If you’re looking for an island escape where you can truly get away from it all, look no further than Jamaica’s sleepy, undeveloped southwest coast. Here, miles away from the nearest all-inclusive, lies a quiet gem of a fishing village called Treasure Beach. This under-the-radar strip of sand is a winding 2 1/2 hour drive from Montego Bay, a 4-hour drive from Ocho Rios, or a 3-hour drive from Kingston – and well worth the effort. Along the way you’ll even be privy to a glimpse of Jamaica most people don’t see – the island’s rural, inland countryside. (Literally: be prepared for goat crossings!)
Expect a mellow, friendly, and above all authentic vibe at this off-the-beaten-path destination dotted with eclectic boutique accommodations, casual resto’s serving up local fare, plenty of deserted coves to catch a stunning sunset (or sunrise), and even a bar perched on stilts one mile into the ocean. Here, our top picks for your perfect Treasure Beach getaway, where nothing but bare feet and serious R&R await.
A few snaps from the drive over from Ocho Rios. We weren’t kidding about the goats.
BUT FIRST: GETTING AROUND
Most of the action in Treasure Beach is conveniently situated around Frenchman’s Bay – and I say that lightly, because the whole point of going to TB is to get away from the action! Stay in this central area and you’ll be able to walk anywhere in 10-20 minutes.
You don’t need a car to enjoy Treasure Beach itself, but if you’re interested in taking day trips to such places as Black River, YS Falls, or Appleton Estate, a car will prove useful – or you can easily arrange local taxis through your hotel/accommodation as well.
If you must jump online to check email, IG, or otherwise, you’ll be happy to know we didn’t have any trouble finding wi-fi hot spots through TB’s many boutique hotels, bars and restaurants. 😉
Golden-brown sand and rocky coastline at Frenchman’s Bay.
Hit the beach. A mix of golden-brown sand and rocky shores make up the six-mile beach that hugs four quiet coves: Billy’s Bay, Frenchman’s Bay, Calabash Bay and Great Pedro Bay. Whether walking, swimming, sunning or sunsetting, these coves are often near-deserted – so don’t be surprised if you have an entire stretch of sand all to yourself.
Take a bike tour. Rent bikes from Jake’s and cycle to Lover’s Leap (where it’s said two slaves tragically jumped to their death rather than be separated), take an all-day trek to Black River or embark on a Farm Tour where you can meet local farmers and even taste what’s in-season.
Treat yo’self. Enjoy a seaside massage, body scrub, mani/pedi, herbal steam bath and more at Driftwood Spa at Jake’s, utilizing fresh ingredients from the property’s gardens.
Take a day trip. From Treasure Beach you can easily arrange excursions to Black River for a Safari Cruise (alligators abound!), YS Falls, Appleton Estate (rum = yum) or High Mountain Coffee Factory. All mentioned activities are around 1 hour’s drive from TB, and you can easily hit a few of these in 1 day.
Twinkle lights at the entrance to Jack Sprat’s.
Smurf’s – get the ultimate local experience at Smurf’s, an unassuming spot a few minute’s walk inland from the beach where locals and tourists alike gather to enjoy Miss Dawn’s fresh-roasted coffee, breakfast and fruit shakes.
Jack Sprat’s – jerk chicken pizza, freshly grilled seafood, an ice cream counter and breezy, waterfront seating all make this neighborhood hot spot your go-to for a chill evening. Plus, a rum bar, reggae music and plenty of Red Stripe. They deliver too!
Mellow Yellow – Italian cuisine is the specialty at, as the name suggests, this low-key spot right in the middle of the Treasure Beach strip. Tip: you can order drinks here but you can also BYOB from the shop next door.
Frenchman’s Reef – fresh seafood and local Jamaican fare take center stage at this casual 2-story eatery, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Go during sunset on the weekends and you may luck out with live music too.
Gee Wiz Vegetarian Restaurant – Caribbean-fare including smoothies, salads, soups, veggies and fish are on the menu at this affordable, friendly and casual café serving lunch and dinner.
Pelican Bar. Need we say more?
Floyd’s Pelican Bar – no trip to Jamaica’s southwest coast is complete without a visit to Pelican Bar. Located on a sandbar almost a full mile into the ocean, this hand-built driftwood hut easily lays claim as the world’s coolest, most unique, and most unforgettable beach bar. Getting there is half the fun, requiring a 20-ish minute boat ride each way from Treasure Beach (about $40.00 round trip). Arrange with your hotel/accomodation or you can do what we did – just walk down to the beach at Frenchman’s Bay and ask around. Everyone knows Pelican Bar and it won’t take long to find a captain to take you! Not for the faint of hearts however, be forewarned: these are small fishing boats that go fast (in oftentimes choppy waters due to wind) so get ready to hang on! And stay alert – if you’re lucky, you may even spot a school of dolphins swimming right by you on your way over.
Once at the bar, you can sip Red Stripe beer or rum punch, dig into freshly grilled lobster or fish (you’ll need to order with your boat captain ahead of time), join the locals in a game of dominoes, or take a dip in the surrounding shallow waters. Tip: it’s cash only and there’s no plumbing, so be prepared to share the bathroom with the rest of the fish swimming by. Find an excellent guide with more tips on visiting Pelican Bar here.
Frenchman’s Reef (Beach Bar) – a separate structure from Frenchman’s Reef restaurant, this open-air hangout is your perfect front-row seat to catch a beautiful sunset (and even a game, you’ll find screens here) on Frenchman’s Bay.
Eggy’s – located just steps down the beach from Frenchman’s Reef, this colorful beach shack is your go-to for cold beer, fresh seafood, chatting with locals and of course, stellar ocean views.
Dougie’s Bar – part of Jake’s Hotel, head over to Dougie’s in the morning, afternoon or evening for everything from smoothies, beer and mixed drinks to card games and backgammon, all while chatting with fellow boho travelers. With views of Jake’s pool and the Caribbean sea beyond, this is yet another perfect place to catch a memorable Treasure Beach sunset.
Treehouse life at Moringa Ingadi.
Choose from quirky hotel rooms, oceanfront bungalows, 2 & 3-bedroom cottages or expansive villas at Jake’s, the original Treasure Beach accommodation that quite literally kicked off the craze for rustic-Caribbean cool on Jamaica’s southwest coast.
Katamah Guesthouse offers a beachfront collection of Moroccan-inspired suites, cabins and cottages perched right on Frenchman’s Bay. The ultimate in bohemian-chic, this spot is conveniently situated a stone’s throw from pretty much all of the action in Treasure Beach. (Although again, I use the word action lightly!)
Alberto & I stayed at Moringa Ingadi in the spacious Moonflower Treehouse (I know, so hippie of us!), a small boutique property hand-built by the incredibly lovely and friendly proprietors, Skip and Jayne. They will go out of their way to make you feel at home, and are at your disposal for anything you may need – airport transfers, day trips, local recommendations, etc. This property is not on the beach, rather up a small hill with beautiful 360-degree views of the mountains and countryside. It will take you just 2 minutes to walk to Smurf’s and 5-10 minutes to walk to the beach. Plus, free wi-fi that works!
*All photos in this post by yours truly, @travelinglamas