Rum has been distilled on the Appleton Estate, the oldest sugar estate and distillery in Jamaica, continuously since 1749, and is still at it today. So when you turn up here for the Appleton Estate Rum Tour don’t be surprised to see a factory-like structure pouring smoke into the air – this is very much a working distillery first and tourist attraction second. And it is a great attraction if you like rum! The tour lasts about an hour and covers various stages of the distilling process, as well as giving visitors a sense of the history of rum production here. Oh, and you do get to drink some rum!
Our tour took about an hour. The first part covered some of the history and earlier processes, such as the resident donkey "Pax" demonstrating how juice was extracted from sugar cane in the 18th century (photo 2), and a chance for some of us to have a go at pressing canes ourselves. We tasted some of the sugar cane juice, and also some of the thick black molasses that forms the basis of the rum – if you have a sweet tooth the latter is particularly delicious!
After a walk past a number of implements that were used in the early days of distilling here, we were taken into the Distillery itself, which was very hot (and was the one place on the tour where no photos were allowed). Here we saw the series of compressors through which the rum is gradually refined from the original fermented molasses. Next we went to the Ageing House, lined with barrels and kept at a constant cool temperature by the slowly evaporating rum.
Finally we returned to the Visitor Centre and the part of the tour that I think most of us were waiting for – the tasting! We were shown into a small bar where over a dozen bottles were lined up, including several strengths of white and dark rum and various rum-based liqueurs. The guide explained that we were going to be able to taste any or all of them – he asked only that we listen to his descriptions of all of them first, and that we used a fresh paper cup for each one we tried so as not to contaminate the flavours. So once he had finished his explanations about them all, we were free to help ourselves to as much as we wanted of any of them – he even said that if any bottle ran out we were to tell him and he would open a new one. Perhaps surprisingly, no one abused this generosity, though we did all make the most of the opportunity :) Our particular favourites were the spiced rum and the coffee flavoured liqueur Blue Mountain Mist. We were also all given a miniature bottle of the best-selling Appleton rum, V/X.
The shop on the site did great business following the tasting, as you can imagine, and prices here were very reasonable. However we waited to buy our rum at the airport because of the restrictions on liquids in hand baggage – we didn’t want to risk putting the bottles in hold baggage having seen how this is handled!
The tour runs Monday – Saturday, 9.00AM – 4.00PM. I’m afraid I don’t know how much it costs as we did it as part of a full day out, but I don’t think it can be expensive for what you get.
The Black River, in the south of the island, is Jamaica's largest wetland area and a haven for wildlife –especially birds of various species, and crocodiles! Several companies offer boat trips on the river, during which sightings of some of the crocodiles are all but guaranteed. You’ll see these described in tour brochures as “safaris” but if that suggests something adventurous, think again – these are simply pleasant boat rides through a very attractive landscape.
We did an hour long tour with one of the most established companies, J. Charles Swaby. The boat appeared well-kept and the pilot/guide gave a good commentary with a bit of humour thrown in. We got very close to some of the crocodiles – they tend to frequent the same stretches of river and our guide obviously knew exactly where to look. We also saw a large number of egrets and a few herons, but the birdlife wasn’t as varied as I’d expected. The vegetation is very lush in places, with forests of mangroves and palms alternating with large sweeps of reeds.
The tour cost US$16.50 per person, which included a soft drink (fruit punch). As well as the great photo opportunities it was lovely simply to be out on the river with its fresh cooling breezes and beautiful wetland scenery.
There are several rivers in Jamaica where you can take a trip on a bamboo raft. We went on the Great River near Montego Bay, but I suspect all the trips are similar. The “rafts” are actually very similar to the punts we’re used to seeing in Cambridge, England, and have comfortable seats for two – and thankfully dry too! We were punted downstream for about 50 minutes by our “captain”, Michael. He pointed out the various trees and plants lining the river, picked wild flowers which he made into a pretty bunch for me, gathered seeds and told us how they were used in bead-making, and demonstrated the different types of stone that made up the river bed. It was a very relaxing way to travel – mostly drifting quite slowly with the current, occasionally stopping while Michael picked up the various things to show us, sometimes speeding up over the rapids, and at one point getting stuck on the stones there (the river was very shallow in parts).
When you disembark the rafts are punted back upstream by local boys – you’ll be expected to tip for this. If you’ve arrived in your own car apparently someone from the company will drive it down to meet you, although I also noted a couple of taxis waiting by the disembarkation point if needed. There are toilets available here, but although we’d been told we would be given a complimentary soft drink, none was offered – though I have to say we didn’t ask either as we weren’t especially bothered about getting this.
The raft trip costs US$35 per person, or you can do a tour from Montego Bay, with transport to and from the river, for US$44 (adults) or US$38 (children).
This was easily our favourite of the various attractions we visited while we were at Negril! Rocklands is the former home of Lisa Salmon, the “Bird Lady of Anchovy” as she was known – a bird-lover and naturalist who lived here from 1958 until her death in 2000 and created the perfect garden to attract local birds, especially hummingbirds. This sanctuary has been maintained ever since by her family and opened to the public to introduce them to the birds that Lisa loved and looked after.
When we arrived here it was still quite early and we were apparently the first visitors of the day. We were given seats on the terrace of the house and small bottles of sugar water. The guide showed us how to hold them at just the right angle for the birds, and how to place a finger in the right place to provide them with a perch. Than we sat quietly, and in less than a minute the birds arrived. It was really a magical experience to have these beautiful creature perch on our fingers and drink the water, apparently without any fear. When we moved our fingers away, some even hovered to drink right under our gaze. With them so close to us we could appreciate their iridescent colours in a way that’s impossible under normal circumstances. They seemed so delicate and yet so strong as they beat their wings too quickly for us to see. We fed quite a few doctor birds (the Jamaican national bird) with their beautiful long streamer tails, some young ones too without the tails, and a couple of stunning purple and red mango hummingbirds.
We also saw various finches, Black-faced Grassquits, Yellow-faced Grassquits, Banaquits, doves, a Jamaican woodpecker and a beautiful Jamaican Oriole. The guide put some bird seed on our knees which attracted the finches in particular to perch on them to eat.
When we were able finally to tear ourselves away from the terrace the guide took us for a short walk in the garden, where he pointed out various plants and told us a bit about Lisa Salmon and her work here. Of course he expected a tip for his efforts, but we were happy to oblige as he’d given us over an hour of his time.
Admission is just US$10 and well worth it! I’ve seen websites which say that it’s only open in the afternoons; we visited before 10.00 AM and were admitted, but it might be best to call ahead if coming on your own rather than in a tour.
In addition to my photos here, I found this great little video on YouTube that gives a really good idea of this wonderful experience. And read more about Lisa Salmon here
We arranged both our tours (one to the Black River and the Appleton Rum distillery, the other to Rocklands) through Carolyn Barrett of Barrett Adventures, having seen her tours recommended on VT. The fairest thing to say about her is that the places we were taken were good (but with the exception of the river-rafting, were places we’d have known to go to anyway), but the service we received from the company was mixed. On the plus side, the drivers (Errol and Decon) were both reasonably good (we felt as safe as you can do on Jamaican roads) and were punctual. On the downside, there was a lack of organisation that led to us missing lunch on the first day, because Errol hadn’t been told that we’d booked it, so took us straight from the Black River to the distillery where no food is sold. However, this was nothing compared to the second day out, when the plans fell apart completely.
Having learnt my lesson from the previous mix-up, I checked with Decon that he was fully aware of our planned itinerary as soon as we set out, only to discover that he only knew about the first of our intended destinations, the Hilton Head plantation. On learning that we wanted to go as well to Rocklands, he said that to do both places in a day would mean not getting back to Negril until about 9.00PM. This would have been far too late as it was our last day on the island and we had dinner reservations at our favourite restaurant (the Rockhouse) so we asked for a rethink of the plans. After he'd made several calls to Carolyn on his mobile (a bit unnerving on these roads!) I was able to talk to her myself and reschedule the day. As Rocklands was the place we most wanted to visit, we went there first and then to the Great River, dropping Hilton which she told us was more or less a whole day out.
This left us with some unanswered questions however. Why, if it was a whole day out, had she herself proposed combining it with Rocklands when we’d originally consulted her about tour options? Why did Decon tell us it would be such a long day, only to back-track later, when all the changes had been made, to say he could have got us back by 6.30PM? And why did we somehow end up paying US$10 more when the river-rafting is clearly a much cheaper attraction than Hilton and we were out for a shorter period than originally booked?
After several emails to Carolyn the last question remains unanswered, though she did refund the money we’d paid for the non-existent lunch on the first day. So I’m afraid I have to say that I would NOT book a tour with her again, and CAN’T recommend her to others.
Joseph's Cave is next door to Rock House Resort on the Cliffs----there is a small restaurant right on top of the cave and a way down from the other side of the road (unless you are jumping!) This is a big bay where some of the folk staying at the beach come up on pleasure boats to swim, snorkle and jump off the HIGH cliff. The nudie folk from Hedo come here at least once a week.....fun to watch....they usually have slides coming off their boat into the bay...
One of the stories going around is that pirates and ganja runners later, used this as a storage for treasure and ganja. It is really cool to go inside in a small boat all the way to the back , where there is a small beach and the stairs going up. There are always one or two boats cruising up the cliffs (Vincent is one) that will stop, pick you up and take you sightseeing.
Supposedly parts of the movie Pappillon was filmed right here. (Dustin Hoffman)
During our stay in Jamaica, we escaped the resort for a day trip around sites on the South Coast. I think many tour companies offer this tour, including one that could be booked through our hotel, but I read online before we left home about this specific operator and how good they were. We weren't disappointed. The tour includes 3 main stops: a river ride on the Black River, a visit (and swim if you'd like ) to YS Falls, and a tour of the Appleton Estate rum distillery. The van you are in might be shared with others who booked the same tour, but we had the van and the driver, Avril, to ourselves. Avril was a great guide, chatty of course. He told us bits of Jamaican history, and especially liked to talk about native plants and fruits. He sometimes pulled off to the side of the road just to show us a coconut tree or ackee plant. He also was interested in the differences between Jamaica and where we were from. He didn't seem to understand the concept of us having bananas (or other tropical fruits), but not actually growing the fruits in our country. As for the sights, the Black River tour was fun, though I was disappointed that they guide didn't feed the crocodiles. Still, we saw a few, some up close, which I found exciting. The YS Falls were beautiful, and there didn't seem to be many people around the actual falls even though many were on the trailers pulled by tractors that bring you to the falls. And the Appleton Estate tour was interesting, not the best part of the day, but we had a guide to ourselves and he was a colourful character. Plus the free samples at the end were worthwhile. =) A lunch mid-day was included, from a restaurant on a hill with incredible views of the valley around it. If you want to go on a day trip out of Negril, I highly recommend Clive's service. They do various tours all over the island, so they're likely to have something for everyone.
That is the kindest way I can put it---skinny dipping in the ocean is one of my favorite things to do in Negril since I was 19 years old. It is less common than back in the 1970's but there are still places you can get naked and swim, sun and otherwise be naked in the Jamaican sunshine. At the beach I can recommend Hedonism 11, which has a beach, a pool, a jacuzzi and other areas that nudity is normal, along with other lifestyle areas as well. Grand Lido Negril has a beach, a pool and a jacuzzi available for naked folk, and Couples Negril which has a beach for naturists.
The Cliff's are a little more grey area----
I now stay at Seagrape Villas which is very private, and the staff is used to nudity. There are 2 cottages at the ocean's edge which are open to each other to some extent, but separate as well. I have stayed at one cottage and other folk were in the other, and I was not uncomfortable being naked on my side of the property when they were not on theirs, although my experience is that people that see me naked, sometimes try it out for themselves....A very rewarding experience for me......
There are other cliffside resorts that may allow discreet nude sunbathing such as CatchaFallingStar, Citronella, Blue Cave Castle and a few others.....just ask when booking--they will be honest and say if nudity is optional.....
Hedo sends up a nudie boat for cliff sightseeing one day a week---you can see them swimming at Josephs Cave alot..
If you are going to jump off of a cliff in Negril, don't do it really drunk or stoned. Think about this as similar to driving a car, or operating equipment that is valuable.....There are places around the West End where you can jump from 2 feet all the way to 50 feet and more, so pick your poison and be really careful. I have jumped off the cliff at Catcha Falling Star, which has 2 jumps, 8 feet and 20 feet (approx) and I did the 8 feet one there. I have never jumped at Ricks Cafe, where the guys jump from the treetops into the bay---probably 50-60 feet...My personal opinion is that most tourists would be stupid to try this....Banana Shout has a really good place to jump about 12 feet, which is about my tops.....most water around the cliffs' edge is at least 10 feet deep, so just a little outwards jump and you should be OK---it's good to scope it out first with a mask and snorkle if not familiar with the place.....
Xtabi (ex-tabee) is a resort on the cliffs about halfway up to Ricks from the roundabout, and is on the site of the old Awee-Maway resort of the 60's, for those old timers who may have been there. There is a really cool cave with stairs going down from the bar area---during peak season they even set up a bar down there, and you can also get into the water really easily here with a small ladder to get out---if you are not staying here, I always recommend that if you are going to use some of their facilities, you need to buy something, if only a few Red Stripes. The food is really good here--- for lunch they have a great club sandwich (with fried egg!) and the rum is always good.
My old friend Tony Vassel can pick you up at Sangster Airport in Mobay for the drive to Negril, which takes about an hour and a half. It is a fun drive along the coast going through some interesting towns along the way. He can stop for food and drink if you want as well. Tony also takes folk to Y's Falls, and other places nearby for a small fee. Just remember that gasoline is pretty expensive in Jamaica. The ride from Mobay to your hotel in Negril should run about $75-$80 which can be divided by the number of riders. He also rents scooters (Tykes Bikes) that you can use to go down to the beach easily when staying in the Cliff area.
I have known Jah-ba for over 35 years now---he lives next door to where I used to stay with my Jamaican mother Daisy on Lighthouse Road in Westend Negril. He has raised his family in the same spot by renting snorkeling equipment and such to tourists, and also in the past used to make patties, including akee and veggie ones, the best on the island! He is older now (about 70ish) so doesn't make the pies unless he knows you, although if someone asked him he probably would.....You can see him playing Dominos most days or sleeping in his hammock in the yard...His son David now runs a bar/restaurant in front of the compound. Stop by if you are walking the road and say Rusty sent you (My name is Dusty but I have never after 30 years been able to get them to call me that!)
Jah-ba is next door to one of the road grocerys and close to my friend Tony's Tykes Bikes
cycle rental. Not far from Ricks Cafe if you are going there for sunset....
updated Oct/2010---Jahba still with us---found him sitting across the road at a doorway into Tensing Pen Resort----he is 71 this year and still feisty---stop and say hello if walking past his compound. Also saw David on his bike a few times-----
updated june 2012---Jahba still around and turning 74 on June 27 this year! He now has a bar set up at the front of his compound so stop in and have a cold one with my old friend.
This isnt exactly in Negril, its more on the South Coast of the island. Its is closer to Negril than to Montego Bay or Ocho Rios. You can also do a day trip out of Ys Falls, The Appleton Rum Estate, Bambo Avenue and Black River. Yes, all this can be done in one day.
These are eight falls separated by pools of beautiful fresh water. You can climb these falls to but its not as slippery as Dunns Falls because you climb on the outside of the falls. They have built stairs for you to climb up. These falls will actually be better for kids.
The entrance fee is about $15 usd and they are openned from Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30am- 3:30pm.
When we first arrived we paid our entrance fee then went on a long tractor that took us through acres of privately owned land called YS estate. It is so beautiful. There were horses, and cows and rivers and beautiful landscape. There are also clean bathrooms, changing rooms and lockers.
I really liked this place, I think I liked it better than Dunns Falls. But really, both were beautiful.
Rhino safaris offers you a chance to take a really fun semi-inflatable high powered boat on an at sea ride for over 3 hours. You ride about 45 minutes on open ocean and then cut up the Black River into the Mangrove swamps before heading back and stopping for a snorkeling session. It was the most fun tour we took in Negril. It is not for children but for adults it is a blast.
They will pick you up and drop you off from your hotel. Don't bring anything that can't get wet.
Oya is a great massager in the Negril Area---she can bring her table to your cottage on the cliffs or at the beach. She was trained for muscular massage, sports related and such, and has done wonders for my shoulder on my visits to Negril over the years.
updated April 2011
Oya is still practising her mastery of massage on the cliffs. I got a wonderful one hour massage (aching shoulders and hip) for $70 US---she will bring her table to your location---I got the massage outside facing the ocean!
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