Treasure Beach, Jamaica: life beyond Jakes
Treasure Beach first appeared on the Jamaican tourist map almost 25 years ago, with the opening of a hotel called Jakes. The then obscure fishing village on the island’s south-east coast quickly acquired a following among travelers drawn to adjectives like “barefoot”, “boho”, and “off-the-beaten-track”, and the rare blend of boutique chic and authentic Jamaica found at the hotel.
There was little else for tourists in the village, though, save a handful of very basic guesthouses. The perennial worry with all hidden gems is that they will become victims of their own success, ruined by popularity, and since then Treasure Beach has grown almost beyond recognition – but not, happily, into a new Negril, Jamaica’s brash party beach resort. The village does now have a cashpoint, a luxury spa and reliable wifi, but there any similarities with Negril end.
It has become, instead, a destination for sports tourists, thanks to the development of a sports park open to everyone from local kids to international sports stars. Venus and Serena Williams have taught tennis on the courts, Lennox Lewis made a guest appearance at the open-air boxing camp in July, and in August 50 basketball coaches flew in from the U.S. for a week to coach youngsters from the community.
The Treasure Beach Pirates cricket team have hosted the Westminster Lords and Commons Cricket Club, and five-a-side football on Saturday nights draws a big crowd, not least due to the commentator who doubles as a DJ, blasting out dancehall between games, and the surreal talent contest staged on the pitch afterwards. Typical contestants include a man who can balance a bicycle on his head and a middle-aged belly rolling expert.
Overlooking the park are the Lashings Villas (four and five bedroom villas from $3,500 a week), newly built by the owner of the Lashings All Star international cricket team. The two luxury villas bring an upscale New York designer loft aesthetic to the dusty seaside village – all minimalist concrete and steel, vintage industrial fittings and stripped back wood – with private chefs who rattle guests around the neighborhood in an open-top jeep and take them partying, as well as serve lobster and cocktails on the poolside terraces overlooking the pavilion. Anyone previously put off by the traditionally rather hit and miss rustic luxury of the village’s other villas can rest assured of finding Sky Sports on flatscreen TVs at Lashings.
But you do not need deep pockets to enjoy Treasure Beach. Its latest addition opened for business last month, offering one-bedroom cottages for under £100 a night. 77 West (rooms from $115 U.S. a night) looks like a little bit of Mykonos has landed in the Caribbean. The simple, whitewashed clifftop cottages are perched beside a timber sun deck and pool, above a private beach accessed by a flight of steps leading down to azure waters framed by reef. Absurdly romantic, 77 West lies just outside the village and offers couples privacy along with the most breathtakingly panoramic views on the south coast.
Back in the heart of the village is Frenchman’s Reef, a bar and restaurant right on the beach which opened a few years ago and offers a wide range of Jamaican and international dishes for as little as U.S. $5, and smoothies and cocktails along with the ubiquitous rum and Red Stripe.
Like Jakes hotel’s sister restaurant Jack Sprat, it offers a delivery service for those too lazy to get out of their hammocks and down to the beach. Jack Sprat’s oven-fired pizzas draw diners from across the south of Jamaica, and on Thursday nights a chilled crowd gather for the weekly open-air movie night.
The courtyard of Jakes Hotel in Jamaica