A 360 of the quiet little fishing community of Little Bay (aka Likkle Bay)
02.03.2011 - 10.03.2011
Born Free, Live Free, Die Happy
A 360 of the quiet little fishing community of Little Bay (aka Likkle Bay)
02.03.2011 - 10.03.2011
A Beach Loving Foodies Paradise
Any second we’ll be on the ground and minutes later the airplane door will open. The thick warm salty air hits my lungs and instantly all feelings of negativity leave my body. Less than 4 hours ago it was 22 degrees and raining ice, the transition is very welcomed. In my mind I am transported to memories of trips past and for the first time in months a huge smile appears on my face. Years ago I learned to arrive on Tuesday as to avoid the crowds. I have also realized that Tuesday is the cheapest day to fly to Jamaica from Baltimore. Customs is breeze for the smiling surfer type in a Bob Marley t-shirt and before I know it I’m standing at the bus stop with an ice cold Red Stripe in my hand. My driver and co-pilot are old friends from the resort. Choppy and Sebert fill me on all that I’ve missed in the last 2 years. The drive from Montego Bay to the resort is the first adventure everyone will experience on their trip. You can get there in an hour 20 minutes but I usually stop at a few rum shacks and the super market for supplies along the way. The Jamaican drivers have 2 speeds, old lady and Dale Ernheart. The ladder I have never understood considering that driving is the ONLY thing Jamaicans do fast. Most taxi drivers think they’re in the Daytona 500. Highway A1 now makes the drive rather smooth compared a few years ago. You cruise through the bustling crowded town of Lucea then onto Green Island. The coastal views of the Caribbean are magnificent, displaying every color of the blue and green color wheel. Past Green Island you come to Negril, this is where the party is. All Inclusive mega resorts, boutique hotels, guest houses, bars, clubs, and restaurants line the main strip known as 7 miles beach. Once out of Negril you are on the home stretch. Miles of sugar cane fields to the left backed by lush rolling green hills. To the right are concrete homes painted all the colors of the rainbow and cook shops scattered every few 100 yards, you're almost there.
I am an American solo traveler in my mid 20s and have stayed at the Lost Beach Resort for a few months over the last 6 years. Lost Beach is located off the main road in between Negril and Sav-la-Mar. Less than 10 minutes down the rum shack and cook shop studded, pot hole covered road from Little London towards the sea you will find this hidden gem. Words don't do the location justice. Just when you are wondering where in the hell the driver is taking you, the turquoise Caribbean, green mountains to the east, coconut filled palm trees and white sand comes into your view and all doubts are put to rest. In my 6 trips to Jamaica I have traveled the entire island and stayed in nearly every populated area and some not so populated ones. Lost Beach is my escape from reality and I am yet to find a friendlier more welcoming community that resembles so closely the Jamaica of old. This area is known as Broughton in the Parish of Westmoreland and the neighborhood where the hotel sits is called Hope Wharf.
The resort itself is basic but has every amenity needed to have an enjoyable relaxed vacation and is kept very clean during the running months. . The staff is friendly and very trustworthy. Jennifer, the manager, truly is the glue that holds the place together. Her smile, relaxed attitude and hospitable nature are some of the best things that keep guests returning again and again. The buildings are white concrete with bamboo and thatch roofs. The lobby is white tile decorated with tropical plants, mounted trophy fish and beautiful hand carved couches centered by a little dolphin wishing fountain. Just off the lobby is the open air bar and restaurant. A stocked bar with name brand liquor, Red Stripe, Heineken, etc. seats about 10 people but there are enough tables for 30 or so to eat.
The restaurant has delicious daily specials that usually consist of a fresh catch, soup, appetizer, 2 or 3 entrees and desert. Besides being a wonderful manager, Jennifer is also a fabulous baker and chef, don’t miss her mango cake! The menu is limited so the chefs can spend time and care on your dish. The greater the variety the lower the quality gets, at least in Jamaica. And of course like anywhere else in Jamaica, the service is “soon come”. Which means kick back with a red stripe, spark a spliff and enjoy where you are, your food will be here soon. The area is nothing fancy but comfortable. Everything is white and clean with plastic tables and chairs; the entire outer floor is covered with conch shells. There are large green shrubs and palm trees to one side and the beautiful Caribbean in front of you. A picture perfect gateway to the beach is the highlight of this view. An archway with hand carved dolphins on both sides and a small palm centered on the white beach with the sea in background. This is where I spent hours a day reading, blazing or admiring the view. Usually there is a nice breeze coming off the water that makes this the coolest spot on the resort.
Because this small boutique hotel is not advertised or marketed it does not receive much business. For that reason it has stayed a diamond in the ruff. I believe that some of the reviewers of this hotel visited during Nov-Dec when the hotel is partially closed. The rooms are clean and comfortable all directly beach front with unobstructed views of the sea. Every apartment has hot and cold running water with good pressure as well as a full kitchen with the exception of a college size fridge. The couches are this-end-up style and the cushions are new. All the mattresses where replaced recently, there are ceiling fans in all bedrooms and AC units in various rooms. There are 2 rustic cabins and one beach cottage at the end of the property. These are perfect for the solo backpacker or couple on a budget. All 3 offer hot water, comfortable clean mattresses, gas stoves and fridge.
The grounds are kept well-manicured by Beanie the gardener. He is the kind of man that makes me feel better about the human race. His bright smile from ear to ear, generous nature, hardworking attitude and family dedication is something that brings joy to everyone he meets. An ackee tree and breadfruit tree tower over the rear of the hotel. The herb garden has thyme, oregano, rosemary, scallions, leaf of life, tobacco and several other plants/herbs including a huge lime tree. Beautiful red and pink hibiscus dot the cobble stone walkway that leads along the rear of the rooms toward the cabins past the pool and hot tubs. The beach is covered with palm trees that have hammocks in between several of them. You can walk for miles in each direction only running into the occasional fisherman, goat or cow. This is a natural beach and is far off the beaten path which makes it a shell hunters dream. Bright pinks and purples, greens and blues. Black coral, drift wood and sea grass is another common sight. The resort has several dogs that live on property. They have an instant attachment to foreigners, I’m guessing because we treat them like family instead of pests. As of last month, there was Sam, the 10 year old patriarch. Zero, the fighter and protector and the funniest dog you will ever meet.
There are also 2 others that you may see from time to time named Samson and Puppy. The entire neighborhood owns dogs and most are for security. They may sometimes seem aggressive but in the end I’ve never heard of a white person being bitten. However Jamaicans do get attacked regularly in Jamaica, I believe this is due to the mistreatment of them and the dogs being color blind. There are sand fleas and mosquitoes in this area but they tend to only come out around dawn and dusk, worse after a heavy rain. Keep your legs and especially ankles covered in bug spray and burn a mosquito coil if you want some extra protection. Again this is a natural beach so it doesn’t get the mosquito fogging that the AI resorts get. Use your bug spray and cover up at heavy times, they have never affected me enough to disturb my trip.
The ocean is usually clear and around 80 degrees. The bottom is a mix of soft sand, sea grass and a few large stones but they aren't shop. The only annoyances are jelly fish during certain seasons and sea wasps. Neither of which are common and their sting is tolerable and only lasts a few minutes. One unique feature of the beach location is the two fresh water rivers on either side that empty mountain rain water into the sea. The result is a wonderful feeling of warm and cool pockets while swimming. Salt water is denser than fresh water so while floating or swimming you will experience unique sensations. My favorite time to swim is in the morning around 8-9 after the sand fleas have come and gone and it's still cool. The water is as calm as a mountain lake and I can float for an hour while slipping into a kind of trance. Swimming at night is also incredible because again the calmness but the night sky in this part of Jamaica is like sitting in a planetarium. I regularly see several shooting stars in a night, more stars than I've seen in any other part of the world and also some things that I just can't explain. If the power goes out, which has only happened a few times in 6 years, the sky is indescribably clear and is a real treat.
I love the location of Lost Beach for many logistical reasons as well. You are completely isolated and can go for days just lying in a hammock and reading on your porch. Anything that you could possible want can be brought to you like any other hotel. All the hustle and party of Negril is only 20 minutes away. So anytime you need some excitement or a conversation with a person who speaks clear English, just hop on a rented bike, a bike taxi or route taxi. For cheap supplies you're only 20 minutes from Sav-la-Mar where the ATM and supermarket is. You can order meat from the butcher that is butchered fresh every Friday. 4-5lb beef tenderloin costs around $10 US! The same price for pork tenderloin though goat is a bit more expensive and everything is always killed the day of. Chickens can be bought for about $7 alive but they will kill and clean it for you if you want. There is a vegetable man who comes around on Thursday with more than 20 different varieties of fruits and veggies. A week’s worth of daily portions will run you $10-$15. You can also go to the grocery store in Little London and get the same prices on veggies but not the freshness of the delivery man.
The resort sits right next to a functioning fishing village so every day there is CHEAP fresh catch coming ashore 100' down the beach. The catch includes small reef fish like parrot fish, Jack, trigger fish, and angel fish. Red Snapper, Barracuda, Bonita, Conger eel, Conch, Stone fish, shrimp and spiny lobster are usually seen daily. Bora, the Lost Beach fisherman, has also hauled in Blue Marlin, Shark, Grouper and Wahoo on some of his deep sea outings. In the neighborhood that stretches from Lost Beach back to the main road in Little London, there are a number of cook shops and small rum shacks. You can find an intense game of dominoes or deep conversation happening at anyone one of these at any given time. These shops carry basic dry goods, soda, beer, rum and other misc. items at higher prices since they are far off the main road. They start closing around 8 but stay open later the farther up the road towards town. It's fun to see one domino game end and the players carry the game up the road to the next bar. Some of my best times on the island have been late night rum and ganja induced lessons on life shared with me by the Rastafarians of the community. A large home cooked meal runs 350 J, about $4. Meals usually consists of rice and peas (a coconut flavored version of red beans and rice) a meat or seafood and festival (fried bread), yams, steamed veggies or Jamaican slaw. Common dishes in the community are jerk chicken, fried chicken, curried chicken, curried coat, curried conch, stew pork, cow foot soup, brown stew chicken, Manish water, escovitch fish, and fried fish. Vivian’s has the best food within walking distance of the hotel. However, if you go left at the main road about 2 blocks up on the left you will find Buddy's across from a bright pink bar. This man cooks the best food I have found in the Caribbean. That is saying a lot because I consider food the second most import thing in my life next to family. His curried conch is something I dream about. He has a daily changing menu according to what's fresh and there are also fresh squeezed natural juices that are a great way to start a long day of activities.
Speaking of activities, there is no shortage of things to do if you get tired of lying in a hammock drinking Red Stripe all day. My personal favorite is to rent a motorcycle from a local, about $20 a day plus gas. Cruise through the cane fields on the way to Negril. Take the back way to the West End through Little Bay and Orange Hill. Get lost and find an adventure, I only recommend people do this if they regularly ride a motorcycle in their home country. Driving in Jamaica is not for beginners. There is horseback riding right down the beach at Winston's farm. Mayfield Falls, YS Falls, Blue Hole, Treasure Beach and Black River are all great day trips that will cool you off and won't leave you feeling rushed. You can see the remains of a house that Bob Marley kept for one of his ladies. It is on a cliff overlooking deep blue water and there is a natural mineral bath cave on the property. Everyone in the area has told me this is where Bob bathed while he lived here. I compare the invigorating feeling to swimming in a Cenote, crisp cool crystal clear water with beams of light dancing off the bottom. There are kayaks at the resort to use and you can snorkel out on the reef. It's not the greatest variety of fish life, but the visibility is perfect and there are all the colors of the rainbow, massive brain coral, moray eel, the occasional stingray and Barracuda. Mountain bikes are available to explore the community and the area around Broughton. Little Bay is beautiful and Orange Hill has some huge colorful homes. You can ride for hours and see very few people.
This wouldn't be an honest opinion about Lost Beach and the surrounding community without talking about the ganja. Oh the ganja... There was an article I read 6 years ago, I believe on Ganja.com or Cannabis Culture that described this area as ganja paradise. It told of a place where you could smoke some of greatest pot in world in massive quantities, in a tropical paradise without fear of persecution. Well folks, that's exactly what this place is for any ganja smoker. And for the nonsmoker it is not constantly thrown in your face like other parts of the island. If you do not partake there will be no pressure to, if the smoke bothers you no one will smoke around you.
All of the best ganja in Jamaica is grown not far from here which means you are usually buying from the source. Heavily seeded, sticky, brown, mid-grade can be bought for around $30-$75lb. Most of this is grown in the swamps and it is what the locals smoke. It is usually sold in small 50J (.75US) bags at any rum shack in Jamaica, usually just one spliff. It is good for baking, cooking or rolling Bob Marley style spliffs. The best high grade costs $125-$200lb depending on the time of year and who you go through. Most bud is absolutely packed with crystals, bright green with deep purple and red hairs, well cured, resin filled Indica crossbreeds. However, there are some growers who take the time to grow a nice fat Sativa. There are much less seeds in the high grade but the Jamaicans keep some males in their fields so they produce plants with seeds to keep the strain alive. Cloning is not a process I have seen here yet but I know it does happen.
For years, many growers have been using strains from the US with outstanding results. White Widow, Jack Herer, Purple Kush and dozens of different skunk varieties are doing well here. Basically any high grade outdoor from this part of the island will be fruity and earthy with a heavier, sleepy type of high. All bud from this area that I've seen is 100% organic. The Rasta growers believe in dirt, water and sunlight with the occasional chicken manure. The result is a clean tasty smoke with no burning or chemical after taste. I tend to dry my buds in the sun for a few hours to get them a little crispy so they burn better.
The hash in this area is equally satisfying for a ganja connoisseur. There are 3 distinct types of hash that I've found in Jamaica. The first being "make or beaten" hash. This is the low grade, basically plant trimmings with some buds that have been beaten in a mortar until a black tar like hash appears. Sometimes alcohol, gum from the gum tree, even tar off the road is combined to add weight so be very careful if you choose to smoke this. You can easily tell the difference in smell when it burns. The high is harsh heavy and leaves you with a headache. The second type is "finger" hash. This is the resin that builds up on someone’s fingers while trimming and manicuring buds. Once there is a decent amount of resin you scrape it off with a razor or sharp knife. Roll it into a ball and you've got finger hash. I make my own finger hash after breaking up large amounts of bud. Obviously there will be varying potency in finger hash according to the strain it has resulted from. This hash will burn down to nothing with one light and has a sweet non incense type smell. It also burns gray while the "make hash" will burn black. The high is full bodied and euphoric, a very pleasant experience. However you all still smoking plant matter, dirt, skin, and anything else on the persons fingers at the time it was made. The third, my personal favorate and best quality hash is "bubble hash". Several years ago, a HASHGOD named Bubble Man came to this part of the island and showed the locals his method of making bubble hash, (ice hash) a ridiculously potent form of hash said to contain 50% THC. The high that results from smoking the purest form of this hash made from the highest quality bud can only be described as opiate like. It has a distinctive narcotic level sedative like high that can become addictive. This hash gets its name because it literally bubbles and liquefies when a flame is put to it. The strongest form I've seen is a translucent amber color, wicked strong. It will also be jet black with a nice sheen or even a blondish color. If you are planning an extended trip to this part of Jamaica I suggest picking up a Bubble Bag kit and try it out for yourself. Buy on Ebay, Amazon, etc. If you are very lucky there will be someone around the resort who can make it for you or knows someone with some left over.
With all that said I’m sure you can tell I have a deep love for this resort and the entire community of Broughton. Hopefully in writing this review I can give people a better idea of what to expect and not to expect from a stay at Lost Beach. I have tried to be as honest as possible in my writing and everything I’ve said is based on personal experience. The people of this area are extremely poor and do not benefit from tourist dollars like Negril, Mo Bay, and Ocho Rios. They rely on themselves to carve out their way of life. So when anyone comes to Broughton I strongly suggest they spend time and money in the community. Don’t haggle over the prices and bring a gift or 2, a little bit of money or one nice gift can make someone’s year. The average annual family income in this area is about $500. However the smiles and waves from the children in their crisp school uniforms, friendly conversations with locals, generous nature and general happy way of life will leave you believing they are the richest people on the planet. Enjoy your trip to Ganja Paradise and don’t forget to tell them Rasta John sent you.