Sunday, April 15, 2012

Vacation in Negril

Situated on the westernmost tip of Jamaica, Negril serves up the American fantasy on a fat Jamaican plate. Here, things are nice, with sun-tanned bodies on white beaches, fruity drinks, and hotels on exclusive cliffs. Not to mention, the local flavor, live reggae music, and parties to party at until you drop. Having spent so much time up in the hills, we were all fiending for such a place, and when we were granted a few days off we headed to Negril. What did we do there? Well…

Laura and I chose to stay at the Negril Yoga Centre. You may be wondering whether we are underground yoga pros, and the answer to that is… No, but we saw a lot of yoga pros. The place was across from the beach and offered simple, comfortable accommodations and a communal kitchen, all tucked into a lush garden. And it was cheap. What else do you need?

After settling in the first evening, we headed out onto the beach to check out the scene and wound up at a placed called Bourbon Bar, which was also a large music venue. The open-air bar was right on the ocean, facing the west for a priceless sunset.

The music wasn’t going to start until later on, so we spent our time people watching. People of all sorts were walking along the beachfront – white, black, American, European and Jamaican. Three middle-aged American men drooped over the bar, battling to keep their eyes open. The most energetic of the trio kept spurring the other two into action, convincing them to stay up longer and to re-up for the impending nighttime parties.

Vendors traveled endlessly up and down the beach selling cigarettes, sunglasses, zip-locked fruit and drugs, hustling anyone that gave them the time of day. At every restaurant we ate, the waiters offered to sell us weed under the table, whispering deals of hash and the finest ganja. Along the beachfront, local artisans ushered people into their beachside huts where they would implore you to buy something from them. Each hut had basically the same things as the one next to it - mostly cookie cutter shaped wooden carvings, some of them quite cheesy. Rumor on the street was that some of the carvings were actually mass-produced in China and then sold to naive tourists!!!!! We also learned later that the cigarettes that were sold on the beach weren’t the brand that they claimed to be. They were rip offs! Not that that affected us at all.

After a little while of sitting at the bar we were approached by a young Jamaican man who was working for the venue, selling tickets for a Gyptian concert coming in a few weeks. We told him that we worked up in Betheltown and that we were only down for a few days and asked him if he had any particular recommendations for us. He told us that without a doubt we should rent a scooter, and that he would hook us up with a good deal. Laura and I were instantly intrigued, and so began an hour-long session of scooter haggling, involving our new friend Bryan and his scooter friend Aleem.

Next thing we knew, it was the following morning and our scooter was about to arrive at the Yoga Centre (In true Jamaican fashion it arrived two hours late). Laura signed the papers and just like that we had a scooter at our disposal for the next 24 hours. After preparing a daypack full of snorkel gear and snax, we hopped on and peeled out onto the left side of the road. What was our destination? What else but the famous cliffs of Negril’s south end.

Rounding the first bend, some locals screamed out at us not to wreck, while others tried to convince us of their tour guide capabilities. We ignored them the best we could and Laura revved it, dodging potholes and the light oncoming traffic. The cliff top was lined with resort after resort, all offering the same thing: bar, patio, and water access for swimming and snorkeling. Some establishments had networks of caves that you could walk through to get down to the water, while others advertised cliffs that you could jump off. One such place was Rick’s CafĂ©, which was self-proclaimed world famous. We stopped to check it out and found it to be rather ridiculous. It was comprised of an immense, flavorless concrete expanse, replete with verandas and gift shops. The cliffs were overrun with locals that jumped off a 95-foot crow’s nest to get tips. They hassled us endlessly to tip them for their performances; Laura got talked into swimming into some caves with some locals and enjoyed herself until they demanded a $6 tip afterward. We did, however, take a few jumps off the 40-foot cliffs which was exhilarating. Soon after that however, we left in search of a more down to earth locale.

We found our favorite spot at a place called Xtabi, where we sat at a table on the cliff and drank a pina colada as white-tailed tropicbirds chased each other through the sky. After relaxing, we hopped in the deep water and snorkeled around, though the coral was bleached and devoid of anything too spectacular. Regardless, the sheer warmth and clarity of the water made the moment quite surreal.

By this point, Laura had become quite the pro at the scooter. I had had a go of it earlier in the day (which ended up costing us $65 for a new paint job), but soon decided my inexperienced hand might become a liability. Laura was the only driver now. Heading past the lighthouse south out of town we found long uninhabited straightaways cutting through the ruinate woodlands, where Laura revved it and we topped out at 57 KPH.

That evening we headed back to the beachfront for a late dinner at a hut selling jerk chicken. The cook was a kind man who worked there with his wife, and since we were his only customers he lit up a spliff and sat down with us. He told us all about the crazy spring breakers and how rude and loud they were, doing every drug under the moon, from coke and heroin to acid and pills. He emphasized with us over and over that he strictly smoked the ganja and seemed disgusted by the tourists for their heathen ways. I didn’t argue with him, though he did think their rampant sex and skinny-dipping was shameful. :-/ Too tired from our busy day, we missed out on the live music again and fell asleep on the early side of things.

Our final morning, we decided to enjoy the beach life one more time, crossing the road and claiming two shaded beach chairs. We purloined a crossword, read our books, and took a quick dip in the calm water. Then we battled it out in a final ping pong match, playing the onshore breeze as we spun winners back and forth.


  1. Sounds like you know how to have fun. Every bit of it sounds intriguing.

  2. Wow! I love the detail...feel like I was there. Interesting about all the hustling from the locals, and the conversation with the cook about the spring breakers. The scooter and snorkeling etc sound like fun! All of it sounds like fun! You two are very adventurous