially in salted fish.
Peter Tosh Memorial: A few miles up the coast from Bluefields is the community of Belmont where a monument to Winston McIntosh, popularly known as Peter Tosh, a founding member of The Wailers and a son of Westmoreland, is located.
Note: My roots go deep in Westmoreland. I also graduated from Manning’s.