Negril was recently discovered. Even young middle-aged Jamaicans remember when Negril was really nothing more than a lighthouse to guide ships around the rocky western coast, and its population consisted mostly of land crabs. . . big red ones, good for eating.
Tourist accommodation consisted of one house, which could be rented, called Llantrissant, no doubt built by a Welsh resident in the first half of the century.
Llandtrisssant is still there. But it has neighbors ....hostelries accommodating thousands of tourists nowadays.
Even after Negril began its first tentative steps on the road to resort fame, it maintained a very low profile, but it was impossible to keep such a place secret and so, inevitably, the trickle of visitors became a flow, and then a flood.
The first to discover Negril's charms were the "Hippies and Flower Children" of the early seventies, who naturally gravitated to the laid-back lifestyle here and related to the warmth and gentleness of the sparse population. Their influx led to the development of Negril's West End on the cliffs beyond the lighthouse.
Hippies were followed closely by the better-heeled visitor whose concept of paradise went beyond a hammock and palm-thatched bohio; so luxury hotels began to sprout. The eighties saw even more expansion as Negril's fame spread and those same hippies, now lawyers, doctors and businessmen began to return to recapture the idyll for a couple of weeks each year.
The hippies left their mark on Negril, and helped to create its carefree, unhurried atmosphere where friendships spring up between visitor and local, making Negril the ideal place to meet Jamaicans on their own turf.
Nowadays the people of Negril seem to be aware of their uniqueness and exhibit a pride in their territory which almost becomes a nationalistic attitude. They take great delight in telling the tale of the promoter who marketed Negril so skillfully that one arriving tourist was heard to exclaim: "But this is Jamaica, I thought we were going to the island of Negril"
Nature blessed Negril and ensured her place in the tourist world with two shimmering beaches, stretching seven crystal white sand miles. Bloody Bay (so called because whales were once slaughtered here) is a horseshoe haven. Long Bay, as the name will tell you, barely curves. Their equal are to be found nowhere in the Caribbean.
Hotels, none more than two stories high, grace the shoreline and most of them welcome the day visitor who can use their beach facilities for a small fee or the cost of a few drinks at their beach bars.
Paradise comes in another guise as you leave this seven-mile strip and pass the roundabout in what could be called the center of Negril. From here the road meanders along to the West End, where hotels and restaurants cling to the cliff's edge. Here there is no beach. White sand gleams from the seabed. Here there are caves to explore, and rocky bluffs where heroism can be added to holiday pastimes and doughty souls may hurl themselves from dizzying heights into the crystalline waters below.
Negril occupies no great place in the history books and especially not in the annuls of naval warfare. British Admiral Benbow sailed ruefully into Negril (christened Negrillo by Spanish discoverers in 1494) and regrouped his forces after his ill-fated encounter with the French under Admiral DuCasse.
It was also from Negril that in 1814 the British expeditionary force reached New Orleans where they were defeated by Andrew Jackson two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent had already ended the 1812 war.
Negril was not too lucky for pirates, either. The infamous Calico Jack and Anne Bonney disported themselves in this area and were finally captured here. No doubt Negril's charm caused them to let down their guard.
It is easy to explore Negril. After all, it only has one road, and it runs along the beach or the foreshore. Take it easy and walk along the beach or the main highway (Norman Manley Boulevard). If you feel impelled to rush, push-bikes and motor bikes can be hired. For shopping, there are a couple of plazas at the roundabout in the center of Negril. There are souvenir shops and in-bond shops. There are also in-bond stores at the Beachcomber and Gran Lido hotels. There are two Crafts Markets, one at the roundabout and another a little further along beside the Post Office.
This then is Negril, as close to a Carribean sunrise as you can imagine - without falling off.