So you’re planning a trip to Negril, Jamaica – The Capital of Casual. As a frugal tourist who loves to eat, drink, and respects cleanliness here are my top 7 tips for your Negril vacation.
1.) Where to Stay. Negril has hundreds of hotels, many of them along Seven Mile Beach and many on the Cliffs area. The cliff resorts will be quieter than the beach resorts.
My number one pick for staying on the cliffs is SamSara Cliffs Resort because of price, cleanliness, location, and friendliness. SamSara Cliffs is also the sister resort of Legends (on the beach) and offers a free shuttle back and forth between the two (approx. 2 miles). You can enjoy the beach by day and the quiet of the cliffs by night.
My number one pick for staying on the beach is Traveller’s Resort. With a friendly staff, clean rooms and meticulous grounds this resort is both inclusive and non-inclusive and the price is very reasonable with many types of rooms to choose from including standard rooms, deluxe, cottages, and some with kitchenettes. Traveller’s offers a secure beach, a full bar and restaurant, a pool with a swim up bar, and a small but clean beach with security. Family owned and operated, this is a big bang for your buck and a lot quieter than some of the other beach resorts, but still has a rich nightlife. At the bar ask Keisha to create her amazing shaken Mudslide or find Romeo for the best Dirty Banana on the island.
2.) Where to Eat / Places to Go. When visiting Negril, make it a point to stop along the road and try out different vendors and establishments. This is where you will find the best Jamaican fare. Don’t be leery of stopping by the roadside stand with the old, rickety barrel cooking jerk chicken or the little shack down the road with the hand painted sign. These offer great, fresh food at a much lower price than larger restaurants and the portions are usually bigger as well. In fact many of these places take your order, go out and buy the ingredients, and THEN cook your meal – which is why you will come to understand “island time” and the fact that your meal will take about an hour or more to arrive – after you place your order.
Bless Up Restaurant near SamSara Cliffs
House of Black Seafood Spot Restaurant
Beef and Chicken Patties near the little Sure Save grocery store
Jamaica Tamboo along Seven Mile Beach (within walking distance from Traveller’s and near Legends Resort) – BEST lobster pizza on the beach aside from the Traveller’s Resorts lobster pizza.
And my all-time favorite place to dine in Negril is the German Bar between the cliffs and the beach. This is an actual sit down restaurant with authentic German and Jamaican food, low prices, great scenery, and clean bathrooms. As with everywhere else you go in Jamaica, no one is in any hurry so go early before you are hungry. Ask for Anja (easy to remember, rhymes with ganja!)
With that said, I highly recommend having just a drink or two there and then heading down the street (go left out of Rick’s) to IVAN’S BAR (Catcha Falling Star Cottages and Suites) where the ambiance is one hundred times better than Rick’s and the prices for food and spirits are much more reasonable than Rick’s. The sunsets here are even more spectacular there as well. Get there before 6pm – you’ll find it pretty empty but it will fill up very fast! Try the Chocolate Monkey at the bar. Friendly service and unmatched scenery! They also offer a place to stay. Their rates are a bit higher than many although like I said the place is simply unmatched so it’s well worth it.
3.) Taxi Service. Make sure you haggle your fare BEFORE getting into the taxi. Look for the taxis with RED license plates. I have two very good drivers in Negril: Derrick Steete Tours / Taxi Service Call: 876-919-8307 or, from Traveller’s Resort as for Jackie the singing taxi driver.
4.) Shopping for souvenirs. One of the things I like to do is buy directly from the locals. I’m not into gifts from China. I am visiting Jamaica so I want to support the locals not the Chinese, therefore I tend to shop the beach and roadside vendors rather than the big gift shops, although a handful of the big gift shops are run by Jamaicans selling Jamaican made products. There is also a craft market (almost like a flea market in the States) located along the Negril River right before the city center. Most of the vendors are rastas and be prepared for high pressure to come in and see their store. As someone with a lot of patience I can tell you when we finally got OUT of there, I felt frustrated, overwhelmed, and annoyed… and honestly that’s a hard mental place to get to in Jamaica where everything is normally very slow and laid back.
I recommend buying from the beach and roadside vendors for authentic Jamaican crafts and gifts. There is always wiggle room in the price so keep your money in your pocket and come upon a price before pulling it out.
Sunrise Plaza near the city center and Times Square near Seven Mile Beach both offer many gift shops if you are looking for no pressure sales but most are not owned by Jamaicans.
5.) Grocery Stores, ATM’s, Money Exchange, Cigarettes, and Booze. There are Hi-Lo markets and even a pharmacy in Negril’s city center but you are going to pay a bit more for all your items here. Look for small stores operated by Jamaican’s FOR Jamaicans for your best pricing. Anywhere near the hotels is going to be a bit pricey, but will still be cheaper than the actual grocery stores like Hi-Lo especially for alcohol and smokes. Go just a few streets outside of Negril and find MUCH cheaper prices! For instance: You’ve run out of cigarettes. On the beach $8/pack USD, $7. At the Jamaican store near the hotels, and $4.50 just a few streets outside of Negril.
Money exchange and ATM: Visit a Cambia or use the secure ATM at the ScotiaBank in the city center. Most hotels will also exchange money.
6.) Tours. There are many tours that you can book in Jamaica. River tours, ganja fields, the falls, Appleton Rum, glass bottom boats, snorkeling, parasailing, etc. All are wonderful and worth the money plain and simple. You CAN haggle your price and you should. Competition is fierce on the beach and book a tour as a group and save tons of money. Our group took Captain Patrick’s glass bottom boat tour for a mere $20 per person. They took us snorkeling on a reef and well it was just very relaxing and beautiful. Most boats pick you up right along the beach near your hotel. Captain Patrick is located next to Traveller’s Resort on the beach.
7.) Beach vendors. Get used to saying “no thank you” because you’ll be approached all day long as you relax on the beach – by various vendors selling their wares. Almost all resorts on the beach also have security guards which keep the vendors from harassing you and that is nice… but for me I don’t mind them so much. Most of these vendors are just trying to make a living so I like to talk to them and support them. Especially the rastas who are selling handcrafted items. Oddly if you buy once from them they will pass you by the next time – they seem to have a knack for remembering you. With that said they will also remember you when you say “maybe next time” or “later”… so if you don’t mean it don’t tell them that! The ladies selling fruit are amazing, and the fruit is SO FRESH! Again, you can always haggle a bit on price! **Be respectful. These are just people trying to make a living in a very tough place.
If you have tips please leave them in the comments section so that we can all read and benefit from them. Thank you.