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What to Expect -- Negril Lovely, Slow Moving, Quiet, But not what everyone is looking for . . .
A first time visitor to Jamaica will find Negril to be very similar to most small towns in the Caribbean. Expecting a level of development or infrastructure similar to the small fishing towns of Hawaii, or the clean stuccoed shopping centers of the Bahamas will result in severe disappointment. This area, although beautiful, has sprung up in spite of itself, surrounded by third-world conditions. Don't be afriad to rent a car and explore. If you get lost, just ask the first person you see!
Travelers to Negril should be prepared for open, friendly people that will respond in a most gracious manner if treat them as you expect to be treated. There is unavoidable poverty, limited environmental controls; and uncollected garbage alongside the roads in some areas, but you will see this in most undeveloped contries. In the past raw sewage pumped directly into the ocean but the government has tried mightily to correct this in the last 10 years. Enormous resorts that have been built as a hindrance to the long term ability of this area to self-sustain. The Jamaican government is clearly struggling to meet growing tourist demands with the needs of local communities - it seems the tourists are winning. Venture just a few steps off the main roads and away from the Four Star Resorts in Negril and you will see homes with no running water or electricity; families struggling in apathy and joblessness, and children that in spite of it all have a beauty and happiness that turns the travel weary into the heart warmed. You basically have 3 choices for accomodations in Negril. 1. Huge all inclusives that have total isolation from any aspect of the "real Jamaica". 2. Many small and medium size hotels that are not part of chains. 3. Small guest houses that are incrediblly cheap if you really want to go native.
Take a drive into the country side to visit the Royal Palm Reserve, Lost Beach, or Mayfield Falls and you will get a truer sense of the lure of the islands charms. Lush green foliage, friendly locals sitting on porches, and the seemingly endless Jerk shacks and Red Stripe bars. Small beaches like Half Moon Bay that you pass on the way to Negril offer a quiet beach with a thatched hut with all the jerk chicken and Red Stripe anyone could want. Do not miss the West End which is where the cliffs are. You can even go to Rick's if you like big American crowds and over priced drinks.
What Negril Is --
Negril is a sleepy little town on the western coast of Jamaica with calm warm waters, low priced to luxury hotels, and a slow Caribbean beat. Great for bobbing in bath tub warm waters, sipping Red Stripe while watching the sunset, affordable, and simple to get around.
What Negril is not --
A quaint little tourist town with good shopping and five star restaurants. The "Town Center" is essentially a couple two story cinderblock third world versions of a strip mall, a Burger King, and a Bank. It is loud, smelly, unappealing, and full of characters willing to sell anything you might be willing to buy. There are two Crafts Markets along seven mile beach. One is next to the PetCom gas station and one just before the round about in the town center. The markets are spotty as to the quality of merchandise and you need to be prepared to barter heavily if you want a good price.
The Negril Town Center is useful for four things:
1 - Changing from one Route Taxi to another
2- Scoring all things recreational (drugs, human companionship, tour guides)
3 - Getting USA Dollars from the Scotia Bank ATM
4- Stocking up at the well stocked grocery in the shopping center. The rum prices are MUCH lower than the USA.
Although Seven Mile Beach is dotted with dozens of "restaurants" visitors should again know what to expect. These are not places with indoor seating, air conditioning, and well trained service. Just as often as not, they are someone's home, and home kitchen, that they have opened to visitors and then expanded as business was good. NOTE! The previous comments must surely date back to the 60's. Having been to Negril 8 times over the past 12 years, there are several very nice restaurants along the beach and even more along the cliffs of the West End.
Enjoy the culture, expect little in the way of luxury, know your level of tolerance for the conditions outside of the controlled resort environment and you will find your vacation goes smoothly and you leave with the calm of the islands. If you want adventure you will find it here, if you want drugs - sure thing. If you want a great resort with good food that is truly "All Inclusive" Negril will give it to you.
If you want a charming little sea side village where you can stroll from one shop to another stopping for coffee and ice cream free from pressure and harassment - visit Maui. If you want a charming little sea side village with very fiendly people, great local dishes, the best coffee in the world, go to Negril.
Good Luck - everything be Irie!!