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"Negril History"
The Development of Negril From Fishing Village to Top Tourist Destination

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Negril History | Diving At The Rick's CafeNegril History | Diving At The Rick's Cafe

by Kesha Stewart | Associate Writer

If you are a history buff like me, you have a healthy appreciation for the present but, you have deep musings about the way things were in the past. Maybe just once or twice you’ve wondered what Negril was like before it was a tourist destination.

You may have already read the fascinating facts about Negril. Today, I will share with you some of what Negril, Jamaica was like before it became the capital of casual.

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Negril has a long history, starting with the humble fisher folk who owned canoes or sold fish at markets in places such as Savanna la mar and Lucea and of course in Negril. At the outset, Negril, Jamaica was basically swamplands.

All of that changed about 70 years ago, when the then government of Jamaica, decided to take exploratory steps toward developing this little slice of paradise. They decided on creating a resort location.

In 1915, a certain someone known as G. Logan McLeod purchased 1800 acres of land in Negril, Jamaica. The rest of Negril beach belonged to fishermen who shared it among their families.

Rhoda Jackson was one of these four. She ended up having 4 children and 16 grandchildren, the most famous of which was Cosmo Brown who is significantly remembered as the retired owner of Cosmo’s Seafood Restaurant.

Closer to the mid-1940s, at about 1944, all the coastal traffic between Negril and Green Island was done by sea or by walking along the beach and rock heads. It took the efforts of a local fisherman named Ivan McLeod, to change this. He hacked out a crude sandy dirt road of about 8ft wide which continued for about five miles.

Later on, in 1959, the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) took a trek down to Negril and took an in-depth look into how it was developing as a tourist resort. Even from then, the area was considered the most attractive coastline on the entire island of Jamaica.

At this juncture, Caribbean Construction Company was awarded a 500,000 GBP contract to construct 10 miles of roads which meandered along the old sandy road created by Mr. McLeod. They did minimal drainage works as well.

The Negril to Green Island Highway was completed in 1961. By 1963,  the first little taste of tourism came to Negril with the opening of Negril Sands, a small restaurant and bar. Elenor and Hans Goubler were the proprietors of this pioneering business.

The Sundowner Resort opened in 1965 and offered accommodations to a mere sixteen persons. Gerhard Jojan and his wife Rita Muirhead operated this property.

Remember the Goublers? Well in 1965 saw the Negril Sands Beach Club broke ground and they opened to accept visitors in the winter tourist season of 1967/1968. It was a welcomed expansion of their initial effort. Soon they were not only welcoming visitors from all over the world but they were hosting local beach parties as well.

More and more small hotels began appearing on the landscape these include T-Water Cottages, Crystal Waters and White Sands Resort to name a few. With the hotels came the visitors as well.

The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) came on the scene in 1969, and they designated another section of Negril for development. It was a specularly beautiful 6,000-acre area which included a segment of the Great Morass and encompassed three bays namely Orange Bay, Bloody Bay and Long Bay.

They set about creating a comprehensive tourist resort while maintaining what was termed the “essential character of Negril”, as a result, there were stringent zoning laws.

Negril History | Rick's Cafe Live EventNegril History | Rick's Cafe Live Event

Rick's Café came on the scene in 1974 as the first public bar/restaurant located on Negril’s West End.

A little over 44 years ago, a 250-room property known as Negril Beach Village opened up at Rutland Point. Today it is known as the uninhibited and risqué Hedonism II.

Negril History | Hedonism IINegril History | Hedonism II

Today, the world is drawn to Negril with its incredible 7-mile beach. It is an internationally awarded tourist mecca with a glittering array of accommodations to suit any budget and style.

There are restaurants and not a few. Bars, places of amusement, craft markets, and shopping galore yet these tell but half the story of how Negril, Jamaica transitioned from a sleep fishing village to the crown jewel of Jamaica’s enviable tourism product.

Who would have thought it possible?

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Return to Negril Resorts from Negril History
Return to My Island Jamaica Homepage from Negril History

References & Sources For Negril History

  1. History of Negril | My-Island-Jamaica,

Negril History | Written: August 24, 2022

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