Jamaica, Naturally: The Cliffs of Negril

Jamaica has earned its reputation for a fun and welcoming culture, even as an island for relaxing Carribean partying. If you’re ready to discover an even deeper part of the island nation, prepare yourself for the Cliffs of Negril.

A short drive from Montego Bay on the west coast of Jamaica, Negril is home to the 7-mile beach. This sandy beach is famous for its all-inclusive anything-goes resorts (Couples Swept Away, Samsara, Hedonism II). The beaches make for lovely day trips or a great place to catch live music and dance if you’re up for the nightlife. But the atmosphere can be a bit young and touristy.

That’s why I recommend the cliffs for a more extended stay. These resorts tend to be simple but very lovely, with a quieter atmosphere. There’s a bit more privacy and a bit more security since the properties are more remote. Visitors can only access by gated entrances or from the coast.

The cliffs themselves are beautiful and make a perfect portal to the sea. Sunbathe in any nook you like or dive from any height to cooling waters. Don’t worry! If you’re not into heights, you can easily walk in from low cliffs or ladders.

As soon as you’re in the water, expect to be dazzled by the seafloor. You’ll invariably find colorful fish, shy skates burrowing in the sand, and smaller coral reefs right off the cliffs. A mask and snorkel turn a simple swim into an extravagant expedition. Follow the coastline as far as you like for seascapes of every variety.

Negril culture is still embedded in the old ways, including handline fishing. Locals can teach you to catch fish just the way they do. You can count on fresh seafood and greens (try the callaloo!). Sip cocktails in a hammock by the sunset if that’s your thing.

The cliff divers of Negril are world-class acrobats. At Rick’s, they scale the cliffs barefoot and fling themselves in unison, always landing gracefully no matter how many flips they do.

It’s worth arranging a boat ride for snorkeling at even more amazing reefs further out to sea. Local guides know these waters and everything that lives in them and will be happy to introduce you to the fantastic fish, plants, and animals.

Be prepared to listen to some Bob Marley. The setting will give you a whole new appreciation for the music. Negril is a great way to discover authentic Jamaica, connect with the culture, and relax in the beauty of the natural environment.