Lashings: Paradise in Jamaica…


Penthouse balcony at Lashings (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I knew I needed to retreat to the heat, in the midst of my first winter in New England after years of living in the desert on the Arabian Peninsula. So I asked my travel buddy Kim, with whom I lived next to a volcano in Java during our Fulbright in Indonesia, if she would like to go with me to Jamaica for a Caribbean adventure. We usually overprepare when we travel, so we decided to do no research before we hopped on the plane to have a true “in the moment” vacation. We didn’t know what to expect when we met up in the airport in Montego Bay at night (where floor-to-ceiling murals of Marcus Garvey and other Jamaican freedom fighters were the first faces to greet us) to meet our driver to take us to Lashings Villas–it was a surprise to us that the hotel was about a three hour bumpy ride from the airport! We were getting, it seemed, as far as possible off the tourist track to experience beaches free the usual swarm of tourists to experience a special glimpse of Jamaica.


Dinner menu at Lashings (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

The long ride to the hotel gave us time to catch up and survey small town Jamaican night life while we cruised by local stores and drink stands. I was exhausted from a frustrating ordeal at JFK–it was my first time flying JetBlue and it was a total disaster. The first plane they put us on got to the tarmac and then had to return to the gate for mechanical repairs. The replacement plane got to the tarmac and then also returned to the gate to let off crew members so as not to violate the length of their working hours since our ordeal had gone on for so long. So I definitely do not recommend flying JetBlue to get to Jamaica. But I put that all out of mind when we finally pulled into Lashings and were greeted by these hanging menu items and could finally get to chowing and relaxing.


Bedtime at Lashings (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

To our delight, we got upgraded to the penthouse and had plenty of room to drop all of our baggage and relax after a long day of traveling. We were particularly impressed with the minimalist yet chic design–everything about the place was perfect, as if it was all made-to-order. The careful details–a sign here, a canister there–were not lost on us, and we appreciated the thoughtfulness behind the design and presentation of the penthouse. Little did we know what other winning style features awaited us at sunrise.


Fabulous design (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Since we had arrived under the opaque cover of night, we really had no sense of where we were or what our surroundings looked like when we went to sleep. We were awakened in the morning by the sounds of birds squawking and goats bleating, egging us out of bed. Imagine our surprise when we opened the balcony doors and were face-to-face with one of the most beautiful tableaus we had ever seen–the Caribbean Sea before us, vegetation in all directions, goats eating breakfast to our right, and a large pond to our left, shimmering in the light of the sunrise. No wonder they call it Treasure Beach–a treasure it was, indeed! And not a tourist in sight, from what we could tell from our balcony.


Kitchen table at Lashings (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Not only did we have a direct view of the sea, but we also were shocked to discover that we had our own outdoor kitchen next to our room! We had gone to sleep in darkness, and woke up in paradise. The kitchen table seemed like the ideal place to enjoy some morning Jamaican coffee while we adjusted to our new surroundings (after greeting our goat neighbors, of course!).


Penthouse kitchen at Lashings (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

We raised a glass to our luck in landing in paradise–and not having done any research in advance made every moment so fresh and alive, as we explored our hip digs and took in the view from every inch on the balcony. The comfortable chairs, the colorful hammock, the cozy bean bags. With our panoramic bird’s eye view, we could start plotting out our path to the beach for a full day of relaxation.


Morning coffee at Lashings (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Right beneath our balcony was the inviting hotel pool. We were faced with a problem of abundance–do the pool first? Or the beach? Or vice versa? Or the pool one day, and the beach another? Every possibility delighted us. We were in no hurry to figure it out, since we were on vacation and taking it easy. So we bumbled downstairs for breakfast and to ask the best route to get to the beach.


Pool time at Lashings (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Downstairs in the Tree Top Bar, Jamaican workmen were speaking in Patois while putting up wooden screens to shield the lounge from the sunlight. Since Kim and I both speak Advanced Indonesian (and a host of other languages), we savored the sound of this language to which we had virtually no exposure. Bob Marley music accompanied us at dinner and breakfast–and everywhere else we seemed to wander in Jamaica.


Sea breeze Lashings (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

We powered up on eggs and toast since we knew we would need energy for our trek to the beach, not to mention swimming all morning and taking long walks in the sand. We also didn’t know if the beaches would have restaurants, since we were far from the tourist circuit, so we needed to eat well to help last us through the day just in case.


Breakfast at Lashings (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

When we went to get our backpacks for the beach, we tried taking some photos on the balcony, but the refreshing and commanding breeze had other plans. The owner of the hotel, David Folb, gave us instructions for reaching the beach–walk down from the hotel a bit, out the rustic fence, through the cricket field, and follow the dirt path towards the water. The dirt path was lined with bougainvillea and roses and everyone we passed along the way was friendly and helpful in answering our questions as to which nearby beaches were the best to explore.


Wind time (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

From the locals, we learned that we should check out Frenchman’s Beach, Calabash Beach, and Great Bay. When we stopped to buy sunscreen, I found a hat that said “Jamaica” that I bought to help get me in the spirit. The cashier, however, told us, in a hushed voice, to be careful–there had apparently been a deadly shark attack the day before. Was this common, we asked. No, no, this rarely happens. Everyone we encountered appeared shook and told us to be careful. Little did we know, we were heading to the very beach where two men had been eaten by sharks the day before.


Fly to Jamaica (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

We were surprised to find we were the only ones claiming chairs on the beach–there wasn’t a tourist in sight. Was it because we were so far from the tourist hordes on the beaches of Montego Bay and Negril, or because of the supposed shark attack? A red flag flew from the sign on the beach that warned: “Advisory: only swim at your own risk.” Despite the risk, we dared to wade into the water to our waist, while keeping an eye out for fatal fins. For the first time in months, I got to do some beach reading (“The Power”–highly recommend!), and we could kick back and relax as the powerful waves crashed and clawed at the edge of our chairs.


Lunch time on the beach (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Thankfully, there was a restaurant with Jamaican cuisine on the beach (with a sign over the bar stating: “Strictly no ganja smoking at the bar and lounge area”), so we enjoyed a late lunch and took a break from the sun in the shade. We started to get familiar with our Jamaican standards: bammy, festival, callaloo, and sorrel cheesecake.


Local shark experts (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

As the day went on, a few tourists here and there began to appear, and beach hut bars began to billow with their tan limbs and visors. A group of young Jamaican boys warned us to watch out for sharks, and recounted in extreme detail the shark incident from the day before, with thick Patois inflections and energetic recreations of the dramatic events. They, more than anyone else, seemed to have the most information, and we were grateful for their helpful and enthralling shark report.


Donkey donks indeed (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

On our walk home from the beach, we encountered this sign: DONKEY DONKS. We decided to make this cryptic phrase our trip’s mantra. As absurdists, we relished the sound of it, and trudged back to our villa abode across the polo field contemplating what this koan-like phrase might mean (we eventually looked it up, and I advise you to do the same!).


Polo time (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

When we ventured out at night (no easy feat as the area is unlit), we discovered on our walk home that the polo field was the best place to view the stars. A joy to find we had our own organic planetarium of sorts! As we tried to identify constellations, we felt like two girls at camp–a feeling that amplified when we discovered that we were surrounded by dozens of toads. Or frogs? In the darkness it was hard to tell.


Making friends (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

They let us get really close to them for a spirited amphibian photo shoot–we photographed them from all angles, and were careful where we stepped to avoid hurting them. The sense of adventure and discovery was palpable–a truly special feature of staying at Lashings instead of some property on the beach where the entire experience is curated in advance.


Great Bay (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

We spent our following days in the Treasure Beach area exploring all of the beaches–taking the hidden, unmarked path to Great Bay was an especially exciting adventure. We had the entire beach to ourselves, and enjoyed the perpetually calm waters there. The only food on the beach is at Lobster Pot–a collection of about 4 huts where they serve up fresh lobster and a few other Jamaican favorites. It was the ideal spot to start planning out the next leg our trip in Montego Bay, back on the tourist path. We made sure to savor each moment on the beach and back at Lashings before we had to leave behind the slow pace of small town life and re-join the tourist scene back north.


Lobster Pot (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

We had arrived at Lashings completely ignorant of the hotel and area, and left it with deep gratitude for such a unique, absorbing, and calming experience in paradise. I cannot recommend Lashings enough–it’s one of the greatest finds I’ve had in all of my travels through sixty countries. Stay tuned for my upcoming blog posts on other corners of Jamaica!


Traveling on! (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

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