Negril, Jamaica, Nov 20-Dec 1, 2000 (Nirvana)

The trip started with a major delay due to some kid in Charlotte running through security with a toy gun and closing the airport for two hours, causing us to miss our connection and go home until the next day. I was shocked at how well my kids handled this delay – after counting down wakeups for months, we woke up at 5AM, waited at the airport, got on the plane, taxied out to the runway and waited there for two hours, in case the airport reopened. My kids hardly whimpered when we had to go home after all that – it had snowed so we went out and played in that for awhile. my son is 6 and my daughter is 3 and they are both excellent little travelers – mostly in good spirits, open to new experiences, they go with the flow. They aren’t always so pleasant, mind you, traveling seems to make them as happy as it does us and they love Jamaica. They’d both been once before, when my son was 4 and my daughter was just 1 1/2. P has been countless times, since he was a little kid and so has his mom, this was my fifth trip.
Lee Weinstock was to pick us up at the airport that day and that turned out to be a great thing when we missed the flight – P’s mom Sheri flew from NYC and DID get to MoBay on time but she didn’t really know where we were staying or who was picking us up as I’d arranged all that and figured we’d meet at the airport. When we got home from the airport in Ohio we were able to get Lee on the phone and ask him to find her, tell her what happened to us and that we’d be out the next day and take her to Negril. He paged her, introduced himself and it all went fine. The bummer is, we never got to see Lee this trip as he left JA for Ohio the next day for Thanksgiving.
The next day, our connection was about 2 hours late but we arrived in MoBay around 4PM and set off for Negril. Our driver this time was Delroy, a friend of Lee’s that he’d arranged to pick us up. He met us with a full cooler and all the goodies too, very nice guy 🙂 We took the coast road out, planning to go the back way on the return. The road is in MUCH better shape than last January – just the normal potholes but no major canyons and not too much traffic.
We arrived at our hotel (Nirvana on the beach this time, great place) and were so happy to be in NEGRIL! Even though it was dark, my son (my 6 year old) HAD to go swimming right away. Some kind of storm had blown through because I swear the waves were body-surf heaven, compare it to the Atlantic coast. The water calmed down a little bit the next day and was back to bathwater-calm in two. They say stormy weather comes for 3 days and leaves…
Anyway, we all had a swim then P and I put the kids to bed and left them with Sheri and headed up to 3 Dives to see Lydie and Paula who had heard about our travel woes and had some chicken and red stripes all ready for us. 3 Dives is next door to Xtabi on the cliffs and has, in my opinion, the best jerk, the best lobster and the very very best company in Negril. It’s not expensive, there’s a lovely sunset view (though the cliff bar was closed until the season starts, Lydie and Paula have a bar in their restaurant by the road too). We visited for awhile, ran into boardies Kathryn and Wayne which was a treat. They’d been on the flight we missed and I was hoping to meet them on the plane. While we were there we placed an order for some of Lydie’s jerk sauce for a friend in Ohio (who I’ve never met in person – we trade jamband CDs online – but he knew I was going, had some of that sauce on a trip the year before and traded me three excellent recordings of ekoostik Hookah’s shows from Negril in 1999 for some of Lydie’s sauce!) and of course, we ordered a bottle for us. They made a fresh batch the day we left and I’ve already dipped into it. Yummm….
The next morning (Thanksgiving) it was a little rainy when we woke up but a perfect day was upon us by 8AM. To the beach first – the kids insisted. We swam and played awhile and when we were hungry we walked down the beach to find breakfast. We found the Boat Bar (yep, the bar on the beach is made out of a boat, partially) just a few properties down the beach. For under $5 US each, we had ackee and saltfish and fruit and coffee and johnnycakes, the kids had french toast and pancakes and we were all happy. It’s right on the beach so my water-loving son could play in the sea right up until the food came. If you’ve been to Jamaica before you know food never comes fast so we chose beach restaurants for breakfast almost every day so the kids could play in the water in view of our table while we had coffee or whatever.
We hung out on the beach that day, enjoying the lovely shade on Nirvana’s section of beach. Nirvana is a small property – maybe 5 cottages and 3 suites – but it is as big as that of the bigger hotels so there is a LOT of private space to hang out, almost all shady gardens. There are hammocks and chairs all over too. The entire property is fenced in, as is the case with many of the beach hotels. We appreciated this as it allowed us to let our kids run around “inside the fence” (that was the rule – “you can go play as long as you stay inside the fence!”) without worrying about them trying to go swimming alone or getting lost. There is a guard on the beach (Donny) who kept an eye on the kids and his presence seemed to keep what few hustlers there were at bay – though I must admit I hardly saw any this trip. They seemed to know Donny wouldn’t let them bug us though if we were interested in buying something, of course we could, and we often did.
The absence of hustlers really surprised me as I’d heard all about the big hassle on the beach (as opposed to the cliffs where we stayed last time). I walked it alone and with Sheri (my mom in law) most days and we were never bothered at all – hardly even asked to buy anything, never mind anything more than that! We got the occasional parasailing or braiding offer but “no thanks” and a smile was absolutely enough.
At lunchtime we found Niah’s patties, part of a place called WAVES, next to Lazy Dayz, that has bigger stageshows at times and crafts and some food the rest of the time. Niah’s patties are not like the ones I was used to, the ones from the bakery – these were huge, fat, very filling ones. We tried lobster and chicken and they were very good.
Afternoon is nap/chill out time for us and we wanted to get the kids out of the sun at midday. We lazed around our cottage and played cards, napped. Our cottage, by the way, was lovely. It has 3 bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room/dining room. It’s screened in, in fact the living/dining area is more like a screened porch than a room, and has ceiling fans. Not only did we not miss A/C, we didn’t even have the fans on a lot of the time. I used a light blanket at night when we did.
After naptime it was time to eat again. We eat a lot in Negril. I could spend months working my way through all the little stands and shacks and restaurants in Negril. I just can’t get enough Jamaican food and we don’t have any here in Ohio so this trip was the big fix for me. Anyway, I’d made a note about the Happy Banana II’s chicken stuffed with calalloo and cheese from an ad on negril.com so we decided to check it out. WELL worth the trip, folks, that chicken was amazing. We also had lobster which was very good and shrimp with onions and peppers – also delicious. Great service, Eddie is a very nice guy – he stopped t our table for a bit. Sharon was recovering from surgery so we didn’t get to meet her. Happy Banana is on the cliffs, just near the start, not as far as Blue Cave.
After dinner we were tired. We were not half the partiers this trip as we were the last. Partially because we had the kids, or we’re a year older or something, but we went to sleep after dinner almost every night. As soon as we heard the first “gleep gleeps” of the tree frogs, we knew it was close to bedtime 🙂
Friday, sunny and hot, just like it should be 🙂
I woke up and took a long walk up the beach with Sheri and my son and my daughter. The walk made me appreciate our section of beach and our cottage. I’m not at all a fan of big hotels – they feel impersonal and institutional to me, I much prefer small laid-back places – I have no interest in TVs or phones. Well, maybe phones, but I can handle not having one. Every place we passed on that walk I was thinking “I’m glad we’re staying at Nirvana!”. On our beach we had chaises, trees for shade, plenty of space…a playhouse and swings for the kids and lots of water and sand toys, and only a handful of people around. Last trip, when we stayed on the cliffs, I thought the beach wasn’t that great. This trip, staying right on it, I really enjoyed it. It’s nice to have a home base there.
The water was calm again and we had a great walk. If you stay on Negril beach and don’t take a walk down some good stretch of it, you’ve missed something major. Especially early in the morning when the only people out are hotel workers raking the sand. It’s quiet and peaceful but you can feel the buzz of activity starting up – by the time we walked back, people were up and the day had begun.
The ladies at Nirvana cooked breakfast for us that day – it was really nice to come “home” to that. Back to the beach to play and swim.
We stayed right next door to White Sands. Though we didn’t have a bar, they did. Sheri and I made the theme of this trip “Order Early, Order Often” – it’s our antidote to “Soon Come” – if you order a lot and do it early, you don’t wait for drinks 🙂 We also made good use of our own blender but being lazy on the beach it was easy to get drinks at WS.
For lunch we thought we’d go up to 3 Dives but Lydie and Paula weren’t there yet. We tried Roy and Felix Serious Chicken – same thing. We were in a cab and totally blanked on where else to go so we went to the Pickled Parrot, which was OK since my son wanted to jump and he hadn’t been there before. I didn’t have my swimsuit but P and the kids had fun in the water and my son did jump off the cliff – not the super high one but the sort of medium high one. He’s a very good swimmer who knows no fear of water or heights or anything. Lunch itself was so-so and expensive, but we knew that going in. Pickled Parrot is a tourist place, high prices, mainly American menu, but fun water toys. My son and P both went down the waterslide which ends with quite a drop down to the water.
After our after-lunch nap, we’d arranged to take a boat trip. We never got around to it last time and I wanted to be sure we did this time. We took a glass bottom boat out to the reef and snorkeled a bit. My daughter didn’t like that too much so we didn’t stay long but in the short time I snorkeled I saw plenty of fish and coral and a small stingray. Or manta ray – I’m never sure which is which. It was really nice to just be out on the water and cruise along the beach. We headed over to Booby Cay next, arriving just an hour or so before sunset. It was DESERTED! It was GREAT! There was some trash the island party people had left from earlier in the day but I was so thrilled to have the island to ourselves that it didn’t matter. We walked around with Martin, our “captain” to the back side of the island where there is a small beach, kind of coral-ey. We picked up a little tiny horseshoe crab, saw some sea urchins and hiked around a little. Back on the “front” side, there’s a sandy little peninsula jutting into the water, and we swam some more.
It was really neat to have our own little island for awhile – if you arrange to go before sunset you can have it to yourself too – the A/I’s use it for daytime beach parties and are generally gone by late afternoon. I also love the feeling of just being out on the water on a boat – in Negril it was extra-nice because we weren’t cold and the view was so beautiful. Negril looks different from out there. Snorkeling out there as better than off the cliffs too, though admittedly less convenient.
For some dumb reason I forgot to note the name of the boat we took but it “parks” near Nirvana – Martin was a great guide. We sailed back with the sunset and arrived back at Nirvana just at dusk.
The ladies cooked chicken dinner for us in the cottage that night and we played cards and all went to bed.
Saturday.
Breakfast at Dr. Bill’s on the beach – good, not great, a little pricey for what it was.
Daytime was spent on the beach again. (I’m reminded at this point of another boardie’s trip report which went something like “day 1, take off shoes, go to beach, day 2, roll over, day 3, get more rum, day 4, roll over again, day 5, put on shoes, cry, go home” – this trip was much more like that for us than our last, must be a beach thing).
For sunset we headed up to LTU Pub for the first board party. We ate dinner there, which was delicious, and I manned the chat room for a little bit. It’s always nice to see Rob and I was happy to see Lucky Lady pretty much at the same spot we left her in last January! She IS a lucky lady! Enjoyed meeting Cool and Deadly and everyone else. Every board party I swear I’m taking a pen so I can write down names but I always forget. At least I had the camera this time!
Next we headed down to the Negril Yacht Club to find Rasta John, our partner in crime last trip. Sure enough, he was there and it was great to see him. There were two blues bands playing that night but we only stayed a little while – we needed to head up to the Thatch Hut Bar for Board Party Part II. We dragged RJ up there with us. It was nice, I met Prento and chatted with everyone. I met Sienna very briefly – I wish I could have spoken to her longer as we had talked online a lot before I left. P wanted to go back to the NYC after a bit to see those Blues Bands play so we did. One band was from England, one was from Belgium and I was very impressed with their American Blues! I was a little tipsy by now (OK, I was on my way to being toast) and had a ball chatting with a group of locals and some Belgian tourists that had come with the band – I used to speak French, not sure how well I did it that night! The NYC remains my favorite nightspot in Negril. A nice mix of interesting people – locals, tourists, ex-pats, all of it. Good vibes, nice view, free music and cheap drinks – what more do you need?
P and I stayed up and walked the beach at dawn before going to bed.
Sunday.
We spent the day really, really hung over. Thank goodness we had Sheri to take care of the kids – they went somewhere and we slept. Around 6PM we were ready to eat (I said we were hung over! We’re in our 30’s now, it just ain’t the same as it used to be!). We’d ordered lobsters at 3 Dives for that night and I was ready for some serious food by then. We headed up and Lydie said Natalie and Barry had been by earlier and asked for us and since he knew we were coming for dinner, he offered to let them know we were there now (they were at Xtabi). Apparently they saw us from Xtabi ’cause they were at 3 Dives shortly. Nat said she’d been waving frantically for me to see a pod (?) of dolphins swimming right off the cliffs – I missed them – darn! Anyway, it was great to meet them in person and we all had a wonderful dinner, hangover and all. The kids had chicken (spicy sauce-less), and the rest of us had our grilled lobster with garlic butter, calalloo, rice and peas…Paula makes EXCELLENT calalloo – the best I had this trip. Naturally the lobster was great, and not at all expensive. We were stuffed and (guess what) exhausted. P and I agreed that Sat night would be the only all-nighter this trip – I can be hung over at home 🙂
Monday.
P and Rasta John had made plans on Saturday night to head out into the country on a little tour and go to Mayfield Falls. I’d been a little nervous about Mayfield for our kids, even though it had been recommended, because I understood it to be a bit of a hike for little ones. I’d been thinking Apple Valley Park instead but since P had made the plans, I figured it was worth checking out. RJ promised to help carry my daughter if necessary 🙂
Our driver for this trip was Johnny the bartender from the Negril Yacht Club. We set out around 9AM with the kids and RJ – Sheri decided to hang out at “home”. We headed off towards Sav la Mar, enjoying our first look at the interior this trip. It is gorgeous. The coastal plains give way to steep mountains as you skirt the edge of Cockpit country and start heading up. We stopped along the way to enjoy the views and have a look at a farm. It was hot and the hike was long, but the beautiful scenery was well worth it. Johnny and RJ and P took turns carrying my daughter on our little mountain hike. I got some wonderful pictures at this stop. Johnny calls this area home so he knew the area very well.
Now that we were all rather hot, we were quite ready to get wet so we headed on just a short way to Mayfield Falls. If you’ve been to Dunn’s or YS, you still haven’t been to Mayfield. It’s inland, so there’s no beach, and it’s very quiet. There is a restaurant and bar as well as little huts where you can keep your stuff. We hired a guide, Rodney, who was very knowledgeable about the plants and animals we saw and was really a lifesaver with my daughter, helping her up the rocks and over the falls. my son very enthusiastically climbed and was a little bummed when Rodney suggested the path in a few spots – we had no guide at YS Falls so we climbed it all in the water – here it looked do-able but not with my daughter in tow so we alternated between climbing over rocks in the water and using the path along the side. You can walk quite a way up the river and we did walk as far as the largest set of falls, stopping in lovely pools and “jacuzzis” as we went. Rodney was a hoot, showing us exactly how to position ourselves to get the massages right where we wanted them. I highly suggest a trip to Mayfield. For $10US each, it’s a bargain for a day. There’s plenty of open space to just hang out if you’re so inclined, and it’s even possible to camp overnight.
We stopped in Little London on the way back for lunch and the old rules about things being cheapest the farther you get from tourists proved true again – we had 3 huge meals of fish and chicken and 6 drinks for under $15US.
Tuesday
We decided to walk a bit down the beach to breakfast. The kids swam along as we walked to Alfred’s. Alfred’s has a really great breakfast – I couldn’t finish more than half of my plate and the food was delicious. Prices were good too.
my son had been eyeing the trampoline in the water up the beach at Margueritaville all week and when a friend he had made staying nearby was heading up, I agreed to take him too. We walked part of the way and swam out to the trampoline. The boys enjoyed jumping on it, off it, and climbing back up for an hour or so. We never actually bought anything at Margueritaville and I guess that was OK because no one came out in the water to suggest that we should 🙂
Dinner that night was at Gino’s, part of Mariposa Hideaway. Service was really, really, excellent and the food was good too. It was the only non-Jamaican meal I ate the whole time – this is mainly Italian food. I had lobster pasta and a delicious flan – called caramel custard here – for dessert.
Wednesday
Breakfast at the Boat Bar yet again…my son insists on it by now because a friend is staying next door at Rondel Village and they can play in the water while we eat. We rented a jetski – fun enough but pretty expensive ($35 for a half hour). We played a bit, had lunch in the cottage and went up to Roy and Felix Serious Chicken for dinner. It was more crowded than I’ve ever seen it, ambience as nice as ever, food was just what we needed. That chicken call and blow is still great – I had the Serious Chicken which is really a BBQ chicken – OK, not as good as the call and blow I think.
Thursday
It was a little rainy and cloudy this day so we decided to take out the two Nirvana kayaks we’d seen by the beach. We should have done this sooner – it was REALLY fun! They’re easy to paddle, P and I took a kid each and paddled up and down the beach for quite awhile. The clouds and drizzle made the beach deserted and the air cool enough to paddle without feeling too hot. We still abandoned ship a few times for quick swims 🙂 Those kayaks are free for Nirvana guests and Donny has life vests for kids and adults.
We read a lot of Harry Potter out loud this trip – no TV – and we got through most of the book. In the afternoon, I went up to 3 Dives to order jerk sauce to take home – Paula remembered and was in the midst of making a fresh batch for us when we arrived. YUMMMMM….so we stopped by the phone place in town to make a few calls and had a terrific lunch at Juicy J’s in town. The fish and chicken dishes were around $300J.
That night, our last in Negril, we picked up our jerk sauce at 3 Dives and said goodbye to Lydie and Paula. Paula had some lovely purses and swimsuits and things she’d crocheted. They are in the kitchen and you’ll have to ask her to show them to you because she’s not one to do a hard sell, or any sell – I didn’t get one because I forgot to ask her!
We fell asleep to the rather bizarre sounds of an American country and western band playing at Waves on the beach…nearly drowned out the gleep gleep of the tree frogs!
Friday
This is it, our last day. We had breakfast at Palm Beach, next to White Sands. We sat at the “bar” where David the chef cooked our omelettes and pancakes right in front of us – very nice guy, excellent food, price wasn’t bad at all. After a final swim, Delroy picked us up and took us back to MoBay. This time we took the inland route, through Sav-la-mar, which is unbelievably gorgeous – try it!!
Overall, we had a wonderful trip. Nirvana was just our kind of place – mellow, quiet, right on the beach and the gardens are real eye candy. We ate our way through Negril again, adding a couple of new restaurants to our favorites list. 3 Dives is still the best – you can’t go to Negril and miss Lydie and Paula’s hospitality and food, really.

Thoughts? Questions? I'd love to hear them!