What to Do around Jamaica’s South Coast

The south coast of Jamaica is rarely a first timer’s choice because of its relative isolation. But those who do venture south will find nature, wildlife, and tranquil beaches. Treasure Beach, the most popular retreat area, is a string of Jamaican fishing villages resting on black sand. Nearby are natural wonders like Black River and YS Falls, while offshore sits the famous Pelican Bar. The pace is slow here in south Jamaica, and that’s exactly why you’d come.

Salt Spring Junction, Jamaica
Bypass the roadside watering holes and take a boat ride to Floyd’s Pelican Bar, instead. This thatched hut stands on stilts out in the water, making it a dreamy spot for an afternoon of swimming and shooting the breeze, solo or with friends. It’s 30 minutes from Treasure Beach (arrange a boat ride through your guesthouse or resort), and you can arrive for lunch and stay until after sundown for the just-caught fish, rum, and chilled Red Stripe on the menu. Inside the tiny shack, the flags of various countries hang and previous customers have left messages scrawled on planks and benches. Sit outside and watch the pelicans flying in formation across the horizon.
Have you ever had a drink while standing at the top of a 1,700-foot vertical drop, as the sun sets into the ocean? That’s what you get at Lovers’ Leap, less than a half-hour’s drive from Treasure Beach. Pay a small entrance fee and walk through the bar to reach the balcony with the jaw-dropping view. Of course, there’s a legend to go with the name of the cliff: Two enslaved lovers jumped together from this spot to their deaths to escape from their colonial master who wanted the girl for himself. A wood carving of the lovers stands just outside the entrance. The sunset panorama here is arguably the most stunning view in all of Jamaica.
Calabash Bay P A, Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth 00000, Jamaica
One of my favorite spas in Jamaica is located at the well-known Jakes Resort, in Treasure Beach. Small, cozy and away from the big resort towns, it’s a wonderful place to unwind. Opt for a long full body massage in one of only four oceanfront treatment cabanas, with doors open on the sea ahead. The spa prides itself in using fresh ingredients from its on site gardens. When you’re done, walk over to Jack Sprat for a quick bite with a view and take a nap on the beach—not necessarily in that order.
Accompong Maroon, Jamaica
You won’t regret a visit to Accompong Town, an authentic Maroon village in the hills of Cockpit Country. The Maroons, descendants of enslaved West Africans first brought to Jamaica by the Spanish, fought British slaveholders—by cleverly using the nearly impenetrable hills and hollows as a base from which to strike—and eventually won their independence. Since 1738, they’ve mostly lived in their own communities, largely autonomous and separate from other Jamaicans. The best time to visit is the first Monday in January, for the annual Maroon Day Festival, when hundreds of Maroons from around Jamaica and abroad, as well as a few thousand tourists, descend on Accompong Town for a day of drumming ceremonies, food, and celebration. You can tour the village by appointment; make arrangements to visit with a driver. A museum, near the entrance to the village, displays historic artifacts, photos, and memorabilia. The Peace Cave, a short hike from town, is where Captain Cudjoe, the warrior and leader, signed a treaty with the British that recognized the Maroons as an independent nation and granted them 1,500 acres of land in the region. Walk around and take in the gorgeous, serene mountainous views, and learn the extraordinary history of a free people.
Jamaican food is not all jerk and meat patties! You can sample one of the island’s most popular snacks, pepper shrimp, along the south coast. In the town of Middle Quarters, roadside vendors cook the shrimp in big steaming pots on outdoor grills. The shrimp, caught in the Black River, are boiled in salty water and then spiced with chopped scotch bonnet peppers, sea salt, vinegar, and black pepper. Plastic bags of the fiery little shellfish are peddled to drivers passing on their way home from work and to lucky tourists for a messy and addictive snack.
Alligator Pond P.O, Alligator Pond Dist., Jamaica
Going to dinner at Little Ochie is as fun as it is delicious. Pick your dinner—from a cooler of freshly caught fish—by species and by weight, then pick the style in which you’d like it cooked: jerk, grilled, escoveitch, and more. Pick a side of bammy, a thick round of cassava bread, to go with it. Your next decision is where to eat—head outside and choose a picnic table under one of the thatched huts carved in the shape of a fisherman’s canoe. The combination of beachy atmosphere and great fish makes this relaxed yet lively slice of Jamaica well worth the hour-long drive from Treasure Beach.
Black River, Jamaica
If you’ve ever longed for a ride down a river to spot crocodiles—and who among us hasn’t? [editor’s note: me!]—you can do just that on the Black River in southern Jamaica. The river cruises are a popular tourist attraction, but they never feel overrun. Enjoy an hour-long cruise past tall mangroves and ferns, spotting tropical birds and stopping when the guides greet crocodiles. The enormous reptiles swim right up and even open their jaws while passengers cringe and wonder if the guide’s hand is about to disappear. Don’t miss this fun chance to see some of Jamaica’s wildest interior.
Bluefields Bay, Jamaica
Located an hour’s drive from Negril on the southwestern coast, Bluefields Bay is a popular beach. It’s crescent-shaped and rocky on the left hand side, but sandy on the right, and the water is an iridescent turquoise. You’ll find more local families than tourists here, as it’s a convenient pit stop on the road between the west and the south to cool off on a hot afternoon. The beach has a handful of food vendors but not much else, and that’s also what makes it special.
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