While Negril gets the crowds, the South Coast of Jamaica has only recently begun to attract visitors. The Arawak once lived in sylvan simplicity along these shores before their civilization was destroyed. Early Spanish settlers came here searching for gold; today's traveler comes looking for the untrammeled sands of its secluded beaches. Fishermen still sell their catch at colorful local markets, and the prices, as they say here, are "the way they used to be" in Jamaica.
Most visitors here come east from Negril through Savanna-la-Mar to the high-country, British-style town of Mandeville, then on to a boat tour up the Black River, home of freshwater crocodiles. (Those with more time hit Treasure Beach first before going on to Mandeville.)
The area attracts an adventure-oriented visitor who doesn't want to be picked up in a minivan and hauled to an all-inclusive hotel behind a guarded compound with canned entertainment. It's a sleepy place devoid of duty-free stores, musicians in yellow shirts singing "Yellow Bird," and toga parties. Instead of air-conditioning, you get mosquito nets and ceiling fans.
Yet the beaches here are the equal of those of Mo Bay or Ocho Rios. Restaurants, for the most part, are of the sort you'd have found along the roadside in Jamaica in the 1950s -- and some of them are still charging 1950s prices. Local lifestyles, too, remain mostly unchanged by time.
This last frontier of Jamaica will no doubt be invaded by tourism within the next decade or so. But for now it appears, at least in its more remote parts, a sleepy dream from long ago.