I had a new pair of Ray Bans and a fresh stamp in my passport. I was finally traveling outside of the United States for the first time! Nestled within the lush trees of Negril, Jamaica we found our destination at the Negril Yoga Center. It was a week filled with sunshine, new food, fresh fruit, cliff jumping, and quite a few stray dogs. With an authentic experience in mind, we sought for the local food and locations. Safe to say, I would have to stay much longer than a week to cram in all that Jamaica has to offer!
After hours of traveling by plane we were finally in Jamaica, but about an hour away from our destination. Greeted by ice cold Red Stripe’s, we took an air conditioned taxi from Montego Bay to Negril. If you’re traveling outside of Montego Bay I would recommend arranging transportation ahead of time, we used Reggae Tours Jamaica. The airport is chaotic and finding a way out can be very stressful, especially when you’re exhausted from flying and just wanting to relax.
We planned to lodge in a private cottage in the Negril Yoga Center. It’s an eclectic collection of cottages and rooms within a jungle atmosphere. All of the houses are connected with small trails, creating a secluded and serene village. I enjoyed relaxing in the hammocks that were in this open grass hut within the center. They offer yoga classes, massages, and freshly made natural meals. I got breakfast from their kitchen almost every morning and it was amazing! To read more about where to eat in Jamaica click here.
Surrounded by lush flowering trees and right across the street from Seven Mile Beach, Negril Yoga Center was the perfect relaxing getaway we were looking for. Across the street was Coral Seas, a resort and restaurant on the beach. Since we were not staying directly on the beach, we accessed the beach through the resort. To have permission to their chairs, you must pay the manager a small fee and/or purchase food and drink from their restaurant. I found it was very common to visit resorts for their beaches, as long as you made a donation or purchase.
Getting around Jamaica is easiest by taxi, so we bartered the fare and made our way south towards West End, Negril. We found ourselves at a resort called Xtabi, located right on the cliffs of the Caribbean sea, with a labyrinth of caves and coves below. Their restaurant offered a variety of authentic Jamaican meals, where I tried Caribbean lobster for the first time! Being native to Cape Cod, this was unlike the seafood I was used to but still delicious in its own way. While you’re dining on the cliffs, you can watch the other visitors jump off the ledges and swim in the coves. When we were done with our meal, we explored the caves’ passageways and bathed in the tranquil echoing of the waves.
A more touristy must-see location is Rick’s Cafe, one of the first bars to arise on the West End Cliffs. You can watch the sun sink into the Caribbean sea from their pool, lounge chairs, the bar, or the restaurant. You can also jump off the cliff at three different levels: 10 feet, 25 feet, and 35 feet. For the even more extreme, there is a tree with a tiny ledge that is about an eighty foot jump off of the cliff! It is very crowded and can be very dangerous so jumping is at your own risk.
In the search for a more relaxing and remote scene, we visited Half Moon Beach, located about 18.5 km north of the yoga center. We met a couple staying at the yoga center and drove with them in their rental car. I give them a lot of credit for getting all of us there safely, driving in Jamaica is difficult because they drive on the other side of the road and most of them drive very fast! Once we arrived to the secluded beach, we found hammocks hung from the trees, shells freckled in the sand, and geckos climbing the vines.
We took a short, cheap boat ride to an island with a restaurant called Calico Jacks. With only one other small group of people there, we had this wooden hut all to ourselves. An oasis surrounded by fresh air, turquoise waters, and colorful coral reefs. Under the water lies a thriving new world filled with vibrant fish of all sizes, fan coral swaying in the water, black and bright purple sea urchins with sharp spikes, and a small octopus camouflaged in the sand. On the island, the host and chef Livingston was making us authentic jerk chicken, rice and beans. We spent the time talking to people who were just strangers but now companions, sharing good vibes and stories of past travels.