Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
This hotel is nothing fancy, but it's right on Seven Mile Beach and offers a mellow, authentically Jamaican feel
Anyone who has ever been to a hostel can likely understand the vibe at Firefly Cottages -- mellow and friendly, with guests making friends and heading out to the bars together every night. But while the hotel may have the kind of prices that attract those on a budget, the property itself is comprised of 22 separate units (no communal rooms!) and has an enviable spot on the middle of Negril’s famous Seven Mile Beach.
Firefly was opened in 1988 as the pet project of a couple of expat Brits who fell in love with Negril’s landscape and laidback locals. The property is basic -- there is no pool (just a small hot tub), no plethora of all-inclusive restaurants (just a beach cafe), and no swanky cabanas and cocktail service at the beach (just some self-serve plastic loungers and a bar a few steps away).
To be sure, luxurious Firefly Cottages is not. But rates are appropriately low, and the property provides rustic cabins and cottages (most with kitchens, some with air conditioning, and none with TV or telephone); beautifully maintained grounds filled with local flora and fruit-bearing trees; and an exceptional location featuring sand and water on one side and tons of restaurants and bars on the other.
Mellow travelers looking for an authentic Jamaican experience may appreciate the Firefly. Some guests and staff find themselves forging bonds that last for years -- during my check-in at the office, I witnessed not one, but two, tearful goodbyes with the staff as other guests checked out.
Ideal beachfront setting and plenty within walking distance
Firefly Cottages is located just off the main two-way highway that connects Negril with the rest of the island. It gets the best of both worlds, with the famous Seven Mile Beach out its backdoor and plenty of dining and drinking options out its front door. On the beach, guests need not even change out of their bathing suits to find something to eat, with plenty of restaurants lining the sand. Likewise, come evening, those who wish to escape the sand in favor of some nightlife will find plenty within walking distance or a short cab ride away. On the downside, however, is the long (and expensive) distance from the nearest airport in Montego Bay.
Lacking many modern comforts, but rates are low
The cottages and suites at Firefly Cottages are basic, and some have wooden walls that give them a rustic, cabin-like feel. Several units do not have air conditioning, and TVs, telephones, and music players are missing entirely. However, most rooms do feature jalousie shutters to catch evening breezes, as well as full or partial kitchens.
More recently added (but definitely no better equipped) are the hotel’s four Secret Cabins, which are essentially tiny timber structures with nothing but a bed, a small desk, and a picture frame-size window. These units share the communal bathrooms on the property, but also have rates that are among the lowest in Jamaica.
Blue waters, soft sand, and a lively atmosphere
Pirates are said to have frequented Negril’s famous Seven Mile Beach back in the day, but today, it’s a hot spot for sun-lovin’ beach bums. Its fine white sand and calm warm waters make it one of the best beaches in the world.
Firefly’s little nook of sand is only as wide as the property -- which is to say not too wide -- however, plenty of lounge chairs, tables, and chairs are available for guests. The beach here is action-packed, with locals hawking souvenirs, fresh fruit, and the occasional jet ski or glass bottom boat tour. A small beach bar at the hotel is just steps from the oceanfront, so guests at the hotel (as well as those who wander in while exploring the beach) are never far from a refreshing Red Stripe or rum punch. Plenty of other restaurants and bars line this beach as well.
No pool, but a small hot tub
A small, outdoor fitness center that doesn’t offer much
Firefly Cottages’ fitness center is more of a comical relic than a functional space, featuring little more than brightly painted dumbbells and a rusty old bench. Most guests looking for exercise take to the natural jogging path of Negril’s Seven Mile Beach instead.
Some rooms have kitchenettes, and spacious suites can fit larger families.
In a beach town where there are adult-only resorts such as Couples Swept Away, Sandals Royal Plantation, and the especially risqué Hedonism II, Firefly Cottages is a welcome reprieve for families. All units (except for the super-cheap Secrets Cabins) feature kitchenettes ideal for cost-saving in-room cooking, and several larger cottages are big enough for up to eight guests.
A small beach bar serves a limited cafe menu for breakfast and lunch
The menu at the Beach Bar and Cafe is limited, and the kitchen is really just a couple of hot plates behind the bar. And yet, almost everything served tastes amazing. Breakfast is jammed with guests and non-guests alike, and various pancakes styles, from whole wheat to papaya, are the hot item ticket each morning. In the afternoon, a few simple sandwiches are on the menu, but again, the flavor is something of a pleasant surprise, as are the prices, which are virtually impossible to beat.
A funky beach bar along Negril’s most famous sands
The beach bar at Firefly is small, with just a handful of bar stools and about five tables under an open-air structure. But it seems to attract quite a number of locals who mingle with tourists over a rum punch or Red Stripe. The vibe is mellow -- with Dave Matthews Band and Bob Marley playing on constant rotation -- and the staff is easygoing and friendly. Best of all are the prices, which are among the cheapest in Negril (for instance, a Red Stripe will set you back just a couple of dollars).
Free Wi-Fi and cell phones for rent
The simple and quiet atmosphere means romance for some guests.
Firefly Cottages appeals to couples with its peaceful setting along the ocean. While the rooms are basic, the beach rarely feels crowded, and the grounds are lush and lovely. Couples frequently gather for sunset at the hotel’s Beach Bar and Cafe, where the rum punch and Red Stripe flows freely.
Small beachfront ceremonies in a low-key setting
Those looking for an affordable way to wed on Negril’s Seven Mile Beach might find Firefly Cottages right up their alley. The hotel’s beachfront is spacious enough that small weddings are uninterrupted by fellow guests or passersby, and wedding parties can stay in large cottages that accommodate up to eight. The hotel regularly works with a wedding planner who arranges on-site aspects such as catering and decor, as well as practical matters like the officiant and witnesses. Attractive to everyone, however, are the affordable rates for these wedding packages, which start at just $300.
A few key practices help neutralize this small hotel’s carbon footprint.
Whether intentionally implemented by the hotel’s nature-loving British owners, or simply part of the hotel's traditional Jamaican operation style, a number of green initiatives take place at the Firefly Cottages. All linens are line dried on-site, and most of the units lack air conditioning units. Additionally, when the property was first built, great care was taken to preserve the local flora, and many ancient trees as well as a wealth of indigenous fruit plants continue to thrive. Guests are welcome to snag whatever fruit is ripe for the picking.
A pet project created by a pair of British expats enamored with Jamaica
Opened by a British couple in 1988, Firefly Cottages was meant to be the kind of simple oasis that the expats felt Negril needed. The virtual antithesis of a megaresort, the property was developed in a way that left the existing landscape virtually untouched, and kept the beachfront largely unspoiled (unlike neighboring resorts that appeared to have been built as close to the shoreline as possible).
In an effort to be even more appealing to penny-pinching travelers, the owners added four additional units in 2000 called the Secrets Cabins. These tiny timber structures are about as cheap as its gets in Jamaica, with communal bathrooms and little more than a bed and small desk.
No recent renovations
Firefly Cottages were renovated in 2000, and the four Secrets Cabins were added that same year. Today, the units remain tidy and neat, though certain elements appear dated, including worn flowery bedspreads and squeaky mattresses.
Not suited to guests in wheelchairs
The property may be accessible to those who can navigate a step or two with the aid of a cane. Most of the units are on the ground level, but none of them have widened entrances for wheelchairs.
24-hour security that takes its job seriously due to a high-traffic location
Some guests may feel a slight cause for concern based on the hotel’s location along the busy two-way highway that connects Negril with the rest of the island, but Firefly is adamant about its security. Cameras monitor the grounds continuously, and following the closure of the office for the night, a security guard makes the rounds, introducing himself to all guests before starting his shift. There are notes at the hotel that remind guests not to leave anything on their terraces overnight.
This 22-unit beach hotel oozes Jamaican authenticity, with colorful and flower-filled grounds, an action-packed beachfront setting, and a friendly local staff. Make no mistake, this is not a luxury resort -- there is no pool, spa, or proper fitness center, and modern comforts such as air-conditioning and TVs are largely missing. But those in search of a genuine experience at low rates should be pleased.
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