Traveller’s Resort hardly looks like a budget hotel, with an opulent sunken lobby showcasing tropical fish in the indoor pond under a giant crystal chandelier. The lobby welcomes visitors each Friday night with piano music (“playeded” by a handsome, tuxedoed wax figure), free refreshments and unlimited rum punch. After the party, go outside to play pool, ping pong, or sit by the giant bonfire and watch the infamous Negril sunset with Winston Wellington, the owner of Traveller’s. Juicy J’s, the restaurant at Traveller’s is right next to the bar, with a wide variety of items to choose from at around $5.00. Traveller’s has a great gift shop and on-site spa. The staff at Traveler’s is always courteous and friendly, and the rooms are surprisingly spacious and impeccably clean. Rinse off the sand with hot water showers or bubble bath, a rare luxury for budget minded backpackers. Hopefully, you won’t have time to watch the cable offered in each room, so for more savings, exchange your TV, for a cottage with a kitchenette. Knowing that Mr. Wellington puts a great deal of his time and money back into the community (such as the million books program he created for Jamaican schoolchildren) makes the $45 a night cost for the room easily justified.
A short walk toward the center of Negril where the bridge separates the three roads, you’ll find Ras Deane. His breakfast combination platter is less than $3.00, and well worth it. This Rasta man only cooks with the freshest ingredients, and although he’s vegetarian, he cooks up fish and chicken each day for meat lovers.
Between Ras Deane’s on the bridge and Traveller’s is the Crafts Market, the best place for buying local wood sculptures – hand-carved in the shapes of animals, birds, or Bob Marley look-alikes smoking a spliff. If jewelry, beach attire or other gift items are what you’re looking for, haggling for a few minutes can bring you great treasures at rock bottom prices. Don’t haggle too hard, though; locals really struggle for business; especially since the influx of the all-inclusive hotels. Shopping at the Crafts Market puts your tourist dollar into the community, helping the local artisans and lessening some of the difficult effects of the poverty on the island. Paying a bit more than half of the asking price is a good bargain, and both parties benefit.
Half-way between the Crafts Market and Traveller’s is the Yoga Retreat Center. You don’t need to be a guest at this budget hotel to attend a yoga class ($10) – although at $25 a night and three free weekly classes, staying here is a good option. The gardens surrounding the bungalows here make up for the rustic, plain rooms. The beautifully maintained landscape adds to the tranquil and serene atmosphere.
Splurging $75 for a day pass (3 a.m. kick-out time) at Hedonism II is a great way to enjoy the all-inclusive water sports, nude beach, hot tub parties, and all-you-can-eat gourmet dinner selections, including salmon, shrimp and Italian delicacies. After you’ve eaten way too much, stay in the dining room to watch the live show. Although Tuesday night is the best night due to the theme parties of Toga night or The Pajama Party, any night spent at the disco is sure to be wild and crazy, and the perfect way to spend a risque night in steamy Jamaica.
If you aren’t lucky enough to spend the night with any of your new friends at Hedonism II, hop in a taxi back down the beach road to New Nation (also called 23/7 since John the owner insists he only sleeps one hour a night, and that hour changes nightly). At New Nation you can play table football (soccer), ping pong, or just get drunk. The drink prices here have locals and ex-pats coming back night after night. Although the menu is limited, the Chinese food has an island flavor, and the sweet yam fries are unbelievable. For five bucks you can eat, drink, and be very merry on $1 Red Stripes.