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Jamaican Hidden Gems: West Coast Edition

Jamaican Hidden Gems: West Coast Edition

The best way to discover many of Jamaica’s hidden gems is actually to take an unplanned road trip across the island. That is exactly what I did when my friends and I set off from Clarendon with no other plan than that we intended to drive west. My initial intention was to head east to explore parishes like St. Thomas and Portland, but unfortunately the weather that side of the island did not permit.

I have driven around Jamaica many times before, but I am still always amazed by its beauty. The variety of picturesque terrain on our island is unmatched, from lagoons to mangroves and rivers, beaches and mountainsides; Jamaica is rich with an air of paradise. I wanted, however, to prove that paradise in the west was more than Negril and Montego Bay and that exploring Jamaica didn’t require a lot of money. Luckily, all but one of my stops were free of cost. There are so many hidden gems I am certain are yet left for me to explore on Jamaica’s west coast, but with the limit of time and many miles to cover on our road trip, here are the treasures I unearthed for the day:

 

San San Beach:

A view of one of Jamaica's hidden gems, San San beach in Westmoreland.
The land of wood and water indeed.

While en route, I of course had my eyes peeled for any interesting sights that might lead us to some of the hidden gems we sought. I caught glimpse of a dug out path with an easily missed backdrop of glistening cerulean waters. We parked on the side of the road and followed the path by foot to see where it would lead. A beautiful beach opened before us upon entry, with fishing boats and a thatch roofed bar on its shores. This was San San Beach in Culloden, a small community between Whitehouse and Belmont in Westmoreland.

 

The beach bar at one of Jamaica's hidden gems, San San Beach in Culloden, Westmoreland.
San San‘s bar on the beach.

This is definitely a beach I would recommend for a visit, especially since our money would be better spent supporting the local fishermen instead of paying just to swim. I was also directed by the locals to a mangrove, which exists a short walk down the beach, where one can observe crocodiles in the wild. I, however, passed on that one because I wasn’t feeling so adventurous that day (scaredy cat lol).

A word of caution however if you are going to this beach, the path of entry is a bit tricky so exercise care when entering. I witnessed a car getting stuck on an angle when trying to turn in, so I would recommend an SUV or a bus for this trip.

 

Beautiful seashells being sold on San San beach, one of Jamaica's hidden gems in Westmoreland.
Beautiful seashells being sold on the beach.

 

Peter Tosh’s Estate:

The entrance to Peter Tosh's estate, one of the hidden gems in Belmont of Westmoreland, Jamaica.
The entrance to Tosh’s estate.

We were luckily directed to our next hidden gem by the friendly locals at San San Beach. For those who do not know Peter Tosh, he is a deceased  Jamaican reggae icon who formed part of The Wailers with Bob Marley. His home in Belmont, Westmoreland now serves as a museum to his memory.

 

Inside Peter Tosh's sepulchre at Belmont in Westmoreland, one of Jamaica's hidden gems.
Inside Peter Tosh’s sepulchre.

 

A few of many marijuana plants on the grounds of Peter Tosh's estate. One of Jamaica's hidden gems in Belmont, Westmoreland.
A few of many marijuana plants on the grounds of Tosh’s estate.

The estate is littered with fruit trees, beautiful birds, rabbits and of course the Rastafarian holy sacrament, the marijuana plant. It is a $10 USD charge for a tour of Tosh’s estate, in which the guides show interesting sights on the grounds including the sepulchre where his body now lies, while regaling guests with tales of Tosh himself. Be sure to give this attraction a try and delve into part of the history of Jamaica and reggae.

 

Some of the colourful birds found on the grounds of Peter Tosh's home, one of Jamaica's hidden gems.
Some of the colourful birds found on the grounds of Tosh’s home.

Unnamed Beach at Dor’s Crab Shack:

A breathtaking view from the deck at Dor's Crab Shack. One of the hidden gems in Belmont, Westmoreland Jamaica.
A breathtaking view from the deck at Dor’s.

My only regret when I discovered this place is that thanks to my hominy corn porridge breakfast I was not yet hungry and didn’t want to be gluttonous. However I must return here, by the hook or the crook as us Jamaicans would say. I know since I did not try the food you must be wondering why the anxiety to return. Dor’s Crab Shack is located in Belmont, Westmoreland and happens to be perched on the most pristine stretch of beach I have seen in the longest while if not ever; and this is saying a lot for a beach that is not privatized.

 

Enjoying the waves at a beautiful beach in Belmont, Westmoreland. One of Jamaica's hidden gems.
My friend Shanaloy admiring the waves. I call dibs on that shady tree next visit.

The beach boasts such soft and powdery sand, the type one only sees at resorts. I was giddy upon discovery simply because I couldn’t believe my luck; the bluest, crystal clear waters, clean and stone free sands and the best attribute yet, it was all FREE! I had no plans to really swim that day since I knew I had more treasures to find but I was so taken by this beach that I simply had to unlace my sandals and run into the water.

 

A view of the menu at Dor’s Crab Shack revealed a somewhat limited assortment of seafood, however I am curious still and plan to return to taste their food; if only to visit that gorgeous beach once more.

 

Dor's Crab Shack, one of Jamaica's hidden gems in Belmont, Westmoreland.
Dor’s Crab Shack in Belmont, Westmoreland.

 

Fort Charlotte:

Inside Fort Charlotte, one of Jamaica's hidden gems in Lucea, Hanover.
Inside Fort Charlotte.

After leaving the Belmont area, unsure of where to head next, I reached for my Google Maps app and thought “Hmmm, I’ve never been to Hanover before!”. So off to Lucea (Hanover’s capital) we went, and decided to lose ourselves about the town in hopes that we would find something we didn’t even know we were looking for. And that we did; we happened upon Fort Charlotte.

 

The outside ruins of Fort Charlotte, one of Jamaica's hidden gems in Lucea, Hanover.
The ruins outside of the fort.

This fort was like the abandoned sister of Port Royal’s Fort Charles. My research shows me it was built in the mid-18th century by the British for the purpose of the defending the North North West section of the island. The fort is located just beside Rusea’s High School and is sadly in a state of ruin. Fort Charlotte however still boast remnants of its colonial past, with its canons, walls made from cut stone and several openings for firing from within the fort. The most impressive part of the fort for me however was the view from the cliff upon which it stands. You can feel the sea water misting your face as the waves crash upon the rocks below the outer walls of the fort.

 

A view of the cliff at Fort Charlotte, one of Jamaica's hidden gems in Lucea, Hanover.
A beautiful view from the cliff where the fort stands.

 

Shanaloy and Jodi at Fort Charlottle, one of Jamaica's hidden gems in Lucea, Hanover.
I was trying to convince her we wouldn’t fall over. Can you tell she’s not convinced?

 

 

Bonus Gems:

 

Holland Bamboo, one of the hidden gems in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica.
Holland Bamboo, St. Elizabeth.

 

Bluefields Beach in Bluefields, Westmoreland. One of Jamaica's hidden gems.
Bluefields Beach in Bluefields, Westmoreland.

 

Mountain view, one of the hidden gems on route to Hanover, Jamaica.
A view of the mountains on our way to Lucea, Hanover.

 

A view of the Red Stripe sign in the hills of Montego Bay. Jamaica's version of the Hollywood sign and one of its hidden gems.
A view of the Red Stripe sign in the hills of Montego Bay. Jamaica’s version of the Hollywood sign.

I really felt like an explorer having found these hidden gems; especially since I embarked upon this journey with no plans save for a direction. Our road trip has left me only wanting to see more of Jamaica and has filled me with excitement at the thought of more hidden gems left to be uncovered.

 

 

Jamaican Hidden Gems: Sun, Seafood and White Sand Beach.

Jamaican Hidden Gems: Sun, Seafood and White Sand Beach.

Recently I returned home to my beautiful island of Jamaica and while there I decided to visit and highlight some of its hidden gems. This will therefore be the first in a series of posts, reserved specially for the land of my birth, that celebrate some of its unknown wonders. Lucky for me one of these hidden gems is only about 10 -15 minutes from my hometown of Lionel Town in Clarendon.

Fishing boats line the beach in Rocky Point.

 

Local fisherman with a rather large catch of the day.

Rocky Point is a fishing town located at the southernmost tip of Jamaica (that little tail of the island on the map). Fishing is indeed a staple in this town, as evidenced by the many fishing boats that line the beach in Rocky Point. It is a great place to get fresh-from-the-ocean fish, lobster, shrimp, conch and more at quite a reasonable price as compared to other areas on the island. But if you are looking to enjoy tasty, made-to-order seafood cooked Jamaican style, then White Sand Beach is where you want to be.

 

For a lot of Jamaicans there are some key places that come to mind when they think of good seafood, and in my neck of the woods at least, these places tend to include Hellshire or Little Ochi. White Sand Beach in Rocky Point definitely needs to be added to that list.

The Look

Beautiful cabanas for a relaxing meal by the sea.

 

I arrived at the restaurant with my sister Francine just in time to watch the sunset by the sea, accented by the authentic ambience of the fishing village. The restaurant is quite easy to find, with a rather large sign on its gate indicating its location on the beach at Rocky Point. There is also ample parking whether on the inside grounds of the restaurant or just outside by the beach. Upon entering I immediately fell in love with White Sand Beach, which boasts a bar and quaint thatch roofed cabanas where patrons can enjoy their meal with a gorgeous view of the sea. The restaurant also caters for events and has a volleyball net and basketball hoop on the sand for even more added fun (work retreat anyone?).

Who’s up for beach volleyball?!

The Food

Enjoying my steamed fish and bammy! Yummm!

 

As if I wasn’t already taken by the laid-back and characteristically tropical atmosphere, the food was definitely the clincher for me. I wanted to have steamed fish and, as with any worthwhile Jamaican seafood restaurant, I got to pick my fish! My sister and I decided to pick one big fish and split it, which even so we were plenty satisfied.  Our meals arrived in fine style with several slices of steamed bammy (a Jamaican flatbread made from cassava), okras, pumpkin and carrots. I absolutely loved every bite of it!

To top off a great meal, two fish dinners, two Tings (Jamaican grapefruit soda) and one Heineken later, our bill was a little over $20 USD (now that’s my kinda seafood restaurant). Now for those who aren’t familiar with other well-known seafood restaurants like Hellshire or Little Ochi, what we paid would have likely covered the fish alone minus the sides and drinks at these restaurants. Needless to say discovering White Sand Beach was for me quite a pleasant surprise and an obvious hidden gem that seafood lovers in Jamaica should give a try.

Recommendations

 

Of course, in my review, I want to give my readers the good as well as the bad. For me, the best time to visit this restaurant would be in the day time, as once night fell there were quite a few mosquitoes that surrounded us. This problem could be easily solved if they were to add tiki torches or citronella candles, which would actually complement the ambience of the restaurant. Otherwise I really had no negative critiques of the restaurant. It is definitely one I plan to return to (in the day, lol) as my other sisters and I have decided to visit with the rest of the family.

So if you are looking for a seafood experience that won’t break the bank but is sure to please the senses, give White Sand Beach a try and let me know what you think. Until then I will be looking for more Jamaican hidden gems for my fellow Roamans to enjoy when in roam.