There is a little corner of Jamaica which is stuck in an era before the crime, high-end tourism and commercialization. That little corner is known as Treasure Beach. Treasure Beach is a small coastal town which prides itself on community tourism where foreigners co-exist with the locals in harmony. Mom-and-pop shops reign supreme and there are no large all-inclusive resorts. The accommodations are only small boutique hotels, Airbnbs and villas. Crime is almost non-existent in this side of Jamaica. Sounds utopian, doesn’t it? Well, it’s true.
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It’s always cool and windy. The sea is often a little rough so don’t venture out too far. The sand is a few shades darker than the sand up north or out west but you’re in the Home of All Right so no one’s too bothered by that. Plus, the beaches are not privatized like on the north coast which means you don’t have to be a guest at a hotel or villa to enjoy it. The beach’s charm is accentuated by the bright colourful boats, some of which show signs of wear but the fishermen are very proud of their boats regardless. Above all, Treasure Beach is focused on environmentalism, healthy natural lifestyles and sustainable development in a way I’ve never appreciated in any other Jamaican community. No wonder it’s so popular with the yogis, hippies and those who follow a more bohemian lifestyle. For these reasons, Treasure Beach has landed a soft spot in my heart after just one daytrip and I’m about to show you why.
Getting To Treasure Beach
Treasure Beach is roughly three hours’ drive from Kingston, the capital city, or 144km. From Mandeville, a town located near the centre of the island, the drive is roughly half that. Google Maps is a rather reliable guide as I made the unfamiliar drive alone and had no difficulties finding my destination.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, won’t you agree? Well, I opted to start this day-trip hungry so I could start the day off with breakfast at Smurf’s Cafe, located at the Wild Onion in Treasure Beach. Breakfast is the only meal served here, so they close rather early but I’m not sure of the exact time. They probably just close when the last diners leave. The property looks rather unassuming with a large grassy parking lot but the vivid blue, yellow and green building drew my attention. The tiny Smurf’s Cafe has a big reputation for serving the best breakfast in Jamaica. It lived up to my expectations.
I chose a Jamaican breakfast classic of boiled “food” (yam, sweet potato) and fried dumplings alongside ackee and saltfish. If you saw a post I made last year during quarantine about how to prepare ackee and saltfish, you’d remember I said the dish was lacking the essentials of sweet pepper and tomato. Well, Smurf’s ackee and saltfish lacked nothing. It had the right balance of heat and spice. My friend’s Smurf’s omelette also looked great, and she had nothing but praises to offer. We both chose a freshly blended papaya-banana fruit punch which was as refreshing as it looks and sounds. You could look over and see baby papaya trees alongside the larger ones from which the fruit for our juices likely came. That was a satisfying feeling. Smurf’s Cafe: 10/10 recommend.
If you get to meet its owner, Miss Dawn, I hear she’s as bright and bubbly a person as the colour of Smurf’s Cafe. Perhaps that’s why she chose these small brightly-coloured blue creatures to be the name and logo of her restaurant.
After Smurf’s Cafe, we decided to try and get to Parottee from Treasure Beach in order to get a decent price for a boat to Pelican Bar since my friend wanted to go there. However, the road quality was too deplorable to continue even though Google Maps tried leading us along it so confidently. Instead, we managed to find a boat captain to Pelican Bar from Frenchman’s Beach and bargained a price of $3,000JMD per person. That’s three times the price I paid for a boat to Pelican Bar a year-and-a-half ago, so I wouldn’t recommend taking a boat from Treasure Beach at all if you’re looking to save. However, it ended up being convenient for that day. The boat ride is longer too (about 25 minutes) but it was stunning to see all the attractive villas and boutique hotels from sea such as Katamah Villa. The Treasure Beach coastline is getting populated with more and more buildings. Note: Take Gravol before the boatride if you’re prone to sea/motion sickness.
If you’d like to know more about Pelican Bar, check out this post from 2019.
The Beaches in Treasure Beach
I alluded to it earlier but what’s interesting about Treasure Beach is that it’s actually not one single beach, but rather a community and umbrella term for four main bays and small beaches. These include Calabash Bay (where Lashing’s Beach Club is located for reference), Old Wharf Beach, Frenchman’s Beach and Great Pedro Bay. What these beaches have in common is that there aren’t hundreds of tourists sunbathing on lounge chairs. These beaches have equally as many foreign as local faces, and the mom-and-pop food stalls all serve freshly caught delicious seafood. The weather is hot and arid, almost desert-like, but cooled by the refreshing Caribbean Sea and sea breeze. We stumbled across the sign to Frenchman’s Bay by chance from the main road, and this was the only beach we explored that day. There is a restaurant there by the same name which serves delicious food, even though I didn’t appreciate how orange and salty my steamed fish was. That made it obvious they used some kind of stock or powdered seasonings to prepare my fish. I wouldn’t get their steamed fish again, or perhaps I’d ask them to prepare my fish without that orange stuff (I forgot to take a picture).
Great Pedro Bay is the most easterly of the settlements and beaches that make up Treasure Beach. Next up is Calabash Bay. This is the smallest beach of the lot and measures 600m long. The third beach you’ll encounter if you’re travelling from east to west is Frenchman’s Bay (pictured above). Old Wharf is walking distance from Calabash Bay, and is the most private beach of these four beaches. Hopefully I get to explore more of these beaches on a next visit to the community. In addition to exploring the remaining three beaches, I’d also love to dine at Eggy’s, 77 West, Jack Sprat and Jake’s. These places are household names in Treasure Beach. Perhaps I’ll give this post an update at that time, or write a part two article. I previously dined at Lashing’s in October 2020 and found the food very bland and disappointing, but I hope they were having an off-day. Perhaps I’d give their restaurant another try or at least I’d return for happy hour cocktails at sunset. Those seem to be a hit and the sunset from their hotel is one of the finest I’ve ever seen.
Well folks, that’s it! I hope you’ve appreciated the charm of Treasure Beach. What’s your favourite part of the community? Have you been before or would you like to visit? Let me know in the comments. 🙂
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‘Til next time.
** February 21, 2021 Update: Loved Treasure Beach so much that I revisited with my family 3 weeks after my first visit! This time I went to Jack Sprat and realized they have the better swimming portion of Frenchman’s Bay + a lifeguard on duty every day from 10am till 6pm. He was such a sweetheart, and we spent like half hour talking. The food was great too, and they apologized for the mixup they made with my order. So, here are some additional photos. Enjoy!