Get your tissues out! This story was written by Lisa Horton, a guest who stayed at Samsara Cliff Hotel and took care of her friend in the most wonderful way.
It was early Spring 2012 in South Carolina, USA. Three friends were planning a trip to Negril (we were staying at Samsara in mid-June) – this would have been our first trip together. For my husband and me, the trip was paid in full and we were ready to go! Our friend, Donald was almost there until…
He wasn’t feeling well about a month before the trip. To make a long story short, he ended up in the hospital facing a very serious condition requiring surgery and many weeks of recovery. We had to go without him. This broke my heart and I just couldn’t allow that to happen! I gotta make this right for him somehow!
I asked my husband for help, and with his awesome computer skills we created “Flat Donald” – a cartoon-like cut out with Donald’s face and wearing his favorite t-shirt and swim trunks. He would have no idea about any of this until we got back over a week later.
Flat Donald went everywhere we did, swimming, sipping coffee…
…meeting friends along the way.
Zip-lining at YS Falls where we was King of the Jungle!
Dinners and drinks.
Everywhere! He even stopped by to pay ’nuff respect to Peter Tosh!
Once we got home he couldn’t believe what we did and we still laugh about it today. We got together a few weeks later where Flat Donald got to go home with real Donald, in a really nice wooden box painted with the Rasta flag and decorated with a few sea shells and the printed photos.
We love our friend as much as we love Jamaica! If he couldn’t be there in the flesh he was in our hearts!
You’re all set to travel to Jamaica, but sometimes when you visit a new country for the first time, you feel overwhelmed by all the things that you don’t know. Relax! We have gathered together a list of tips for first-time visitors from our very own guests, many of whom come back to Jamaica and stay at Samsara and Legends in Negril year after year.
The cheapest time to travel to Jamaica is during the summer months. In July, flights through the Montego Bay airport are most likely to be overbooked, so you might have the chance of earning a voucher by agreeing to stay another night (at the airline’s expense)!
Don’t go to an All-Inclusive resort and be closed away from the “real Jamaica.” Go stay local, and eat local, and get out and mingle. Feel the vibes! If you do go All-Inclusive, do it at a smaller resort offering the option like Samsara or Legends.
Keep an open mind.
Don’t tell anyone you’re a first-time visitor to Jamaica.
Just relax and enjoy! It goes by too quickly…soak up everything! And start planning the next trip because you will be hooked.
Don’t worry bout a thing cause every little thing gonna be alright.
Don’t be scared of nothing.
Jamaica is very clean. Leave little behind and be a respectful visitor. Soak it all in – it is one of the most magical places on Earth!
Treat everyone with maximum respect and most likely you will meet friends for life after even a short visit.
Live each day of your vacation like it’s your last!
Do this as much as possible.
Book a one-way ticket because you won’t want to go home.
Eat lots of jerk chicken and dumplings
Get to know the Jamaican people – they are the friendliest people you’ll ever meet!
Wear bug spray if you’re on the beach at night.
Leave nothing but footprints.
Corner Bar is a must-stop for real Jamaican food. (Ask the front desk how to get there.)
Relax and just enjoy!
Bring lots of USD $5 bills if you can. Taxis and tips are all usually $5.
If you wear glasses and plan to snorkel, invest in a prescription snorkeling mask.
Did we miss any tips? Feel free to leave them in the comments or stop by our Facebook page and post a comment!
We have all been in this situation: we are vacationing at a new place for the first time. We are anxious to spend our money wisely, and we want to be sure we get to do and see everything we can. When planning your Jamaican vacation, you lurk on TripAdvisor and Facebook looking for Negril vacation tips.
So, to make things easier for you, we posted this question on Facebook: What things do you wish you had known when you came to Negril for the first time? Our fans answered us enthusiastically, and here are six Negril vacation tips!
Stay for at least 7 days on your first trip.
6 nights and 7 days gives you time to explore most of the Negril area. From the West End where Samsara is to 7-Mile Beach where Legends is, you can pretty much do it all in 7 days.
Choose Cliffs or Beach based on your vacation preference
If you like to party all the time, meet lots of people and hear music all day and into the night then the Beach is where you should be (checked into Legends, of course). If you crave peace and quiet, you’ll be happier staying on the Cliffs at Samsara where you only hear the gentle sound of the ocean breaking against the Black Cliffs.
Regardless of your choice, if you arrive and discover you don’t like your environment, it’s very easy to switch your reservation to the other hotel. Just ask!
Go on at least one Glass Bottom Boat Ride
These are not just a boat ride. The operators also take you on a guided snorkeling tour of the reef. They provide the equipment and teach you how to use it. It usually costs about $20 and is worth every cent!
Bring a prescription scuba/snorkeling mask
If you wear contact lenses, this is not quite as necessary. But if you wear glasses you will want to get yourself a prescription scuba mask before you leave for Negril. You can get this done at any local dive shop, or find an online shop. You’ll be very glad you did when you get to see Dory and Nemo in 20/20 vision!
Leave your social anxiety at home
Don’t be afraid to leave the resort and mingle with the people. Jamaicans are among the friendliest people on this earth. Just use common sense, be honest and respectful of them and that’s what you’ll get back in return. If you don’t understand what they’re saying, ask for clarification…do not just agree politely!
The cacophony of honking horns can be a bit alarming at first, as is the multitude of people who want to give you a ride (for a price). If you have any questions or concerns, check with the security guard or the front desk. Our bartenders are also great sources of information when you’re wondering how to interpret the world outside the gates!
Be prepared to want to live in Negril permanently
It’s a fact that once you go to Negril, you never want to leave. After returning home, you’ll find yourself daydreaming constantly about how to pack up and move there. Our Facebook page is an unofficial support group for this condition. Come feel the love and understanding!
We hope these Negril vacation tips help you, and we hope to see you soon!
We (meaning we who live in Negril) already know the multitude of health benefits to be enjoyed in Jamaica. Here are just a few factual ways health insurance companies could save big bucks if they would only pay for your vacations!
Snorkeling burns calories and increases fitness, helps heal skin conditions, helps reduce stress, anxiety, depression and even promotes healthy sleep patterns! AND, it’s fun!
Regulate Sleep Patterns
The closer you get to the equator, the closer the length of the day matches the length of the night. This helps regulate your sleep patterns, or circadian rhythm, which reduces both types of insomnia. Not surprisingly, sleep medicine is a booming business these days. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has doubled their number of sleep centers since 2007 , and it should be safe to say that those sleep centers were largely paid for by insurance payouts.
Good Quality Food
Most everyone agrees that seafood is one of the best foods you can eat for a healthy heart, healthy brain and healthy weight, and we have plenty of seafood! Jamaica also has a wide variety of other food to eat that is low in cholesterol, low fat and full of nutrients. Coconut rice and peas is one example of a delicious, healthy meal. The native plant Callaloo is considered a superfood  and makes an excellent omelet! You will also find very little processed food on the island, which is ideal for following an anti-inflammatory diet. Additionally, Dr. Mercola touts Jamaican allspice as being one of ten most potent anti-inflammatory spices. 
A superfood breakfast: steamed callaloo, farm-fresh eggs and low-fat cheese.
Relieve Sinus Problems
Sea air is naturally beneficial to your respiratory system, which is why those of us in dry climates must regularly spray saline mist into our noses, or use a neti pot. In Negril, all you have to do is sit by the shore and breathe, and your entire respiratory system gets rejuvenated. No more doctor visits for sinusitis! 
Speaking of the sea air, beach mist is full of negative ions which have been shown to regulate serotonin levels in the brain. Negative ion generators have been shown to relieve depression as effectively as antidepressant medications (which are very expensive). Jamaica’s shoreline, plus its many waterfalls, all contribute to a naturally anti-depressant environment. 
Along with lifting your spirits, ocean water itself is chock full of minerals, primarily magnesium, which relieves anxiety and helps you feel calm. Swimming in the sea allows your body to absorb a balanced mix of essential minerals that help you feel your best, not to mention all those wonderful endorphins released by the exercise! Relieving stress is thought to be one of the cornerstones of good health, so insurance companies ought to be highly motivated to assist their customers with this! 
Nowadays many doctors are writing prescriptions for Vitamin D, as it seems a lot of people are deficient in this crucial element. In Negril, we have abundant sunshine which allows your body to produce as much Vitamin D as it needs.
Heal Skin Conditions
Psoriasis, eczema, rashes, acne and a variety of other skin conditions can be healed by the sun and the sea water. And if you get sunburned while treating your skin condition, Jamaica provides all the aloe vera you could want! 
Heart Healthy Exercise
Walking in the sand is much more of a cardio exercise than walking on the sidewalk or a treadmill. Swimming is generally regarded as the most efficient form of exercise, and can be done even by people with bad knees, bad feet or bad backs. A 160-pound woman who snorkels for 60 minutes burns 340 calories. If she goes scuba diving instead, 60 minutes burns 476 calories! In addition to the calorie burn, she will enjoy improved cardiovascular fitness, better aerobic fitness (increased oxygen update when breathing), toned core, shoulder and lower body muscles, and of course the benefit of seeing all the colorful sea life close by in Negril. 
The average cost of a mild heart attack is about $760,000, so it does seem as though a few vacations would be an immense cost saving for insurance companies! 
Unfortunately, it’s not likely that health insurances will start paying for beach vacations in Negril. But you can save on your out-of-pocket health care costs by doing what you can to improve your health. Check out our Negril Vacation specials and come see us soon!
Taking a vacation means preparing for several things; what to pack, what to do, and maybe most importantly – where you’re going to eat every day. Thankfully, when taking a Negril vacation, that isn’t a problem! Not only are there a host of local dining options, but Jamaican food itself plays off its Spanish, British, African, Indian and Asian influences. When you eat locally in Negril, you’re bound to run into a few new dishes of popular cuisine. Here’s a quick rundown of the most popular local dishes so you’ll be prepared upon your arrival!
South Asian influences play a big role in the Jamaican curry dishes. Curried goat is a popular party dish and is sometimes prepared by a “specialist.” It’s almost always served with rice and sometimes additionally fried plantains. Don’t be worried about calories with this dish as goat is a low-fat red meat.
Ackee and Saltfish
Ackee is a fruit that was imported from Ghana in the 1700s. Typically served at breakfast or dinner with salt fish (also what other countries call cod), it’s boiled together along with onions, Scotch Bonnet peppers, tomatoes and spices. You can eat the dish with fried plantains, rice and peas or boiled green bananas.
This is an ackee fruit, picked and split open to show the yellow, edible flesh inside.
You’re probably thinking Ital stands as a shortened version of Italian, and you would be wrong. In Jamaica when you see Ital it stands for the Rastafarian vegetarian diet. As such, the Ital food list is surprisingly lax, as this list is derived upon “what is put into one’s body should enhance Livity (or life energy) rather than reduce it.” However, as a general rule, the food should be natural (pure and of the earth) so there’s no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, no chemically modified food and sometimes food that doesn’t have added salt. Meat is avoided because the meat is dead and therefore it would take away from your Livity. Therefore, if you see Ital stew on the menu, it won’t be anything like a beef stew! Instead it consists of highly spiced vegetables and beans.
An example of an Ital dinner to go.
Most meat can be made into a jerk in Jamaica. No I’m not talking about a mean animal! Jerk is the most popular seasoning in Jamaica and can be found mostly on chicken, but can also be on fish, shellfish, beef, goat, and even vegetables. The seasoning is composed with two important ingredients; allspice (pimento in Jamaica) and Scotch bonnet peppers, but may also include cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, brown sugar, ginger, and salt. The jerk seasoning dates back to Jamaica’s African origins and has been adapted over time.
How the food is cooked is another important component of “jerk”. It has to be cooked slowly over an open fire so the meat gains a good smoky taste to complement the spices. Without that smoke, it’s not authentic jerk!
Rice and Peas
Rice and peas is culinary mainstay of Jamaican cuisine. Eaten as a side dish to several meals, you’ll most always find it on any special Sunday meal. Made with rice and a host of peas (not the typical green ones you’re thinking of), it also has ginger and coconut milk added to it, as well as a number of seasonings with the peas as they cook.
I know the world is buzzing with the sounds of the Olympic fanfare, but a Negril vacation wins the gold medal of vacations this summer over the popular Rio, Brazil. Why? Well, let me give you the top five Olympic-beating reasons to visit this beautiful area!
While the Olympians are staring at blue lines painted at the bottom of a pool or swimming the murky waters off the coast, taking a Negril vacation means you can swim with a real view! Scuba dive in our crystal clear turquoise waters or take a trip on a glass-bottom boat to experience the most pristine coral reefs of the Caribbean. First-time snorkelers will fit right in alongside the experienced explorers.
2. The Beach
Rio has Copacabana, Negril has the Seven Mile Beach! This famous stretch of shore (over twice the size of Copacabana) is loaded with places to eat, drink and shop so you don’t need to ever leave the beach. As a bonus, the famous Bourbon Beach Party Capital is practically next door to Legends! With all this to offer, 7 Mile Beach is a perfectly relaxing place to grab your umbrella drinks, sun yourself and while away your day!
Yes you may catch all the world’s best on the platform or diving board in Rio, but you know what’s better? Diving off a cliff! Yes, on a Negril vacation you can jump and dive off a cliff if you have a truly adventurous mind! Never done it before? That’s okay! The experts will tell you exactly when to jump, only when it’s safe! More of a spectator? That’s okay too! You can hand out your perfect 10s and 5.5s from a lower vantage point!
4. Nine Mile
No it’s not what you think! Don’t worry about not being the fastest man in the world, which yes, still currently belongs to our nation’s own Usain Bolt, because this isn’t about running. Visit Nine Mile, the birth and resting place of Bob Marley, up high in the mountains in a tiny village in the parish of St. Ann. You could even meet one of his relatives if you’re lucky!
The Jamaica way! You don’t have to be the Bubba Watson or Ariya Jutanugarn of golf to enjoy a nice 18 holes here! Only fifteen minutes away, The Negril Hills Golf Club is set amid 2,000 acres overlooking Negril Bay! Players of all levels are welcome and you don’t even have to lug your equipment around as they’ll provide everything you need.
6. Rum – Lots of Rum on Your Negril Vacation
Bonus item! It’s impossible to mention Jamaica without rum! Take a drive through the natural fields and orchards of sugarcane, mangos and bananas to the Appleton Rum Factory. Once you’re there you can take a tour, taste the most popular varieties and climb up to the lookout tower to behold the beauties of Jamaica from up top!
I don’t know about you, but I think you may just find a number of the Olympians heading over to visit after the Games! Will you be joining them? When you take a Negril resort vacation just heed the words of our own Bob Marley, “Don’t you worry about a thing. Cause every little thing’s gonna be all right.”
When you’re planning your Negril vacation, there’s no doubt that your hotel choice can either make or break your vacation! In order to make the best possible choice it’s important to know yourself as a traveler.
1. The Amenities
What amenities do you require in order to feel comfortable? Do you use the hotel shampoo and soap or do you always bring your own? Do you need coffee or a refrigerator in your room? Will you want to watch TV?
Big Name Resorts: provide everything you might need and charge accordingly.
Boutique Hotels: typically economize by not providing complimentary lotion, shampoo and conditioner, and pass the savings on to you as lower rates. Some hotels may offer a coffee pot and refrigerator in your room, some may not, so check before you book.
2. The Bed
Since you’ll want to rest well while on vacation and NOT go home with a sore back, think about the beds you’ll be sleeping on. Do you require a firm mattress or do you prefer a pillow-top with medium support? Can you share a queen-size bed with your companion or will you rest better in a king?
Big Name Resorts: usually provide name-brand beds and also likely have a variety of bed types so after you arrive, if your bed doesn’t suit you they may be able to do something about that.
Boutique Hotels: generally provide quality bedding but it may not be a famous brand or particularly luxurious because it is extremely expensive to import beds to the island. If your bed has to be a certain type, the key questions to ask before booking are “how old are the mattresses” and “are they on box springs and if so, how old are the box springs”.
3. The Service
Some people like to be waited on hand and foot while they’re on vacation, and some people want to be left alone as much as possible. Most people probably want something in between those two extremes, but you need to choose your hotel based on the kind of service you want.
Big Name Resorts: have gobs of staff trained to attend to your every need. From shaking the sand out of your beach towel every time you stand up to putting the napkin in your lap for you at the dinner table, these resorts specialize in making you feel like the Queen of England. Tips for all these services are usually built into the room price.
Boutique Hotels: are usually run by friendly staff (like ours!) who want to please you and assist you, but they’re not going to be standing there holding a towel when you get out of the pool. More staff jacks up the room price. You can still get some pampering by booking a spa treatment or a private dinner at hotels who offer that (like Samsara and Legends), so check on what extra services are available.
NOTE: The staff at the resorts and hotels of Negril are almost always Jamaican. But you should be aware that the staff at the big name resorts are trained to be unobtrusive, and you may not be able to chat with them very much without getting them in trouble. If you want to meet Jamaicans and get to know their culture, you’ll need to do that off-property.
Conversely, hotel staff are usually given a little bit more freedom to talk with guests. You will still want to be sensitive to the rules governing their conduct, but the boutique hotels want you to feel like you’re at home with family, so friendly interaction with staff is permitted.
4. The Food
What kind of food do you like to eat? Do you want to eat only Jamaican food or do you want to eat more familiar foods with the occasional Jamaican dish thrown in? Do you like to explore and find new places to eat locally or do you want to eat at the hotel as part of your package?
Big Name Resorts: typically have several restaurants offering different cuisines and your dining is included in your room rate. If you want to eat off-property, you wind up paying for the meals you didn’t eat at the hotel AND paying for the meals you ate in town, so if you want to eat in town at all, you could try negotiating a different rate.
Boutique Hotels: may or may not offer in-house dining. If they do, it’s usually good home cooking. At our hotels, we offer a variety of cuisines, and we also offer the option to package your daily meals and alcohol with your room. (This is very unusual for a boutique hotel to offer an all-inclusive package like that.) A package that includes breakfast only is also available. When you’re comparing prices at hotels, be sure you’re comparing prices with and without meals so you can make the choice that’s best for your tastes.
5. The Activities
This is also very important for you to think about ahead of time.
Big Name Resorts: offer a litany of pre-organized activities so that every hour of your day has multiple options for entertainment, and it’s all built into your room price. If your idea of a great vacation is one that has fun things to do scheduled all day long, then this is the place for you.
Boutique Hotels: don’t offer any on-property activities. Everything is a la carte, booked with local tour providers. If you prefer to set your own schedule and only pay for the activities you actually do, then you’ll save a lot of money by staying at a boutique hotel for your vacation.
In summary, if you want a total vacation package: the food, the pre-organized activities, the full-time pampering service, then you should look into staying at a resort in Negril. There are lots of them, and they work very hard to earn your business.
However, if you want an economical vacation where you venture out for your activities and entertainment – plus you want to really experience the true culture of Jamaica – then a small, family-run boutique hotel is perfect for you. There are lots of those hotels too in Negril, and of course we would be honored if you choose to stay at Samsara or Legends.
Anyone who spends any time on Facebook or Pinterest has likely seen the Jello aquariums like the one we saw here. Looks pretty fun, and if you’re not at Samsara or Legends right now, then you need some fun in your life!
Since we’re in the Caribbean, we took the liberty of modifying the original recipe a bit. For one thing, our water is turquoise, not blue! For another thing, around Negril, most of our ocean bottom is sandy, not rocky.
Luckily the package of gummy fish was rather large, as we found ourselves needing to munch on it while we played . We almost forgot to save some for the aquarium!
Pour one cup of lemon-lime soda in a bowl and sprinkle the packet of gelatin over it evenly. While that softens, boil the other 2 cups of soda. Once it comes to a boil, stir it into the gelatin and soda in the bowl, and stir until all traces of gelatin have dissolved.
Place the bowl into the refrigerator until the jello is soft-set. This means that it’s not fully gelled. It will be thick and starting to form a gelatin texture but can still be poured into the mason jar.
While it’s chilling, spread some of the whipped topping in the bottom of the jar, to make a sandy bottom, and place in refrigerator to stay cold.
Once the jello is soft set, pour or ladle it into the jar until it’s almost full.
With your fingers, push the gummy fish down into the jello so it looks like they’re swimming.
Put the jar back in the refrigerator for another few hours to finish gelling completely.
That’s it! We liked how ours came out and we would really like to see some of your Negril-themed Jello Aquariums!
Perceptions are not truths. Sometimes they are inaccurate recounts of events in disguise that can persist without much validation. Here we set the record straight on five common beliefs about Negril vacations everyone thinks is true:
It has to be Expensive!
Not true! In Negril you have wide-ranging choices, so don’t limit yourself to higher-priced tourist packages. For a budget-friendly vacation, choose boutique hotels (like Samsara or Legends!), villas or guest houses, well-positioned near the beach or cliffs. Dine with the locals at authentic Jamaican eateries and discover attractions in the countryside for a one-of-a-kind experience.
You can also save a lot of money by coming to Negril during the summer and fall months, also known as the off-season. While this may be Jamaica’s rainy season, the weather is still wonderful in Negril. An afternoon rain gives you the perfect excuse to take a nap, and it doesn’t last very long. Soon the sun comes back out and dries up all the rain. You’ll also find that the crowds are less dense and almost every hotel is selling their rooms at rock-bottom prices.
All-inclusive Hotels Give the Total Jamaican Experience!
The total Jamaican experience comes from having unique interactions with the culture and the people – not from “all-inclusive” constructs of reality. To experience the real Jamaica:
Plan your day. Talk to the front desk or the tour desk (if your hotel has one) and sign up for sightseeing tours and activities. Or hit up TripAdvisor for advice on where to go and what to see.
Explore new places – get off property! Either walk or have the front desk call a taxi for you.
Learn from some amazing people around the island. Your taxi driver is an invaluable source of information.
It’s Not Safe to Leave Your Hotel!
This belief is more illogical than factual – and certainly not true! Safety is an awareness and responsibility you undertake wherever you go. Negril and its surroundings are safe to explore at your leisure using a common sense approach and normal street smarts.
Marijuana is Readily Available!
Many believe that a bag of weed is an ubiquitous commodity, sold at every street corner and smoked anywhere, but that’s not true! Recent laws have relaxed the penalties for the herb, but you must obey the rules on legal access and smoking of marijuana in public, otherwise you can be fined.
You Must Speak Jamaican to Shop Locally!
Many assume patois, the local dialect, is the country’s native tongue. Not true! It’s English. When shopping around and transacting business, use English, the island’s officially recognized language. Of course, learning to speak a few words of patois, can be both fun and useful to blend with the culture.
Negril has something to offer every visitor, particularly those willing to go beyond the traditional travel packages.