Jakes

Treasure Beach, Jamaica Book from

Reviewed by Cat Martin
Eclectic, shabby-chic cottages and a friendly mellow mood on Jamaica's undeveloped southern coast
Not the most luxurious, but certainly the one of the most charming hotels in Jamaica - and our favourite place to stay on the island. Jake's will break your stride in 3 easy paces as you walk (barefoot) into a different world. It's located at Treasure Beach on the rugged south coast and is very much part of the local fishing community; this is a universe away from West Coast mass-produced tourism. Owned by Sally Henzell (wife of film director Perry Henzell), the hotel was named for the family's pet parrot, and has gradually evolved since they opened Jake's Restaurant in 1991. The simple, colourful buildings dot the garden and seafront, with plenty of room in-between for lounging on cushions with a Red Stripe. There are rooms, cottages and villas of varying sizes, and Jake's bohemian atmosphere appeals to couples and families alike.

We were greeted by a spectacular sunset, which, combined with a remote reggae bass and knockout cocktail from Dougie's Bar, quickly lulled us into an easy submission. By day, the saltwater pool, wonderful treatments in the Driftwood Spa, sun decks, and low-key restaurants will keep you amused, but there's also plenty to see off-site, with many excellent tours run by the local community (fishing, biking, boat rides to the Pelican Bar). The beautiful, undeveloped southern coastline is worth the trip alone, but it won't stay quiet for long...

Highs

  • The colourful cottage buildings are refreshingly devoid of slick modernism, and quirkly decorated with sea-shell mirrors and stain glass windows
  • Peacefully located off the tourist track with an interesting mix of well-travelled guests
  • Wonderful staff, there's a real sense of family about the place
  • Laid-back but with the essential luxuries - lots of space, running warm water, great food, and WiFi if you want it
  • This the real Jamaica, without a high-rise in sight. You really interact with the locals, and their infectious music and happy spirit will lift your soul

Lows

  • It's 2.5 hours from Montego Bay and expensive if you hire a private driver to get here
  • No sandy beach at the hotel, though sandy Jack Sprat’s Beach is a 2-minute walk away, plus there are rip tides in the sea meaning it's best to swim in the pool
  • It’s rustic and some cottages show lots of wear and tear, which is at odds with the price tag
  • Mosquitoes can be a problem - rooms have nets and anti-mozzie candles, but bring DEET repellent
  • Bear in mind that some of the properties are in Old Wharf, which is 10 minutes for Jakes

Best time to go

The annual Literary Festival in May draws an interesting crowd. It is extremely hot during the hurricane season which runs from beginning June to end of November. The cooler months from December to March are still lovely and warm. Most people tend to stay 5 days - 1 week.

Our top tips

Take shoes for walking over the rocks to nearby beaches, and a hat and waterproof camera for the essential boat trip to The Pelican Bar. By night, the unpolluted skies are great for stargazing, so if you've got binoculars, bring them.

Great for...

Family
Spa
Wedding
Beach
Foodie
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Beach Resort
  • 3 villas, 7 cottages + 20 rooms
  • Restaurant and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Media room
  • Communal TV
Room: Hope House

Rooms

The villas, cottages and rooms are all named after sea creatures and designed in a carefree, eccentric style. You get thatched roofs, a garden or sea view, colourful walls, collages of glass bottles and sea-shells, lovely beds with mosquito nets, antique Jamaican furniture, local art and an abundance of striped cotton cushions.

All have fridges and ceiling fans, complimentary toiletries, flickering candles and a CD player with a very hip playlist; most have A/C, some have TVs and DVD players, but none have phones. Bathroooms are a mixture - some showers, some tubs, either indoor or out. Be aware that water is heated by solar panels, so on overcast days it can be tepid.

There are 20 rooms at Jakes. The budget-friendly options are the Standard Ocean View Rooms (Abalone 2, Jellyfish and Starfish) and the Standard Garden View Rooms (Conch and Coral); we'd say the sea view is worth the upgrade. There are also deluxe options: Deluxe Garden View Rooms (Sea Horse 1 and 2, Cowrie 1, 2 and Down), Deluxe Ocean View Rooms (Abalone 1 and 2, Cockles Up and Cockles Down) and Deluxe Oceanfront Rooms (Sea Puss 1, 2 and 3), which give additional perks like hammocks, verandas or four-poster beds. We particularly liked Starfish and the 3 Sea Horse rooms. Romantics will love the Honeymoon Suites: Octopussy 3 (which we stayed in) has a wonderful uninterrupted view of the sea, plus an outdoor bathroom with a shower and tub. Our all-round favourite was Sea Puss 1 (a Deluxe Oceanfront Room), which has an outdoor shower and a lovely terrace tucked out of view.

Groups of friends and families will like the cottages and villas, all of which have self-catering facilities. The Standard Garden View Cottage (Tiki Tiki 1) and the Standard Two Bedroom Cottages (Tiki Tiki 2 and Jack Sprat) are great value, with a double and a twin bedroom, an outdoor shower and a full kitchen. The Deluxe Two Bedroom Cottage (Sweet Lip), is a bit more swish with indoor and outdoor dining, and a large wooden deck. While the Three Bedroom Cottage (Mussels) has the bonus of a rooftop terrace.

There are also several larger villas and cottages located a short walk from the main site, in Old Wharf on the sands of Treasure Bay. Four Bedroom Villa (Hope House) features a star gazing deck, a Jacuzzi and an infinity pool while the Luxury Four Bedroom Villa (Calabash Bay Villa) has private beach access, a fresh water pool and 3 dedicated staff and a daily chef. The Two Bedroom Cottages (Calabash Bay Cottage and Treasure), though smaller, also have a full kitchen and a housekeeper and butler. Largest is the Seaweed Luxury Villa sleeping up to 12! It has a games room, a private gym, a hot tub, a split level infinity pool and an outdoor bar and grill. We didn’t see these villas, but reports suggest they share the fun eclectic look of Jakes' hotel rooms.

Features include:

  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

There is one main on-site eateries - Jake's Restaurant (the original restaurant) as well as Jack Sprat (a cool cafe/bar) a minute down the road, adjoining Jake's at the beach end. Both serve a la carte menus; no meals are included in the room rate.

At The Restaurant, you can sit ocean-side or undercover in a cheery, colourful setting, and the imaginative seasonal menu is sourced from local fishermen and farmers. It changes daily and is simply chalked up on a board with several starters, mains and puddings. For lunch, try the smoked marlin dip and crackers, or delicious jerk pork. Dinner may include fresh kingfish (sold directly from the boat) or curry crab with grilled plantain and mango chutney, and homemade ice creams. Breakfast is a selection of continental and traditional Jamaican dishes such as papaya pancakes and peanut porridge, plus an array of fresh fruit.

Expect to find loads of people taking advantage of the beachside WiFi at Jack Sprat, with a seaside setting that's hard to beat: plenty of laptops alongside the legendary seafood and pizza. It also serves local Caribbean food, and has weekly BBQs with bonfires and local musicians playing.

Room service is only available to the Octopussy Honeymoon suites. Picnics can be made for excursions with a little advance notice. Inspired by the food? The chefs offer Jamaican cooking lessons for up to 4 people - learn how to prepare traditional dishes, and work with local seasoning and spices. Drinkswise, Dougie’s Bar overlooking the pool, terrace and sea will quench your thirst; the rum punch is knockout, and the bar closes when the last guest leaves.

If your cottage has a kitchen, the hotel can shop for you, so that fresh produce is waiting on arrival, and for other meals local grocery stores are a short stroll away. You'll have a stove, toaster, blender and fridge-freezer; the larger villas also have a microwave.

If you fancy exploring the friendly little town of Treasure Beach (everyone will soon know your name), check out the small country eateries Diner's Delight, Pardy's Coffee House, Smurf Cafe and Wild Onion for a taste of authentic Jamaica with food sourced from local farmers. For something more quirky, Little Ochie is a short boat ride away. Here you'll find vintage fishing boats with thatched roofs, set on stilts at the sea's edge. Choose your sea catch from an icebox, and tell the kitchen how you'd like it cooked.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Drift off in the Driftwood Spa, where treatments in two elegant oceanside rooms will take you down a notch. The signature Caribbean facial comes recommended, but the spicy wild ginger and lemongrass scrub sounds amazing, so you might need to treat yourself twice

  • It’s very easy to stay by the saltwater pool and absorb the peace. But rouse yourself at least once...

  • ... because a boat trip to The Pelican Bar is a must. It's a precarious-looking shack built on stilts ¾ mile out to sea (a 20-minute boat ride), but the welcome is warm, the beer is cool and the grilled fish lunch a treat. On the way you may even see dolphins. Reception can arrange a local boatman for you

  • The Black River and YS Falls are a popular daytrip. There are 8 tiers of waterfalls, with natural swimming pools by each. Experienced local guides and transportation can be arranged

  • Book a fishing expedition with the locals - you can help pull the fisherman’s traps or set your own line, and you're likely to catch snapper, jackfish, kingfish, tuna or grouper, which you can bring back to Jake's and ask the chef to cook it up for you

  • Explore nearby beaches: Jack Spratt, Frenchman's, Calabash Bay and Old Wharf. All are prone to undertows so be aware of this, but they are all popular spots to bodyboard and snorkel

  • Try Reggae-lates (reggae-infused pilates and yoga), or the Roots Rock Yoga in the Yoga Pavilion; there are sometimes yoga retreats here, too

  • Visit the local craft co operatives - at House of Treasures the women make lovely bowls and bags; great holiday souvenirs

  • Hike or bike past watermelons in a field, people sitting on their porch, houses decorated with wonderful shell work, and local men making fish pots

  • There's birding an hour away at Belmont, which is towards Montego Bay

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Private guided tours
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wildlife
  • Yoga

Kids

Jakes is fun, bohemian and just the right side of shabby-chic: your children's messiness won't stand out like a sore thumb, but it still feels like a treat to be here. Children are welcome and there are plenty of excursions for older children as well as a kids club and large range of activities on and off site. While it is suitable for all ages, the hotel suggests that it's particularly good for teenagers.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Most of the cottages or villas are ideal for families. The Three Bedroom Cottage, Deluxe Two Bedroom Cottage, and the Standard Two Bedroom Cottage have full kitchens or kitchenettes and are set a bit further back from the sea. Those closer to the ocean or with direct beach access are better for those with teenagers, as the current and rip tides are very strong.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available and is an extra charge, see rates).

Baby listening:

Baby monitors are available to borrow and have a 400ft range.

Baby equipment:

  • Cots
  • Baby bedding
  • High chair
  • Pushchair
  • Night light
  • Baby bath
  • Car seats
  • Bottle warming

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Creche/Kid's Club:

The hotel's kids club is headed by a former Montessori teacher. Daily activities include trips to the park, arts and crafts, environmental beach walks to collect driftwood and seashells and board games. Hair braiding and mini mani-pedis are available for a small fee.

Children's meals:

Food is available all day; the restaurant has special mealtimes for kids, kids menus, half portions and high chairs. The menu includes grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, fish fillets, spaghetti, ice cream and smoothies. There are also child-friendly restaurants nearby.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Saltwater pool with a shallow end
  • Freshwater swimming pools (villas only)
  • Outdoor playground
  • Playroom
  • Toys and books for ages 2-6 (others available on request)
  • Games room
  • Children's DVDs
  • Farm animals nearby

Kids Activities nearby:

  • YS Falls is 45 minutes away, 8 tiers of waterfalls with swimming pools
  • Black River Safaris (age 4+, life jackets provided)
  • Beaches
  • Fishing trips for teens with local boat captains

Families Should Know:

Some of the rooms that are close to the sea aren’t really suitable for inquisitive kids who may wander off on their own. The sea has a powerful rip tide children and adults of all ages need to be aware of.
Special attention should be paid to children in the area of beach below Dougie's Bar and in front of the Three Bedroom Cottage, Mussels.

Distances:

  • Airport 2 hours
  • Hospital: 30 minutes
  • Doctor: 10 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
7/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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