For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamt of visiting Negril, Jamaica. I’d heard all about the clear blue water, the stunning coral reef, the lush landscape, and Negril Yoga Centre, a quaint retreat owned by my Auntie Raquel. Raquel isn’t my actual aunt, but rather a family friend so close that I’ve referred to her as “aunt” my whole life. She was my grandmother’s best friend and the mother of my mother’s best friend, Cynthia. My parents honeymooned in Negril and between that fact and knowing there was a place for me to stay, it has always remained high on my bucket list. When Misha decided her wedding would be in Montego Bay, it was the perfect chance to seize the opportunity, and luckily Sam was down.
After four days at a luxurious, all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay, Sam and I were slightly thrown off when we arrived at Negril Yoga Centre late at night. There was hardly a single light on nor another person to be heard. After a long drive and a longer day, we disregarded all qualms and fell promptly to sleep. When we woke up the next day, we walked outside and saw nothing short of paradise.
Trees and plants of all kinds. Tropical flowers in different shades of pink. Colorful birds, butterflies, and small lizards. There are even large crabs that have constructed a tunnel system under the yoga center and if you’re diligent enough, you may see an idle claw poking out from one of the many entrances. For nature lovers like Sam and myself, we were overjoyed that we could experience that much life without even going anywhere.
We definitely chose the most magical room at Negril Yoga: a second-floor bungalow with a kitchen, private bathroom and spacious balcony divided up into a dining area and a lounging area complete with a hammock (!!). While the whole set-up was quite simplistic, a comfy bed, fan, hammock and Wifi were all we needed.
After four days of partying it up (not to mention several months of working our butts off), it’s no surprise we took that first morning to recharge. Sam slept, I laid in the hammock and enjoyed the fresh air. It was divine.
We also ate our first of several all-natural, made-to-order meals prepared by the yoga center’s supremely talented cook, Annette—a charming local who prepares everything from traditional Jamaican fare to fresh fruit smoothies, American-style breakfast and even homemade yogurt and feta cheese. I had heard about the food at Negril Yoga for a long time and let me tell you, it lived up to all the hype. Just good old-fashioned home cooked food.
After a long, lazy morning, Sam and I relocated to the beach across the street to check out the scene for about an hour. We had been advised to go to Rick’s Café for sunset and like good tourists, we did just that. While the sunset was indeed spectacular and the place lent itself to a number of great photos, it was about as touristy as it gets, and so we left and found ourselves a tasty dinner at a restaurant recommended to us by our driver before calling it a night.
Being that the next day was our last full one in Jamaica, we wanted to take advantage. It ended up being one of the most memorable days of the trip. We started the morning with fresh fruit smoothies and a relaxing yoga class before getting picked up for an afternoon of snorkeling. We took a glass bottom boat out to a beautiful reef not far from the shore. The entire ecosystem consisted of rich, mustardy yellows and a spectrum of purples (like this!). It was out-of-this-world gorgeous. We saw schools of tropical fish, sea urchins, fan coral (my fave) and even a starfish.
Once everyone was back on the boat, another couple asked to be dropped off on a nearby island where they apparently cook up freshly caught lobsters and fish. Always up for a vacation adventure, Sam and I got in on the action. Local fishermen were indeed hanging out on the small island, called Booby Cay, and served freshly caught lobster and fish with garlic and sweet pepper butter sauce and slices of toasted white bread. For $10, Sam and I got a plate of three medium-sized fish, which we picked apart and ate with our hands. We felt like we were out in the wilderness, which in a way we totally were.
After about an hour of snacking and lying in the sand, we got back on the boat and were driven right up to our beach. (Talk about service!) We stayed on the beach for an hour or two then checked out a craft fair, which was, unfortunately, kind of a sad set-up. We then went back to our room to shower before heading out to a romantic dinner at Rockhouse, a trendy boutique hotel in Negril that’s owned in part by one of the owners of Miss Lily’s in NYC. Our table was right on the water, which made our date night meal all the more special.
After dinner, we brought our bottle of wine into the restaurant’s lounge where we played a round of chess and enjoyed the cool vibe of the place. Before heading out, we asked a gentleman to take our photo in front of the restaurant’s gallery wall of vintage photos from Negril. When we got to chatting with him, it turned out that he was the aforementioned owner of Rockhouse and Miss Lily’s. Between that and last year’s run-in with Robert Plant in Costa Rica, we must have good luck asking people to take our picture!
The next day, our last in Negril, we took it easy one last time, knowing the impending craziness of being back to our hectic, NYC lives. We had breakfast on our balcony, enjoyed our final moments in the hammock and took about a zillion pictures of the greenery at Negril Yoga.
Needless to say, Negril and the yoga center lived up to all the hype. The magic and sentimentality of the place were not lost on me or Sam. It has been firmly added to my list of happy places, one that I intend to return to for years to come.
peace, love & neon,