For the second part of our trip to Jamaica, my wife and I decided to rent a car to see some of the local sights. As I mentioned before, I had a hard time feeling like I was in a different country at our all-inclusive resort, so I was glad for the change of scenery.
We chose to visit Treasure Beach, an area on the southwest part of the island. We picked this location based on positive online reviews of the food and beaches. Some of you may know that good food is reason enough for me to travel anywhere. We also wanted to visit the Appleton Rum distillery, which was on the way from Montego Bay.
When we picked up the rental car, we were forewarned about the number potholes on Jamaican roads. And to drive the point home, our car literally had rims zip-tied to the tires so they did not fall off. I personally feel pretty comfortable driving on difficult terrain, but even then I would say our journey was challenging. The combination of narrow and steep roads, fast drivers, random pedestrians, and potholes every two minutes made my wife very nervous.
If you are considering going to Treasure Beach, I would recommend hiring a driver or taking a tour bus instead.
Treasure Beach, YS Falls
Interview with Najwah, a Jamaican Podiatry Resident
Sugar Cane Magic
I am more of a scotch person, and prior to our trip I did not know very much about rum. As such, I found the Appleton Estate experience was very informational. Of course this is complete ignorance on my part, but I did not know that rum was made from sugar cane.
On the tour, we walked through each of the production steps with welcome cocktail in-hand, and saw the stills in which all the Appleton rum in the world is made. Pretty cool! There was also a rum tasting at the end, where we tried three different samples. After the tour, my wife and I ate at the on-site restaurant which had pretty good jerk chicken.
Overall, I had a good time at Appleton and would encourage others to visit as well. However, there were some negatives. I thought $30 per person was a little on the steep side, especially since food was not included. In the same vein, the prices at the gift store were also very high. I checked the price of the Appleton 12 year Rare Blend and found that I could get the same bottle for less back in the US. We actually found the prices in the airport to be the cheapest, so if interested you should purchase your liquor there.
After the Appleton Estate, we drove to Treasure Beach and the local Airbnb which we rented. The hut was mostly hand-built by host Andrew himself, and Andrew was very helpful during our stay. He lives on property, answered all our questions, and is currently building another Airbnb property right next door to the hut we stayed in. The Airbnb was a two minute walk from the beach, and a short walk from many restaurants, so it could not have been easier in terms of location. We felt very safe walking around, even at night.
While at Treasure Beach, we ate at Eggy’s Bar, Smurfs Cafe, and Pardy’s. We also drove to Lover’s Leap and the famous Little Ochie one evening, which was about an hour away. If you plan to drive to Little Ochie, I would suggest going for lunch instead of dinner. Driving back in the dark was a little terrifying.
All in all the food we tried was decent, but sadly nothing was great. I was looking forward to the seafood at Little Ochie since they called themselves the seafood experts. But I was not expecting to pick entrees from a selection of frozen products in a freezer. Maybe my expectations were too high, especially considering I grew up going to places where I could select a live lobster, fish, or crab for dinner.
One other thing to note is that all the restaurants functioned on “island time”. Admittedly, this was difficult for me to get used to. At Smurfs Cafe, for instance, it was an hour before our breakfast was served. Count this as fair warning if you are someone who gets hangry!
My favorite part of Treasure Beach was the beach itself. We spent one whole day lounging on the beach, with almost no one around. Reading my book with just the sounds of the ocean and seagulls in the background was pure bliss. As I look back on the whole trip, this was the one time I felt fully relaxed.
Of note, most of the establishments in Treasure Beach seemed to be run by locals. There were some hotels owned by Europeans, but the tagline for the town is “community-based tourism”. This was a nice change from the large corporate landscape of Montego Bay.
Finally, in case you were wondering, yes it is rather easy to obtain ganja from the locals. Whenever I was approached about purchasing craft goods, I was also asked whether I wanted some ganja. Sorry, I did not ask about the going rate, so I have nothing to report back on that front.
After two days in Treasure Beach, we headed back to Montego Bay and stopped by YS Falls along the way. While most people visit Dunn’s River Falls, I had read that it was a tourist-filled spot, so we elected for YS Falls instead. Plus, you can jump off rope swings and cliffs at YS Falls, which I definitely wanted to do.
The entrance fee to get into YS Falls was $15 per person. Once we were at the falls, there were lifeguards/tour guides who showed us how to navigate around the area. He also took lots photos for us. The tour lasted about 30 minutes, and we tipped our tour guide $30. Honestly we were unclear about the tipping protocol, but it was clear that the guides expected something in return for their time. We spent about 20 minutes more in a shallow bathing area at the conclusion of our tour and ate at the on-site restaurant prior to driving back to the Hyatt.
YS Falls was a refreshing experience, and well worth the trip. If you want to go, I would suggest going in the morning. As we were leaving, we saw a number of packed tour buses pull up. Personally, I was glad to avoid large crowds.
If you have a chance to go to the Appleton Estate, Treasure Beach and YS Falls, I would highly recommend doing so. You might not want to drive, but I found benefit to catching a glimpse into local life and more authentic cuisine. While I was not too impressed with the food, I am glad I tried different dishes.
The peace and quiet on the beach was my favorite part of our Jamaican adventure, and it is hard to put words to the feeling of being completely disconnected. I wish I had more days like that in my life.