TREASURE BEACH: THE OTHER SIDE
nlike many Caribbean destinations where the main offerings are sun, sea and sand, Jamaica is widely celebrated for its diverse topography and distinct landscapes. A stark comparison to Montego Bay and Negril, Jamaica’s south coast presents a different kind of bliss where the sand is the color of caffe latte and ‘all inclusive’ means that everyone is welcomed, and where the idea of community tourism is truly embraced. A far cry from the bustling metropolis of Kingston, the lush rainforests of Port Antonio and the quintessentially white sand beaches of Negril, Treasure Beach offers its own kind of magic. U
offer snorkeling excursions, jaunts to deserted beaches or deep-sea fishing trips.
Calabash Bay, an unspoiled treasure (Photo: Darren McIntyre)
The name was bestowed on the area after the 1930s opening of Treasure Beach Hotel on Frenchman’s beach, which remains open to this day. However, Treasure Beach refers to a much wider area on the sleepy south coast and encompasses the darker sand beaches of Calabash and Frenchman as well as the coves of Great Bay and Billy’s Bay. With arid plains dotted with sparse trees and shrubbery, it is often said that the south of St. Elizabeth parish resembles the savannahs of Africa.
Known as the ‘bread-basket of Jamaica’, farming and fishing are the main economic pursuits of the residents of St. Elizabeth and visitors can expect the freshest seafood and produce from local eateries and restaurants. An annex to Jake’s Resort, ‘Jack Sprat’ is well known for its tasty conch soup and pizzas among its many dishes, while ‘Andrea’s Steakhouse’ at MarBlue Villa Suites offers fine-dining by the sea on dishes that marry European classics with Jamaican flavors.
One of Jake’s unique cottages at the water’s edge (Photo: Darren McIntyre)
Discovering Jamaica’s south coast is best achieved by engaging the friendly residents of Treasure Beach, where the idea of community tourism is truly embraced. Villas and rustic resorts are interspersed by the homes of its residents and surrounding walls are built no more than waist-high. As you walk through your hotel, scents from your ‘neighbor’s’ kitchen may waft at your nose and it is not unusual for the children to bid you ‘good morning’ as they leave for school. Care has been taken in the development of Treasure Beach to ensure that its charm will last through the years with a sustainable community approach to tourism. Here ‘all-inclusive’, means that everyone is welcome and resort operators and local community organizations make a real effort to produce harmony between visitors to the area and its inhabitants.
A non-profit association established by local community leaders with the assistance of Peace Corps Volunteers in 1998, the ‘Breds’ Treasure Beach Foundation has been instrumental in community building efforts to promote education, sports, cultural heritage, and environmental awareness in Treasure Beach. Short for ‘Brethren’, commonly used by locals hailing each other, ‘Breds’ is currently focusing on several major projects including a hurricane relief fund, an Emergency Response Unit to respond to the need for urgent medical care as well as other emergencies, the Hook 'n' Line Fishing Tournament, the Treasure Beach Triathlon as well as the purchase of computers for schools. Plans are also afoot to achieve the Green Globe Destination benchmark for the area as well as Blue Flag certification for the waters off Calabash beach. As a visitor, you can help ‘Breds’ efforts by purchasing any of the ‘Dollar-A-Night’ or ‘Dollar-A-Trip’ initiatives, from which participating hotels and transportation operators contribute $1 USD per room-night or trip sold.
For those who want to experience an alternative location with unusual scenery, this rustic sanctuary is an excellent choice. Often described as ‘unspoiled’ and ‘off the beaten path’, Treasure Beach has developed slowly and tourists have been trickling in rather than arriving en masse. A three hour drive from Montego Bay on winding and sometimes narrow roads, Treasure Beach is attracting a new kind of traveler. Chic bohemians with an adventurous side who have visited the popular Jake’s hotel include actor Johnny Depp, British crooner Robbie Williams, the Duchess of York, rocker child Jade Jagger and supermodel Kate Moss, who frequents the area.
Aside from tranquility, the island’s south coast offers plenty of adventure. Visit Floyd’s Pelican Bar, built on stilts off the coast of Black River, and taste Floyd’s delicious lobster and fried fish. The bumpy ride in a fisherman’s canoe is well worth it and may even render a glimpse of a pod of dolphins frolicking in the sea. Other fun escapades include a visit to the majestic seven-tiered waterfalls of Y.S. Falls, spotting crocodiles on the Black River Safari or tasting premier island rum on the Appleton Estate Rum Tour. Additionally, local boat operators
Treasure Beach plays home to several annual events and fitness fans should visit for the Treasure Beach Off-Road Triathlon in April, while passionate readers should go for the Calabash Literary Festival in May and ardent fishermen October’s ‘Hook ‘n’ Line Fishing Tournament’.
Lounging at Jake’s (Photo: Darren McIntyre)
Crowd-free relaxation on the beach at Calabash (Photo: Darren McIntyre)