This Jamaican Paradise Deserves to Be On Your Post-Pandemic Travel Bucket List

With its rugged mountains, lush greenery, crystalline waters and unique character, Jamaica stands out in the Caribbean, where the beauty standard is impossibly high.

There’s no place that beauty is better on display than in Negril. The small western beach town with a population of just under 7,000 is mostly known for its pristine Seven Mile Beach (actually only four miles long). Head into town and colourful houses rest against a backdrop of reggae music, traditional Jamaican food and a palpable dedication to “island time.”

Best Stay

Located on the widest stretch of Seven Mile Beach, this 186-room resort boasts three pools, a waterpark and nine restaurants. While culinary options abound (Italian! Mexican! Japanese!), you’ll find no shortage of quintessential Jamaican treats on the resort, like Appleton Estate Jamaican rum, Red Stripe beer, fresh seafood and Jamaican patties (pronounced with a hard “T,” lest you be corrected by the locals).

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Coffee lovers, rejoice: The resort serves up unlimited Blue Mountain coffee, grown right in the island’s Blue Mountain range, which are some of the most sought after beans in the world. Indulgences aside, there are plenty of ways to keep busy on the property: Stop in at the award-winning Red Lane Spa for a deep tissue massage or coffee scrub treatment (using those same high-quality coffee grounds), or soak up the sun while trying your hand at a variety of water sports, like waterskiing or stand-up paddleboarding. But we can’t blame you for just wanting to settle in on a lounger, as this resort has a prime vantage point for beachside sunsets.

Best Sweat

Organizing your trip around a sporting event may not seem very relaxing, but we beg to differ. Combine fitness with fun and sign up for the annual Reggae Marathon, which happens every December. The race, which has options for a full marathon, half-marathon or 10K, loops around Negril on a flat course and ends in a beach bash, where you can enjoy coconut water (straight from the coconut) or Red Stripe beer in the early hours of the a.m.

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Wading into the ocean after the race is one of the most euphoric experiences you’ll have on vacation, and sticking around to listen to local reggae acts is a close second. And the traditional carb-loading pasta party the night before, where you can try countless plates of pasta, including Rasta Pasta (a unique mix of pasta, seafood and jerk seasoning), is a close third.

(Related: Expert Tips for Training for a Half Marathon)

Best Hang

A trip to Negril isn’t complete without a visit to Rick’s Café, an iconic restaurant and bar that has been opened since 1974. One of the most spectacular watering holes in Jamaica, this scenic bar is famous for a reason: It’s set atop a 35-foot cliff. Take in live music (spoiler: a lot of Bob Marley, not that we’re complaining) and ocean views while you sip. Oh, and you’ll get to spectate as locals, tourists and even children cliff-dive into the ocean below. It’s known for being one of the best places to take in a sunset on the island, and the unforgettable ambience lives up to all the hype.

Best Activity

If adventure tops your vacay to-do list, check out Jamwest Motorsports and Adventure Park. Hop on an ATV and follow rocky trails and oceanside paths to Salmon Point, a small fishing village, where you can have a drink and take in the scenery. If you’re adrenaline averse, opt for a more relaxed activity, like horseback riding. Don’t worry if you get hot — the horses will wade you into the ocean for a revitalizing dip.

(Related: 6 Reasons Swimming Is Good for You)

Best Nosh

Stop in for another cliffside experience with dinner at Pushcart, one of the restaurants of the Rockhouse Hotel & Spa (a celeb favourite). The restaurant aims to give diners the full island experience via their taste buds, serving up fare from its many regions to its home-cooked meals.

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Start with The Push-Cart cocktail, a refreshing and spicy mix of house-made ginger-pineapple syrup with soda water and local rum. Nosh on peppa shrimp, sautéed in local Scotch bonnet pepper sauce and served with bammy (a traditional flatbread made from the root vegetable cassava), or try the award-winning jerk chicken, served with plantain and festival (another uniquely Jamaican treat). And don’t forget to finish the meal with rum cake.

Next: This Tiny North Atlantic Island Is a Seaside Haven

Originally Published in Best Health Canada