If you’re a fun and adventure seeker like me, Rick’s Cafe should definitely be on your list of places to explore the next time you visit Negril, Jamaica. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard about it before – it’s one of the most visited landmarks on the island for several reasons – but whatever you might have heard or seen is nothing compared to actually being there.
From daring dives off its chiseled, naturally-formed cliffs to soaking up some authentic reggae music after sunset, and sipping on a local brew, there is much to enjoy at Rick’s.
To say that I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there would be a gross understatement. As I write this, I am remembering all the awesome fun I had and craving it all over again. Good thing I’m due for another road trip soon, so I might get to satisfy the urge.
A little history on Rick’s Cafe
For the purpose of this review, I did a little research on Rick’s Cafe to find out how it became the popular site it is now today. I learnt that it was opened in 1974 and was the first public bar and restaurant to be established on the West End Cliffs.
It was founded by Richard “Rick” Hershman at a time when Negril was what you could describe as being more rustic and only known for its splendid seven-mile beach. The opening of Rick’s Cafe offered locals and vacationers another alternative to swimming and sunbathing: diving from the dizzying heights of its cliffs.
Over the years, the building that houses the restaurant and bar has been completely destroyed twice by natural disasters; first by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 and then by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Thankfully, devastation from these events was not able to keep its doors shuttered and it has only grown from strength to strength.
Today, it ranks among the top 10 best bars in the world, has been voted one of the 21 hottest Caribbean escapes and is listed as one of the 1,000 places in the world to see before you die.
So, what’s so special about the place? A visit there will quickly answer this question for you.
Before you go
Now that you have a little back story on Rick’s Cafe, it’s time to let you know how to get the most of it. First of all, getting there is pretty easy once you’re in the town of Negril. You can rent a car and drive yourself there, connect with one of the local tour companies, or arrange a tour with the hotel you’re staying at.
If you’re traveling from Kingston, the Knutsford Express can take you to it’s depot in Negril Jamaica which is relatively close to the Ricks Cafe cliff diving hotspot.
Because it is such a popular attraction, you can expect to see a lot of people when you visit, especially late in the afternoon, as the magical sunset approaches. Did I mention that this is one of the allures of Rick’s Café? Its stunning sunsets are world-famous and to die for.
I suggest that when you’re going, you plan to arrive at least an hour or two before sunset (which happens at approximately 6 pm) so that you can get to watch the huge ‘ball of fire’ sink beneath the horizon and cast a vibrant display of colour across the surface of the sea. Great photo ops are guaranteed, so make sure you have your camera on hand.
Oh, and don’t worry about the place being crowded, everybody will be caught up in one activity or the other – or just spellbound by the awesome scenery as the sun sets – so your experience shouldn’t be affected.
There is no entrance fee, but you will need to walk with money if you intend to enjoy a few drinks or try out items on the menu, which is made up of several seafood dishes and Jamaican favourites. Also, you might feel the need to tip the lifeguard on duty and in-house divers, who often carry out daring feats for the entertainment of guests, but this is entirely optional.
What to do – Activities like Cliff Diving and More
You don’t have to do any of the daring stuff to enjoy your time at Rick’s Cafe, but diving 35 feet into the crystal clear ocean does take the experience to another level. Plus, the exhibition divers make it look so easy. They even take things to another level by jumping from overhanging trees that add another 40 feet to the dive, and also doing acrobatic stunts.
Watching them actually helped me to relax and the jump didn’t feel so intimidating when I looked down. Nonetheless, my heart was a little in my mouth when I finally took the leap and realized how far above the water I really was. But it was hugely satisfying once I had resurfaced and heard people clapping.
Please note: The water might sting a little as you hit the surface when jumping from the high cliffs, unless you have a good diving form like those folks at the Olympics. Be warned that taking a jump is solely at your own risk and discretion. It is possible to get hurt, so don’t do it if you’re not comfortable.
If diving from so high up sounds too scary for you, there are lower level cliffs that only rise about 10 – 12 feet out of the water, while still giving you the thrill of the jump. In fact, some people test out their wits on these mini jumping spots first before trying out the higher points.
While diving at Ricks Cafe is one of its main features, there’s plenty more to enjoy. If you prefer, you can just feast on one of the delectable dishes on offer at the restaurant. Or kick back with a few friends over some interestingly-named cocktails at the bar. Or sip on a few Red Stripe beers while watching the sunset and then jamming to the live band after dark. Or just do it all like I did. Whatever you do, your time at Ricks Cafe will be well spent.
To further ensure you never forget your trip to Rick’s Cafe, you can grab a t-shirt or other memorabilia before leaving. Then again, after visiting Ricks Café once, you’ll probably want to go back soon enough. But still, get the souvenir, so you can show off on your friends and let them know that you have been to one of the coolest spots in the Caribbean and the world.
There is not much else to tell you about enjoying Rick’s Cafe, except to say you need to visit ASAP if you’ve never been there before. You can thank me later.