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Eggy’s hair is twisted up into an army-print Rasta cap. His bright-pink T-shirt matches his restaurant’s exterior and that of Jamaica’s national flower, hibiscus. The tropical pink is everywhere. It glows in the powerful afternoon sun as Eggy picks up bottles of punch and begins to mix them into heady cups of spiced rum. His hut sits against a backdrop of rugged, south-coast beach, lined with palm trees swaying in a light sea breeze. Rumour has it, Eggy poured many a star-studded cocktail for the fashion models who visited this secluded part of Jamaica back in the early 90s.
Heading out to sea there are discreet flotillas of fishing boats, most filled with local fishermen, a few with the small number of holidaymakers who have found their way here. The boats drift in and out of the bay, the daily tempo fixed by the ocean waves. This part of the island is rural, raw and a mecca for the bohemian dreamer. Hammocks are dotted along a string of sleepy fishing villages with their red, gold and green clay houses, playful and proud.
This is Treasure Beach – and it’s the reason behind a renewed excitement in Jamaica’s tourist industry.
Whether you come for the excellent hotels, delicious seafood, jetty bars or bi-annual literary festival, Calabash, this region isn’t transforming the face of Jamaica in the same way as its high-rise, resort-y neighbours, Negril and Ocho Rios – it’s simply building on what is already here. Since 1978, the area has been pioneering community tourism, with a growing number of responsible visitors who now choose destinations which offer a natural experience. This means that the tourists who do make it over to this side of the island really do care about their impact on the area.
Its distinctive, laid-back attitude is encapsulated in the Jamaican saying “soon come”, which literally means “it will come” – whether it’s soon, eventually or just next week. Time is elastic here and it’s worth spending some to fall in love with the authentic Jamaica, off the beaten track, overflowing with character and deep soul.
Here are our five favourite spots to get things started…
This modest beach restaurant offers world-class escovitch (seasoned, super-fresh fish, marinated in a peppery, vinegar dressing along with bell peppers, carrots and onions). If you manage to bag a spot on its raised decking, you’ll have a front-row seat for some stellar sunset views.
The rustic, wooden structure of Pelican Bar is charmingly vulnerable. Built on a sandbank 1km out to sea, getting there is half the fun. Find local fisherman, Captain Ted, and barter your way for the 20-minute, often hair-raising, boat ride. Once there, reward yourself with an ice-cold Red Stripe and join in with games of dominos on the communal tables. It’s at the top of the must-do list.
- +1 876 354 4218
Founded in 1991 by architect, hippie and yoga lover, Sally Henzell, Jake’s boutique hotel has organically evolved into something of an institution. What started as a simple plot of land has become an award-winning Caribbean haven. The colourful villas, bungalows and salt-water pool all have sea views, while guests can enjoy fitness retreats, cooking, art lessons and monthly farm-to-table suppers.
- +1 876 965 3000
- Go to Website
Tucked away down a side street, this simple restaurant is a collage of hanging fairy lights, a small menu drawn up on a chalkboard and plastic outdoorseating. It infuses local flavours with Italian cuisine (think jerk chicken pasta) and does it really, really well. They don’t sell alcohol but – even better – you can BYO from the shop next door.
Smurfs is a bright-blue breakfast shack, just a five-minutes stroll from Jake’s. Whether you’re homesick for bacon, eggs and pancakes or prefer one of Jamaica’s more traditional dishes of ackee and salt fish, you’ll find it here. Place your order at the counter, grab a cup of coffee (served the traditional way) from the self-service coffee urn and make yourself comfortable. Breakfasts are individually cooked so be prepared to wait, but you can pass the time perusing the arts and crafts stall.
- +1 876 504 7814
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