When you think of Jamaica, a few things probably come to mind, such as Usain Bolt, jerk chicken, and rum, to name a few. Without question though, the number one thing Jamaica is known for is reggae. While Kingston is the most popular area to listen to the slow, rhythmic melodies that seem to float on the night air, Seven Mile Beach along the western edge of the island is a hidden gem lined with venues that will keep you busy all night long.
In celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday, February is full of reggae festivals that bring artists in from around the world. But no matter when you visit, there are plenty of places to catch a live show year-round. One of the reasons Seven Mile Beach such an attractive destination is that in addition to dozens of affordable places to stay, there’s no need to rent a vehicle. The Yellow Line bus runs up and down the strip and will stop wherever you want, even if it isn’t a designated bus stop. Rides only cost a few dollars, which makes it easy to check out multiple places along the way.
You can’t really go wrong with wandering down the sidewalk until you find a place that looks and sounds interesting, but if you want to plan ahead, here are some of the best places to party along the beach.
Dubbed Negril’s party capital, Bourbon Beach is a great place to dance, drink, eat, and sleep – not necessarily in that order. Don’t bother with shoes, as you’ll be dancing in the sand to music that plays seven nights a week. Signature shakes (both alcoholic and alcohol-free) are served from a square bar under a thatch roof that looks out at the water. There’s a large open-air deck upstairs that gives a clear view of the horizon and night sky, and is usually a bit quieter than the main stage area. If you have plans to visit more than one place along Seven Mile Beach, make Bourbon Beach your last stop – the party lasts until at least 2am.
2. Roots Bamboo
You never have to leave Root Bamboo to enjoy the best of Jamaica – it’s an all-in-one waterfront resort, restaurant, and music venue. They have a host of small, colorfully painted bungalows that sleep up to four people and a café on the beach. The food is excellent – especially the jerk chicken pasta. And the open-air stage that faces the ocean and fits a few hundred people, feels more like a big backyard than a proper arena. Expect to make friends with the staff. They’re friendly locals who are happy to tell you all about the surrounding area. And although you can check the schedule to see who’s playing, the music will be great no matter who’s on the stage.
3. The Jungle
More of a traditional nightclub than a resort, the Jungle is definitely a place to drink and dance. Animal themed, with ivy and giant tiger heads, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Jungle has both indoor and outdoor areas that play different music, including live reggae and DJ-curated club music. The place has a few pool tables downstairs and some open-air decks where you can take a break. And if you get hungry, you’re in luck. The onsite Jerk Hut is not to be missed. Although there are only a few items on the menu, they’re known for their jerk chicken and brown stew pork. And if the weather gets bad, don’t change your plans! The outdoor dance area is set under a green circular tent complete with disco balls. But try to get there before 2am, as the place gets crowded the later it gets.
Rockhouse barely makes it on the list of reggae venues in Negril because it is considered one of the finest restaurants on the island. A hotel built into the rocks along a cliff at the south end of Seven Mile Beach, it’s comprised of the Rockhouse Restaurant, the Pool Grill & Bar, and the Pushcart Restaurant & Rum Bar, as well as a fresh juice bar. Pushcart is the more lively part of the hotel, where the menu is comprised of dishes traditionally served as street food throughout the island, such as peppered shrimp from Middle Quarters, St. Elizabeth where the food is brought to you in clear plastic bags, steamed fish with bammy as found in Port Royal, and homemade jerk chicken.
And, oh yeah, don’t forget the music! The open-air stage is set right over the water and the finest rums can be found on the drink menu. In addition to being a completely “green” facility that relies on locally sourced produce (including what the kitchen gathers from their onsite garden), Rockhouse also features the work of local artisans.
Located on the westernmost point of the island, Alfred’s is a small family owned and operated restaurant, beach bar, and guesthouse. In keeping with the Jamaican tradition, it’s a great place to enjoy excellent food and listen to music with sand between your toes. Having been in business for 35 years, they’ve had the unique opportunity to practice their own tropical cocktail recipe. And practice makes perfect. The colorful concoction is made from scratch using the freshest local fruit they can find. A bit more laid back than other venues around the island, you won’t find throngs of people rocking out to music all night long, but the entertainment is no less enjoyable. Some of the most well-known bands play impromptu shows on their beachfront stage.