I Needed a Mind, Body and Soul Reboot—and I Found It in Jamaica
Invigorating yoga classes with an ocean view, island-style spa treatments, nature hikes and meditative sound bath experiences enhanced with a micro dose—I did it all in Negril on my kid-free wellness getaway.
Until recently, when I thought of Jamaica, I imagined skimpy bikinis, rum punch and reggae music—not yoga, meditation and hikes. These things aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, but this Caribbean Island never screamed health hub to me. That is until I spent five days on the West Coast, in and around Negril, immersed in a wellness vacation. (And, for the record, I did in fact do some meditative journaling in my swimsuit.)
I stayed at The Cliff Hotel, which boasts a trendy “quiet luxury” aesthetic. From the sleek open-air lobby to the dark wood minimalist furniture and tonal colour palette throughout the rooms, the property is understatedly chic. But still warm and exuding Jamaican hospitality. I highly recommend early morning swims in the natural saltwater pool nestled in the cliffs.
Image: Jamaica Tourist Board
My first full day in Jamaica started with a calming yoga and meditation session at my hotel’s outdoor Yoga Pavillion (where you can practice solo anytime, or book personal or small group instruction). The feel of the salty breeze on my skin and the sounds of the lapping water beat the overhead fans and nature soundtrack piped into the nicest studio I’ve ever practiced at. It was the perfect way to feel grounded and set some intentions for my wellness escape.
Next up, candle-making. Hear me out: If you’re in the right mindset, almost any type of craft can be meditative. And making a candle to take home with you (hello, unique souvenir!) fits the bill. From watching the wax slowly melt, to selecting your scent, it’s a chance to unwind. Classes are led by CandleMakingCourses, and held adjacent to (and booked via) the Rockhouse Hotel.
Tucked in the lush, green outskirts of Westmoreland, Benta River Falls is a unique nature hike that’s off the beaten path in the best ways: there’s no touristy outbuilding or gift shop. Guides walked me down to the base of the river, nestled under the tall bamboo trees, then ushered me along an hour-long hike through the water, and around seven small waterfalls. At the end, I rewarded myself with a mud bath, followed by a soak in the blue lagoon to allow the pounding current to work out my kinks. (It’s nature’s jacuzzi!)
Sure, I could’ve had a wellness getaway without indulging in a spa experience, but the treatments at the KiYara Spa at The Cliff Hotel were worth checking out—they’re relaxation with a unique island twist. KiYara is a local word meaning “sacred place of the earth’s spirit,” and there was something grounding about the open ocean-facing treatment rooms that allowed me to feel the sea breeze while receiving a body massage featuring local ingredients like coconut oil and papaya extract.
A psilocybin sound bath could be the ultimate wellness class. This two-hour experience leans on the healing powers of psychedelic mushrooms (Jamaica is one of the only countries in the world where psilocybin is legal) to enhance a guided energy and breathwork session. The class is co-hosted by Patoo Chocolate, a local brand made with both indigenous mushrooms and cacao. Just one square (containing a quarter of a gram, which is considered a micro dose) took me on what I can only describe as a spiritually rejuvenating journey. Near the end, I opened my eyes as tears streamed down my face, and smiled as I watched a butterfly flutter overhead. I felt touched by magic.
Image: Jamaica Tourist Board
And taste buds, too
The sisters who run Just Natural Veggie and Seafood Restaurant treated me to the most delicious morning meals. Delightfully mismatched tables are tucked away in the garden, surrounded by orange trees and lush greenery. “Come and relax,” is the motto, and I certainly felt chill, and full, following one of their green smoothies and Jamaican breakfast plates. Try the scrambled ackee! Ackee is Jamaica’s national fruit and it’s often accompanied by breadfruit, saltfish and dumplings.
When I had my fill of zen and was ready for some rum punch and reggae music (because wellness is about balance, after all) Rick’s Cafe was my go-to spot. The Jerk chicken and Red Stripe beer battered shrimp are obvious choices that didn’t disappoint, and pair perfectly with the vibe. I arrived at sunset for the most spectacular view. (Really. Even locals rave about the peach and gold sunsets beyond the Negril Cliffs at Rick’s.)
After several days of self-care in Jamaica my mind became clear, the running to-do list that plagues working parents somehow silent. The seemingly permanent knots in my shoulders (thanks to so many hours hunched over a computer in my regular life) came unbound, and my mood was unyieldingly buoyant. I breezed through my front door and excitedly greeted my family bearing a few more freckles, fewer worries, and just feeling, well, truly well.