Split in two by the parishes of Hanover and Westmoreland, sybaritic Negril has a front-row sunset seat, the longest continuous stretch of white sand in Jamaica and a geographical remoteness that provides this ultimate chill-out town with a uniquely insouciant ambience. “Discovered” by wealthy hippies in the 1970s, Negril is immensely popular with those who favour fast living and corporeal indulgence – but even though the main menu items are still sun, sea, smoke and sex, there are plenty of natural attractions too, including the Great Morass, the Royal Palm Reserve and some marvellous reefs.
Away from this tourism magnet, Hanover is the island’s smallest parish and, despite the deceptively steep-looking rise to the Dolphin Head Mountains, it’s also the flattest, ensuring the island’s lowest rainfall and invariably sultry weather. The decaying grandeur of sleepy Lucea has been slated for heritage development for years, but though there’s now a large all-inclusive nearby there’s little other development along its coastline, and deserted coves beg for exploration. To the south, the flat coastal plains of Westmoreland were once Jamaica’s foremost sugar-growing area, and cane plantations still surround the main commercial town, Savanna-la-Mar. Inland, the watery attraction of Mayfield Falls offers a picturesque diversion, while eastwards quiet coastal villages backed by rugged hills project an air of pastoral neglect, with undeveloped beaches dedicated to fishing rather than aloe massages and sun loungers. Villages like Bluefields, its neighbour Belmont – birthplace of reggae revolutionary Peter Tosh – and Whitehouse, have real understated Jamaican charm and a good variety of low-key accommodation, ideal if you want peace, quiet and few other foreign faces.