Zimbali's Culinary Retreat (from US$450 dbl, all inclusive) offers visitors a comfortable way to experience the most idyllic life imaginable as a Rasta living in the hills of Westmoreland. The boutique property operates as an all-inclusive, integrated tour operator providing all food and transport for one-, three-, four-, five- and seven-night packages. The five double occupancy suites and a larger two-bedroom cottage that sleeps four are comfortably decorated with local wood and wicker furniture.
Negril and the West
Hanover and Westmoreland are Jamaica's westernmost parishes. Hanover wraps around from Montego Bay on its northeastern border to where Negril's large hotel strip overflows from Westmoreland at its western reaches. It's a picturesque parish with small mountains tapering down to the coast with rivers, lush valleys, and deep, navigable coves. Caves dot the landscape of some of Jamaica's most biologically diverse ecosystems, in the shadow of the Dolphin Head mountain range.
Negril, which straddles the Hanover\Westmoreland border, has become a mass-market destination popular among Jamaicans and foreign visitors alike. The Kingstonian phenomenon of a weekend escape to "country" often implies a trip west to kick back and adopt the beach life, which necessarily involves taking in spectacular sunsets and the enviable slow pace evoked in Tyrone Taylor's 1983 hit, "Cottage in Negril." A constant stream of new visitors also gives hustlers a chance to do their thing, and Negril has gained a reputation as a mecca for sinful indulgence as a result.
While Negril is the region's most well-known draw, there are several low-key communities farther east that are just as easily accessible from Montego Bay's international airport and worthy coastal destinations in themselves, namely Little Bay, Bluefields, Belmont, and Whitehouse. The Westmoreland interior consists of vast alluvial plains on either side of Cabarita River, still some of Jamaica's most productive sugarcane territory. The plains extend from the base of the Orange Hill, just east of Negril, to where the Roaring River rises out of the earth from its underground source in the hills above Blue Hole Garden.
Hanover exists as a parish since it was portioned off from Westmoreland in 1723 and given the name of English monarch George I of the House of Hanover. The Spanish first settled the area when New Seville was abandoned in 1534 and the capital moved to Spanish Town. Lucea became prosperous, with a busier port than Montego Bay in its heyday, which served 16 large sugar estates in the area. Remnants of many estate great houses dot the landscape to the east and west of Lucea, their abandoned ruins showing evidence of having been torched and destroyed during slave riots. Kennilworth, Barbican, and Tryall are a few of the old estates that have visible ruins; although they have been declared national heritage sites, they are not maintained.
Skylark Negril Beach Resort (from US$95/175 Low/High) is a modern, minimalist 28-room boutique hotel that wouldn't be out of place on Miami Beach, though it clearly draws creative inspiration from a deep appreciation of Jamaica and its singular culture and musical heritage. The beach club vibe begins in the airy lobby where leafy wallpaper and bamboo ceiling panels add organic elements that warm the white washed walls adorned with classic Jamaica posters.
Culture fest, wellness retreat and irie vibes in the Capital of Casual. The week-long event in Negril showcases some of Jamaica's top contemporary roots artists and selectors spinning reggae and house. Big names on the ticket include Chris Blackwell, Protoje, Yardcore, Gabre Selassie, Nick Monaco, David Marston and Toddla T. 7-day pass: USD 299 / USD 449 VIP.
Marine Life Divers is a dependable dive shop offering certification courses and equipment rental for PADI-certified divers. The one-dive discover scuba intro course costs US$80; PADI certified divers with their own equipment can rent full tanks (US$42 one dive, from shore - 9am-10:30am, US$85 for two by boat 9am-1:30pm) or tanks and equipment (US$50/100). Transport is included from all Negril accommodations.
Negril Beach Villa (US$1071.50 nightly, min. three nights) is a secluded three-bedroom villa with a private pool on 1.5 acres and 400-feet of beachfront facing Bloody Bay. Rooms have king beds, A/C and private bathrooms. The rental includes full staff and Internet.
Zest Restaurant (7am-10pm daily), located at The Cliff, is a welcome addition to Negril's food scene, showcasing the creative hand of internationally acclaimed executive chef Cindy Hutson. Try singular starters like the shrimp ceviche with fried plantain and bean dip or mains like sauteed snapper with a side of cashew and jackfruit spiced rice. The dining area is split between a chic interior and clifftop al fresco, with crashing waves as a soundtrack. Reservations are required for guests not staying on property.
Relax on Negril's West End in Style at this luxury 33-room resort hideaway
Idle Awhile Villas (USD 300/400 low/high per bedroom, plus 20% taxes and gratuity) were taken over by Jamaican hotelier Lee Issa and managed by his wife's boutique hotel group, both stellar operators who are never too far to be engaged in the day-to-day. The property was acquired in 2015 and underwent upgrades before being reopened gracing Seven-Mile beach with a top-notch villa offering. The villas come all the amenities of home, and then some, like king-size beds, wifi and a billiards table, butler, chef and housekeepers.
Knutsford Express is a popular coach service with Jamaicans and tourists alike, offering the most comfortable bus transport between Kingston, Ocho Rios, and Montego Bay with two or three daily departures from each city. New Kingston–Montego Bay departs at 6 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 6 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Sundays. Buses run between the parking lot behind New Kingston Shopping Centre and Pier 1 in Montego Bay. The trip lasts four hours depending on traffic and costs US$20 prepaid, US$23 on the day of travel.
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