Kenilworth is one of Jamaica's most impressive great houses, located on the former Maggoty Estate. Currently the property is home to the HEART Academy, a training skills institute. To get there, pass Tryall and then Sandy Bay, then Chukka Blue; turn right after crossing a bridge over the Maggoty River in the community of Barbican and look for the sign for HEART Trust NTA Kenilworth on the left. Turn in and look for the ruins behind the institute, which is painted blue and white.
Negril and the West
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.
Half Moon Beach located between Orange Bay and Green Island is a great little stretch of sand to enjoy as a more low-key alternative to Negril's oft-crowded Seven-Mile Beach. The property is owned by Andrew Bauwen, who, along with his wife Tania, rents cabins and runs a bar and restaurant serving fish, chicken and lobster dishes (US$8-20). The five cabins offer accommodation on a budget (US$40-100) and camping is also permitted on a large lawn facing the sea.
Paradise Park (US$5 admission to park, US$40 horseback riding) is one of the best places in Jamaica for down-to-earth small-group (up to 10 at a time) rides on an expansive seaside ranch a few kilometers east of Savanna-la-Mar in Ferris Cross. Riders are led through beautiful countryside to a river park and private beach for a 1.5-hour loop. The river park area has bbq pits and tables, perfect for picnics and a refreshing dip.
Managed by the Negril Area Environmental Protection Trust (NEPT) and located 1.5 kilometers into the middle of the Great Morass from Sheffield, the 121-hectare Royal Palm Reserve (9 a.m.-6 p.m daily, US$15) is home to 114 plant species, including the endemic morass royal palms found only in western Jamaica. It's also home to over 300 animal species, including insects, reptiles (including two species of American crocodile), and birds.
Negril Beach Park (9am-5pm daily, US$3 adults, US$1 children 4-11) is well worth the entrance fee for the abundant shade beneath sea grape trees and for the absence of hustlers. The beach park has crystal clear waters, gently lapping waves, fine white sand, life guards and restrooms.
Whitehall Great House is yet another great house in ruins, located on the old Whitehall Estate on the ascent to Mount Airy. To get there, take a right immediately before the Texaco Station on Good Hope Road heading east from the Negril roundabout toward Sav-la-Mar. The ruins are about a mile up the hill on the left and command an excellent view of Negril Beach and the morass. One of the largest cotton trees in Jamaica stands on the property.
Jamaica's longest beach is no longer the undisturbed keep of fishermen, as it was in the 1960s, but there are plenty of benefits that have come as a result of the virtually uncurbed development of the last 30 years. The sand remains a beautiful golden color, and the waters, while increasingly over-fished, remain crystal clear. A bar is never more than an arm's length away, and every kind of water sport is available. Expect advances from all manner of peddler and hustler until your face becomes known and your reaction time to these calls for attention slows.
Negril Lighthouse is located near the westernmost point of Jamaica on West End Road just past The Caves. The lighthouse dates from 1894 and stands 30 meters above the sea.
Margaritaville has been headquarters for spring break activities for a number of years and is one of the most successful bar chains on the island. Villa Negril, as the Negril branch is called, is a more laid-back version of the Jimmy Buffet franchise than its Mobay or Ochi counterparts. When it isn't peak party season, it's mostly known for its giveaways and beach parties on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the early evening. Margaritaville is one of the venues frequently used for the Absolute Temptation Isle (ATI) events around Emancipation weekend.
Alfred's Ocean Palace has been in operation since 1982. Jamaican and international cuisine with chicken, shrimp, and fish dishes (US$10\15) is served 8 a.m.\10:30 p.m daily in high season; the kitchen closes at 9 p.m in the low season. Alfred's also has eight double- and triple-occupancy rooms (US$40\50). Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays are Live Reggae Beach Party nights, which typically feature local acts (US$4) with occasional big-name international acts like Toots and Capleton (US$10\15).