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  • Overview

    Jamaica's western coastline is extremely laid-back. There's little to do other than sit back, relax and enjoy the renowned sunsets in between beach-lounging and partying. At the centre of this hedonistic haven is the sunny resort town of Negril, dubbed the 'Capital of Casual'.

    Despite its popularity, it has managed to retain the sleepy tropical charm which first seduced seekers of sun and solitude in the 1960s. It was the hippies and flower children who were first drawn to Negril, appreciating it for being different from the overdeveloped package-tour market of Montego Bay.

    Negril still attracts a young crowd, and the beachfront bars and cafes are abuzz each night with reggae music and dancing. Negril is known in the Caribbean as a partying hotspot, and its nude beaches complete its liberal reputation.

    Negril is favoured by those just wanting to get away from it all. It sports a famous seven-mile (11km) stretch of pristine beach encircling Bloody Bay, and five miles (8km) of cliffs where locals and visitors alike indulge in extreme cliff-diving.

    The coral reefs and caves along the coast make it a dream come true for scuba divers and snorkelers. For active visitors, there's the chance to take part in just about any water sport imaginable, with adventure seekers kayaking into the mysterious Great Morass, a protected area full of palm trees, exotic birds and crocodiles.

    Seven Mile Beach

    The reason for Negril's recent boom as a tourist destination is centred on this seven mile (11km) stretch of beautiful shoreline, dotted with palm trees and carpeted with pristine white sand. Development has been restricted to palm-tree height, and despite the proliferation of guesthouses and hotels along the strip the natural beauty of the beach has not been compromised. There are lots of restaurants, resorts and shops along the beachfront but thankfully the length of the beach usually prevents it from becoming too crowded. There are myriad activities and watersports available at the beach and the snorkelling is wonderful too.

    Seven Mile Beach Seven Mile Beach Chaoleonard
    Rhodes Hall Plantation

    The beautiful estate of Rhodes Hall Plantation lies a short distance east of Negril. Guided horseback excursions give a glimpse of the magic and mystery of the Jamaican countryside. Guides give some basic horsemanship tips and then take tourists off through the foothills, pointing out botanical wonders and regaling riders with stories and legends about local landmarks. Visitors are taken through forests of banana and coconut palms, and along a beach to the Crocodile River, where hopefully groups can meet one of the resident crocodiles. Swimming gear is a must, as the horses like to head into the surf.

    Crocodile Crocodile Jannes Pockele
    Mayfield Falls

    The 22 mini-cascades and numerous swimming holes that make up the Mayfield Falls in the low-lying Dolphin Head Mountains make a memorable day trip from Negril. Tours offer guided walks through bamboo-shaded cool water holes and splashing falls. Some parts of the walk through the area involve natural whirlpools; in others, blasts of water hit you from the rocks. There is an underwater cave to swim through, smooth rockslide areas and mini cliffs from which to dive. This natural water park is edged and overhung with flowers, vines and trees. Jamaican dishes are available at the eatery at the entry point, while there are also a number of stalls selling souvenirs and crafts at the end of the trail.

    Rope Bridge At River Walk Rope Bridge At River Walk Gail Frederick
    South Coast

    The south of Jamaica is the most unspoilt part of this lovely Caribbean island. It's here that many say the true heart of the nation still beats, relatively untouched by the tourism and resort development evident on the rest of the island. The centre of the region is the breezy hill town of Mandeville. Founded in 1816, the British colonial influence is strong, from the village green bordered by a church and courthouse to the Manchester Club, home to Jamaica's oldest golf course which was founded in 1868. Negril is technically also in the south coast region, but as a booming resort town it has a different atmosphere to the rest of the south. Visitors can explore the history of the region's rum production at the Appleton Estate or even enjoy a boat safari along the Black River, stopping along the way at YS Falls.

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation
    Reggae Marathon

    Every year, Jamaica plays host to the well-attended Reggae Marathon. The course is a world-class run along some of Negril's finest white sandy beaches. The island marathon has a sound system rigged up along the race route, playing reggae music to encourage participating athletes.

    There is a full marathon, a half marathon, and a 10k as well as lots of less athletic events for those who think reggae is still best paired with drinking and relaxing. Spectators can sit back and enjoy the scenery as runners tour the island after a traditional Rastafarian welcome at the start. The Finish Line Beach Bash is also not to be missed.

    The course is mainly flat but the difficulty level increases slightly as running on sand is rather strenuous and hard. International competitors should be prepared for the heat and hydrate well as December is hot in Jamaica.

    Venue: Seven Mile Beach, Negril
    Reggae Marathon Reggae Marathon ActiveSteve

    Negril is a top destination for outdoor enthusiasts: you can kayak out into the protected wilderness of the Great Morass to see crocodiles and other wildlife in their natural habitat; go horse riding on the beach and through the jungle at Rhodes Hall Plantation; scuba dive or snorkel the beautiful coral reefs and caves along Negril's coast; or enjoy some extreme cliff-diving into the clear ocean water, a very popular activity with both locals and visitors.

    There are also excursions into the surrounding countryside, like a daytrip to Mayfield Falls, a natural water park where you can swim in the pools formed by 22 cascades. For lovely views of Negril's coastline, climb the lighthouse on West End Road - it was built in 1894 and is open to visitors every day.

    On the more untouched South Coast, visitors can explore the history of the region's rum production at the Appleton Estate or even enjoy a boat safari along the Black River, stopping along the way at YS Falls. The centre of the region is Mandeville, founded in 1816 and home to the country's oldest golf course.

    There is a reason, however, that this adventurer's paradise is called the 'Capital of Casual'. The most popular attraction in Negril is the famous Seven Mile Beach, where turquoise water and white sands create a paradise for lazy hedonists as well as active thrill-seekers. The Reggae Marathon held annually in December sees runners taking over Seven Mile Beach, but most of the time it's the territory of happy and relaxed tourists.

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    No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination