After spending 6 nights in the gorgeous, white sand haven that was Negril I was ready to set off to discover some of the hidden gems tucked away on the South shores in the fair isle of Jamaica. I had heard about the area during some quick research the night before I had boarded my last minute flight to a new country. The allure of black sand beaches, a string of coves to wander and the fact that it was still undeveloped was enough of a draw to make me want to see it for myself.
Traveling solo around a country tends to add up, not only in cost but time and here is where creativity helps in saving on both! The famed Pelican bar was 2/3rd of the way to my final destination and always a big draw! Built with donated lumber and a bit of thatch, it was the only bar I had heard of that existed a mile or so from shore! I managed to find 3 other hostel guests that also wanted to go and between us we were able to charter a private taxi turning what could have been a long travel day into a fun adventure that didn’t break the bank!
Windows down , music up we made our way up through the interior dodging not so tiny potholes that threatened to swallow anything that didn’t see them coming. A quick stop in Savanna el Mar for some not so fast, fast food and some unknown delicious tasting fruit we continued on until we reached Black River. This hard working Jamaican hub is one of the oldest cities in the country and the gateway to the south shores of the island.
Many boats are available to take you to the fabled Pelican bar. After some quick negotiations that included a divine sounding lobster dinner that would be waiting on our return ($1000 J each), we climbed on board an old fashioned turquoise longboat and sped towards the tiny speck where we would spend our afternoon. The ocean here had a different quality and color than Negril. While just as beautiful in its own right, the waters were an opaque turquoise and seemed ladened with minerals and full of mystery.
Pelican Bar was exactly as advertised and we had a great afternoon. Where else could you spend your days drinking Red Stripe, playing dominos and doing absolutely nothing but worshipping the sun, miles from any speck of land. Constructed of donated lumber, some thatch for shade and a good many license plates and tokens left behind by travellers before us, I doubt it would survive much of a storm. Luckily no storms threatened and the hundreds of names carved in every square inch of wood, friendly locals and surrounding pelicans made their marks in our memories. After swimming and chillaxing under our shady nook all afternoon we accompanied our captain back to his home where dinner was waiting as promised. Beautifully seasoned lobster with vegetables, rice and plantain were delicious and I was happy to splurge just a little to enjoy a seafood dinner with the group. Seafood while plentiful on the island is also very expensive…unless you manage to catch it yourself 🙂
With a full belly and slight trepidation, I said my goodbyes to my new friends and got dropped off at the side of the road to await the next route taxi that would take me to Treasure Beach. I have a penchant for exploring the path less taken and this isolated series of coves with black sands and few travellers had peaked my interest as soon as I had heard of it on the travel forums I had scoured hours before my last minute departure.
I didn’t have to wait long before spotting a red plated car with Treasure Beach on the side. Climbing into the 5 seater with 6 people already inside, we drove the remaining 30 minutes to French Bay for $200J. No one waited for me or knew I was coming because as hard as I had tried, I had never been able to reach any of the tiny guesthouses I was interested in. Rolling in just before sunset I was dropped off in front of Shakespeare Cottage. The gates and doors were open but not a soul was to be found. This I hadn’t expected! After cooling my heels and checking out my new surroundings I left my big bag and decided to head out to find anyone that could rent me a room. Luck was again on my side as I spoke to a friendly local that informed me that I should go to the very back of the property and yell “Dickie” as loud as I could. That should bring the owners, she said. True enough a few minutes later Dickie’s wife wandered over, rented me my own private room with fan for $25/ night…total score!
Treasure Beach was black to Negrils white in every respect. Quiet and mellow with rolling pastures and hills as a backdrop and the crash of ocean waves beating the black sanded shoreline. There was a trail right in front of the house that led directly to the ocean and I couldn’t wait until the next morning to heed its call. As I admired the deep orange of that first nights sunset, I had the entire beach to myself and my thoughts. It was a truly peaceful and zen experience that I will always remember. Heading back home to what turned out to be a most comfortable bed, I got a great nights rest before starting starting my adventures of the area early the next morning. No wi-fi, no distractions, not even a rooster to wake me at dawn.
Treasure Beach is best seen on foot, following the coast and stopping to explore anything that catches your fancy. A few restaurants and small resorts dot the landscape here and there but for the most part it is undeveloped and free of mass tourism. Less expensive than most destinations in Jamaica and richer in community feeling. Everyone knows everyone here and after a few days, they know you too. A place to get lost or find yourself, it resonates with the soul and brings peace to the mind. Over the course of 3 days, I explored the entire area from Frenchman’s Bay to Great Bay and easily stayed within my $40/day budget including accommodation!
Starting my days with freshly brewed Blue Mountain coffee at the Blue Smurf café (highly recommended at 100J/ cup AND they even had milk!!) I picked a direction each morning. With no wi-fi and little time to research before I arrived, each day I still managed to find amazing hidden gems, great places to eat and friendly locals to tell me about the history of this quiet heaven. Some of my most favourite finds and moments were:
Deep orange with undertones of burnt yellow lite the sky every night. Framed by jutting rocks, crashing waves and black warm sand. Every night I would make sure to pick a slightly different place to watch. Always sitting in the sand, trying to embed every magical moment to memory. I preferred having this nightly ritual to myself but most locals and travellers alike headed to Eggys. A tiny little hut on the beach with some chairs and well priced Red Stripe. Here you can mingle, exchange the days stories and share your adventures. A must stop, a least for one sunset!
Discovering the MOST gorgeous tree with a private, natural pool & the talented artist the called it his workshop!
Wandering the coast line from Calabash Bay back toward Frenchman’s Bay there is a rocky point jutting out that separates them. From a distance I had no idea what I was walking towards but the closer I got, the more excited I became. There growing amongst the sharp rocks and sparse vegetation was the most perfect, beautiful tree I had EVER seen. Ancient, twisted branches called out to the sea they were hovering over. To my absolute delight, natural tiny pools had formed on each side of the tree. Protected from the waves and sheltered from the sun…absolute heaven. Could I have discovered my own private oasis?! I spent the entire afternoon there and was soon joined by a Clancy. Clancy is a local artist that works with local wood to produce beautiful hand made works of art. Not only did I make a new friend, after some conversation I got to experience something amazing!
Clancy worked in wood and I had noticed this beautiful giant log in my little pool with me. Further conversation revealed it was Linden wood ( Jamaica’s national flower) and he had been soaking the wood for weeks to get it ready for carving. It really was my lucky day as he decided to chop off a piece and make something right in front of my for my love that was waiting back home. I watched him take a piece of nothing and turn it into a beautiful souvenier paddleboard with nothing but a machete. That is a memory that I will carry forever. If you’re ever in Treasure Beach, make sure to seek this artist and his beautiful tree out. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience or reminder of my time here.
Favorite swimming spot:
One draw back of the Treasure beach area is the strong riptides and currents that are present at most of the beaches. You can feel the power of the currents just sitting on the edges and swimming out beyond the waves should only be reserved for very strong swimmers. Especially if you are travelling solo. A local well known restaurant and hang out, Jack Spratt’s has a tiny cordoned off area and a lifeguard on duty and would be the best place to bring a family. I overcame this by stopping in every tiny, me size pool that I can across in the wanders instead. There were plenty of them if you took your time and looked. On the last day I came across THE BEST spot for actual swimming in the area. Located at the end of Calabash bay about ½ km before Great Bay is a large protected spot between 2 reefs that hem either side of the pool in. Here the water was clear, calm and excellent for snorkelling. Many local children and families came to cool off during my time there, confirming its safety. If I had more time, I would have spent another afternoon floating happily in the dancing soft waves.
Exploring tide pools:
The tide pools from Calabash Bay to Great Bay were amazing, plentiful and yielded new excited finds every day I was there. You never know what creatures would be left behind and I got to see a great amount of sea life up close and personal. In fact I could have collected quite a nice dinner for myself if I had the heart to take the crabs I found from their homes. Tiny bumblebee like fish, puffers, snails and so much more were there to delight me at every turn. It was like have my very own sit in aquarium and it was awesome!!!
This beautiful, less known paradise has many wonders to explore. Best for romantic escapes or really getting away from it all. There are enough small shops & local restaurants to satisfy needs but it is far from bustling. Time spent here is peaceful, there is noone to hurry you, sell you things on the beach or interrupt natures song. Next time I would certainly bring the man that holds my heart. Fully restored and ready to integrate back into society, it was time again to pack my bags and prepare myself for what would be the MOST challenging leg of my trek. Making it all the way back across the country to Montego Bay using public transport. I knew it would be an adventure but I had no idea the adventure it would be. Join me next week to follow the rest of my trek North through half of Jamaica and up through the mountains before descending to my destination. It was a journey that I will talk about for awhile! Lol
If you are interested in JOINING me on one of my awesome adventures, we are NOW BOOKING for our epic beach lovers trip to Costa Rica in November 2014. 9 nights, 5 bucket list worthy adventures, 4 stunning beaches & towns. Almost all inclusive for $2195 CAD pp (double occ) including flights from YYZ. For those in other areas, we can give you a land only price and you can meet us there!
Carpe Diem my friends, life is too short to wait!!