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Trip Report Trip report: Mar Blue, Treasure Beach, Jamaica

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Trip report 16-20 January, 2005. Mar-Blue Verandah in Treasure Beach, Jamaica

Last fall my husband and I decided that instead of our regular gift exchange for the holidays this year that we would put our money towards a short trip to the Caribbean in January. After some initial research and finding out the dates and islands I could use my Delta Skymiles for getting two tickets, I contacted a man named Sasha Davidson at www.jamaicaescapes.com who helped me decide on the new Mar Blue Verandah that opened in December 2004. I can’t say enough good things about Sasha, who not only kept in steady contact with me during the months leading up to the trip, but also put together an extensive welcome kit on Jamaica containing maps, activities, history of the island, a local magazine, and a custom made CD of Jamaican music. Anyone considering a trip to Jamaica who seeks a custom tailored vacation off the beaten path should check out his website right away!

We departed on a Sunday, transferred in Atlanta, and arrived in MBJ around 1:30pm. Lines for immigration were very long and we waited for just over an hour before heading through customs and out to meet our driver, Westin. We stopped by a grocery store to pick up a few snacks and change some money and headed off on the 2 hour drive to Treasure Beach. The ride was beautiful but we were quite glad to arrive at Mar Blue at cocktail time. Axel and Andrea, the owners, and Dennis, a staff member, greeted us with cold towels and a cold green coconut drink that was more refreshing after a long day of travel than I possibly have words to describe. Axel showed us to our room on the second floor where we changed clothes and headed out to walk along the beach for sunset.

Our suite was on the second floor with a vaulted ceiling, large bedroom with king bed, spacious bathroom, and large open air living room with balcony. The furnishings were simple and done mostly in dark woods with “world-inspired” accessories such as pillows and throws. We spent much of our early mornings and evenings in the living room—my husband using one of the chaises and I sprawled out on the day bed. The room wasn’t quite finished—the ceiling fans and window screens were yet to be installed—but we did not feel lacking in any way. The first night we were hesitant to open the windows without the screens and opted to use the a/c in the bedroom, but after that we left the windows and door to the living room wide open as we didn’t encounter a bug the entire trip.

The beach immediately in front of Mar Blue is mostly rocky, as the last hurricane eroded over 10 feet of sand from the shore. We did not chance entering the water there, but a 10-15 minute walk in either direction provided a handful of small coves perfect for swimming. At first we were disappointed with the state of the beach out front, but after falling asleep and waking up the next morning to the roar and crash of waves on the rocks, all was bliss. Felt like the best of both worlds to have the wave action and music of the surf right there with a calm beach just a short walk away.

The food at Mar Blue is simply exquisite. We were the only guests there who were not friends or family of the owners, so we had essentially a private dining room for all of our meals. (Sasha put together a package for us that included breakfast and a 3 course dinner nightly.) Breakfast was cooked to order each morning, and my husband and I are still talking about the omelets—the best we’d ever had. Each day Axel would inquire about our preferences for dinner that night after letting us know what was fresh available that day. Particularly memorable were the red snapper, coconut curry shrimp, and mango custard.

On one day we booked a tour with Dennis to take us on a tour of the Black River. We rode along the coastline for about an hour in his boat, stopping a couple of times to observe the dolphin pod playing in the water around us. Then we headed up the river, pausing here and there for a closer look at the crocodiles that live there. Since we were in a smaller boat, we could pass under bridge too low for the resort/cruise people and that took us to a wide place in the river where the water was beautiful and clear where we could get out and have a Red Stripe and jump off a rope swing. The two young men in the boat with us who are working with the Peace Corps in Jamaica entertained us with their antics with the rope swing. After that we retraced our journey back to a restaurant called Tasty’s, where Dennis had called in our fish order by phone so that it would be fresh and waiting for us upon arrival. After a leisurely lunch we headed to the Pelican Bar, and offshore bar built on stilts that was probably the highlight of our stay. Probably 1/4 mile offshore, and looking somewhat rickety (but actually was quite sturdy), there were two young men there working the bar. The six of us from our boat climbed up and enjoyed the views, the breeze, the conversation, and the Red Stripes. Most of the time I was blissfully aware that there is nothing in Massachusetts that could possibly compare to those simple pleasures.

Our other days were divided among reading on our balcony, walking the beach, swimming, checking out tidal pools, and walking along the roadsides and stopping in various places for a cold beverage. We enjoyed our local lunches—I sampled ackee and curried goat for the first time—but most of all we enjoyed being in such a community-based place. We walked through neighborhoods to get to lunch and every few hundred yards along the road someone was selling beers or sodas. We enjoyed talking with the folks who live in Treasure Beach and the other visitors there who also discovered it.

We loved our stay at Mar Blue and definitely recommend it to folks seeking a quieter pace surrounded by local culture that is not remotely resort-driven. I think it is an excellent middle ground between being in a private villa and staying in a hotel. Axel, Andrea, and all of the staff were gracious and welcoming and we cannot wait to return. The only drawbacks was the long drive to get there combined with a short stay—it’s really too long in transit for only 4 nights.

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