Exploring Real Jamaica

A budget road trip through Jamaica's Western half—from experiencing Negril to traveling the southern and interior roads, to Cockpit Country, and back.

Exploring Real Jamaica

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Moggymoll on May 3, 2006

We entered Jamaica with the goal of seeing everything from the dense tourist areas to densely forested cockpit country. We started and ended the trip in Negril (an easy taxi ride from Montego Bay). We lazed in the sun the first two days in Negril while waiting for an available rental from a local jeep rental company.

Upon attaining our island cruiser, the local Toyota version of a jeep, we immediately set off down towards Black River with every intention of seeing Jamaican "alligators" on the Black River Safari. Unfortunately we were waylaid by some local hustlers at "roaring river" and later caught by a torrential downpour. After many surprises from the flooded road, we finally found refuge at the end of the day at Astra Country Inn in Mandeville. The following morning we made for cockpit country instead of attempting a side trip to the Milk River and Alligator hole--considering our experiences on the road the prior day. The road to Windsor from Mandeville is an experience in itself--not recommended for the faint of heart. However, at the end of the road, every single pot hole was worth it to come to rest at Windsor Great House.

In Windsor we were taken care of by Sugarbelly and Franklyn. Sugarbelly kept us well fed and offered up suggestions on which trails to explore. Franklyn was a knowledgeable guide to Windsor Cave. In total we spent 2 nights and 3 days at Windsor hiking, caving, and birdwatching.

After roughing it, we were ready to relax on the beach away from hustlers and the mosquitoes. We found what we were looking for 5 minutes east of Falmouth at a little "resort" called Time 'n Place. These little Thai style huts on relatively undeveloped beach were a slice of heaven. The owners and staff were extremely friendly and helped find rides for all the guests to Rock, Oyster Bay to see the bio-luminescent waters.

After a relaxing night at Time 'n' Place we headed to Negril to return the jeep and arrange accommodations for our last night in Jamaica. Our flight left 12pm the next morning, so we had the luxury of sleeping in and taking a relaxing taxi drive to Montego bay the next morning.

${QuickSuggestions} Avoiding Hustlers: Hustlers are especially rampant at night in Negril on the Long Bay. Many will introduce themselves ask your origins and seem pretty congenial at first glance, but beware of getting talked into buying something you don't want or need out of guilt. They may even try to walk with you and give you a "friendly tour" while you are simply trying to enjoy the stars with your loved one. Nothing is for free from a Jamaican in or around Negril. A friendly walk and a chat could lead to much begging for money, hustling for ganja, etc.

Here are some tips when approached:

1. Remember NOTHING is free in Negril.
2. Always say no thanks, not interested firmly and persistently.
3. Do not continue a seemingly conversation, be polite but keep moving, eventually they will somehow try to get your money.
4. Do not take a hit off a joint even if "freely offered," later they will ask for money out of "respect."
5. Do not walk on the beach of Long Bay in Negril on a weekend night unless you expect hustling.

${BestWay} Driving in Jamaica: if you plan to drive anywhere other than the well-populated tourist areas, I would recommend renting a 4wd vehicle. If you do this through the airport you will pay a hefty price $70 to $100 a day. I suggest Island cruisers in Negril for no more than $50 a day plus insurance. Make sure to ask for a jack though.

Remember to drive on the left and don't be afraid to honk--especially in Negril. Honk if you're overtaking, passing a pedestrian, bicyclist, or just for the heck of it!

If you just want to stay in Negril, Montego Bay or around I highly recommend the route taxi service. Always agree on price before you get in though. Ask local hotel desks for reasonable prices.

Blue Cave Castle

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Moggymoll on May 3, 2006

Blue Cave Castle is a quirky, yet beautiful, castle-style hotel located on the cliffs of the west end of Negril. In high season, deluxe rooms are $75 per night. Each room is uniquely decorated with tile floors, large windows, refrigerators, fans, and radios. Almost all rooms have a view of the sea. For just $10 more you can have AC and a TV, but with a location on the cliffs next to the ocean an AC is not necessary. There are also two stair cases down to the ocean below where snorkeling is free and you can explore Blue Cave as well. Each morning there is complimentary Blue Mountain Coffee in the courtyard.
Blue Cave Castle
Lighthouse Road
Negril, Jamaica, West Indies
(876) 957-4845

Windsor Great House Guest Rooms

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Moggymoll on May 3, 2006

Considering its location on the northern edge of cockpit country, the rooms were rather nice. The rooms were clean, and relatively insect free. There is a communal toilet, however each room has a cold-water shower. Although, I recommend bringing your own food. The room prices may be cheap, but the meals were not for what you get. Breakfast provided by Sugarbelly (the caretaker of the house) consisted of toast, cereal and coffee ($5/each), and lunch mashed potatoes with cabbage, calaloo, and eggs ($10 each) and super of turkey sausages, fries, and salad ($15 each). This was the least fancy but most expensive of all meals eaten on the entire trip. Otherwise, this is a great place to stay for those seriously interested in hiking cockpit country and learning about ongoing research in the area. We specifically came for the researcher's dinner. Unfortunately the researchers had just returned after a long drive from Kingston and were not in a particularly friendly or talkative mood at our dinner.Note: Windsor is not easy to get to. It is literally at the end of the road (if you can call it that). The road is little more than a dirt track, heavily potholed and little-traveled. This road is most easily accessed via Falmouth.

Astra Country Inn

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Moggymoll on May 3, 2006

The Astra Country Inn is just a few blocks off the main road down Ward Avenue. The rooms all have cable TV and are basic hotel rooms, nothing special. What makes the Astra Inn special is the hotel staff. They are extremely friendly, helpful, and very willing to work with you in arranging local tours. They will even drive you to restaurants or reggae concerts if you do not feel confident in your navigatori skills. If you're feeling lazy, but still want to try local Jamaican cuisine, they've got an excellent Jamaican-style restaurant on speed dial that delivers. The hotel has a restaurant itself, but make sure to let the cook know ahead of time you are coming to breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The breakfast was a traditional saltfish variation with a delicious fresh fruit plate. For future visits, I think this Inn will serve as an excellent base point for exploring surrounding parishes of southern Jamaica.
Astra Country Inn
62 Ward Avenue
Kingston, Jamaica
(876) 962-3725

Time 'n' Place

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Moggymoll on May 3, 2006

Time 'n' Place is a slice of heaven. If you want relatively undeveloped beaches, no hustlers, and no worries, this is the place!This small resort offers four wooden Thai-style huts on the beach for very reasonable prices. High-season prices vary from $65-95 depending on A/C and TV preferences. Each hut has a fan, mosquito netting and full bathroom. You can dine at the Time 'n' Place bar and restaurant, and enjoy the vistas of undeveloped white sand beach and aquamarine waters. Also, it is not a far drive to Oyster Bay to see the glowing waters.The owner and staff take pride and great care of their resort and customers. All staff are extremely friendly and helpful.
Time 'N' Place
Po Box 93

Sips and Bites

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Moggymoll on May 3, 2006

This was our favorite restaurant for authentic Jamaican cuisine in Negril. The food was cheap, but extremely tasty and satisfying. The brown stew fish, conch, and curry lobster were all excellent examples of the delicious Jamaican cuisine. Every dish comes with salad, rice and peas. Each meal was filling, and a unique experience for our American palates. Breakfast is a must as well. The ackee and saltfish were a hearty way to start off the day. The ackee was fresh off a tree behind the restaurant, as was the soursap fruit.
Sips and Bites
West End Road
Negril, Jamaica

Roaring River

Member Rating 1 out of 5 by Moggymoll on May 3, 2006

Roaring River is a rather beautiful little creek with miniature falls leading down to a small blue-green mineral pool. However, make sure not to let anyone on a motorbike guide you to the site, as it will lead to much hustling. They will lead you to a false "tour office" where you can buy tickets for $15 each. A guide will take you for a short walk down to the mineral pool and back up again all the while climbing over barbed wire fence. This so-called tour takes no more than 15-20 minutes and you have no more insight into the roaring river than you did when you began. The guide will then tell you that you owe him $40 (don't pay him of course!). This might have been enjoyable if we had known beforehand to go on the official tour and not follow the young motorbike guides. Our trip to this beautiful little site was sullied by the fact that we were duped. Unfortunately, Americans aren't the only ones who are duped into this overpriced "tour," from talking to other Jamaicans, they too have fallen victim to these young motorbike guides and roaring river. As a final word, beware of Roaring River!
Roaring River
Petersfield Community
Montego Bay, Jamaica

Glistening Waters

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Moggymoll on May 7, 2006

I am a biologist by profession and have studied the ins and outs of bioluminescent organisms, but no amount of studying can prepare you for the experience at Oyster Bay.On our visit to Oyster Bay we were initially unimpressed with the vast dark waters (especially after paying $17); however, as our guide at Glistening Waters slowly glided along the shore, we were stunned to see little flashes of bright blue-green darting past the boat—fish. Suddenly our guide revved the motor producing a fiercely glowing wake.The micro-organism responsible for the glowing water is a type of dinoflagellate, specifically pryodinium bahamene. Apparently, the cool waters from the Martha Brae River meeting with the warmer Caribbean Sea produce the perfect environment for some of the brightest bioluminescent micro-organisms on earth. When the cool/warm water mixture is at its optimum, you can see the waters glowing from shore. No worries though, even if you can't see the glowing water from shore you will still have a unique experience on your hour-long boat ride through the bay.Be sure to bring a bathing suit for a dip in the bay midway through the trip. I highly recommend participating in this activity yourself. Only four people out of a boat load of 12 braved the waters. The guide will stop at a point only 3-4 feet deep and allow you to climb down a ladder to the warm waters. Immediately you are enveloped in glowing blue—truly amazing and unique! The texture of the bay bottom is a unique one as well—it is not completely solid, rather more of a warm, "fluffy," soft sensation, though not slimy like lake silt. I felt rejuvenated after climbing out of my glowing watery trail. Our guide promised us all that we would experience a miracle the next morning. However, after such a satisfyingly unique experience that night, no morning miracle could compare to the miracle of biology in action.
Glistening Waters
Oyster Bay
Montego Bay, Jamaica


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