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Jamaica: Montego Bay, Negril and more to do on the island's west coast

With peaceful beaches, delicious island cuisine and a laid back vibe, Jamaica is perfect for a relaxing, long weekend getaway.

If you’re heading to the west coast of the island, around Montego Bay and Negril, here are some irie — or pleasing — highlights of the Caribbean destination.

MONTEGO BAY

This major cruise ship port caters to tourists,
Photo Credit: Palladium Hotel Group

This major cruise ship port caters to tourists, with plenty of resorts, golf courses and white, sandy beaches.

Where to go: One of the island's most popular beaches (meaning it's highly populated when cruises dock) is Doctor's Cave ($6 entrance fee; Gloucester Avenue, between the Marine Park and the Hip Strip). Active beachgoers can rent snorkeling and kayaking equipment to explore the clear, turquoise water, while those looking to relax can rent chairs and umbrellas. For some indoor entertainment, book a 45-minute tour of Montego Bay's most notorious haunted house, the Rose Hall ($18/adults, $10/children, Rose Hall Main Road, 420-240-6000, rosehall.com), a Georgian mansion that was the site of several murders that locals say is still haunted.

Where to eat: For authentic Jamaican fare, head to Scotchies (Falmouth Road, about 4 miles east of the international airport), a casual, counter-service outdoor eatery. Orders for the grilled jerk pork and chicken are placed by the quarter- or half-pound, served in tin foil and can be eaten by hand or with plastic utensils. Sides also include Jamaican festivals (breadsticks), bammy (sweet roll), steamed veggies and broiled corn. The menu is priced in Jamaican dollars, so don't be alarmed by the $2,300 price tag for a pound of pork sausage.

Where to stay: For a beachfront stay, consider the recently renovated Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort and Spa (Lucea, Montego Bay, 876-6190000, palladiumhotelgroup.com). The all-inclusive resort has three buffet style restaurants, 13 bars, and a nightclub on property, as well as opportunities to play volleyball, basketball, tennis, go paddleboarding, kayaking, snorkeling and windsurfing, relax in the spa and more. The resort can also arrange for a car service to take guests around the island.

 

NEGRIL

About a 90-minute drive south of Montego
Photo Credit: Hilary Sheinbaum

About a 90-minute drive south of Montego Bay is this beach resort town, perfect for a day trip or an overnight stay to see more of Jamaica's island living (make sure to stop by the Cold Beer Joint, an oceanfront shack that sells food and drinks located between the Negril and Montego Bay, for a coastline pit stop).

Where to go: At Seven Mile Beach (off Norman Manley Boulevard), sunbathe, play in the water and find handmade jewelry and Jamaican patties from local vendors. Find a seat at one of the beachfront hotels, restaurants and bars or grab a drink to go and walk along the water -- there aren't any open-container regulations here.

Where to eat: For an unobstructed view of the sunset, head to Rick's Cafe (One Love/ West End Road, Negril, 876-957-0380, rickscafejamaica.com). The family-friendly, cliffside bar and restaurant offers plenty of Jamaican specifies, such as beef patties and jerk chicken. While you eat, watch experienced and novice divers jump off 10- to 35-foot-high cliffs into the water. Dinners are welcome to take the plunge, too, at their own risk.

Where to stay: The Seastar Inn (4 Seastar Road, 876-957-0553, seastarinn.com) features a restaurant, live music, pool and poolside bar, in addition to rooms. Guests can also arrange to go deep-sea fishing and scuba diving.

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