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:
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.
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.
Peter 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.
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.
Unnamed Beach at Dor’s Crab Shack:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.