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Negril Jamaica Vacations: Advice for Single Women
Negril Jamaica Vacation: Everything a Single Woman Needs to Know to Have Safe Fun in the Sun
As of this writing, I’ve been to Jamaica twice. Once with some friends for a week; and then on a second trip alone for three weeks, where I did a little more exploring. Here, I want to speak from a single female perspective – as in, what to expect if you’re a single female and want to experience the beauty of the tropical paradise that is Negril, Jamaica.
Update August 2010: I live practically year-round in Jamaica now. Freelance writing allows me to live and work anywhere in the world -- as long as I have an internet connection. Learn how I made the move, and how you can too in How to Work and Live Abroad from the Caribbean: It's Easier than You Thank to Make the Move to an Island Paradise.
Negril Jamaica: Weather
The weather is what you’d expect in any tropical atmosphere – hot. I was there in July/August on my first trip. The second time, when I went for three weeks, I was there from the middle of September to through the first week of October.
As expected, during the middle of the day is when it’s hottest. I’m a runner and if I didn’t get my run out of the way by 8 am, I knew I either had to wait until the evening, or sweat out a slow, hot run during the middle of the day.
Most days, I tried to be up and running by 6:45 am. Even at this hour, it’s warm.
The best thing about running on the beach in Negril though (which is where I did the majority of my running) is that you could strip down to your bathing suit and dive into for a cooling swim. I wore my swimsuit under my running clothes.
The water temperature in the ocean in Negril is warm. If you’ve ever been swimming in the ocean in the Florida Keys, you know what I mean. A native Floridian, I like it because there’s no fear of icy water you have to get used to.
Rain in the Afternoon
Take an umbrella with you when you're out and about because those afternoon showers come quick -- almost every day. The times I was there, it rained usually between 12:30 and 2:00. The rain lasted for an hour to an hour and a half. Sometimes it would be a drizzle; other times it would be an all-out downpour.
So even though the skies may look sunny and blue when you leave your hotel at 10am, if you plan to be out for a few hours, stuff an umbrella in your bag or be ready to sit it out at a bar on the beach (my personal favorite).
After the rains, it’s a little cooler for a little, but then it gets hot and sticky again.
Take Mosquito Spray!
A native Floridian, I’m used to mosquitoes. But those Jamaican mosquitoes are another breed of insect. They ate me alive – until I got wise and bought a can of insect repellant, which is really expensive in Jamaica. A little can of Off! or something similar was like $7.
There’s a cheaper local brand in a yellow bottle that’s about $3 that worked just as well. I discovered it on my second trip.
I used this stuff like perfume. I didn’t even pretend that I cared about smelling like bug spray after getting eaten alive. The smell is not bad though once you get used to it.
Negril Jamaica: Safe for Single Women Traveling Alone?
As a single female traveling alone, I never once felt unsafe in Negril. And, I walked from my hotel to dinner at a bar/restaurant all the time. Sometimes these distances were a mile or more at 9, 10 or 11 pm. And, on roads that were not highly populated.
Now, would I advise this as a matter of course? No.
But I’ve traveled extensively alone and lived in New York City for almost 20 years, so I’m pretty good at getting a “feel for a place.” But this is definitely not something I advise.
I just wanted to get across that probably of all the places I’ve been in the world, as a single female, I never once felt threatened or like I was in danger in Jamaica. And, the Rastas (definition just below) can look quite daunting. But from the hotel staff, to the restaurant workers, to the cab drivers – Jamaicans are an extremely mannerable, friendly people.
What Is a Rasta?
A rasta or Rastafarian is someone who follows the religion of Rastafarianism. The Rastafarian religion originated in Africa. It is often associated with the poorer black population of Jamaica. It is not just a religion, but a way of life. Rastafarians speak out against poverty, oppression and inequality.....not just religious ideas but global problems. The smoking of weed is considered a way of speaking to their God. [Source: WikiAnswers]
Negril Jamaica: Resorts & Hotels
I’ve stayed at several places in Negril. Before I explain, let me back up a minute to explain the geography.
Negril is separated geographically – from a tourist’s standpoint – into the 7-mile beach area and The Cliffs. The Cliffs is where I stayed.
The Cliffs are only a 4 or 4.5 mile walk to the beach. There is literally a main road that winds up into a cliff area where there are hotels, restaurants, private residences, etc. When you stay in a hotel on The Cliffs, there is no “beach area” for the most part. You can descend into the ocean from steps that the hotels have built into the cliffs though.
It’s quite ingenious really, and the view of the water from the cliffs is awe-inspiring. Some hotels on the cliffs have caves where you can snorkel, swim and just hang out. Tres cool!
Now, back to the hotels.
I’ve stayed at five hotels in Negril: Xtabi, Citronella, Catch a Falling Star, Home Sweet Home and Blue Cave Castle. I’ll do a quick rundown of each one here. But, you can click out to more in-depth reviews in separate hubs I wrote on each of these Negril hotels.
Xtabi Hotel: Xtabi is a hotel on The Cliffs in Negril. It has ocean-side rooms and rooms that are not on the ocean side. Of course, the ones on the ocean side are more expensive. I stayed at a room on the non-ocean side, but from the balcony, I could see the ocean. What a beautiful sight to wake up to. Remember, it is "The Cliffs of Negril,” so the elevation made this possible.
Cost in Sept/Oct 2009: $54/per night.
Here is a more in-depth review of this cliffs hotel (Xtabi Negril).
Citronella: This little island paradise consists of “rustic cottages” – complete with full baths (the actual shower was on the outside, but connected to the structure) and kitchens.
Don’t let the term rustic throw you. It depends on what your definition of luxury is as to whether the cabins are rustic or not. I’m the type of person who as long as it’s clean and safe, I’m good. But these cabins are beyond that. They are very clean, safe and right there on the ocean.
From the cabin, you can descend into the ocean via steps from the patio area. And, there’s even enough space where you can carry lawn chairs and tables down and sunbathe, eat and drink right on by the ocean.
Gorgeous! My friends and I were in heaven.
The cabin my friends and I stayed in (there were four of us) had two single beds downstairs and a full-size bed upstairs.
Note: If you get your buzz on and are sleeping in the loft quarters, be careful going up and down. You’ve been warned! :-)
Cost in Sept/Oct 2009: $125/per night.
Here is a more in-depth review of these Negril cottages.
Catch a Falling Star: This is a “Negril Resort” of sorts. There are condo-like rooms; studio-like rooms; and individual cottages on the gated property. All lodgings on the property have astrological names, ie, Aquarius, Gemini, Aries, etc.
My friends and I stayed in a 2-bedroom, 1-bath “condo”; the Aquarius. About 1,000 sq ft, it had a huge terrace, which overlooked the gorgeous grounds and the ocean.
An aqua blue water vista as far as the eye can see, flowers in every magical color of the rainbow and nature so serene, you can just sit and do nothing --- yet feel like you’ve done it all because the beauty just transports you away. This is life at “Catcha” as the locals call it.
As for the cottages, some are 1-bedrooms, others are like studio like. Each has an outside space (a patio) where you can sit and drink coffee, or fire up your laptop to get some work done (if that’s possible surrounded in such beauty).
Cost in July/August 2009: $175/per night (my sis wrangled a discount, as she’s a frequent visitor to Negril and has gotten in good with some of the staff on a few properties on The Cliffs).
Here is a more in-depth review of Catch a Falling Star Negril.
Home Sweet Home: Running low on cash? On a budget, but still want safe, clean lodging? Home Sweet Home on The Cliffs in Negril is the place to stay.
I stayed her for a week. And you know what, I was shocked when I saw what a steal it was. It is on the ocean side. My room was large with two double beds and a terrace that overlooked the pool and the ocean. It was not “luxury”, for sure (a few cracked tiles in the bathroom), but it was nowhere near “roughing it” either.
Price I paid in Sept/Oct 2009: $30/night.
Now, that’s a deal! I’d been in Negril for a couple of weeks and had learned a few haggling tips. This is low season in Negril, and with my newfound skill for bargaining, I made out like a bandit.
Only drawback at this reduced rate: Maid service every other day instead of every day.
Here is a more in-depth review of this cheap Negril hotel.
Blue Cave Castle: This place actually took my breath away, as you can see from the photos. The photos don’t come close to doing it justice though; it’s truly breathtaking.
You feel as if you’ve stepped back in history when you enter Blue Cave Castle. It truly looks like a castle a royal family would have inhabited 500 or 600 years ago. It has underwater caves where you can snorkel and swim. Or, you can just sit on the steps or the rocks and just hang out. It would be the ideal spot for lovers/honeymooners.
Cost in Sept/October 2009: $56 (includes taxes)/night.
This was another deal I wrangled. Again, it was low season, so deals are easy to come by.
For the money, this is -- hands down -- the best hotel deal in Negril on The Cliffs. I met several people who said they’d been coming to Negril and staying at Blue Cave for years.
Learn more about Blue Cave Castle, one of the best hotels in Negril, Jamaica on The Cliffs.
Things to Do in Negril
Rick's Café is THE tourist spot on The Cliffs. You can dive off the cliffs into the ocean. If you’re not brave enough, you can watch the diving show put on by the locals.
They climb way up in the trees – a good 30, 40 or 50 feet (or more) and do handstands and other acrobatics, before diving into the crystal waters below. It’s quite something to see.
Note: Tip these guys because they don't make a formal salary from Rick's (which I think is kind of unfair). How do I know? A Jamaican friend of mine says his brother works there and they don't get paid a salary.
Food is typical American fare -- overpriced and it sucks! I've never felt so jipped as a tourist in my life as when my girlfriend and I had lunch there one day.
If you go, have a beer (not a mixed drink because it didn't taste like any alcohol was in it and they're expensive and small). My friend and I even requested more alcohol, which we saw the bartender pour in, but they must water it down because it still didn't taste right.
Also, get food from side-of-the-road vendors (usually selling grilled chicken). My friend ordered chicken skewers and french fries at Rick's and I swear she was like, "When is the rest of it coming?" We thought it was a joke.
Okay, enough about the tourist ripoff of Jamaica that is Rick's Cafe (just remember, order bottled beer if you go -- nada mas, ok?)
Many of the resorts offer dive packages, which is quite popular in Negril. There is also horseback riding, swimming with the dolphins, day trips to rum factories, etc.
There are a couple of go-to clubs in Negril: Alfred's and The Jungle. Alfred's is on the beach side of the street. The Jungle is not far away, on the other side of the street. I went to The Jungle.
It's huuuggggee inside, consisting of two or three levels (after a couple of tequila shots and rum punches, the layout escapes me). I do remember one thing though -- the snakes in the cage just as you walk in the door. Real, live snakes! They scared the bejeezus out of me and one of my girlfriends!
Up top, there's this huge terrace-like space. It has a bar, food area and dance floor. My friends and I spent a couple of crowded hours up there, then went into what I call "the belly of the club." The top area consisted mostly of tourists.
The belly of the club is where it seemed -- at least to me -- where most of the locals were. Up top, there was a good mix of reggae and hip hop. We went downstairs because the music kept being hit and miss up top.
In the belly though is where the real music was. Three hours later and sopping wet from dancing, my friends and I exited -- exhausted, but elated.
One last thing: There is a dress code at The Jungle -- particularly for guys. You have to wear a shirt with sleeves, for example. And I don't think sandals were allowed for guys. For girls, it was basically anything goes (you know how we tend to dress when we go out -- all cute and skimpy -- which is why I think they're a little lax with the ladies).
All Inclusive: Negril Jamaica
If you book an all inclusive trip, all of your activities will be included – from food and drink to parasailing and jet skiing. These activities can add up, so if you’re an adventurous type and will take advantage of the activities Negril offers, you’d be better off getting an all-inclusive vacation package.
I got lucky and met a local Rasta. We kinda took a liking to each other and he took me all over Jamaica. I think there are 12 parishes (townships/cities). We rented a car and took off for a few days. He took me to every one of the parishes.
So, I can truly say I’ve eaten and drank my way through Jamaica!
The Hot Springs of Bath, Jamaica
One of the neatest places I went on my road trip was the hot springs in Bath, Jamaica. It is an outdoor mineral spring where a local will give you a massage to rival a five-star hotel and make you feel like a Nubian queen.
The cost for a 45-minute massage in the hot springs here was a whopping -- $10. There is no formal charge; you give whatever you want. That’s what “Errol” (the gentleman who gave me a massage) asked for. I gave him a tip, of course and would’ve gladly paid 10 times this if I could’ve afforded it.
I’ll talk more about this in another hub.
Reggae Concerts on 7-Mile Beach and Kingston, Jamaica
I went to reggae concerts on 7-Mile beach in Negril, and attended an outdoor reggae concert in Kingston, Jamaica (another stop on my road trip).
This concert featured seven famous reggae singers. I know nothing about reggae music beyond Bob Marley, but I do remember one musician I saw was Josey Wales (quite famous from what I’m told) and six others. Amazing talent!
He had a raw, scratchy voice and sung with such passion. Dripping with sweat, it was as if he was pleading for the change the words of his song relayed. Reggae music always has a message -- and when sung by someone with such talent, it made for a soul-defying experience.
The reggae concert on the beach in Negril had too much talking between songs for my liking, but the spirit of the people and bottles of Red Stripe (the beer of Jamaica) kept me satisfied.
Negril Jamaica: Activities on 7-Mile Beach
On the beach, there is every water sport you can imagine – jet skiing, glass bottom boats, parasailing -- you name it and it’s there.
Lobster on the Beach at Booby Cay
One thing you have to do if you go is go to Negril is visit Booby Cay island to eat lobster. It’s one of those “can’t miss" day excursions you shouldn't miss out on. But, it doesn’t take a whole day. Really, you can go and be back in an hour and a half. It all depends on whether you want to hang out and swim and snorkel, or just eat and come back.
I was with a friend who was friends of the guy who owned the glass-bottom boat we were on. So we swam, snorkeled and hung out for a while; then we ate and came back.
Booby Cay is an island that is a stone’s throw away from 7-Mile beach. It’s close to Hedonism II and Sandals. You can catch one of the glass bottom boats over. It’s about a 10 to 15-minute ride. The locals cook lobster over an open grill right there on the beach.
It’s sooo good. Topped with melted butter and fresh garlic (if you want), it rivals any five-star restaurant. You can also buy beer, water and/or soft drinks from a vendor there. The boat ride over runs $15 to $20 per person. When I went, it was $15 for a half lobster (I think it was $20 for a whole one) – and worth every penny.
A fun, unique way to spend a few hours.
Negril Jamaica: The Thing I Hate the Most
Let me preface this by saying, Jamaica is rife with poverty, so I understand where everyone is coming from. BUT, the thing I hate the most when I visit Negril is being asked by every tradesman to buy something.
Jewelry, pineapples, art, beer, water, massages, hair braiding – you name it, somebody is selling it on the beach. And, if you’re just trying to chill and read a good book, you’re going to have to say no thank you 50 ‘leven times.
It can get annoying.
If you stay at one of the hotels on the beach, they have “security guards” who keep the tradesmen from bothering the guests.
I stayed on The Cliffs though. So when I went to the beach, it was usually just me and my towel. So, I was fair game.
Almost no one approached me when I was with my Rasta; with braids in my hair, I guess they thought I was a local.
Now ladies, the last topic here is . . . the men of Jamaica.
Negril Jamaica: The Men
If you’re a single woman and you like your men dark, fit and full of s**t, then you are up for some Jamaican vacation fun.
Jamaican Men: The Physiques
Out of this friggin’ world! I’ve never seen so many naturally fit men in my life. I’ve never seen so many men in one place with six packs. And not six packs like some guy who spends 4 hours a day in the gym; this is just the way they’re built.
If there’s a fat Jamaican man, I did not see him. I think it has to do with the climate and the fact that a lot of the Jamaican men I encountered work out doors. They fish, they run glass-bottom boat businesses; jet skiing businesses; etc.
Jamaican Men: Full of S**t
Why are they full of it? Because they will make you feel like you are the only woman in the world for them. Within 24 hours, they will swear their love for you – and to their credit – I think they believe half the crap they tell you themselves. It’s certainly good for the ole self esteem – if you take it for what it is and nada mas (nothing more!).
This is not to say that there are no genuine love stories to be had, but for a lot of the men there, it’s a year-round game they run on women. They even have a name for guys who do this. They call them “Rent a Dreads” or “Rent a Rastas.”
While there is no official sex tourism trade in Jamaica, sex for money happens between women on holiday and men who are willing to supply it.
And I’m not picking on Jamaica. Of course, this happens everywhere.
It’s just that it seems to be so prevalent and in your face there. You see some of the most unattractive, older women with these fine young brothers strolling on the beach and you’re like, “What the f**k is that all about?” But hey, to each to his/her own is my response. I lived in NYC for years; I truly have seen it all.
This article notes: “Negril is a centre for this kind of trade-off, and many women regularly return specifically to partake of an injection of "Jamaican steel". As a result, single women are almost unanimously assumed to be out for one thing only - prepare yourself for a barrage of propositions.”
This last line is sooooo true. You can’t go anywhere without being hit on. It gets kinda frustrating after a while. A simple no gets the men moving along; they don’t pester you, but if you have to say no once, you have to say it 50 times a day.
Learn more about Rent a Dreads/Rent a Rastas in the video below.
The bolded comment just above reminds me of one thing my Rasta told me that’s kinda stuck with me. An American girl, I’m a master of the flirt. It’s part of who I am. But he says, when you flirt with Jamaican men, they really think you’re interested – as in, you want to have sex with them.
I was like, “You’re kidding me, right?” He was like, “No. Why would you take the time to flirt if you’re not interested?” I responded, “’Interest in’ does not mean ‘want to go to bed with.’ It’s just good, clean fun.”
We agreed to disagree.
So just be careful ladies. Keep your head about you – as you would with any other guy coming on strong telling you that he loves you within 24 hours. Remember, many of these men are practiced con artists. It’s part of what they do to survive.
Keep your wallet closed, as many of them will unashamedly expect you to buy them a drink and pay for everything if you start to hang out with them. They may even ask you to send them stuff from abroad when you go back home (cell phones, sneakers, and DVDs are common requests from what I’ve been told). Again, if you keep your wallet closed, you won’t have a problem.
I kinda got lucky; I hooked up with my Rasta – who I met through a friend – when I went the first time. So, I didn’t have to deal with a lot of this. But I did ask some locals that I met about it and as I was kind of “inside the circle,” they gave me a lot of information.
Again, just be careful. Just because you’re on vacation, don’t let your guard down.
Bottom Line on Negril Jamaica Vacations for Single Women
Go, go, go! Take your girlfriends; take your gay friends; take your boyfriend; but don’t take your mother (if you want to have some “girl fun” :-)).
It’s gorgeous and it’s carefree. You can do everything or nothing at all -- and still feel like you’ve had the time of your life. As the commercial says, “Once you go, you know!”
I’m a convert; I plan to return many more times.
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