If a beachside cottage perched atop a cliff or within feet of the Caribbean Sea is your idea of a vacation, then a stay at Jakes Hotel in Treasure Beach, Jamaica may be what you are looking for.
We selected Jakes Hotel because Treasure Beach has been on my watchlist since I learned it hosts the Calabash International Literary Festival and because the town is known for “community-based tourism.” We also wanted standalone accommodations that offered space and privacy for our family and a full kitchen.
After mulling our options, we decided to book one of their cottages–our choices were Sweet Lip or Snapper.
It’s been called a “hip bohemian hotspot” and Cosmopolitan once awarded it “The Most Instagrammable Hotel.” It was also recently named among the top family vacation spots by Condé Nast Traveler and one of the best boutique hotels in the Caribbean by The Daily Telegraph.
Jakes Hotel is a family-run collection of bungalows, cottages, villas, and hotel rooms. Expect one-of-a-kind designs that combine Moroccan and Indian aesthetics with the curve of adobe buildings and throw in a bit of whimsy such as colorful bottles built into walls.
With accommodations with names like Octopussy, Seapuss, Sweet Lip, and Sea Dragon, you know this is no ordinary place.
Jakes Hotel is a Jamaican-owned property entrenched in a laid-back community where locals and guests can interact freely either at Jack Sprat, one of two onsite restaurants, or on any of the nearby beaches. There’s also the opportunity to catch a taxi to the town of Black River and, of course, there’s the pull of YS Falls and the other nearby attractions.
Treasure Cot, the first cottage, is the spot where Alex Haley wrote much of Roots. The property is where the crime drama The Harder They Come was shot and for years it has been the site of the Calabash International Literary Festival.
That’s how I came to learn about Jakes. I read about a wonderful bi-annual literary festival that featured the likes of some of my favorite authors such as Zadie Smith, Wole Soyinka, and Edwidge Danticat and I knew I had to go to the festival.
With no festival in 2020, I was still determined to make it to Treasure Beach.
Getting to Jakes
Be sure to add about two hours to your travel time if you landed in Montego Bay. You’ll wind through the towns of Anchovy, Bluefields, Whitehouse, and Black River. You will know you are getting close once you see the “Welcome to Treasure Beach—Home of Community Tourism” sign.
You will arrive at an unassuming gate but once you enter, you will be greeted by friendly staff, lulled by the laid-back feel of the place, and immediately coaxed into relax mode by the sounds of the sea.
Sweet Lip is one of several cottages at Jakes Hotel. It is a two-bedroom standalone cottage just feet away from the Caribbean Sea.
Described as having “an Art Deco vibe with antique tiled floors,” this charming seaside retreat was our home for nine glorious, sea-swept days.
For those considering Sweet Lip, you should know that it is next to the center of the property, pool, and outdoor dining area. Snapper is a bit more secluded and seemed even closer to the Caribbean Sea.
Jack Sprat is a beachside restaurant at Jakes but it is also a community hotspot. Expect to meet and mingle with other Jakes guests and locals. Sway to ska and reggae as you dine on jerk crab, jerk chicken, burgers, wings, or pizza and cool off with a local beer or any of the delicious cocktails or mixed drinks.
Book An Experience
We booked a boat ride to the Black River wetlands and popular Floyd’s Pelican Bar. I recommend taking the time to experience Jamaica’s largest navigable river and largest wetlands. And, of course, a bar built on a sandbar a half-mile in the Caribbean Sea is a must-see.
There are a host of other off- and on-property activities such as snorkeling, farm tours, a trip to Lovers Leap or YS Falls, voluntourism opportunities, and many others to choose from.
Jakes also offers daily yoga sessions and customizable yoga retreats. There’s also Driftwood Spa with a divine menu of spa treatments, massage therapies, body treatments, body scrubs, steam baths and more.
Ringing in the New Year
Hands down our stay at Jakes made December 31, 2020 the best New Year’s Eve ever.
The hotel hosted an onsite party complete with a deejay who played reggae, dancehall and soca hits. We were able to join the fun right from our cottage since we were only feet away.
We danced barefoot in the grass for over an hour as numerous floating lanterns were sent over the dark sea.
At exactly 11:59 EST, we counted down the end of 2020–a most interesting year.
I cried tears of relief and joy as we bid adieu to a year of collective anxiety and fear. January 1 felt different and my feeling of hope for what is to come was made partially possible because our family welcomed the new year in a lovely “home away from home” just feet from the Caribbean Sea.
And the Best Part Is
It is not easy to pin down exactly what was the best part of our stay at Jakes Hotel.
For some of us it was the awesome sight and sounds of undulating waves as they crashed into the cliff below. For others, it was the ability to explore and patronize local restaurants and shops. For me, it was the combination of these things and more
There are many hotels with a “laid back feel” and many others that are seaside. Jakes Hotel offers both of these but, to me, the experience is enhanced by a feeling of openness. There is a sense of openness of the lovely staff who are always willing to help, the ability to dine and enjoy a beach with local Jamaicans, and both the vastness and coziness of a property that is dotted with unique cottages and bungalows.
We learned there are many repeat visitors and we will join their ranks.