Jake’s Resort is Jamaican-Rustic
A funky diversion from the tourist mainstream.
If you seek a diversion from the tourist mainstream, you may want to escape the Americanized northern shore of Jamaica and immerse yourself in the bohemian feast of color (and culture) that is Jake’s.
Jake’s is a funky and eccentric getaway located in a secluded little fishing village called Treasure Beach, a half-day’s drive from both the Montego and Kingston airports. The southern side of the island is notably less tropical than the touristy northern coast, with lush greenery being replaced by rolling hills and close-cropped farmland. The edgy ambiance and focus on adventure at Jake’s has enticed the occasional celebrity guest–Joan Osborne, Lennox Lewis, and U2’s Adam Clayton–as well as photo teams from numerous fashion magazines.
Jake’s offers travelers the chance to experience laid-back seaside life in small, Casbah-style villas that are reminiscent of Marrakech. Don’t expect your villa to be decked out with luxuries. Jake’s is all about the beachcomber lifestyle, and for that reason you won’t find a TV–or even a telephone–in your room. What you will find is Aveda shampoo, a CD player (bring your own discs), and an abundance of inspiration.
From the rooftop patios on the gorgeous honeymoon suites, to walls inset with colored bottles, beads and conch shells, to the outdoor bathrooms with doors of tightly-tied twigs, this is one place you won’t soon (or ever) forget.
Jason Henzell, the owner, is legendary in these parts. During our stay, he was busy painting the nearby school–one of many local charity projects he has in the works. To say that he is highly regarded by both his colleagues and the locals would be an understatement. Jason was born on the island to father, Perry, who directed The Harder They Come, and mother, Sally, a former set-designer who designed most of the suites at Jake’s. The entertainment industry connections and lifestyle are evident in the unique look and feel of Jake’s. Sally Henzell originally bought the land, planning to make a vacation villa for family friends.
“My mother started Jake’s as a restaurant as there was nowhere to eat and then people started asking for rooms. My mother and I both share a love for Treasure Beach as my grandfather built a beach house, Treasure Cot, in 1941. [Treasure Cot was rented to Alex Haley to write Roots.] It’s where we spend family holidays,” says Jason.
Seeing the potential, Jason left banking to become a partner in the resort. He introduced a youthful, up-beat attitude by starting a tradition of bonfires and moonlight parties with appearances by local reggae bands.
“We initially started Jack Sprat in 2001 as the Jake’s beach restaurant and bar, but now Jack Sprat has taken on its own life and is extremely successful. People see it as a melting pot for visitors and locals.”
Since then, Jake’s (named after a parrot of local renown) has blossomed to fifteen villas, but Jason assured us that he intends to keep it small, so as to not lose the authentic Jamaican feel of the place.
Fresh from visiting other resorts on the island, we were surprised to see just how integrated Jake’s is with the local area.
Most island resorts try hard to wall themselves off from the locals, but walking to the honeymoon suites from the check-in area at Jake’s, we heard a baby crying and noticed a local Jamaican mother and her children on the porch of their house right next to the pathway. If you’re charmed by the ambiance of colorful laundry dangling from the clothes line each time you pass, then Jake’s is your kind of place.
For many, a big part of the attraction of Jake’s is the opportunity to interact with locals at ‘Jack Sprat’ (where you can get great pizza and local Red Stripe beer) and get to know the local community. However, this opportunity also means that your stay will lack the security of fencing and a guarded gate, features of most upscale homes in the area and something which many travelers treat as de rigueur when holidaying in Jamaica. However, if you’re an adventure (or culture) – seeking traveler unphased by backpacking trips through Europe or Asia, then Jake’s may be your ideal Caribbean getaway.
If the lack of TV leaves you at loose ends (poor soul!), just track down Jason and have him arrange one of the enticing adventures that are available-river tours, bike trips, manatee watching and others. Oh, and be sure to bring a book or two, because there are few pleasures to match reading on the roof or porch of a honeymoon suite at Jake’s while the waves crash against the rocks below.
The food at Jake’s is simple but tasty, with a focus on seafood and American comfort foods such as pancakes and pasta. The cost of meals is not included with the room as it is at most other Island Outpost properties, but dining is quite inexpensive and is definitely the best you’ll find in the area. Be sure to order a fruit punch or an alcoholic concoction from Duggie, who mans the bar (and who may also have posted the sign that asks, “Why drink and drive when you can smoke and fly?”). Sip it slowly and watch the dolphins play and the sun set over the sea, as we did, one splendid evening at Jake’s.
– The official story is that Jake’s is after a famous parrot, however, in the local Jamaican dialect, “Jake” is another way of saying “white guy”.
– Stay away from the run-down three-bedroom cottage. The Honeymoon Suites (“Octopussy 1, 2 & 3”) are the nicest accommodations on the property.
– There is an archaic PC in the main building with an incredibly slow Internet connection from which you can check your email.
– The beach is covered with small (and some not-so-small) holes from which crabs continuously scurry to and from, and the pool is not the cleanest ever–so, if you’re looking for swimming, this is something to note. And if you come across a hustler on the beach, just tell him “Cho’ mon’. Don’ harrass da touris'”