I will provide some background: I haven't been to Jamaica in 3 years. Teenage kids with busy schedules and needs have kept me home a bit longer than I normally go without a visit to my favorite recharge-rest destination. But an old friend I've traveled to Jamaica with before really wanted to go, and wanted me to go, and decided she was going to make it happen, and she did. We wound up with a group of seven people eager to experience Jamaica again, or in the case of two, for the first time. I was put in charge of research and arrangements.
The Treasure Beach Experience
For this group, who had been to Negril before several times with a band we all follow and are friends with, I suggested renting a villa in Treasure Beach. I am not a big fan of Negril as you know if you've read my blog before. I go when that band goes, enjoy them and friends, then go off on my own into the rest of Jamaica.
I've been to Treasure Beach, the first time ten years ago and 3-4 times since then. I have always loved the peacefulness and friendliness of the area. I love how easy it is to walk around and not be hassled or have to dodge fast cars. I love the fact that Treasure Beach has consciously and intentionally chosen to embrace community tourism, the type where development is light, easy on the environment and beneficial to the community. A sort of tourism where visitors are not placed behind gates, their lodging-food-entertainment budgets controlled by one or two very large corporations. Treasure Beach is a place where one's villa/guesthouse/hotel meals are sourced locally (TB is in the most productive agricultural parish in Jamaica - St. Elizabeth), visitors go to local restaurants and bars and churches, souvenirs are purchased in town, fishermen take folks out on boat rides and sell their catch on the beach in the afternoon.
The University of the West Indies explains: "Community Tourism is about new levels of relationships between the host country and the visitor. What is appealing to the visitor is found among the varied natural attractions, local resources and talents, and indigenous attributes of a community or area. Through visitor-community interaction, respective cultures are explored, ideas and information are exchanged, and new friends are made."
Here is Jamaica with Treasure Beach indicated on the lower left:
Treasure Beach is the name given to a series of bays, or communities, and reaches from Fort Charles on the west to Great (Pedro) Bay on the east.
Treasure Beach has beaches, cliffs, farm fields, reefs, mountains...something for everyone. Some, perhaps, will be turned off by the fact that the beach sand here tends to be brown rather than white, or that there are no large or all-inclusive resorts here (the former may be at least partly responsible for the latter). But to me, the area is beautiful, the water many shades of blue, the roads quiet, the people welcoming, the coves wonderful for swimming, the vibe is just COOL. It is unique in Jamaica and it has always been one of my favorite areas for that reason.
(At this beach there was no litter, or vending, or loud music, ever.)
The Mar Blue ExperienceI suggested a stay at Mar Blue villa for this group. I have stayed at Mar Blue before, twice before in fact, and it is an incredible place. Luxurious but unpretentious, comfortable and spacious, thoughtfully designed and built by the owners who split their time between the US and Treasure Beach. In the off-season, or perhaps anytime, it is possible to rent the verandah suites building as a private villa. Our group of 7 took 5 bedroom suites and there were two more that we did not use.
We were very well taken care of by the professional staff: Rhema, Pierce, Dahlia, Gloria and Natty. We were served breakfast and dinner each day at our outdoor dining table. We enjoyed breakfasts of ackee and saltfish, eggs, toast, many kinds of fresh fruit, mackerel rundown, callaloo omelets, fresh coffee. Our dinners included curry shrimp, jerk chicken, garlic lobster and shrimp, grilled lobster, curry chicken and always root vegetables like yam and Irish potato and dasheen, with veggies like callaloo and salad and cabbage and carrots and such. We all enjoyed every meal immensely.
We also had rum, red stripe, Ting, lots of juice, snacks, coffee. We sent money down for the first few day's shopping and then our chef took a small group of us to the market with her to finish. The grocery bill with drinks and all was about $160 per person for the week. We ate dinner out once.
Here is Mar Blue as seen from the beach. We stayed in the building on the left.
Here is our swimming pool, as seen from my verandah.
Our yard and beach (photo below courtesy of my friend Smitty).
I'll continue on with our local wanderings in another post.