Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Boho-chic. No TVs and a remote locale make the 30-cottage (45-room) boutique ideal for a laid-back, unplugged getaway.
The 30 colorful, funky cottages sprawl along a rugged coastline, connected by meandering stone and tile mosaic pathways. A canopy of trees and lanterns arches over the romantic outdoor dining area, bar, and charming saltwater pool. Beneath the branches, guests and staff comingle over meals and soak up the ocean view. Harder They Come posters decorate the lobby, an ode to the Reggae film whose late director, Perry Henzell, was married to original owner Sally.
Billing itself as the "chicest shack in the Caribbean", a quote borrowed from Vogue magazine, Jake's indeed feels like the backdrop to a summer-of-love fashion shoot. The jewel of Jamaica's rustic Treasure Beach, the property feels like it was plucked out of a hippie artist's utopia of the 70's and filled with well to do New Yorkers and Brits fresh off of their JetBlue and British Air flights. Guests don breezy linen tunics from boutiques back home and peep through designer sunglasses while they sip fresh-squeezed juice next to the sea.
The arid climate here makes the property less green and lush than the north and east coasts, but giant aloe vera plants and colorful cacti give the landscape a natural beauty unique in Jamaica. Minus the ocean view and distinctly Jamaican culture of the resort, the dried lawns, cacti, and hippie art aesthetic wouldn't seem out of place in New Mexico or Los Angeles.
Casual, instantly familiar staff calls guests by name and addresses their needs promptly.
Jake's is located in Treasure Beach, a fishing village on Jamaica's South Coast. It's about a two-hour drive from Montego Bay's international airport ($120 for two passengers, one way) and two and a half hours from Kingston's Norman Manley International Airport ($195 for two passengers, one way). Jake's will arrange rides to and from either airport.
"It's like Negril 30 years ago" is a popular refrain when locals describe Treasure Beach. It's real farm country here. Tiny, colorful cottages and shacks dot the region's bucolic hills save for Black River, the largest nearby city. A few restaurants and inns are within walking distance, but the major tourist destinations are at least half an hour's drive or a boat ride away. The Pelican Bar, a bar built on stilts in the middle of the ocean, is one of the area's most unique and must-see attractions.
Jake's is located on Frenchman's Bay, beside low, rocky cliffs. Reefs come right up to shore so, unlike the cliffs in Negril, diving from the rocks is not safe. Next to Jake's grounds is a sandier section of the bay. Its black and golden sands are coarse, unlike most Jamaican beaches, but the water is still clear and blue. The beach has its own unique, if unconventional, beauty. Kids playing in the sand look like they're shoveling thick, polluted mud into their shiny red buckets. The sand is somewhat coarse and dotted with tiny shell fragments, but it's still nice to walk in.
Many credit Jake's rugged beaches -- and those of Treasure Beach, in general -- for the area's ability to remain such a well-hidden secret. It's true that the area's black sands and rocky shores are significantly less inviting than beaches to the east in Negril, or anywhere else in Jamaica. But it's also very quiet, and devoid of the crowds that come with mega-resort chains.
Rustic, quirky cottages with a hippie-chic aesthetic, and no TVs, Internet, or modern technology, but that’s the point.
Jake's is a sprawling property with only 30 units (45 rooms total). No two units are the same, each was custom-designed by Sally Henzell. Funky artwork, glass embedded into the walls, tile mosaics, and brightly patterned pillows and curtains are characteristic of the décor throughout the property.
A CD player, air conditioner, hot water, and lights are the sole bastions of technology in the deliberately low-tech units. None of the rooms have phones, TVs, or Wi-Fi. As the staff explained when showing me my room, the resort is meant to be a place of quiet and calm, and the minimal technology provided is a way for guests to unplug. The two- and three-bedroom units do have small televisions that are hooked up to DVD players, but do not receive cable at all.
The room I stayed in, Cowrie No. 1, has an open kitchen on the bottom level with a bedroom and separate bathroom on the top floor. The canopied, queen-size bed sits high on its frame in the center of the room, with a gauzy cotton mosquito net billowing around it -- it had a dreamy, tropical feel. The mattress is comfortable and plenty of pillows are provided. It's simple and funky, with white sheets accented by colorful pillows and a patterned throw on the foot of the bed.
There's an eclectic (mostly Island Records-produced) CD collection in the lobby for guests to borrow, and after collecting a few CDs to play in the room, I ended up with a better vacation soundtrack than what was pre-programmed on my iPod. I even wrote down some of my favorites to download at home.
Cowrie No. 1's open kitchen basic furnishings for making tea or coffee and meals that require minimal prep. But for anyone serious about cooking: Bring your own knife. The kitchen's stock of silverware, a bottle opener/corkscrew, and an empty knife block were frustratingly void of sharp edges. Even cutting up a piece of fruit proved difficult. The kitchen also has a European-size refrigerator with minibar offerings and plenty of space to keep personal groceries (small shops and a produce stand down the road from Jake's sell basics).
The room's minibar consists of a basket of sundries in the room and drinks in the kitchen's refrigerator. Everything from Eclipse gum to banana chips and nuts is provided in each room. Prices are surprisingly reasonable, and options are broader than the average collection of Oreos, peanuts, and pretzels. The drinks offered were somewhat more basic: Red Stripe, WATA (that's water, Jamaican-style), and Ting soft drinks. No liquor is provided.
Some units have balconies, patios, and even private gardens. Those that don't have private sitting areas. Two lounge chairs were set up in front of Cowrie No. 1 for a somewhat private lie-out in the sun. French doors also opened off of the room's large seating area that looked out toward the beach.
Cowrie No. 1's main room has windows on all sides that keep the room bright and airy. I regretted keeping them open all evening, though, as they did not have screens to keep out the swarms of mosquitoes. The mosquito nets over the beds help protect sleepers, but I wished there were screens on all of the windows to keep the rest of my room bug-free. Some units do have screens on the windows.
Air conditioners and ceiling fans come in every room. My air-conditioning unit was a little tricky to get working, but once I worked out the remote control and switches, I was all set.
My bathroom was across the staircase from the main room, completely separate from the bedroom. The seashell, bottle glass, and tile mosaic motif gave the bathroom a healthy dose of charm. Some cottages feature romantic outdoor showers, but mine was totally indoors. It was a stand-up shower with a large semi-circle basin surrounded by two shower curtains. The shower head did not work particularly well, but I was able to take long, hot showers comfortably. The shower curtains actually kept the rest of the bathroom dry.
The saltwater pool is a modest size, but its unobstructed view over Frenchman's Bay really makes the pool. The pool is relatively shallow and its floor and walls are covered in colorful tile mosaics vaguely resembling sea creatures and octopus tentacles. Its gradual incline never gets extremely deep, but it's large enough to wade in. The shallow end is perfect for small children to safely splash around. The central location beside the bar, restaurant, and lobby means most swimmers are on display (it's hard to sneak a private dip). Couples and families sort of rotate use of the pool periodically, but it was never busy during my stay.
Driftwood Spa is set in an impressive building atop the cliffs. The front desk and a few treatment rooms are inside, and the spa has a calm, pleasing aesthetic (think rustic and artsy, not sterile and steely). But the truly unique part of Driftwood is the several open-air treatment rooms that descend from the main building toward the ocean, built into the cliffs. Service prices range from $30-$280. Most massages are around $80, a very fair price by resort standards.
The open air yoga studio is on top of the Driftwood Spa and overlooks the ocean. Sunrise and sunset yoga classes are offered here over the weekends, along with unique classes like "Reggae-lates" that offer a Jamaican twist on popular western fitness classes.
Free Wi-Fi access is available in the lobby and restaurant, and the connection is reasonably fast. An Apple computer is also provided in the lobby for guests to use, also free of charge.
A games and TV room is stocked with a good collection of board games, and has comfortable seating in front of a large TV. A DVD collection is kept in the lobby and guests may borrow DVDs free of charge.
Painting and mosaic classes are offered to guests feeling inspired by the property's artistic design. Private or group watercolor lessons are available, and two- or four-hour mosaic classes are offered for $60 or $120. All materials are provided by Jake's and all levels and ages are welcome.
Jake's does a great job of accommodating families, but doesn't compromise its peaceful, rustic setting and back-to-basics ethos for kids. Families spend most of their time together on the beach or at the pool, both of which are much quieter far less boozy than at the mega-resorts. Though most rooms lack TVs, the two- and three-bedroom units have small televisions that are hooked up to DVD players but do not receive cable.
There's no kids' club, popular cartoon character murals, or video game rooms. Instead, families can sign up for activities like supervised seashell picking, mosaic workshops, and art classes. But amenities like play pens, high chairs, and a safe, shallow pool make it a great place for families who want to spend time with their kids in a beautiful, less drunken setting. Nanny services are available with 24 hours notice.
Young parents from Miami spending a long weekend at Jake's spoke highly of how easy it was to vacation there with their 2-year-old son. The resort provided a playpen for their son to sleep in, and they were able to get a small television in their room to play kid-friendly movies. Some of the available excursions were impractical for such a small child, but they were otherwise very pleased with their stay as a family.
Despite the shabby aesthetic, the hotel is extremely clean. Mosquito swarms are kept at bay with coils, candles, and mosquito netting around the beds.
Rooms, facilities, and furnishings are clean and the grounds are well-kept. My white bed linens were soft and immaculate. The furniture was in awesome condition. Seashell motifs, mosaics, and bottle glass embedded walls account for an untamed ambiance--but not a dirty one.
That said, being close to nature is part of the experience at Jake's. Mosquitoes are unavoidable. Coils and candles are provided in the rooms to deter them, but keeping the windows open all night is risky in many units because not all have window screens.
The Restaurant at Jake's serves a rotating menu of Jamaican dishes at all three meals. Two dining areas are on either side of the lobby. Both have a sweeping view of the pool and ocean, framed by drooping trees and lanterns. The mostly Jamaican menu is posted on a chalkboard and is refreshed between meals. Dishes are made with locally farmed produce and good quality meats (a sign in the front reads"support your local farmer"). It's the kind of natural, wholesome goodness of which Alice Waters herself would approve. The Ackee and Saltfish here is among the best I tasted in Jamaica. Another group of guests told me that I couldn't miss the pancakes at breakfast. "If you want one tip while you're staying at Jake's," they said, "try the banana pancakes! They're ridiculous -- it's like eating funnel cake." Indeed, the pancakes are not to miss, but I doubt you'll be unhappy with any of the other choices, either.
Jack Sprat's is adjacent to Jake's and guests may put their bill here on the room tab. It's a seafood and pizza restaurant that claims to have the best pizza in Jamaica. It has good grub and even better ambiance. Barefoot guests chat over card games and plates of curried snapper or lobster pizza. Locals stop in for lunch and stay all afternoon. People from nearby hotels do the same. Staff casually takes orders at the counter and brings food to guests in the huge dining area.
Drinks from Dougie's Bar are also excellent. A nightly crowd convened at the bar, sipping top-shelf liquor mixed with fresh-squeezed juice. Guests at dinner praised the piña coladas, saying that they were the best they'd ever had.
The farthest thing from an all-inclusive -- better food, service, and a gorgeous remote location that's hours from the megaphones, the swim-up bars, and, unfortunately, the airport
Unlike most other venues in Jamaica, Jake's doesn't take a one-size-fits-all approach to weddings. Events are more personalized, far more private, and generally more attractive than what you'll find at the mega-resorts. However, this does mean that planning a wedding requires a bit more work.
Also, Jake's location is both its greatest asset and greatest detriment. Its arid, otherworldly surroundings are without doubt some of the most beautiful in Jamaica, and when it comes to unique-looking photo ops, the property is a dream. In addition, this is one of the dryest locations on the island. Plus, unlike on the cliffs in Negril, the area is safe for children. But the downside is a biggie, especially for larger functions -- it's about a two- to three-hour bumpy and confusing drive from the closest airport. If you want your guests to arrive safely, and on time, you'll have to make arrangements with a local driver, which can be a costly, logistical nightmare.
With just 30 hippy-chic cottages in secluded Treasure Beach, Jake's is a member of Bespoke Hotels, a trendy, luxury hotel group. Guests come to unplug -- there's no phone, Internet, or TV in the cottages. The black-sand beaches aren't Jamaica's most impressive, but the Driftwood Spa, on-site painting and yoga classes, and excellent food make this a particular favorite.
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