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(2022 - Winter/Spring Issue)


Rooted in the rural landscape of Jamaica’s south coast is a sleepy fishing enclave that feeds the world’s body and soul from the boho chic Jakes Hotel.

With cottages, villas and restaurants scattered around Treasure Beach like hidden jewels, the hotel complex has reaped international acclaim from the likes of Condé Nast Traveller, USA Today, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and The Guardian. A quirky sanctuary sporting theatrical decor by owner Sally Henzell, Jakes Hotel sparkles with local riches—everything from wall mosaics fashioned from empty wine bottles, shells and broken china to hand-carved wooden furniture and art.

Even though the community attracts thousands of visitors to events such as the longest-running off-road triathlon in the world and a massive literary festival featuring past luminaries such as Salman Rushdie, residents are committed to protecting and preserving its bucolic character. And they are pleased to give visitors authentic, homegrown experiences.

Channelling Spirituality and Nature

Their dedication came through clearly in my encounters with everyone from gurus and resort staff to fishermen and farmers. Jakes Hotel’s resident health and wellness coach, Dr. Empress Thandi Wise, demonstrated how yoga helps healing and led us in meditation while her musician husband, Stephen, played the didgeridoo. She also taught us the benefits of juicing local produce such as callaloo, fruits, herbs and coconut.

In addition to yoga and meditation, the on-site Driftwood Spa offers massages and herbal wraps in open-air treatment rooms at the water’s edge. I surrendered to the fragrant Irish sea moss and aloe wrap. By contrast, 65-year-old Rasta herbalist Shirley Genus dishes out tribal steam baths, deep-tissue rubs and liberal doses of mysticism from her fieldstone-and-stucco studio in the wild.

I started every morning at the elegant eco-friendly Seaweed Villa with freshly brewed Blue Mountain coffee and assorted fruits. After dipping into the oceanfront pool, I’d stroll over to the funky outdoor restaurant to check the chalkboard for the breakfast menu. Made-to-order items included callaloo omelettes, banana porridge, bammie and watermelon juice. And at a cooking lesson by chef Kern, we learned how to stir-fry a traditional Jamaican ackee-and-saltfish breakfast.

Our carefully crafted meals at the hotel varied with the seasonal homegrown ingredients. One casual beachfront lunch at Jack Sprat featured just-caught grilled snapper, and pizza with toppings such as pepperoni, lobster or jerk chicken. One night we drove to the scenic mountaintop known as Lovers’ Leap for a local dining experience that had jaw-dropping views as we sipped on Appleton rum cocktails and dined on garlic shrimp, codfish fritters and oxtail stew. All was washed down, of course, with the Jamaican iconic lager, Red Stripe.

Hotel chairman Jason Henzell points out that 80 per cent of Jamaica’s produce is grown in the local parish of St. Elizabeth. He says, “Buying regionally means we get the freshest and healthiest ingredients while contributing to our economy.”

Rocking Community Tourism

A passionate social activist, Henzell is a mover and shaker behind the “community tourism” crusade that is proving to be a model for the rest of Jamaica. This means investing in local regions to keep citizens employed and engaged. He adds, “When people feel well-supported by those who can make a difference, they’re eager to share their goodwill with neighbours and visitors alike.”

Today, while Treasure Beach has many facets, much of it remains an uncut diamond. If Henzell’s vision for the area unfolds as it should, the number of stylish villas will rise, while delightful B&Bs and charming homestays—even farmstays—will emerge. Produce will be more plentiful and culinary offerings more imaginative. Arts, crafts and bespoke fashion in both attire and interior design will beckon. And down the road, Henzell’s beloved realm could morph into the crown jewel of the south coast.

Insider Tip

Once a month, Jakes hosts a Farm to Table dinner under the full moon.

Travel Planner

The closest airport to Treasure Beach is Montego Bay (“Mobay”)—a 2½-hour drive. Several airlines fly direct from Toronto, Montreal and Hamilton. Ground transportation is available through tour operators such as Paradise Travels. For more information, check out jakeshotel.com and visitjamaica.com.

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