The chief attraction of Negril is Seven Mile Beach. Many beach buffs visit Negril and don't care to see much else. There are actually a few sights, though Negril has none of the multifaceted or historical attractions found in a place like, say, Montego Bay.
Royal Palm Reserve
The 122-hectare (300-acre) Royal Palm Reserve recreation site carved into the Great Morass is the easiest part of the massive local wetlands to explore. To reach it, take the road to Savanna-la-Mar at the southern end of Negril, turning left at the signpost and going along a dirt road to reach the beginning of the reserve. Here you'll find much wildlife, including sea hawks, ospreys, and the Jamaican woodpecker. The swamp is also home to egrets, butterflies, doctor birds, herons, and the endangered Jamaican black parakeet. Wooden boardwalks enable you to walk 2km (1 1/4 miles) or so into the wetlands for a close encounter with it all. Take along plenty of mosquito repellent.
The showpiece of the reserve is Cotton Tree Lake, home to numerous waterfowl, including wild ducks and the Jamaican pond turtle. A nature museum informs about the plant and animal life of the reserve. There is also a riverside bar and another lakeside restaurant and bar specializing in natural juices and Jamaican dishes.
The visitor center (tel. 876/957-3736) is open daily from 9am to 6pm, and tours cost US$15 for adults and US$7 for children 12 and under.
Kool Runnings Water Park & Anancy Village
This is a fun amusement park with a focus on watersports such as the Jamaica bobsled ride. You can ride alone in a single tube or take two or three of your family or friends in a double or triple tube. In all there are 10 water slides, including a quarter-mile long "Lazy river." Captain Mike's Coconut Island is just for kids, with food and games. At the Anancy Village, there are such attractions as a bungee trampoline. An entertainment stage also features amusements for the family. You'll find the park on Norman Manley Blvd. (tel. 876/957-5400; www.koolrunnings.com). Admission $28 adults; $19 for kids (under 48 inches tall), $17 seniors 65 and up. Tots 2 and under free. Jan 3-Apr Wed, Sat-Sun 11am-6pm; May 1-15 Wed, Sat-Sun 11am-7pm; May 16-Aug Tues-Sun 11am-7pm.
In the Environs
Should you wish to escape and discover that Jamaica is not just a beach, you can take a day off and head for Rhodes Hall Plantation, especially if you like to ride horses. Both neophyte and champion riders are catered to here. A 2-hour ride takes you through banana and coconut groves and high into the hills. A crocodile watch is one of the highlights of the tours. You can also tour the 202-hectare (500-acre) plantation and go scuba diving or fishing.
Horseback riding is available Sunday to Friday 9:30am to 1:30pm, averaging US$60 per ride. For more information, call tel. 876/957-6334. The location of the plantation is 5km (3 miles) north of Negril at Green Island.
You can explore the area north of Negril on your scooter or in a rented car. Follow the main highway, the A1, as it passes through the wetlands of the Great Morass. A good stop along the way is at the shady Hurricane Park (you'll see a sign) with a bar. You can order a rum punch here, a cold soft drink, or perhaps the grilled catch of the day.
Another recreational site is reached by traveling 914m (3,000 ft.) or so to the west of Hurricane Park. Here you'll come to Half Moon Beach, which takes its name from sands likened to "crushed diamonds." Expect to find a thatched dive serving some Jamaican dishes, most often seafood the local fishermen brought in.
Continue 3km (1 3/4 miles) west of Green Island Harbour to Rhodes Mineral Springs and Beach, with several thatched bars aggressively seeking to slake your thirst. The beach is small but inviting. It's the site of a spontaneous beach party most Sunday nights.
Mayfield Falls & Mineral Springs
Another intriguing excursion takes you to Miskito Cove, 6km (3 3/4 miles) east of Lucea on Bamboo Bay -- an idyllic spot discovered by yachters who often anchor there. If you're there at noon, you're greeted with the smell of jerk chicken cooking in various shacks.
Rising south of the cove is a series of green hills called the Dolphin Head Mountains. Reach them via the A1 road to Mayfield Falls & Mineral Springs (tel. 876/610-8612, or 876/457-0759; www.mayfieldfalls.com), at Mayfield. This is a working farm near the village of Pennycooke, 16km (10 miles) south of Miskito Cove. Take in the waterscapes as you walk through a bamboo village. There are more than a dozen waterfalls, and you can swim into an underwater cave. The full-day tour is US$85 including transfers.
The easiest way to enjoy the experience without the hassle is booking a half-day excursion through Caribic Vacation (tel. 876/957-3309; www.caribvacations.com in Negril). You're transported to the site and fed lunch for a total cost of US$95 per person; this daily tour lasts from 9am to 1pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.