Get your yoga groove on in Negril
August 20, 2009
Caribbean travel often conjures up images of all-inclusive mega-resorts, cruise ships and ritzy yachts. But the region has much more to offer, including low-key eco-tours, adventurous jungle treks, spooky caves, hideaway coves and beaches perfect for secluded snorkeling and sunbathing.
Summer is off-season for destinations like Jamaica, so look for bargains on airfare and lower prices in lodges and hotels compared to rates that peak during the winter holidays. Just weeks ago, round-trip fares to Montego Bay, Jamaica and Belize City were available for under $500.
If you’re feeling stressed out by the economy, a yoga retreat in Negril, Jamaica, might help put things in perspective. The famed beach town, spread along 7 miles of sandy beach, has its share of cheesy tourist traps, but the Negril Yoga Center, at the west end of town, is an oasis of calm, featuring a full slate of yoga workshops and drop-in sessions held in a cool and shady outdoor pavilion.
Try and book the Chickee room, then relax on the fire-engine red steps under the lime tree. Listen to the richly textured soundtrack of Negril: Tree frogs croaking out their love songs, snippets of reggae music drifting over from the bungalows next door and car horns beeping furiously. Every now and then there’s a lull when it’s quiet enough to hear bat wings swish through the thick, sweet air. Somehow, It’s all syncopated on a grand scale, a World Beat for travel in the global age.
I always chuckle when I recall my son’s reaction the first time we stayed there.
“So, have you ever slept in a round room before?” I asked him after checking into the yurt-like cabin.
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“Well, technically it’s not round, Dad,” he answered after taking a quick look around. “It’s a cone on top of an octagon.”
I laugh at his reply and I give silent thanks to Mrs. Drogsvold and Mrs. Maynard, his third-grade teachers at Summit Cove Elementary. The recent geometry lessons have obviously paid off.
“It’s an octa-cone, Dad,” he says, giving the cabin a name that sticks for the duration of our 10-day stay.
From Sept. 1 to Nov. 15, the center is offering its own version of a stimulus package by giving a 25 percent discount for lodging stays of four nights or more.
This February, the center will hold a special one-week workshop with Angelena Craig, founder of Beacon Light Yoga of Boston. Craig specializes in beginner, intermediate and prenatal yoga. She also teaches chair yoga to elders and those with limited mobility.
Summer lodging rates at the center start as low as $35 per night. Several units have their own kitchen and there is a common-area kitchen available as well. Yoga classes are just $10 for overnight guests, and the center’s kitchen features a tasty variety of meals, including vegetarian dishes made with local ingredients like ackee and calaloo. The smoothies are awesome and don’t miss the veggie rasta pasta or Raquel’s version of pad thai.
Contact information, reservations, rates and a coupon for the 25 percent discount are online at negrilyoga.com.
Area highlights are banana pancakes and jerk sausage at Kuyaba, and the jerk chicken, pork and curried goat stew at Three Dives, a couple of miles west of Negril. In late November, Three Dives hosts an island-wide jerk festival, the Jamaican rasta-reggae version of the BBQ Challenge in Frisco, Colo.
Also on the West End, visit friendly Xtabi Resort, a moderately upscale lodge and restaurant resting on a high limestone bluff above the iridescent Caribbean. Xtabi allows visitors to use its concrete swimming pads as a base for snorkeling, swimming and to explore a series of nearby sea caves.
Don’t miss the Hammock Bar, also at the west end of town, where instead of bar stools or tables, drinks are served to customers spread out in about 20 hammocks strung between palm trees. The hammock bar has no website and no phone, so you’ll have to ask a local for directions.
Head a few miles north of town to find Half Moon Bay, a small private beach favored by Negril residents looking to escape the tourist throngs on their own beach. There’s one small beachfront bar and grill with the best-ever grouper sandwich, as well as great snorkeling in the quiet bay.