Negril's West End
Head out of town on the West End Road, and you almost immediately start to see another side to Negril. As the road climbs away from the rather scruffy small fishing beach it starts to wind between small hotels half hidden by bougainvillea bushes and more laid-back bars and restaurants than those found nearer the town. Here and there are small shacks selling crafts – we found the sellers here to be as interested in a friendly chat as in making a sale, with none of the intensive selling techniques employed in some parts of the island.
For most of the route your only chance of seeing the sea is by visiting one of the several bars or restaurants on that side of the road, or by staying on one of the hotels, but after about five miles you reach Negril Lighthouse (see Things to Do tip) and beyond it a small park with excellent views. There are also some hammocks strung between the trees here, and a small (but when we visited unfriendly) bar.
If you want to travel the full length of the road you could hire a bike in town, otherwise a route taxi will pick you up and drop you at any point for a few dollars. We spent an hour or so one morning walking the end furthest from town, i.e. from the Negril Escape to the lighthouse and beyond. This is the quietest stretch, but you still need to be careful as there are no pavements and locals drive fast round the tight bends. Despite this it made a pleasant walk and provided us with some good photo opportunities.
We had a chance to make snorkel near the Pirate's cove. Wonderful place, clear and warm waters, but the reefs were too damaged to show more than a few small fishes.
Well, maybe after being in Red Sea, Phi Phi Islands or Isla Mujeres I became too demanding!
Peter Tosh Mausoleum
En route to the Black River we drove past some colourfully painted gates and asked Errol our driver what they were. He replied that this was the entrance to Peter Tosh’s Mausoleum. He wasn’t sure if it was open to the public but proposed that we check it out on our way back, which we duly did. This was a great call, as I really liked this peaceful spot which seems to epitomise what Jamaica is all about.
We were the only visitors. We paid our fee of US$5.00 (not sure if this is an official charge or the guy just made up a number!) and were shown into the stone mausoleum with Tosh’s tomb at its centre. This was similar to Bob Marley’s mausoleum which we had visited at Nine Mile, though unlike Marley’s, here we were allowed to take photos.
Our guide then took us for a short walk in the surrounding garden, where he indicated the various plants growing there – herbs such as basil and mint, pimento, and yes, cannabis. He pointed out the house where Tosh had been born and his mother still lives, but explained that although she sometimes welcomed guests, at that time of day (late afternoon) she would be resting.
The overall atmosphere here was very laid-back and peaceful, with the twin Jamaican influences of reggae and ganja very strong. Several local rastas were gathered outside the tomb watching a video of a concert given by one of Tosh’s sons, Andrew, and they were happy to tell us a bit about the music (as well as, inevitably, attempting to sell us a “smoke”).
Directions: The Mausoleum is in the small community of Belmont in the south west of the island – look for the white gates on the opposite side of the main road to the sea.
Peter Tosh is perhaps not as famous as Bob Marley, so for those who’ve not come across him, here’s some background info:
He was the guitarist in the original Wailers, a reggae musician and a trailblazer for the Rastafari movement. Like Marley he grew up in the infamous Trenchtown area of Kingston. After an illustrious career with the Wailers and as a solo musician, he was murdered at his home. Though robbery was officially said to be the motivation behind Tosh's death, many believe that there were ulterior motives to the killing, perhaps linked to his passionate crusade for the legalisation of cannabis. He was also a strong campaigner against South African apartheid. Check out The Talking Drum website to hear some of his music.
Xtabi---Good food and Caves, too!
Xtabi (pronounced ex-ta-bee) has been around the Negril scene for a long time---It is on the site of the old Awee Maway resort from the 60's. There are great areas along the cliff for jumping off into the sea, and a great restaurant where I go mostly for a nice lunch with ocean views and breezes. They have a wonderful club sandwich which includes a fried egg on top! There are some caves down below that you can access with stairs---you can get into the water easily down there and swim out into the bay where there are also rocks for sunning.
I have never stayed here--they have rooms around the bay and also across the road. Club sandwich with fried egg!
One of the top attractions in Negril is this complex, with a fabulous location above Pirate's cove. Sunset was the argument that took us there, but I think that the real reason is... everybody goes. More than a café, this is a... happening.