I want to describe Treasure Beach, Jamaica in a way that you can see it with your mind's eye. Not easy, since the place is not just another spot on the map - it's a way of life, a community, and a unique spirit. Photos and words can do so much and no more.
In theory, Treasure Beach is merely a string of fishing villages on the southernmost coast of St. Elizabeth - Great Bay, Calabash Bay, Frenchman's Bay, Billy's Bay and Fort Charles.
But in essence, it's a community of down to earth, rural Jamaicans, who have opened their lives to welcome visitors wanting a simple, meaningful vacation experience. It's an escape from the bustle and stress of a frantic world.
It's a coastline with character.
Very different from the every-grain-in-its-place beaches of the north coast. These beaches are earthy, rugged, with glistening dark sands and white caps often visible from the shoreline.
The proximity of these five bays to each other gives you choices. Like relaxing in the calm, warm waters of Calabash Bay, or body surfing at Frenchman when the waves get wild.
Kids can play around in the shallows, searching for fish in the rock pools. Look for shells, or the odd piece of sea glass (opens a new window).
If you're craving space to yourself,you can often find a spot where you're the only person on the beach.
Fishing boats live in these bays, but they're not at all choosy - they're quite willing to double as tour boats if needed! Be sure to ask a local about swimming conditions, as there are strong undercurrents in some spots.
The places to stay are many and varied. Spacious villas rub shoulders with modest guesthouses, small hotels, budget rooms. There are romantic cottages where you can shower with the sky as your ceiling.
There are also some good places to eat. No black tie needed. Just great food in relaxing, scenic settings. A favourite of my family is Jack Sprat. Scrumptious sea food and thin crust pizza done to order. You can eat outside under a lignum vitae tree (Jamaica's national tree, known locally as a "gum tree") and have the seashore in full view.
The people of the area have their own distinct look, speech, and way of being.
Unusual for Jamaica, a high proportion are light skinned, some having light hair and eyes. A number of explanations have been offered for this, including some pretty tall tales (ask the locals when you get there!).
It is likely that the racial mix is due to Scottish people who settled in the area as a result of a failed expedition in the late 17th century, Misquito Indians brought from the Central American coast in the 18th century to help capture the Maroons, and German settlers who came to southern St. Elizabeth in the 19th century.
While it may be lost on tourists, the people from the area have a special way of speaking. Their speech has a very song-like quality, and some of the phrases and pronunciations used are unique to the area. It's lovely to listen to.
There is a spirit of generosity, frankness and community pride that make the people of Treasure Beach admired in the rest of St. Elizabeth, and Jamaica. When you visit, be sure to spend some time getting to know the folks in the community.
Treasure Beach is about 35 minutes drive from Black River, and a little over 2 hours away from Montego Bay.
Is there treasure? Depends on what you want to find.
Click here to check out 2 Seasons Guesthouse in Billy's Bay, Treasure Beach.