The all-inclusive mega hotel has never been up my street neither has staying in a hotel where the guests are fenced inside a private beach. So, when I decided to take visit Jamaica with kids, I opted for the road less travelled. We wanted to see the Jamaican countryside, eat local grub and stay somewhere cosy and quiet.
This is when I discovered Treasure Beach, Jamaica.
Treasure Beach is located on the island’s south-east coast and is hailed as the home of “community tourism”. Treasure Beach offers six miles of sandy beaches and rocky shores peppered with colourful fishing villages.
This part of the Island is where travellers come to relax, eat local Jamaican food, practice yoga, explore nature, mingle with the locals and get a dose of Jamaican culture.
Guest post and photos: Philippa Langrish. Updated for 2021
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate and commercial links. For more information see our disclosure policy.
Jamaica’s Treasure Beach
There are no big hotels on Jamaica’s Treasure Beach (there is a two-storey build limit), just a smattering of guest houses, AirBnBs and a few low-key boutique hotels.
The south coast doesn’t boast the fine sandy beaches of the north, but what Treasure Beach lacks in virgin sands, it makes up for with a community vibe and a celebration of all tings local.
“And that’s how we want to keep it”, said one local guy when I quizzed him on the island’s geography. “This is how Negril used to be like before it exploded with tourism. There are building restrictions in Treasure Beach and we like that”, he added.
Jakes, Treasure Beach
I first became aware Treasure Beach when my Jamaican cousin bought my children the book Shaggy Parrot rescues Mama Edda leatherback sea turtle. It’s a local publication that teaches kids not to throw plastic in the ocean. The characters are all native creatures and they sing in a reggae band. There is even a C.D of the songs.
Therefore, I was delighted to find an awesome little hotel where we could stay and experience the community that this children’s book had brought to life for us.
The place I found was Jakes Hotel, the hotel that first made Treasure Beach famous.
Located on the beach with a yoga deck, pool and pretty gardens Jakes was recently crowned one of the top 14 best family hotels in the world by Conde Nast. You can check reviews here on TripAdvisor and current rates here on Booking.com.
Jakes made for a great chilled getaway with my two children. The hotel is made up of several colourful villas and a small hotel with individual rooms. Breakfast is served every morning with a view of the ocean. The beach is accessible from a deck where the kids can jump into the shallow waters.
Things to do in Treasure Beach
Despite being a sleepy town, Treasure Beach and the surrounding area has tons of local natural attractions, from deserted beaches to magnificent waterfalls, crocodile safaris and the annual Calabash Literary Festival.
One of my favourite things about this corner of the country is the charm it has retained through history. There are stories of pirate’s bounty and forbidden love.
One of the better-known tales is set at Lovers Leap, a lighthouse on a perilous cliff edge. The story tells of two slave lovers from the 18th century, named Mizzy and Tunkey.
Legend has it that their master “Chardley” took a fancy to the girl and thus arranged for her lover to be sold. The pair fled to avoid being parted, but were eventually chased to the edge of a large steep cliff. Rather than face being caught and separated, the lovers chose to end their lives by jumping together.
We took a couple of tours from Jakes with a local driver to discover some Treasure Beach attractions. One of our favourite trips was a visit to the incredible Y.S Falls.
Located about 40mins from Jakes Resort, the falls are crystal clear (so long as it doesn’t rain) and never ending cascades are peppered with rope swings and cabanas. We saw several hummingbirds while we were here, which delighted my daughter. I am so happy we made this venture and were treated to a taste of raw Jamaican natural beauty.
Top tip: bring sea shoes and towels. Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and to profit from the best weather.
Black River & Pelican Bar
We also took a day boat trip and visited the Black River and Pelican Bar, a bar in the middle of the ocean resting on a sand bar.
There were only five of us on the small boat that whizzed across the turquoise ocean towards the Black River, stopping to marvel at the crocs in the natural habitat.
However, the highlight for the children was when we spotted a pod of dolphins who leaped around our boat, including a baby and mother.
Deep within Black River, the boatman took us to Sister Lou’s crab shack, where three ladies worked dexterously stuffing fresh crabs. We were lucky to be the only ones there, so had first pick of the crab.
On route home the Pelican Bar was bustling with people eating fried fish off the bone, drinking Red Stripe and carb loading on rice and peas.
There are some wonderful beaches to explore along Treasure Beach. Some of the most popular include:
- Jakes Beach: Right in front to Jakes’ Hotel
- Frenchman’s Beach: At the far end of Jack Sprat beach is Frenchman’s beach, which stretches for half-a-mile down the coastline.
- Calabash Bay: This side beach is great for swimming when the waters are calm.
- Great Bay: Popular with open-water swimmers is this wide, sandy crescent of a beach.
Where to eat on Treasure Beach
During our stay on Treasure Beach we ate at either Jakes’ restaurant or popped next door for a more casual fix of pizza and jerk chicken at Jack Sprat, which is also part of Jakes’ Hotel.
There are a handful of little open air coffee shops along the main street of Treasure Beach, hugging the ocean, which serve breakfast and coffee. Another dining option is Lovers Leap, which is about 30mins away.
Where to stay on Treasure Beach
We loved staying at Jakes, but there are also many guest houses, AirBnBs and a couple of other hotels including Sunset Resort and Villas. For ideas on where to stay at Treasure Beach, take a look at Booking.com.
The best time to visit Jamaica
The best time to visit Jamaica is November to mid-December. That’s when the island’s weather (ranging from mid-70s to the high 80s all year-round) is most gorgeous.