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Fat Tires

Negril; February 12-13, 2000

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Think of Negril, and you probably think the same thing you think about every other island in the Caribbean. Beaches and sun. Sun and beaches. But Negril's best-kept secret is its miles of unspoiled bike trails that wind through the bougainvillea fields and coral beds high above Negril Bay. Once a year, the second weekend in February, the whole place hops on Jamaican "knobby tread" mountain bikes and heads off-road for the Negril Fat Tire Festival, which culminates in a 21-mile cross-country race. Enthusiasts of all skill levels can participate, and there's a shorter route for beginners. The festival also features a head-to-head downhill speed race (not for the fainthearted), a biking scavenger hunt through town, and a rock concert with Jamaican and American headliners.

For off-trail recuperation, check into the Rockhouse, a recently overhauled boutique hotel of thatched-roof octagonal huts with snorkeling, kayaking, and cliff-diving right in your own front yard. At sunset, the sky turns the color of rum punch, at least when viewed from the deck of the Rockhouse restaurant, which serves first-rate Jamaican cuisine.

DETAILS The Rockhouse (876-957-4373; www.rockhousehotel.com; double rooms start at $100; restaurant entrées, $10 to $15); Fat Tire race registration (876-957-0155; www.webstudios.com/rusty; Air Jamaica (800-523-5585); Jamaica Tourist Board (212-856-9727).


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