Going Solo to Negril

Traveling alone is intoxicating. One minute I was flying high “Chanae, look at you! You’re unstoppable!” but then I locked myself in my room a full 24 hours surviving on protein bars. “What made me pick Jamaica? Why am I completely shocked by how many couples there are!?”

This year’s birthday landed at a tough time for everyone, except me. I had to be on a flight leaving the country for my 33rd, even if that meant going alone. So, overnight I booked a ticket to Jamaica and a room in Negril without any research.

Every time I announced I was going alone I received what I call the fear package “Oh no! You’re going to go alone? Wow, be careful!”. Then here’s the pity approach “You don’t have anyone who can go with you? I wish I could go. You shouldn’t spend your birthday alone.”

I ignored everyone and I’m glad. Now I have a new badge of honor, a solo traveler!

The Nitty Gritty

You can do this too!

Use social media to your advantage and plan around an event. My trip to Negril was impulsive but happened to land on Jamaica’s Independence weekend. I joined the Facebook groups, participated in posts and made friends. Yes, it was my birthday, but the event gave my trip a sense of purpose. It cradled my birthday for me.

Follow your destination’s hashtags on Instagram for inspiration and must-see attractions.

Use Google Maps to bookmark and save places. “Want to go” is a pre-programmed label. The saved places offered a sense of direction. Upon landing, I had attractions both near and far to choose from.

It’s common to negotiate prices when you’re in a foreign country, but I hate to negotiate. If you feel a lack of confidence in your ability to negotiate on the spot, book your excursions online before you arrive. I liked having something to look forward to every day.

Honorable Mentions

Catcha Falling Star  is a picturesquely rustic hotel on the cliff side of Negril. The uniquely themed Pisces bungalow made me feel as if I were in a tree house.

Catcha is home to Ivan’s Bar offering breakfast and lunch to guests, open for dinner to the public. I had dinner with the sound of waves crashing against the rocks, Happy Birthday to Me!

Rick’s Café, a Negril staple is walking distance from Catcha. The live band is within earshot nightly beginning at 5 PM.

Island Turf Tours – Norris is very hospitable and encouraged me to relax and enjoy Jamaica. He exudes integrity and has upfront pricing. I’m all about cutting the fuss and keeping the party going. He was heaven sent.

Blue Mineral Hole – The most pleasant surprise. Mineral pool and a dungeon drop 30 ft into blue bliss, I took the ladder though.

Rico gave a tour of the majestic Negril country estate and even climbed to get some footage I would not have otherwise. The blue hole is about a 30-40 minute rural uphill drive from Negril.

One Love Bus Tour – What a unique experience! Lenny picked me up in a yellow school bus and took us off the main road to Negril’s neighborhood bars. Some of the bars had splendid views and others with tons of charm.

One Love bus regulars bring items for area children who gather around the bus during one of the stops. If you’re a generous soul this is an opportunity to donate some of the things we take for granted.

One traveler came prepared with a suitcase full of school supplies, another with bags of hotel lotions and shampoos from her travels.

At the end of the bar crawl, you determine the cost by donating any amount you want to Lenny.

Bella Donna’s Restaurant – was the most memorable stop on the One Love Bus Tour. Donna’s smile and energy are unmatched. Pair that with a pizza heaping in fresh vegetables and Jamaican spices and now I have something to return for!

Route Taxis

The easiest way to explain this is that they drive along the route, back and forth like buses. The taxi looks like a small well used sedan with a red plate, and checkers along the side.

Many resorts will have a security guard that can help you catch a Route Taxi. Getting around was the biggest downside to my trip, I underestimated the costs.

The security guard is there for tourist safety. They are not there to save you money. They may even talk you into a more expensive option. Once I requested a route taxi and the security guard flagged down one of his friends “Oh, it’ll be the same price.” It wasn’t. He wanted more than 2.00 to ride in his fancy van. Two miles may cost 20.00. Even more when you’re not alone. They charge per person.

I took the same trip in a route taxi the next day, handed the driver 2.00 and got out. Research the route taxi practices and fake it until you make it. Say very little. Questions like “How much is this going to be?” create an opportunity to be overcharged.

In my experience, every nicety in Negril was done with the intent of leveraging it into income, be prepared.

The Wrap Up

I’ve had many pivotal moments of independence. Times when I knew I was about to change my entire outlook. Jamaica was one.

Circumstances prompted me to go solo but I was not alone. I made substantial connections in Jamaica.

The trip was perfectly timed. My pre-planned excursions left me with no choice but to emerge from my hut. Once I did, I remembered why I came, an unshared adventure.

– Chanae Pickett