Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Here's Spring Break, Jamaica Style Cool Scenery, Red-Hot Fun

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Here's Spring Break, Jamaica Style Cool Scenery, Red-Hot Fun

Article excerpt

NEGRIL, Jamaica -- In the thousands they descend on Jamaica each spring, the latest haven for stressed and tired students seeking laid-back days on a sunny beach and high-voltage parties by night.

"We had friends who've come here before and told us the weather was great, the beaches were great, and that's how we've found it," enthuses 20-year-old Alex Tone of Indiana University at Fort Wayne. "Friendly people and really great girls!"

Some 20,000 students from northeastern U.S. universities are expected to visit Jamaica's three main resort towns by the end of April -- up from 13,000 last year -- lured by the promise of hot sunshine, cool seas, all-night parties and plenty of booze.

For some, an additional attraction is "ganja," the marijuana weed which flourishes here.

Although smoking marijuana is illegal in Jamaica, it's readily available. The country is home to the Rastafarian religion that considers smoking the weed the equivalent of a sacrament. One reporter almost ran down a vendor prancing around in the middle of a main road, hawking a corn-cob size bundle of the drug.

The students arrive after the stress of mid-term exams -- but they soon throw that off.

Days are spent hanging out on beaches, reading, suntanning or enjoying water sports. There are contests from the traditional wet T-shirt contests and he-man competitions to body-painting.

Nights generally mean binges in bars with names like The Pickled Parrot, De Buss, Chances on the Beach and Margueritaville.

Not all students use the break to indulge hedonistic impulses. Thirty-one from Arkansas State University went to Jamaica to work in a medical clinic for the poor.

"I get the satisfaction in knowing that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing," says one, Nathalia Dawson.

Negril was a fishing village until hippies and flower children made it popular in the early 1970s.

Students who come today find the finest stretch of beach on an island renowned for them -- 7 miles of palm-tree lined white sands between a turquoise sea and low-lying hotels and private villas not allowed to be higher than the tallest palm tree. …

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