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Jamaica Spring Break - Negril Guide

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If white sand beaches, warm Caribbean-blue waters, and the beat of reggae music in the air stir you soul, Negril, Jamaica should rank among your top Spring Break locations.   The feeling here is laid back, and it is truly an escape from the rigors of normal life. 

Not to be outdone by longer-established Spring Break destinations, however, warm easy-going Caribbean days give way to even hotter nights as the party scene cranks up among the various bar and club establishments in and around a Jamaica Spring Break.  Live music, raucous theme parties, and a seemingly endless supply of Caribbean drinks will stretch from one end of the beach to the other throughout the Spring Break season. 

Negril Famous 7 Mile BeachLocated on the west side of Jamaica, Negril undergoes an amazing transformation from a laid-back fishing village to Spring Break party central, fueled by the thousands of students each year seeking Negril’s warm tranquil waters and easy-going Caribbean attitude.  A Jamaica Spring Break combines the feeling of "getting away from it all" with the desires of young people to party into the night.

Weather

Negril, Jamaica enjoys a year-round constant warm climate with daytime temperatures ranging between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (though it can get cooler up in the mountains).  Evenings remain comfortable with temperatures in the 70s.  As expected in the Caribbean, water temperatures during Spring Break months will stay close to a comfortable 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  The rainy season in Negril occurs during October-November, and May-June.  Bad weather during your Jamaica Spring Break is very rare, but even the occasional rain shower is quickly wiped away by the intense sunshine.  Don’t forget the sunscreen!

A Little History…

Negril first became famous in the 1960s as American and Canadian tourists (a.k.a Hippies) longed for a getaway from modern luxuries like telephones, televisions, and electricity.  At the time, Negril was little more than a sleepy fishing village.  Local villagers rented small shacks to the visitors who quickly discovered the amazing beaches within secluded bays and the warm island hospitality.  The thought of a Jamaica Spring Break was unheard of at this time.

Negril West End CliffsThose days are gone as hotels and resorts have sprouted up along the coast line of Seven-Mile Beach while clubs and bars now populate the West End of Negril, along its cliffs overlooking the ocean.  Still, there’s plenty of beach and action to suit your Jamaica Spring Break, whatever your desires may be.  One note of caution- life amongst Negril’s beaches, resorts, and clubs are great, but be wary of venturing outside these confines alone.  Locals can be aggressive peddlers of everything from local crafts to ganja (marijuana), and they hate to see a potential sale walk away.

Get Oriented  

Negril MapNegril is located on the west side of Jamaica, the third largest island in the Caribbean.  It is really divided into two main parts.  The West End is where you will still find many local restaurants, small hotels, and cottages that welcome visitors still seeking a “get-away” from modern luxuries of life.  Many of the establishments are right up against the sea, thanks to the cliffs located here (some as many as 40 feet down).  Cliff-diving, snorkeling, and exploring underground caves are all favorite pastimes here, as is watching Negril’s spectacular sunsets.

The other side of Negril is home to those famous white-sand beaches and most of the islands larger hotels and resorts.  This is where the daytime action is as fellow Spring-Breakers fill up the beaches and local vendors will bring you drinks to your chair.  Hotels are located mainly on the beach, but others are just across Negril’s only main road- Norman Manley Boulevard. 

You’ll notice a lack of hotel “towers” here due to an obscure zoning law that forbids building anything higher than the tallest coconut tree.  The result- lots of clustered buildings that give way to sprawling hotel complexes with pools, clubs, and shops all located on the same property.  No problems- because Jamaica Spring Break is all about taking life easy.

The time zone in Negril is Eastern Standard Time (EST), with no observance daylight savings time over the summer.  This is not a problem for your Jamaica Spring Break, where time will be the same as New York City.

Getting There

Since it is an island located in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, you will be flying into Jamaica.  The biggest airport is Donald Sangster Airport in Montego Bay.  Most Jamaica Spring Break tour operators will have you flown in here and then bussed over to Negril.  Many hotels in Negril also offer their own transfer service to and from the Sangster airport.  The drive over to Negril is about 50 miles and takes about 2 hours.  The road is winding but interesting as you pass many old sugar mills and their big houses.

Air Jamaica in FlightIt is possible, though, to skip the road trip and catch a connection into Negril’s own small airport.  Air Jamaica Express offers daily service from Montego Bay for $60 (U.S.) one-way.  Still, our bet is you’ll be catching a bus transfer over to Negril.  For those not arriving with one of the major Jamaica Spring Break tour operators, you can travel by bus too- tickets can be bought at the airport and cost $21 (U.S.). 

Once you land and make your way down the mobile flight of stairs and onto the tarmac, you will have to go through customs and immigration before making your way onto the island.  You should have completed Customs and Immigration Forms on the plane and have them in hand as you depart the plane. 

After a short walk to the terminal, it’s on the Immigration Hall /Passport Control where you will be greeted by a chorus of folk singers who entertain you while you get in line to clear Jamaican immigration.  Here you will need proof of identity.  We recommend a passport as it is the most easily and widely recognized official form of identification.  U.S. citizens without passports can, however, present a state issued birth certificate so long as it has a raised seal or is notarized and a state issued photo identification card (like a driver’s license).  More about getting your passport here.

Once you have proven your identity and been issued a tourist visa, it’s onto the luggage carousel to pick up your luggage and head for customs.  If you’re only bringing clothing and other personal effects, head to the “Nothing to Declare” zone and hand over your Customs form.  You may be searched, but you’re more likely to be passed without inspection and then it’s onto the island, and your Jamaica Spring Break!

Get Mobile

Chances are that your travel agent or tour operator has arranged transfers for you to and from the airport.  If so, take them.  Otherwise, see our tips above for hiring the bus to take you over to Negril.  Jamaica Spring Break has begun!

Once you get to your resort, you’ll find most of your daily needs are located within walking distance from you- many within the property of your own hotel.  When it is time to get away from your hotel, though, you’ll most likely travel by mini bus or taxi. 

With the major tour operators operating on a nightly schedule, your armband will be your pass to board the buses taking you to your hot spot on any given night.  The same is true for most side trips you book through your tour operator.  For those more independently minded, there are plenty of taxis swarming the hotels of Negril and ready to drive you day or night (those prices increase after midnight).

Negril Mini BusThe only “official” taxis in Negril have red license plates with white lettering (see left).  (See what we mean by laid-back!)  These are the only taxis you should take as you are guaranteed an insured and licensed driver.  You may be surprised to see that there are no taxi meters in the cabs- all rates are set by the driver.  And, just like everything else in Jamaica, you can always negotiate price, especially if you have a small group.  In fact, you should negotiate your rate before ever getting in the cab- just to ensure you don’t get “taken for a ride” financially.  A daytime ride from the Beach to the Cliffs should cost you about $2 (U.S.).  Remember, Negril only has one main road, so getting lost should not be a problem.  Getting around for your Jamaica Spring Break is never a problem!

Staying There

Negril is not the home of the mega-resorts like other Spring Break destinations.  This is not necessarily bad, however, as smaller outfits can offer more personalized service and may even put a name with your face before the week is over!    While there are famous resorts like Super Club’s Hedonism, Sandals, and Couples located along Seven Mile Beach, these places do not especially cater to Jamaica Spring Break crowds. 

Not to say you cannot stay at these well-known spots, but most Jamaica Spring Break tour operators use the other hotels to host the vast majority of Spring Breakers present during your stay.  The bigger resorts also tend to be more self-sufficient to the point that those who stay there do not venture out to the other clubs and bars of the island, which can severely limit your contact with the majority of your fellow Spring Breakers. 

Many of these smaller hotels will still have the amenities you expect at larger places, with pool and ocean side bars and lots of activities going on.  Many also have all-inclusive plans which offer meals and drinks within walking distance of your room. 

More common however, especially for those with the major Jamaica Spring Break tour operators, is to buy into a meal plan that includes breakfast and then lunch or dinner at a variety of chosen bars and clubs in Negril.  These meals are usually served buffet style or served from a limited (and Americanized) menu.  The upside of these are they can be a good way to control the cost of Spring Break as they guarantee you a solid meal a couple times of day for a nice discount.  The downside: having to eat at specified places at specified times, with often limited choices.  Plenty of people use these plans, though, so you will never dine alone.

Where you stay in Negril is largely determined by how much you are willing to pay for your room.  Beachside properties are always more expensive than staying across Negril’s only main road, which is about 200 yards from the beach.  Ocean view rooms tend to commend even more of a premium.    The big decision, however, is whether you want to be closer to the clubs, along Negril’s West End, or closer to the beach and the daytime fun.

Negril's CliffsNegril’s West End is closest to the most popular Spring Break clubs- many hotels are just a short walk from them.  The flip-side, however, is that there is no white sandy beach front just steps outside your door.  The West End, you see, is where you’ll find Negril’s cliffs (see right).  There’s plenty of snorkeling and cliff diving here, but you’re not going to find tons of people lying out across any beach.  Here's a great map showing where the hotels are located in the West End.

 

Negril beach front hotelAlong seven mile beach, however, you’ll find all the daytime action- mostly centered around Legend’s Beach Resort and Risky Business.  This is where all the motorized water sports and contests usually take place.  Jamaica Spring Break is centered here.  It's truly see and be seen.  Numerous bars and restaurants are within easy walking distance of these beaches.  If you want to be in the center of the action, you need to be on the beach.  Here's another great map showing you where the different Jamaica Spring Break beach hotels are located.

Those looking for a more refined, or relaxing, Jamaica Spring Break should definitely give the West End serious consideration.

Many hotels cater to spring breakers during February, March and April and most Jamaica Spring Break tour-operators and travel agents can direct you towards those places.  If you book on your own, make sure you contact the hotel first to be sure they are not unwelcoming to the Spring Break crowd. 

Daytime Scene

You were most likely drawn to look at Negril as a Jamaica Spring Break destination because of its superb beach and calm, azure Caribbean waters.  It’s no wonder then that most of Spring Break’s daytimes hours in Negril are organized around the beach.    

Negril Palabra with BarThe protective bays make for calm waters that are perfect for taking a dip after hours of perfecting your tan.  Palm trees and a palabras line the top of the beach and provide some shade during the hot mid-days of Jamaica Spring Break.  Along the beach you will find plenty of open-air bars and restaurants with plenty of refreshment.  Many contests and activities are also planned on the beach, most originating from Legends Beach Resort. 

Crowded Negril BeachAlong with the crowds, you will also find locals selling a bit of everything to those sunning on the beach.  Fresh fruit, local beers, and even ganja (marijuana) are commonly sold here.  Be aware that before you buy the ganja, Jamaican jails are nothing like your hotel and getting arrested will ruin your Jamaica Spring Break.  Undercover officers have been known to snare more than a few Spring Breakers looking to partake in this drug.  Don't ruin your Jamaica Spring Break this way- there are too many other ways to enjoy this great place, just see below.

One other part of Negril beach that has to be mentioned is the prevalence of nude beaches along Seven-Mile Beach.  This fits right in with the laid-back, carefree attitude of Negril.  Does your Jamaica Spring Break include a little nude sunbathing?  Many of the bigger resorts, like Hedonism II and Grand Lido (neither of which cater to Spring Breakers) have nude sections of beach available to those willing to bare it all.  Security guards and rules against photography keep peeping toms away.  There are other spots of beach not associated with any resort, however, that also go nude.  If you want to experience this, ask around and you’ll find a location nearby.  Just remember that even topless sunbathing is not allowed unless you see signs around stating “swimsuits optional.”

Perhaps because the water of the ocean is so tranquil and warm and the beaches so inviting at Jamaica Spring Break, we’ve found most hotel pools to be small and less attractive than at other top spring break destinations.  In fact, we know of only one pool in Negril that has a swim-up bar, which has became a mainstay at other Spring Break locations.  We found most hotel pools to be small and boring.  Stick to the beach for all the action. 

If you’ve decided to go all-inclusive with one of the major Jamaica Spring Break tour companies, you’re daytime options are likely planned out for you.  Everyday features a new party at a new location.  No matter how you’ve gotten to Negril, though, there are a number of optional daytime activities to consider when you’ve tired of the beach.

Watersports are very much present in Negril, along little kiosks located directly on the beach.  Each kiosk charges about the same rate, though you may be able to negotiate a slightly better rate for a group of friends.  Jamaica Spring Break motorized water sports can be lots of fun!  There are jet skis that cost about $50 (U.S.) for a half hour ride, 20 minute rides on a fast banana boat go for about $15 (U.S.), $25 (U.S.) get you 25 minutes of skiing behind a local boat, and parasailing goes for about $30 (U.S.) for a 12 minute ride.  You can also get a 90 minute boat trip to snorkel at an offshore reef for $15, which includes your snorkel equipment.

Scuba Shot from NegrilThose who want to experience a little more of Negril below the water can also snorkel or scuba some great dive sites easily accessible from the beach.  Perhaps the easiest snorkel sites don’t require a boat at all.  Just take a taxi down to the Cliffs and jump right in.  Water as shallow as 10-15 feet yields an impressive array of sea life living amongst the colorful coral.  The water at the cliffs is clear and easily accessible.  Cliff-side hotels and restaurants even have walkways leading right down to the water.  Get wet for your Jamaica Spring Break!

If you want to stay underwater longer, scuba is the answer.  Certified divers will find several sites of interest in Negril- including a Cesna aircraft that crashed into about 50 feet of water.  There are also underwater caves and several small reefs worth exploring.  Even if you’re not scuba certified, Negril can still get you underwater with a resort course.  For about $75 (U.S.) you get a full day of instruction in scuba and your equipment, which leads up to the capstone experience of a single open-water dive.  The best dive shop in Negril is Negril Scuba Center- it is fully PADI certified and has a nice, modern facility with a knowledgeable staff of dive masters and instructors.  You can find them in the Negril Beach Club Hotel.

Sunset Cruise in NegrilThose wanting to set sail along Negril’s tranquil waters can also take advantage of several sunset cruises.  These usually involve a catamaran and an afternoon of free drinks and exploring the cliff-side of Negril’s West End.  You can snorkel right off the boat and then enjoy the magnificent sunset the burns low on the horizon.  It’s beautiful and a great way to escape the action of the beach, even if for just the afternoon.  Costs $40 (U.S.) per person.  This is what Jamaica Spring Break is all about!

While the beach is the center of attention, not all Negril activities involve the water, necessarily.  You can also see Negril and learn some of its history on horseback.  An experienced guide will take you from the beach and lead you along several riding trails where you will learn about some of Negril’s past.  Most rides include a refreshment stop halfway in and then culminate with the opportunity to ride your horse in the ocean.  Cost is $60 (U.S.) per person for about a 2 hour ride, and there are at least a couple outfitters on the island.        

Why not see Negril form the air?  You can now skydive over Negril thanks to Skydive Caribbean.  Tandem jumping is available for the novice diver, which includes an experienced instructor.  Those with jumpmaster certification can also make a single dive.  This place is open seven days a week from 9 A.M. until sundown.  Jamaica Spring Break goes extreme!  Note that no alcohol consumption is allowed prior to making your sky dive.  There is also a weight limit of all jumpers at 230 lbs.  

Y's Falls Group PictureYou can also completely get away from the beach and explore some of the more mountainous and secluded parts of Jamaica.  Y’s Falls is located on the south coast of Jamaica near Blue Mountain- John Crow National Park, about a two hour ride away from Negril.  The trip includes lush vegetation with animal life and, of course, a scenic waterfall that you can climb on and swim around.  There is also a rope swing here.  See some nature during your Jamaica Spring Break.  You cannot ride down these falls like Jamaica’s other, better known, Dunn’s River Falls.  Footwear is a must here.  Cost is about $35 (U.S.) per person for the full day.

Jeep Safari in NegrilYou can also see the interior of Jamaica though a 4x4 Jeep Safari Tour.  Take a safari-style ride in a Land Rover over and through Jamaica’s mountains, rivers, and mangroves.  There is usually a short hike also available mid-ride, along one of Jamaica’s many rivers.  The cost is about $60 (U.S.) per person and covers a full day and lunch.

Note that many of these activities may be run in conjunction with your Jamaica Spring Break tour operator and, during the high season of Spring Break, may only be available on certain days of the week.  Make sure you check with your tour operator or hotel front desk if you would like to schedule any of these day trips.  Spaces are limited and can fill up quickly and early in the week.  We recommend you decide on your first day of Break, to maximize your chance to experience these different attractions.

Shopping Scene

Negril, like all the rest of Jamaica, is not known for its shopping experience.  Much to the contrary, Jamaica is known for its aggressive vendors peddling everything from island crafts to ganja.  Remember when in Negril that you are visiting a third world country and you are rich to all of the islanders.  Vendors and their agents will pursue you all with the idea of trying to pull you into one of their shops.  This is particularly true near the open-air markets in Jamaica, especially the craft market of Negril.  Some locals are bold enough to even claim they are entitled to force you to “have a look” in their shop.

Negril Shopping MallThere are a few “malls” in Negril, however.  Time Square Mall (pictured right) is now open across from the De Buss nightclub, with about a dozen free shops selling souvenirs and jewelry.  Negril’s only cigar shop is located here, featuring a walk-in humidor and authentic Cuban cigars.  There are a few other shopping villages also located along Negril’s main roadway:  Sunshine Village Complex includes souvenir shops, a grocery, a pharmacy, and an exchange house (cambio).  Coral Seas Plaza has another set of shops selling jewelry, flowers, and souvenirs.  As you might gather from the brevity of this section, shopping in Negril is neither a priority nor a serious attraction for visitors.  Shopping is not the reason to consider a Jamaica Spring Break.

Nevertheless, a number of “duty free” shops are available in and around Negril.  Keep in mind, however, that the Jamaican government collects a 10% “general consumption tax” on all items purchased.  Still, even in mall-based stores, remember that price-haggling is the name of the game.  It is perfectly acceptable to ask other tourists what they paid for an item and then use that as a guide in your shopping.  Also, the more you buy from a single vendor, the better a deal you can negotiate.  This is expected from most all vendors. 

Nighttime Scene

After a full day of sun and waves, Negril might seem like a good place to kick back with a cold drink and slip into a peaceful night’s sleep.  The reality, though, is just the opposite.  Fueled by the influx of Spring Breakers, Negril has given rise to a numbers of bars and clubs that run the gamut from extreme theme parties to casual watering holes that embody the Caribbean experience.  Jamaica Spring Break nights are just as happening as any other Spring Break perennial destination.  Here's a sampling of some of the hotter night spots in Negril:

Risky Business

Risky Business LogoA happening reggae joint just a stone's throw away from the waves and the "Bottomless Mug" rules!  This is a perennial Jamaica Spring Break favorite nighttime spot in Negril where the beer flows freely and the action heats up as the sun goes down!  Live music usually gives way to DJs playing popular tunes during Jamaica Spring Break high season.  Nevertheless, this place epitomizes a Caribbean bar where you can let your hair down and enjoy the view!  The have great pictures and weekly schedules here.

Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville

Although these are now a chain known to creep into popular Spring Break destinations, we can say this place takes on the character of its surroundings.  In addition to typical grill food, including the "Cheeseburger in Paradise," this place is an all day hang-out that turns to DJs and occasional live music at night to bring in the party crowd.  Theme parties abound here during the week.  During the day, though, don't miss the water trampoline or the rock climbing wall- what a blast!  A Jamaica Spring Break can really get rolling here.

Rick's Cafe & Bar

Rick's Cafe LogoA true Negril original!  This place, located on the rocky coast of Negril's West End, has been entertaining travelers since 1974! If ever there was a place to watch the sun go down, this is the place to do- with the rocky cliffs in the background and a cold Red Stripe in your hand.  If you dare, you can even jump off the cliffs right outside the back door!

With a live reggae house band, this place embodies everything that Negril believes- take life easy.  Note that the schedule may change during your Jamaica Spring Break week based on the expected occupancy.  Nonetheless, this place is not to be missed!

The Jungle

The Jungle LogoIf there were still such things as discos, this place would be Negril's disco.  Top quality lighting displays and sound systems, all in a rain forest decor.  This is definitely a Jamaica Spring Break hot spot that knows how to pack them in!  This bi-level club is all party on the ground floor, but more of a cool lounge scene on the second floor.  With 2 different dance floor bars, a sports bar, and a wide back door covered patio, you're guaranteed to find a place to hang out here.  Visit their homepage here, for more scheduling info.

Additional Information for Your Jamaica Spring Break

Our guide focuses exclusively on Negril, which has a long history as a major Spring Break destination.  We know there are other resorts and beaches which make for a great Jamaica Spring Break.  For more information on such places, and the many other sights and attractions in Jamaica, we highly recommend Jamaica Vacation Now.  This site is loaded with great information for Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and some of the super resorts and restaurants on the island.  Check them out for further details!

 

Spring Breaker Reviews for Jamaica Spring Break

Our opinions are just that- our opinions.  We want to hear from you, our fellow Spring Breakers.   Pictures, stories, and your own tips are welcome here.  If you have something to add, please submit your Jamaica Spring Break content here.


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