Traveling to Negril, Jamaica
August 29, 2005 8:57 PM   Subscribe

The fiancee and I just booked a honeymoon at Sandals in Negril, Jamaica. Any tips from folks who have stayed there (Sandals, Negril, Jamaica... any of the 3, but hopefully a combination)?

Mostly interested in what to do when we're not at the resort (thoughts about the resort itself welcome too!). We're looking forward to the all-inclusive resortyness of it all, but we're also a bit more adventurous and are interested in exploring a bit on our own. Also, we're going in February, if you could share any insight about the weather.
posted by paulrockNJ to Travel & Transportation around Negril, Jamaica (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've been to Jamaica, but not Negril (stayed in the Montego bay area)

The weather there should be fantastic in February. (Hot during the day, but not terribly humid, and with a nice ocean breeze... down to maybe 65 or 70 at night)

Be aware that your driver will likely appear to be insane, pulling off death defying moves quite casually, and saying "no problem, mon" if anybody seems upset by this. Don't worry about it, there's nothing you can do anyway, and getting a different driver wouldn't have helped anything.

If you buy any ganja, don't travel with it, just smoke it at the resort. Despite the fact that at least three people a day will try to sell it to you, it's not legal, and the police sometimes search cars.

Obvious activities are all the water-related things (we did some rafting, snorkeling and paragliding)... exploring a bit is problematic because Jamaica suffers from severe poverty, and the issues that come with that. As such, I've always basically stayed on the resort, or on tours that were arranged through the resort.

You should have a fantastic time... I wish I could always live on island time.
posted by mosch at 11:45 PM on August 29, 2005

I would worry about your safety.

When the ex-wife and I were there, we didn't exactly feel secure out of the resort. Beware of pickpockets, and never get in a cab without the government sticker.

I would also worn you against going to any less than public places.

Jamaica is not a very safe place. I find most people who think it is were in ultra-posh resorts, or in armed compounds.

If it seems like I'm exaggerating, why not check out the info here.

If you're lazy, let me quote:

SAFETY AND SECURITY : Gang violence and shootings occur regularly in inner-city areas of Kingston. Some inner-city neighborhoods are occasionally subject to curfews and police searches. Impromptu demonstrations sometimes occur, during which demonstrators often construct roadblocks or otherwise block the streets. These events usually do not affect tourist areas, but travelers to Kingston should check with local authorities or the U.S. Embassy for current information prior to their trip.


CRIME: Crime, including violent crime, is a serious problem in Jamaica, particularly in Kingston. While the vast majority of crimes occur in impoverished areas, the violence is not confined. The primary criminal concern of a tourist is being a victim of theft. In several cases, armed robberies of Americans have turned violent when the victims resisted handing over valuables. Crime is exacerbated by the fact that police are understaffed and ineffective. Therefore, tourists should take their own precautions and always pay extra attention to their surroundings when traveling, exercise care when walking outside after dark, and should always avoid areas known for high crime rates. As a general rule, valuables should not be left unattended, including in hotel rooms and on the beach. Care should be taken when carrying high value items such as cameras, or when wearing expensive jewelry on the street. Women's handbags should be zipped and held close to the body. Men should carry wallets in their front pants pocket. Large amounts of cash should always be handled discreetly.

The U.S. Embassy advises its staff to avoid inner-city areas of Kingston and other urban centers whenever possible. Particular caution is advised after dark in downtown Kingston. The U.S. Embassy also cautions its staff not to use public buses, which are often overcrowded and are a frequent venue for crime.

I'll spare you the rest, but this mirrors my experience there. I also know two friends who were there and bad experiences.

I'd stick with the British Virgin Islands, myself.
posted by kungfujoe at 3:12 AM on August 30, 2005

We (two adults, two children) did a "family-friendly" all-inclusive in Negril about 9 years ago.

We had a great time, but kungfujoe definately has a point (even in Negril, which is a long ways from Kingston as island distances go.)

You're probably fine as long as you act like a tourist, and stay in the tourist places doing tourist things. We went into town shopping at one point, and wandered off from the main tourist shopping area. It was made very clear to us very quickly that we were not welcome and would not be tolerated away from where the tourists are supposed to be.

Activities at the resort were great, with the downside of a "family" resort being that the music and fun stopped a few hours early for my taste (I'm a late-night person) while we could still hear a lot of fun going on down the beach at adult-only resorts.

Outside of the resort activities were a little mixed.

Just down the beach we all went on jet-ski rides, and they brought me in early to inform me that I'd need to cough up some extra cash, and intimated that there might be problems with my wife and kids (who were still out) if I didn't. It was little enough that it was simplist to pay it, but it left a very bad taste in my mouth.

We also took a "ministry of tourism" (I forget the proper title) sanctioned day trip to the Black River and YS Falls. The destinations were fine (and fun), but the bus (mini-van) ride was long, annoying and without air conditioning (it was broken). Many of the sites along the way were more thought-provoking than entertaining -- you become aware real fast of the meaning of the term "third world".

Then there are the "higglers" -- when not in the resort, we were solicited every few minutes to buy everything from ganja to massages to trinkets. In the resort, they licensed several a day and made them stay in booths.

All in all, it was fun but I have mixed feelings about Jamaica; I love the music, but the hassle factor is a bit high. Next time I'll probably be inclined to go elsewhere (on the other hand, since I'm out of the wife-and-children scene, some of the adult-only resorts are awfully appealing.)
posted by nonliteral at 8:42 AM on August 30, 2005

Kungfujoe, everything you quoted talks about Kingston. This person is going to Negril. These cities are on opposite sides of the island. Negril is a tourist destination and it's in their best interest to make sure nothing bad happens to the tourists.

That being said, could you get robbed in Negril? Yes. Will people come up to you on the street and try to con you? Most definitely. But, that's going to happen in most tourist destinations in poorer countries. As long as you exhibit moderate common sense, you'll be fine.

My wife and I have been to Negril twice (once was for our honeymoon) and we have friends who go pretty much every year. It's a great place to vacation and none of us have ever had any problems there.

My first suggestion would be to cancel your reservations at Sandals and book your honeymoon at Tensing Pen. This place is amazing and we'll never stay anywhere else in Negril. The resort is made up of private cottages that overlook the cliffs and ocean. My wife and I stayed at this one. They also have some great cottages on pillars.

I know you're looking forward to the all inclusiveness of Sandals, but to me that place feels like you might as well be in Miami. The only possible good thing about Sandals is that it will be air conditioned. It gets really hot in Jamaica. It's pretty much 80 degrees year round. But, you get used to it pretty quickly. Also, Sandals is on the beach and Tensing Pen is a 5 minute cab ride from the beach. That didn't really bother us, though. We made one trip to the beach and that was enough for us.

The staff at Tensing Pen are great and will treat you and your new bride very special. The resort has an open air kitchen that offers a continental breakfast and blue mountain coffee every morning. Dinner is offered to the guests every night. It's not all inclusive like Sandals, but the food is excellent and well worth the cost.

The resort staff can help you book day trips in the area. I would recommend YS falls and the snorkeling trip (there's a guy named Vincent who comes around most mornings in a glass bottom boat and will take you out to snorkel for a decent price).

But, for the most part, I recommend doing absolutely nothing. My wife and I spent our honeymoon at Tensing Pen relaxing by the cliffs and occasionally walking down to the store for another six pack of Red Stripe. We ate lobster pretty much every night and I had an arrangement with some guy on the street who would make amazing jerk chicken and deliver it to me for lunch. Of course, there's the ganja as well. That helps you get in the right frame of mind.

Have fun!
posted by fletchmuy at 1:01 PM on August 30, 2005 [2 favorites]

We got married in Sandals (Ocho Rios) and had a two-week honeymoon there, first in Ocho Rios, then Montego Bay. Once you're at a Sandals resort, you can travel to any of the other Sandals places too (Sandals has shuttle buses), so we also went to Sandals Negril, which probably has the nicest beach of any of the resorts. This was in the early 90's, so I'm not sure how much of this still applies. YMMV. We went in November, and the weather was beautiful - not too hot, and only one day when it was a little overcast and rainy.

I can echo some of the safety concerns, though there is a big difference between Kingston and the north coast of Jamaica, where all the tourist places are. While in Montego Bay, we took a trip to a crafts market in town. It was a walled in market, with rows and rows of stalls. On the drive over there, the taxi driver advised us that when we walked into the market, young men would walk up to us and greet us, shake our hand and start to walk with us, "showing us around", and we should wave them off politely and ignore them. At the very least they will guide you to certain stalls that they're friendly with, but on the more sinister side of the spectrum they will, at the end of your visit to the market, ask to be paid for their "services" as your guide and ask you for an unreasonable amount of money, 100 bucks or so. If you don't pay up, more persuasive methods of relieving you of the sum come to light. We waved them off politely and had no hassle in the market at all; people in the stalls were very friendly.

Sandals arranges various trips outside the resorts, which IIRC you have to pay extra for. We took one such trip, rafting near Ocho Rios. What wasn't clear to us was that it is expected to tip the guide and, since we were heading out of the resort only for this trip, were heading into a watery experience and had already paid for the trip, we brought no money with us. It was awkward and we really felt bad not being able to tip the guy at the end of the trip - so if you're going on any of these trips, be sure to bring some cash with you - not necessarily your wallet, but at the time one of those plastic containers for film rolls came in handy.

Rick's Café is not far from Sandals Negril. It was wrecked by Hurricane Ivan; I'm not sure how far along their reconstruction is.

Negril's long beach, from what I remember, segues into miles and miles of sandy beach on one side, and if ganja is your thing, apparently it's not too terribly difficult to strike up a trade there. The resort has guards on the outskirts, btw.

On our last day in the resort, it was suggested to us in a low voice that if we had any left over Jamaican cash that we would not be exchanging, to make a gift of this to some of the staff. If you want to do this, the handover should be inconspicuous - a handshake with the money palmed - since the staff can get into trouble if this is noticed.

We really had a great time in Sandals, and it's perfect for a honeymoon, whether you put in no effort at all and just coast through the all-inclusive offerings and hang out on the beach, or go on one day trip after another. Usually we were up at the crack of dawn, enjoying empty jacuzzis etc. Poolside bars are fun too; the drinks tend to be mixed with less alcohol than if you were to pay for one in a bar, though of course you can have as many as you want, and I think even ask them to mix the drinks stronger, but actually the lighter mix I think is just right so you don't overextend yourself in the middle of the day. There are plenty of activities, and you should have no problem filling a week or two. If you're staying for two weeks, you may want to mix things up by taking trips to the other Sandals resorts, just to have some variety in your choice of restaurants etc.
posted by McIntaggart at 2:04 AM on August 31, 2005

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