Negril is the farthest West you can be in Jamaica, so we’ll just put “watch the sunset” on your list immediately. Rick’s Cafe and Seven Mile Beach are grand, but I want to let you in on the stuff that’s truly worth doing for a memorable, cultural vacation in Jamaica.
I worked for the Jamaica Tourist Board for about five years* so I took about three trips per year learning about and experiencing much of the Island. Each time I visited the island I hoped I would get to go to Negril. It’s the chillest part of the island too – it’s where the hippies gathered in the 60s & 70s.
Here’s what you absolutely need to do if you choose Negril for your vacay:
Rockhouse Hotel is THE BEST. It’s a boutique hotel on the cliffs. It’s not a resort experience like many places on island, but rather a rustic spot on the rocky cliffs, with hidden bungalows, twists and turns and little surprises everywhere.
Rockhouse has Pushcart – a casual restaurant with local flavors and trendy vibes. It’s an absolute must for at least one dinner, but you may find yourself there night after night for drinks and live music.
The hotel also has voluntourism opportunities at the Rockhouse Foundation – a nonprofit organization focused on primary education in Jamaica. You may be needed to help out with construction on a new school or teaching gym classes at a current school in the area depending on what time of year you visit.
I’m not telling you you’ll never want to leave the hotel property, but they just have so much to do. Make sure you ask about their organic garden. It’s cool to get a tour and learn about local produce and see where most of your Rockhouse meals are coming from.
Murphy’s West End Restaurant
An actual hole in the wall, this might very well be my favorite place in all of Jamaica. On the left side of the street heading toward the West End lighthouse is a colorful shack with a patio and a big old backyard. Owner, Leniel, is there all the time, and he’s always ready to make a strong rum punch for you while you wait for your meal.
Yep, meals take some time. But that’s the way of life. Don’t go if you’re starving, or if you’re picky. Some items may be off menu and others may be out for the day. Everything is fresh.
Leniel will let you watch him smoke the jerk chicken and pour a Red Stripe on the meat for flavor. He’ll tour you around the yard full of ackee trees and other native fruits and flowers if you ask. I recommend going once for lunch and once for dinner. Call ahead if you want the lobster! It’s one of my faves along with the jerk shrimp and devil’s chicken (spicyyy). The plates are beautiful, the food is hot and legit made from love. Bring cash!
Jackie’s on The Reef
Jackie moved from NYC in the 70s to hippie Negril and never went back. The life was too difficult in New York, while the life in Jamaica is how it should be, she says.
She opened a yoga and wellness retreat for travelers like herself, who are looking for solace from their crazy lives. You can stay in one of the cabanas overnight or come for a few hours for massages, yoga, and a fresh fruit smoothie.
This is every Northeasterner’s dream: a bar on a beach with live music. What could be more opposite from a cold-ass Irish pub or dungeony dive bar in a NYC winter? THIS. And what a treat. Grab a Red Stripe and get ready to listen to some local bands. This isn’t usually a spot for tourists, so shows start later than what’s listed.
*I worked for the Jamaica Tourist Board in a PR capacity.