Negril and the West

Food

Hanover and Westmoreland are Jamaica's westernmost parishes. Hanover wraps around from Montego Bay on its northeastern border to where Negril's large hotel strip overflows from Westmoreland at its western reaches. It's a picturesque parish with small mountains tapering down to the coast with rivers, lush valleys, and deep, navigable coves. Caves dot the landscape of some of Jamaica's most biologically diverse ecosystems, in the shadow of the Dolphin Head mountain range.

Negril, which straddles the Hanover\Westmoreland border, has become a mass-market destination popular among Jamaicans and foreign visitors alike. The Kingstonian phenomenon of a weekend escape to "country" often implies a trip west to kick back and adopt the beach life, which necessarily involves taking in spectacular sunsets and the enviable slow pace evoked in Tyrone Taylor's 1983 hit, "Cottage in Negril." A constant stream of new visitors also gives hustlers a chance to do their thing, and Negril has gained a reputation as a mecca for sinful indulgence as a result.

While Negril is the region's most well-known draw, there are several low-key communities farther east that are just as easily accessible from Montego Bay's international airport and worthy coastal destinations in themselves, namely Little Bay, Bluefields, Belmont, and Whitehouse. The Westmoreland interior consists of vast alluvial plains on either side of Cabarita River, still some of Jamaica's most productive sugarcane territory. The plains extend from the base of the Orange Hill, just east of Negril, to where the Roaring River rises out of the earth from its underground source in the hills above Blue Hole Garden.

Hanover exists as a parish since it was portioned off from Westmoreland in 1723 and given the name of English monarch George I of the House of Hanover. The Spanish first settled the area when New Seville was abandoned in 1534 and the capital moved to Spanish Town. Lucea became prosperous, with a busier port than Montego Bay in its heyday, which served 16 large sugar estates in the area. Remnants of many estate great houses dot the landscape to the east and west of Lucea, their abandoned ruins showing evidence of having been torched and destroyed during slave riots. Kennilworth, Barbican, and Tryall are a few of the old estates that have visible ruins; although they have been declared national heritage sites, they are not maintained.

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Zest Restaurant

Zest Restaurant (7am-10pm daily), located at The Cliff, is a welcome addition to Negril's food scene, showcasing the creative hand of internationally acclaimed executive chef Cindy Hutson. Try singular starters like the shrimp ceviche with fried plantain and bean dip or mains like sauteed snapper with a side of cashew and jackfruit spiced rice. The dining area is split between a chic interior and clifftop al fresco, with crashing waves as a soundtrack. Reservations are required for guests not staying on property.

In: Seafood, Meat

Charis Restaurant

Charis Restaurant (just before the entrance to Round Hill heading west, opens Mon-Sat 9 a.m.\6 p.m, US$5\10) serves jerk chicken and pork, curry chicken and goat, a variety of pasta dishes including alfredo sauce, shrimp and chicken, or Rasta pasta with ackee, in season. Steamed, grilled, or fried fish is done to order. The restaurant reopened in January 2009 under the new ownership of two local couples, Geoffrey and Jackry Harris, and Marcine and Oniel Brown.

In: Food, Jamaican

Dervy's Lobster Trap

Dervy's Lobster Trap (open by reservation daily, US$18\30), owned by the charismatic Dervent Wright, and operated by the whole family, including his wife Gem, daughter Tiffany, and son, Junior. Dervy's has some of the island's best lobster, plus a great view of Round Hill from its vantage point on the waterfront. Be sure to call ahead to make reservations. Reach it by taking the second right in Hopewell, heading west down Sawyer's Road to the sea's edge. A sign for Lobster Trap indicates the turnoff from the main road.

In: Food, Seafood

Hammond's Pastry Place

Hammond's Pastry Place (18 Great George St., 8 a.m.\6:30 p.m Mon.\Fri., closing at 8:30 p.m on Saturday) serves patties, cakes, and deli sandwiches.

In: Food, Cafés & Pastry Shops

Sea Shells

Sea Shells (9 a.m.\9 p.m daily, US$7\21), just west of Hopewell, is run by Lorna Williams and serves chicken, pork, fish, and lobster dishes. The restaurant has a rootsy vibe, with the dining area right next to the water and a bar by the roadside.

In: Food, Jamaican

Half Moon Beach Bar & Grill

Half Moon Beach Bar & Grill (7 a.m.-10 p.m or until the last person leaves the bar) serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a laid-back beach shack setting, with typical Jamaican favorites as well as creative international fusion like shrimp with pineapple, sweet pepper kabob, seafood crepes, and lobster  (US$5-18).

Half Moon Beach is a great location for weddings, and the reefs offshore make for great snorkeling.

In: Food

Ital Vital

Ital Vital (US$1-5) is vegetarian food cart operated by Delroy Clarke, known on the street as 'High Priest', located at the entrance to Cayenne Beach. Dishes include veggies in coconut sauce, ital sip (soup) and turn cornmeal.

In: Vegetarian

Border Jerk

Border Jerk (11 a.m.\10 p.m daily, US$5\12), located in Mackfield, Westmoreland at the Hanover border along the B8 heading toward Montego Bay from Ferris Cross, is a notable jerk pit owned by Clive McFarlane (cell tel. 876/542-1852), who opened the business in 2004. It serves jerk chicken, pork, festival, and breadfruit. There's also a bar on-site.

In: Jerk

Cosmos Seafood Restaurant and Bar

Cosmos Seafood Restaurant and Bar (next door to Beaches Negril, 9 a.m.\10 p.m daily, US$5\43) serves excellent Jamaican seafood dishes, including conch soup, shrimp, and fried fish--in addition to other local dishes like curry goat, stewed pork, fried chicken, and oxtail. The beach out front is wide and good for swimming. A mix of Jamaican, expat, and tourist clientele, perhaps even weighted toward the local crowd, is testament to the reasonable prices and tasty.

In: Seafood

Chill Awhile

Chill Awhile (at Idle Awhile Resort, opens 7 a.m.\9 p.m daily) offers free lounge chairs and wireless Internet for its customers. The charming beachfront deck restaurant serves a variety of light food items for lunch including club sandwiches, burgers, fish and chips (US$6\8), and jerk chicken (US$10).

In: Food