Rusty's X-cellent Adventures, Hilton Avenue, P.O. Box 104 (tel. 876/957-0155; http://rusty.nyws.com/index.html), choreographs some of Jamaica's most hair-raising and best-conceived bike tours. The outfit was founded by Ohio-born Rusty Jones. Tours begin and end at his house, on a side road (Hilton Ave.) just west of Negril's lighthouse. He's the region's expert on the dozens of relatively dry -- that is, not muddy -- single-track goat and cow paths that provide aerobic exercise and drama for all levels of bike riders. Customized tours last between 2 and 4 hours, cost US$35 per person, and never include more than four riders at a time. Tours are primarily geared to "hard-core mountain bikers," even though there are ample opportunities for newcomers to the sport, as well. There's a running commentary on cultural and horticultural diversions en route. Bikes, helmets, water canteens, and accessories are included in the price as part of the experience; advance reservations are essential.
You can also rent a bike (available at most Negril resorts) and explore at will, although you're not likely to find as dramatic scenery as you will on a guided tour.
Boating is a major sport in Negril, but you don't see a lot of large craft, especially fishing vessels, prevalent on the North Coast. In Negril, visitors mainly take to the waters in canoes, runabouts, and dugouts. The major hotels rent Sailfish, Sunfish, and windsurfers.
The best outfitter is Wild Thing lying along Norman Manley Boulevard (tel. 876/957-9930; www.wildthingwatersportsnegril.com). Its catamaran cruising program features an array of activities, including a morning snorkel-and-lunch cruise, an island picnic, and a sunset snorkel cruise.
Negril Hills Golf Club, Sheffield Road (tel. 876/957-4638; www.negrilhillsgolfclub.com), is Negril's only golf course. It may not have the cachet of such Montego Bay courses as Tryall, but it's the only golf course in western Jamaica. Greens fees for this 18-hole, par-72 course are US$58, and club rental is US$18. Carts and caddies, which are not obligatory, cost US$35 and US$14, respectively. Anyone can play, but advance reservations are recommended before 7am.
Horseback riding, heretofore confined to the north shore, has come to Negril. For a close encounter with the natural beauty of this part of Jamaica, head for Rhodes Hall Plantation, signposted at the eastern edge of the resort (tel. 876/957-6422; www.rhodesresort.com). It gives guided 2-hour excursions across the most scenic beauty spots on the outskirts of Negril. Along the way you'll pass some of the richest vegetation in the Caribbean, including breadfruit, guava, and even wild tobacco plants. Costs average US$80 per rider. There is a free pick-up service.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
Negril offers some of the best and most challenging underwater life for scuba divers of any resort in Jamaica. There are no really deep walls prevalent along the North Coast, but the offshore reefs here teem with marine life. Many of them are shallow, making them ideal for neophytes who want to break into the sport. Even in front of Seven Mile Beach are undercuts and caverns, attracting the diver or snorkeler.
The most famous dive site is the "Throne Room", with a depth ranging from 12 to 21m (40-70 ft.). The site enables divers to enter at one end and ascend into the open air at the other. The orange elephant ear sponges that flourish here are the largest we've ever seen in Jamaica.
The Sands Reef Club, named after a nearby hotel, has a depth range of 12 to 24m (40-80 ft.). This shallow reef drops off to a sandy shelf, and is noted for its purplish sea fans and its gorgonians and coral heads. There is much to see here, from black durgeons to tube sponges, from squirrelfish to goatfish.
With a depth of 12 to 21m (40-70 ft.), "the Caves" indeed consists of sea caverns -- one large, the other small. There is a linking tunnel between the two. Black coral and sponges grow in profusion along with gorgonians. There is a sea kingdom of other residents, too, including sea cucumbers and stingrays.
Long a favorite with divers, Kingfish Point, with depths of around 27m (90 ft.), lures the most experienced divers because of its depths. The marine life here is the most varied of the dive sites, including both the elephant ear and the yellow tube sponge, the hogfish and the damselfish, along with both brain and star coral and marigold-colored crinoids. The huge boulders of star coral are among the most dramatic along the coast, along with deepwater sea fans and sea plumes.
Negril Scuba Centre, in the Negril Beach Club Hotel, Norman Manley Boulevard (tel. 800/818-2963 in the U.S., or 876/957-0392; www.negrilscuba.com), is the most modern, best-equipped scuba facility in Negril. A professional staff of internationally certified scuba instructors and dive masters guides divers through Negril's colorful coral reefs. Beginners' dive lessons are offered daily, as well as multiple-dive packages for certified divers. (Dives range from US$40 to US$250.) Full scuba certifications and specialty courses are also available.
Stanley's (tel. 876/957-0667; www.stanleysdeepseafishing.com) does deep-sea fishing trips in the waters off Negril. Catches turn up such game fish as wahoo, tuna, blue marlin, and sailfish. Bait, tackle, and beverages are included in the price. Four people can rent a fishing boat for US$500 for a trip lasting 4 hours. A full trip, including lunch, will cost four fishermen about US$1,000.