The Road to Negril - an Introduction

Negril is normally a 90 minute drive from Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport along the northern coast line of Jamaica. The drive can be 60 minutes in duration if you are staying at one of the resorts on Bloody Bay and your driver is a bit aggressive about it and does not stop. Normally, the drive is more like 90 minutes with a stop or two along the way for relief and refreshment. The overall time may be more like 120 minutes if you include a visit to the grocery store or get a bite to eat.

The road itself is asphalt two-lane in good condition for most of the ride. The road follows the coast which is rocky with some sandy beaches. Along the way you pass through several small fishing towns, old sugar plantations, all the while enjoying majestic views of the Caribbean Sea to one side and the green hills of Jamaica to the other. When the hills start to flatten out, you are just about to Negril.

Negril is Jamaica's favorite vacation spot with resorts, hotels, long beaches, inviting waters, friendly people, a laid back atmosphere, and excellent snorkeling and diving near by. The Seven Mile Beach (Hip Strip) and West End's "One Love Highway" have many bars, night clubs, restaurants, and things to see and do. Negril is even a tourist attraction to Jamaicans coming from the other side of the island to take in the beaches and inviting water.

The road to Negril was not always an enjoyable drive. A popular tourist shirt once read "I survived the road to Negril". Running along the coastline meant that the roadbed was subject to the extremes of hurricanes and pounding surf. Add in the fact that Negril sits at the western end of the island surrounded by several miles of swampy morass and you've got a soggy road most of the year. That is why the first step in the building of a modern road to Negril was to create some sort of water management system for the Great Morass and use the fill to help build up the roadbed. The vision for this came about in the late 1950s and construction was underway in the early 1960s.

The lack of a good road made Negril a very remote location, even for Jamaicans, which established Negril as a getaway for islanders. The first roads to Negril wound through the hills and the ride took almost an entire day. This remoteness made Negril an ideal place in the 1960s for those wanting to escape from everything to enjoy the beach. The beach stretches for miles - Invitingly beautiful white Caribbean sand sparkles in the sunlight reaching into turquoise blue waters. Coral reefs and near by cliffs provide for exquisite diving/snorkeling experiences making Negril a wonderful water playground.

The remoteness of the region also attracted illicit activities, mostly smugglers dealing in a variety of commodities. This gave Negril an exotic appeal further wetting the appetite of those wanting something completely different in terms of a vacation experience.

As the coastal road came into reality and a small airfield was built, Negril began to expand from a sleepy fishing village next to the cliffs into a top rated resort town. But it never really lost the character that the freedom seeking hippies and devil-make-care smugglers brought to the area.

During the 1970s and 1980s Negril developed into a popular destination for those wanting a laid back vacation away from it all, but with all the comforts of home. A town law prohibited the construction of high rise buildings (no building may be taller than the trees) to prevent Negril from turning into another beach full of tall buildings. Even the entry of large scale resorts in the 1990s and early 2000s did not change the atmosphere of Negril. From six in the morning until six in the evening anyone can walk the beach front. An early morning stroll before the heat of the day is still as glorious as ever. And the sunsets - well - that is what Negril is all about.

After sunset Negril transforms from a sleepy Caribbean seaside town into a place to party and dance to the tunes of Reggae and more. Restaurants, nightclubs, and resorts play host to a variety of live entertainment, DJs, and bands all along the beach road and West End Road (now known as One Love Drive). The party continues late into the night but don't stay up too long or you'll miss the wonderful clear morning sun and a chance to chill out on the beach.