An Idyllic Chill Weekend In Negril, Jamaica
I hate winter. It is the LEGIT worst. So as Thanksgiving rolled around last year and it was already colder than I like, I decided I needed to proactively book a beach vacay—it had been a couple years since I’d had one. As I researched locations, this view of Tensing Pen’s bridge took over my brain…and so, come February, I was on a plane to Negril, Jamaica.
This is the type of trip that’s all about disconnecting. Recharging. I wasn’t looking for tours or activities, just sun, waves, piña coladas, and CHILL. That’s not to say that Negril doesn’t have tons to do, just that I needed some major downtime to relax and enjoy.
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So I thought I’d share some gorgeous pics of my stay in Negril and some tips for how to spend a super chill weekend there. I feel like I should put “tips” in heavier air quotes only because they’re not earthshattering but kind of logical for how you live the chill life 🙂
I’ve also outlined my recommendations for where to stay, where to eat and drink, what to do, and some tips at the bottom of this post very briefly so it’s all in one easy place. [Update: I stayed in Negril at Tensing Pen again in September 2021, so have added some new notes and pics]
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My trip hit a little road bump at the very beginning. There was a giant tropical storm and rain front stretching from Chicago down almost to Jamaica, causing crazy flight delays. You would not believe the deluge that was happening in Atlanta.
I ended up there for like 7 hours, so settled in with some champagne, got a ton of work done, and then treated myself to a lovely lunch at One Flew South. If you’ve got time to kill in the ATL airport, it’s a must-eat!
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Getting from Montego Bay to Negril
I did *finally* get down to Montego Bay and was met by the cab driver the hotel had sent. It was about an hour and a half on narrow winding highways. I feel like driving in Jamaica (particularly at night) would be a little stressful…narrow roads, no painted lines, really curvy with no shoulders. Also everyone keeps their brights on all the time. Just a heads up, they drive on left.
I tried to find an ATM at the airport but struggled because the two outside the airport were out of order (note, on my more recent trip I found one inside that worked).
So my driver stopped at one in Negril. He’d also tried to charge me $10 more than the rate the hotel had negotiated, but I just stayed firm on what I was paying him (I tipped because I’d planned to already)…something to be aware of.
Make sure you pack these reusable metal straws to enjoy your drinks!
Pick a hotel or resort that you’ll LOVE
Fair warning: there’s going to be a lot of my gorgeous hotel in this post! When I’m doing more of a trip or adventure, where I stay isn’t always as important because I’m out and about. But for a chill vacay, I plan to spend a ton of time at my hotel, so I want it to be amazing.
I wrote a super detailed post about my amazing three days at Tensing Pen Resort, so definitely check that out. On Travel+Leisure’s 2019 “Best Of”, they put Tensing Pen as the #5 hotel in the Caribbean and Mexico and one of the Top 100 in the World. And at the price point vs. others on the list, it’s a steal.
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Tensing Pen is so welcoming…you can tell people come back year after year, they know each other, know the staff, and the staff knows them, and feel super welcome. I got a sense of family. The staff makes an effort to learn your names, spend a few minutes chatting when they see you.
The common areas are beautiful, and the cottages were just as great. I was staying in Garden B Cottage, which was totally charming. It was the only cottage available for my dates, but no complaints here.
On my second visit I stayed in Coffee Rose 1, an upstairs bungalow with ocean views (and so great sunset views).
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The grounds are fairly small but lush and give a feeling of privacy and isolation.
If I could snag it, this is the cottage I would get next time! It’s called Cove Cottage and that view of the water and bridge is to die for!
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Start your day right…
Coffee, pancakes, and my Kindle with a view. I loved sitting out on the patio and easing into the day. The coffee was fine, though I missed my espresso (hence ending up at LTU Pub later in my trip).
But the pineapple and banana pancakes (and whatever else I ordered) always made up for it. The lunch menu here was good too (get the pumpkin curry roti!).
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Treat yourself to some beachy cocktails
I spent a lot of time bellying up to their beautiful bar, grabbing a piña colada, and taking it to my beach chair. Razor and the crew at the bar took great care of me!
They had some interesting cocktails too, not just normal beach fruity drinks. I would also grab one and take it back to my cottage’s front porch to read and chill in the evening.
These reusable metal straws were a lifesaver vs. paper ones disintegrating
Enjoy the crashing waves of the famous West End cliffs
When people talk about why you should visit Negril, Jamaica, the first thing they tend to talk about is the famous Seven Mile Beach. But the rugged cliffs on the West End caught my fancy and offer something different.
Tensing Pen is perched on the cliffs, and there are little paths that wind throughout the resort. They’ve dotted pairs of beach chairs at different points along the paths, allowing you privacy and a feeling of “having it all to yourself”.
This was my favorite spot for the weekend, where I’d spend at least a few hours each day. With a piña colada, naturally…
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Soak up sun in the pool area
When you’re ready for a break from the wild beauty of the cliffs, pull up a chair by the pool and enjoy some quiet with the bar just a few steps away 🙂
Two things I loved about the pool area at Tensing Pen were that while they have some music playing sometimes, it’s more chill rather than the blasting uh-chuh-uh-chuh club stuff that a lot of resorts have. Also, it’s not one of those places where people get up early and reserve all the chairs…I never had trouble finding one.
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Jump off a cliff
Supervised, of course. I have a fun video in my deeper post on Tensing Pen showing someone jumping off the cliffs here…it’s the much more chill version of the tourists jumping off at Rick’s Cafe.
And I knew @sjems5 would never forgive me for passing up the opportunity, so on my last night before getting ready for dinner I took the plunge. You can only do it here when the lifeguard is on duty, but it’s not hard to find a time.
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Take a stroll down Seven Mile Beach
Seven Mile Beach is one of the most famous things to do in Negril (and in Jamaica overall), and is just a 10-minute drive or so from Tensing Pen. Most people coming to Negril choose to stay at a resort on the beach.
I had the taxi driver drop me off at the Woodstock Beach section and walked and walked and walked along the beach. Probably a mile or two.
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It’s a gorgeous beach, but honestly crowded for my tastes, with people coming up and trying to sell you stuff all the time…stressed me out a bit. I’d been spoiled by my beautiful deserted cliffs!
Also, because all the resorts basically control the beachfront, finding my way back OUT and somewhere a taxi could pick me up was insanely difficult.
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Okay, more pool time…
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Pamper yourself a little
Tensing Pen has yoga classes (which I missed out on) and a spa, and there are some massage places throughout Negril as well. I ended up booking an aloe vera massage because I accidentally got too much sun on my first day. The massage hut is secluded and open-air, really lovely.
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Or trade your pool chair for a hammock for a couple hours…
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Bask in the sunset
You know I’m a sucker for a good sunrise or sunset. From what I could tell, the sunrises weren’t spectacular (we were on the *West* End, after all), but they were quietly beautiful nonetheless. However, the area is known for its beautiful sunsets. Grab a drink, get your camera ready, and enjoy.
I watched one from Tensing Pen (the pics below) and it was peaceful, soft, and colorful. Quiet. I watched two others from nearby restaurants, which I’ll speak to toward the end of the post.
Get off the resort and eat
I loved Tensing Pen so much that it was hard to force myself to get out. But I knew I wanted to explore some of the restaurants in Negril, because there are a lot of great ones to choose from.
I felt fine walking by myself from either direction of the hotel during daylight. Watch out for drivers, as they tend to come around curves really fast.
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I wanted to make sure I was branching out and I *really* wanted to try Ras Rody’s right across the street from the hotel, but they were closed when I tried one day for lunch.
Instead I ended up next door at Shark’s. I had some refreshing sour sop juice and a fragrant curry chicken…made fresh, really authentic and hearty. Hit the spot while a pop-up torrential thunderstorm swept through!
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I had read somewhere that Patsy’s had the best cappuccino in Negril, so on my last full day I took a cab out that way (it’s on the way to Seven Mile Beach). And it is SO CUTE. I’d love to just chill here, the patio area in particular was so charming,
I could have sat there and read and drank all day, but I’d already asked the taxi driver to come back for me at a certain time to take me to the beach so it didn’t work out.
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Still, I enjoyed Patsy’s good coffee and great food. I can’t remember the name of the dish, but I think they were like pineapple pancakes with tropical fruit?
I got a peanut butter chocolate milkshake for the road, as they’re known for their ice cream too. On my way to the airport the next day, I had the taxi driver stop for coffee here, and snagged a sample of their Dragon Milk Stout ice cream…absolutely amazing.
I was jonesin’ for a latte or cappuccino on my second morning in Negril, so found LTU Pub, just 10 minutes’ walk or so from Tensing Pen.
I had a few cappuccinos and tried their…I think it’s called Island Delight?? It’s basically delicious french toast with pineapple and banana cooked in syrup. Can’t go wrong. I meant to get back here one night for drinks because the view is great, but never made it.
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My first night I went over to Rockhouse (another awesome cliff hotel) for dinner and to watch the sunset. Sadly it had clouded over so the sunset was a bust, but I loved the overall setup and ambiance.
The cocktail menu wasn’t so much to my taste, but the food was great. I had an amuse bouche of pepper pot soup, an appetizer of roasted carrots and beets with ricotta and honey, and steak. I also managed to stuff a delish pineapple puff pastry tart in before rolling myself back to Tensing Pen.
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On my last night in Negril I walked over to Ivan’s at Catcha Falling Star. It’s just a few minutes down the road from Tensing Pen, and another well-known hotel on the West End cliffs. I’ve written a deeper review post on Ivan’s that you should check out as well.
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Ivan’s is a beautiful setting, and was the best sunset I got on my trip. Food was good, though the cocktail list was kind of sad.
Service was fine…my waiter disappeared for a long time toward the end of my meal so I waited a long time to leave. I had fish cakes, mango fish (mahi mahi I think), and then passed on dessert since nothing sounded amazing.
I came back here in September 2021 and had the Ahoy Papaya! chicken dish and it is BOMB, you definitely need to order it!
If you’re planning a stay in Montego Bay, here’s my review of the adults-only all-inclusive Iberostar Grand Rose Hall
As promised, here’s a super topline list of my recommendations. I had such a great time and definitely am plotting a return trip to the gorgeous and relaxing Tensing Pen!
Where to stay in Negril
- Tensing Pen! I would come back here in a heartbeat. Stunning wild cliffs, crashing waves, a super chill vibe, welcoming staff, good food…what’s not to love?! Here’s my full review.
- Update: I stayed here again in September 2021 and it was still awesome though off-season and COVID I think has hit it a little hard (though I believe it will bounce back to amazingness. It’s still very good.
- The others I’d consider if returning to Negril for a third time are Catcha Falling Star (see reviews on Booking.com and TripAdvisor) and Rockhouse (see reviews on TripAdvisor; also in the top 50 Caribbean hotels). I do strongly prefer to stay on the cliffs in Negril rather than on the beach. It’s just unique.
Where to eat and drink
- The Lodge at Tensing Pen – Since I was staying here, I ate breakfast and lunch here quite a bit, and it’s good. Dinner was great as well.
- Rockhouse and Ivan’s at Catcha Falling Star for lovely dinners and sunset views. I think for the sunset view I’d give Ivan’s a slight advantage. For food, Rockhouse. For cocktails, Tensing Pen.
- Shark’s Restaurant (across the street from Tensing Pen)
- I really wanted to try Ras Roady’s Roadside Organic, which is right across the street from Tensing Pen
- Patsy’s Coffeeshop – coffee, desserts, milkshakes, good food, and deck that overlooks the ocean
- LTU Pub for cappuccino and breakfast (and their lunch/dinner and drinks looked good too)
What to do in Negril & other tips
- As you can see, I decided not to *do* a lot…it was meant to be a chill vacay after all. But definitely get down to Seven Mile Beach for a bit. Maybe get over to Rick’s Cafe and have a drink and watch the cliff jumpers. Make sure you eat off-resort.
- If I’d had one more day, I would have arranged to go see some of the amazing waterfalls…YS Falls, Mayfield Falls, Reach Falls, and the most famous, Dunns River Falls.
- You can pay in either U.S. dollars or Jamaican dollars. When I went it was about $1 USD to $140 JD.
- Licensed taxis have a red license plate with white numbers and their rates are regulated by the Transportation Authority. Your hotel can help call taxis for you (restaurants as well).
Other chill beach vacay vibes you’ll love:
- My First All-Inclusive Resort…Mexico’s Royal Hideaway Playacar
- How to Have a Super Chill Vacay in Caye Caulker, Belize
- A Stay At Cancun’s Beautiful Luxury LeBlanc Resort
- 9 Tips for a Perfect DIY Vacay in Aruba
- Idyllic, Remote Loggerhead Key: Exploring Lesser-Known Dry Tortugas
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