Negril is a small (pop. 3,000) but widely dispersed beach resort town located across parts of two Jamaican parishes, Westmoreland and Hanover. Negril is just about one hour and fifteen minutes drive from Sir Donald Sangster International Airport, in Montego Bay. Westmoreland is the westernmost parish in Jamaica, located on the south side of the island. Downtown Negril, the West End cliff resorts to the south of downtown, and the southern portion of the so-called "seven mile (11 km) beach" are in Westmoreland. The northernmost resorts on the beach are in Hanover Parish. The nearest large town is Savanna-la-Mar, the capital of Westmoreland Parish.
The name Negril is a shortened version of Negrillo (Spanish: Little black ones), as it was originally named by the Spanish in 1494. The name is thought by some to be a reference to the black cliffs south of the village. Another theory holds that because there was a vast population of black eels along Negril's coast, the Spaniards called the area Negro Eels which was shortened to Negrillo and then to Negril. Although Negril has a long history, it did not become well known until the second half of the twentieth century.
Negril's development as a resort location began during the late 1950s, though access to the area proved difficult as ferries were required to drop off passengers in Negril Bay, forcing them to wade to shore. Most vacationers would rent rooms inside the homes of Jamaican families, or would pitch tents in their yards. Daniel Connell was the first person to create more traditional vacation lodging for these "flower children" when he set up the first guest house in Negril - Palm Grove. The area's welcoming and hospitable reputation grew over time and the first of many resorts was constructed in the mid to late 1960s. The first hotel in Negril was the Yacht Club by Mary's Bay on the West End.
When the road between Montego Bay and Negril was improved in the early 1970s, it helped to increase Negril's status as a new resort location. It was a two-lane paved road that ran approximately 100 yards (91 m) inland from two white coral sand beaches, at the southern end of which was a small village. The long paved road from the village ran north to Green Island, home to many of the Jamaican workers in Negril, and was straight enough to double as a runway for small airplanes, which was why there were lengths of railroad track standing on end along the side of the road - to discourage drug smugglers from landing on the road to pick up cheap cargos of marijuana.
After Negril's infrastructure was expanded—anticipating the growth of resorts and an expanding population, a small airport, the Negril Aerodrome, was built in 1976 near Rutland Point, alongside several small hotels mostly catering to the North American winter tourists. Europeans also came to Negril, and several hotels were built to cater directly to those guests.