Jamaica is a gift that keeps on giving.
I spent three years in Jamaica at school and I’ve returned quite often since. Somehow it feels like every time I return and tick something else off my #jamaicabucketlist, about three new things appear.
I spent five days in Jamaica on this lah hay. It was my first time back on the island in a year and it felt great to be back. It was also my last trip there for some time as life is leading me away from the Caribbean for the next two years.
This time I was determined to see some of Southside Jamaica – I’ve done most of the tourist things in Negril, Ocho Rios, Kingston, Portland and Montego Bay but there’s a wealth of goodness in St. Elizabeth.
You don’t usually hear about it because it’s a good distance from the tourist capitals and also somewhat rural but I think with the development of sites like Floyd’s Pelican Bar, Black River Safari ,Appleton Estate Rum Tour and Lover’s Leap, more tourists are leaving the Mo-Bay and Ochi havens and heading to St E.
I’ve spoken extensively about how expensive it is to get to Jamaica from the Eastern Caribbean but luckily I had some miles in my Caribbean Airlines account that made the trip much more affordable. I paid $110 USD for an originally priced $300 one way ticket to Jamaica from Port of Spain. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – sign up for ALL the miles programs. You may think, “I don’t travel so much, it doesn’t make sense” but as I said in my how to travel more post, you have to change your thinking if you want to travel more, plus every little bit counts when you’re trying to achieve something.
Two new spots I was able to Lah Hay to while in Jamaica were Hellshire Beach and Floyd’s Pelican Bar.
Hellshire Beach, Portmore Jamaica
Everyone is sleeping on Hellshire! For years the Jamaicans I know have told me not to stress about getting to Hellshire because the water isn’t all that nice. Hellshire was sold to me as a liming and eating spot. So much so, I almost didn’t pack a swimsuit before going there. I’m so happy my love for water prevailed and I did because I would have been so upset. Look at that water!
What they were right about was that Hellshire is indeed a hang out spot which can get really crowded on weekends. Because of this, I definitely suggest trying to visit on a weekday, early in the morning. We went on a Monday morning at about 11 AM and practically had the beach to ourselves. The water was amazing, the beach is dotted with all types of entertainment (from music, to horse riding and jokes from the salespeople) and there are several restaurants to choose from. Most of them give you the option to choose your fish and then how you want to have it done. We had steamed and fried fish with festival (sweet fried cornmeal dumpling) and bammy (type of cassava bread). Y’all it was so delicious!
Before you get in on the food though, do yourself a favour and have a taste of the crawfish and ‘shrimp’. But don’t have it from just anyone. Make sure you have it from this guy (his name has slipped me) and dash some of his famous sauce on it. I’m practically drooling while typing this – it was that good! It’s not something you’ll only find at Hellshire – people sell it across Jamaica but this was the best I’ve had!
I think many people go to Kingston, Jamaica on business and miss out on the beaches because most of the good ones are at least two hours away from Kingston. But Hellshire is in Portmore which is about 45 minutes from Kingston. If you’re ever in the area do yourself a favour and definitely check out Hellshire!
Floyd’s Pelican Bar, Caribbean Sea
So I have somewhat conflicting feelings about Pelican Bar. It is a definite tourist trap but one that you absolutely have to visit. Pelican Bar is a bar in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. It’s like Nylon Pool in Tobago where the water around the bar is shallow, so you can swim and snorkel comfortably around the bar. It’s actually a dream. Imagine yourself sipping on a beastly cold Red Stripe (Lemon Flavour) in the clear shallow waters surrounded by the sea.
The bar itself has so much personality! People bring tokens from their home countries and all other types of memorabilia and hang up at Floyd’s. People also carve their names into the wood – it’s really a place to leave your mark or something else behind. You’ll find Jamaicans selling souvenirs, smoking weed and relaxing (it feeds into so many stereotypes guys). You’ll also find people playing loud ass games of dominos (really fun to watch) and schools of fish swimming in the clear water around the bar.
Honestly I’d say pass on the food. It took ages to prepare and it wasn’t that great. But you can definitely get in on the drinks.
If you’re on a budget stick to beers but if you can splurge, try the rum punch.
I say it’s a tourist trap because if you’re on a budget, it may be too much to get there and be there:
You have to first get to St Elizabeth – it’s best if you have a rental car, if you don’t you can use public transportation once you’re comfy doing so.
With the rental car, use Google Maps and drive to Parottee Bay. You’ll pass a bar rest stop on your left and see signage “Pelican Bar” on your right. Swing into the compound and negotiate with the captain of the boat to take you across and bring you back. It shouldn’t cost you more than $15 – 20 USD per person.
If you’re using public transport you’re going to have to get to Black River town and then call up my friend George (876 -355-1947) . George will drive you to Parottee Bay, organise the boat and take you across to Pelican Bar. He also takes the ride across with you (he doesn’t stay around no worries) and makes sure you get back to a taxi afterward. George charged us about $25 USD per person. Plain talk, George said he gave us a discount because we were black people from the Caribbean.
If you skip on the food, have two drinks and focus on the experience, you can save a lot of cash there. Food is about $15 USD for one small ass fish and two festivals, a rum punch is about $6 USD – it’s strong and good but if you’re on a budget, skip it.
Generally speaking if you’re travelling on a budget to Jamaica, you’ll have to try your hardest to pick and choose what you do. For budget travel Caribbean people, Jamaica is an expensive destination because it’s filled with tourist traps. It’s very much worth the saving and budgeting though. If you ever need any advice on a Lah Hay to Jamaica, you know where to find me!
Continue on to Part 2 to read what I got up to after leaving Jamaica.