Local Adventures Hidden within the Island
After a storied past sheltering pirates and drug smugglers, Negril rebranded in the 70s when hippies and incognito rock stars fell for the town’s anything-goes attitude and tangerine-glazed sunsets. Despite the proliferation of all-inclusive resorts that followed, the Negril coastline – from Seven Mile Beach to the dramatic West End cliffs – still has natural beauty, boutique businesses, and laid-back spirit in spades.
About 30 minutes from Negril, a quiet fishing village called Little Bay lures daredevil visitors with the Blue Hole – a deep limestone cavern fed by underground mineral springs. If you’re feeling bold, leap 25 feet from the rim into the aquamarine water below, then pull yourself onto a ledge and cheer on your fellow divers. If jumping feels too scary you can always shuffle down the ladder for a cooling swim instead.
When the Rockhouse first opened in 1972, it welcomed guests including Bob Marley, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Almost 50 years later it’s still Negril’s hippest hotel, boasting a string of octagonal thatched huts with their own private sunbathing platforms carved into the lava rock cliffs. Throughout the property strategically positioned ladders drop into the ocean, inviting you to swim with kaleidoscopic congregations of tropical fish. Post-dip find yourself a shaded seat at the Rockhouse Restaurant and order a dirty banana: a banana smoothie spiked with Appleton rum and coffee liqueur that goes down like a dessert.
Rick’s Cafe is a sundowner institution in Jamaica, drawing tourists from as far afield as Montego Bay with unobstructed views of the horizon and daily cliff-jumping competitions. Bolstered by tooth-achingly sweet rum cocktails and a soundtrack of remixed reggae hits, local guys (and some foolhardy tourists) ascend rocky ledges, raised platforms and lofty tree branches before somersaulting into the water below. These daring displays of showmanship will have you holding your breath, then exploding with applause.
The first Jamaican outpost of Miss Lily’s is a triumphant homecoming. Expect the same confident color palette, jerk-heavy dishes and infectious party atmosphere as the restaurant’s New York locations, but with a bigger, badder soundsystem and superior beachy backdrop. Like most establishments in Negril, Miss Lily’s makes a real feature of sunset. Order your choice of meat or fish straight from the jerk smokehouse and BBQ grilling station, plus all the classic trimmings (sautéed callaloo greens, velvety ackee and hunks of fried plantain), as live DJs spin reggae and tropical libations cascade from cocktail shakers.