Only in 1959 was a road cut to Negril, launching the development of what was then a tiny fishing village. Electricity and telephones came later. The sleepy beachfront village soon became a popular holiday spot for Jamaicans. About the same time, hippies and backpackers from abroad began to appear. They roomed with local families or slept on the beach, partook of ganja and magic mushrooms, and generally gave Negril its laid-back reputation. In 1977 the first major resort – Negril Beach Village (later renamed Hedonism II) – opened its doors to a relatively affluent crowd seeking an uninhibited Club Med–style vacation. Tales of Hedonism’s toga parties and midnight nude volleyball games helped launch Negril to fame. By the mid-1980s Negril was in the throes of a full-scale tourism boom that continues today. (The early days of tourism in Negril are regaled in Banana Shout, a humorous novel by local hotelier Mark Conklin concerning the escapades of an American draft dodger who moves to Negril.)
This let-it-all-hang-out tradition still overflows during the March to April spring break when US college kids swarm for wet T-shirt contests, drinking competitions and general party time.
Nonetheless, the resort has developed an active and environmentally conscious spirit under the guidance of expat residents, resulting in the creation of the Negril Marine Park within the Negril Environmental Protection Area. The park encompasses the shoreline, mangroves, offshore waters and coral reefs, and is divided into eight recreational zones. In 2001 the Chamber of Commerce adopted an environmental ‘green’ standard for hotels to adhere to. Recent projects include a new recycling center – a rarity in Jamaica.