I was thrilled to return to Jamaica recently for Endless Vacation® magazine to report a feature on Montego Bay. I’d been to the island a few years earlier, when I covered Falmouth and Negril, too, and Jamaica had quickly become my Caribbean fave.
And while this visit’s MoBay-centric schedule kept me busy with unexpected attractions, like cruising aboard a private sailboat and taking a food tour with a local guide, I knew I wanted to squeeze in time at the end for a quick road trip to Negril, Jamaica’s “Capital of Casual.”
If Montego Bay is Jamaica’s Miami, then Negril, in the country’s westernmost parish, is its Key West—one part hippie, one part beach bum and all parts fun. I rolled down the windows as I drove west from MoBay in my rental car, resisting the urge to stop at more than one roadside fruit stand selling enormous fresh mangoes, pineapples cut into swirl shapes and guavas as sugary as tarts. I stopped to splash in the shallows at Half Moon Beach, a crescent of sand about 20 minutes outside Negril (look for the hand-painted sign on the right side of the road near the town of Green Island).
Negril’s Wild West
A pilgrimage to watch the cliff divers at Rick’s Café, on Negril’s West End, may be a tourist cliché, but it’s hard not to be awed by their performances as you watch with the crowd, sipping Jamaican beer. There’s a colorful collection of cliff-front cottages just next door, Banana Shout Resort, where I stayed. My cottage had a hammock in the colors of the Jamaican flag on its second-floor balcony—ideal for swinging sea views.
Going on a tip from Banana Shout’s owner, I drove a short distance up the road that evening for dinner at Just Natural, where winking white lights were strung through a secret garden full of tropical trees. It was hard to choose, but I finally settled on a delicious dinner of fresh kingfish.
Breakfast and a Dip
The following morning I had a flight to catch, but there was time enough for a lazy Jamaican breakfast—ackee and saltfish with golden johnnycakes at the casual oceanfront restaurant Kuyaba. After I’d sipped the last of my Jamaican coffee, I walked approximately four barefoot steps down to the sand for one last dip in the clearest water I’ve ever seen.
Banana Shout ResortWest End Rd.; 876-957-0384; bananashoutresort.com
Half Moon Beach9000 Green Island; 876-531-4508; halfmoonbeachjamaica.com
Just NaturalHylton Ave.; 876-957-0235; no website; dinner for two, from $18*
KuyabaNorman Manley Blvd.; 876-957-4318; kuyaba.com; breakfast for two, from $14
Rick’s CaféWest End Rd.; 876-957-0380; rickscafejamaica.com; lunch for two, from $40
- *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars. Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax or tip.
- NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
- Published: April 2015