Floyd’s Pelican Bar is a difficult place to review dispassionately.
It’s an iconic place in many ways and it’s certainly easy to grasp the intrinsic appeal. In perfect conditions, with sunny skies, a calm sea and just the right number of customers, you can see why some people refer to it as “the world’s coolest bar”.
But it has its challenges. For one thing, it’s not easy to get to. And I don’t just mean the fact that it sits on a sandbar some one-and-a-half kilometres offshore and is only accessible by boat. Floyd’s is pretty distant from the primary Jamaican tourist hotspots. Parottee Point, the main place to pick up the water taxis (a 10-minute ride), is about a 90-minute drive from Negril and well over two hours from Montego Bay. And Floyd’s is deceptively small, with very limited seating (especially in the shade), no room to stretch out and – this is very important to many – no washrooms.
However, you just have to admire a ramshackle platform built entirely out of driftwood seemingly in the middle of the ocean, where you can sit with your legs dangling over the side (if you can find a spot) or stand in the warm waist-deep Caribbean and chat with fellow tourists or domino-playing locals, all while sipping a cold Red Stripe and listening to funky reggae tunes in the background. And when you consider that the idea for the whole crazy structure supposedly came to founder Floyd Forbes in a dream, and that when the place was completely washed away by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 the local community rallied around to rebuild it, the Pelican Bar’s legendary status is ensured.
What will you have?
Beer: A small bar limits the selection. Red Stripe and Dragon Stout are the staples.
Rum/Cocktails: Don’t expect much beyond rum-based mixed drinks and a few cocktails, including a strong rum punch and the pretty tasty Pelican Perfection, made with rum, lime juice and the distinctive, spicy Jamaican ginger beer.
Food: Somehow, Floyd’s manages to squeeze in a tiny kitchen. Selection is basically limited to fish and lobster, but it is as fresh as it gets. In fact, you may see the local fisherman reeling in and cleaning your entree while you enjoy your drinks.
Floyd’s Pelican Bar is a popular stop on many island tours, both land and sea, so it can get suddenly crowded at any time. Wear a bathing suit in case you can’t find room on the bar itself. Oh, and it’s cash only.
Floyd’s Pelican Bar is a ‘love it or leave it’ kind of place. I’ve known people who can happily spend the entire day there in perfect bliss (let’s not dwell on the lack of washrooms) and I’ve also seen others arrive, climb aboard, and signal for their water taxi to come and take them off within 10 minutes. Is it worth a visit? Hey, Floyd’s is a beach bar legend, so absolutely – but it’s best to manage your expectations.