OK, OK, I’ll admit it. I emptied our room’s minibar into my suitcase before we left Riu. Just enough bottled water, Red Stripe, Ting, Coke, and Sprite to get us through a few days. I had encouraged the family to take full advantage of the all-inclusive resort (in other words, eat and drink like pigs), and to be honest, I was a little worried about how everyone would fare at Lost Beach. I knew there would be no TV or phone in our room. I couldn’t imagine the kids going a week without TV, or me going two days without calling the office. But I was determined that we wouldn’t starve. I knew that American snack foods could be expensive in Jamaica, so we brought lots of cheese & peanut butter crackers and those canisters of potato chips with us from the states.
Still, when Dennis arrived with the Lost Beach van, I introduced myself and asked if we could stop at the Hi-Lo supermarket on the way out of Negril. No problem, man. Dennis took us to the Hi-Lo and while we stocked up on supplies, he waited outside. We bought him a cold bottle of Ting, and we were off to Lost Beach. The road from Negril to Little London was much like the one from MoBay to Negril, except we were heading inland, no water to be seen. The road was well-paved, and traffic moved at a brisk pace, something which Jamaicans seem to reserve only for their driving. Little London consists of a gas station, a few shops, and an intersection. At this intersection, we turned right, and Dennis smiled and announced “Welcome to the best road in Jamaica”.
The road between Little London and Hope Wharf could more accurately be described as the WORST road in Jamaica. The road was unpaved dirt, with large ruts and holes which made it necessary to travel at a snail’s pace. Goats, cows, oxen, and dogs wandered freely through the street, slowing us down even more. The few people we saw were hanging around rum bars. There was no sign of water, much less a beach. My wife looked at me, and I could read her thoughts. What had I gotten us into this time?
I asked Dennis if it was safe here. He smiled and told me that no crime had ever been committed in the New Broughton region (which includes Hope Wharf). That seemed like an unbelievable claim, but he was not the last person to tell me that. He proudly pointed out his house as we passed, a neat concrete home that was one of the nicer ones around. In spite of Dennis’ winning smile and reassuring warmth, my wife was still looking a little worried about this whole idea. The kids were silent, looking out their windows at a world they didn’t even know existed.
Suddenly we were there. We drove through a gate into a gravel parking lot. To our right we could see an aviary filled with cooing doves. Beyond it a strip of white sand and blue water. In front of us was a whitewashed concrete building with a Lost Beach sign above an open air lobby. The lobby had a small fountain in the center and mahogany benches with dolphins carved into them. From beyond the lobby we could hear the sound of music coming from the bar, the unmistakable sound of Jimmy Buffett. My wife looked at me and smiled…we were home.
Check-in at Lost Beach was very quick…we got to meet Al, an American transplant who manages the place, and Karel, a sophisticated Jamaican lady who REALLY manages the place. The welcome from both seemed genuinely warm, and they handed us a complimentary can of Off!, which surprised us, as we had not had a problem with bugs in Negril. We had TWO porters to carry our bags (Mark and Harold). We exited through the back of the lobby and down a stone pathway. To our left was a colorful children’s playground, and some cabins; to our right, two small buildings which included our lodgings. Each of these buildings has two two-bedroom apartments on the first floor. Three-bedroom apartments were located on the second floor.
Our room consists of a living room, furnished with uncomfortable wicker couches and table, a small kitchen and dining area (small refrigerator, stove, sink, table and chairs, complete with toaster, coffee maker, dishes, glasses, and silverware), a bathroom with shower (and a bamboo ceiling!) and two bedrooms. One bedroom has a double bed (for my wife and me) and another has two twins (one for each of the kids). There are wall air conditioners in the living room and our bedroom and ceiling fans throughout. There’s a thunderstorm brewing, wind is blowing, and louvers on the screened windows are all open to let the air through. Floors are all tile with a few throw rugs. The door we entered is on the side, but there are double glass doors leading to the porch.
The private porch is furnished with plastic chairs and tables. The chairs can be used as upright chairs, or they can be leaned back and a leg rest pulled out to make them into lounge chairs. And if you want to use them as beach chairs you don’t have to go far…a step off the porch puts you on the beach. The beach is studded with coconut palms and other trees I don’t recognize. There’s a hammock between two of them right in front of our porch, and several more in front of the other rooms. My daughter runs out to the water and reports back that the words “Lost Beach” are written on the beach in script in some kind of purple and green plants. We unpack a little, load up our refrigerator, and decide to head over to the restaurant for lunch.
The open air restaurant and bar is only a few steps from our front porch (in fact, everything at Lost Beach is just a few steps from our front porch). Right on the beach, naturally, and connected to the lobby by a short hallway. There is only one person in the whole restaurant, a woman drinking white wine and reading a paperback mystery novel (we later find out she and her husband own the place). The waiter/bartender quickly arrives, his name is Romy (short for Romeo); he gets us Red Stripe, wine, 2 Cokes and menus. All food is made to order here, nothing prepared in advance. This is a far cry from the buffets we left back at Riu. It means that you have to order about an hour before you’re hungry, but it also means that the food is fresh and hot and very tasty. The kids had burgers on coco bread, and I had the Jamaican Dread sandwich, a fried egg and cheese with vegetables and jerk sauce on coco bread (sort of like an Egg McMuffin, only about a million times better). Everything was great, and the kids were amazed by the perfectly executed french fries. We had been in Jamaica for 4 days, and this was our first taste of coco bread… why doesn’t Riu serve this stuff? After our late lunch, the wind and rain stopped, the sun returned, and along with it the heat. We discovered that after it rains at Lost Beach, the sand flies appear. Our can of Off! became a necessity (We bought several more cans at the small gift shop/grocery store during our stay). Time to explore a little.
As you leave your front porch, you’re on the beach. If you travel to your right, you pass the restaurant/bar, which is also decorated with carved mahogany dolphins (one of which was wearing a hat or holding a fishing pole at various times during our stay). Music often can be heard from the bar stereo, most often reggae, not too loud. Just past the restaurant is a large dove cage, and the neat wood cabin where the American owners lived while the resort was being built. There is also a volleyball net set up on the beach there. Just beyond this is a chain fence marking the end of Lost Beach property, but you can continue down the beach from there. Here is where the fishermen from the village keep their boats and bring in their catch.
If you make a left from your porch you reach the pool area. The pool is large enough to swim laps, has a diving board at the deep end, and a concrete deck surrounding it. Plenty of chairs, tables and umbrellas around the pool. Toward the back, away from the beach, two smaller pools are present, one of which has whirlpool jets. The other one is intended to be a children’s pool, but was unfilled while we were there. Also in the back are restrooms and a room which will eventually be a pool bar/snack bar, but for now was unoccupied (since the rooms and the main restaurant were only steps away, this wasn’t too much of an inconvenience). A flight of stairs leads to a sundeck (more chairs) high above the pool. The view from here is breathtaking. The beach stretches before you in both directions, and far to your left, hazy mountains jut out into the caribbean. At night you can see the lights of Sav-la-mar nestled against them (more on this later).
Some differences between the beach at Hope Wharf and the beach at Negril:
- The sand is a little more tan here and a little less white (but still whiter than a lot of beaches I’ve been to…Negril’s is perfect.
- There are a few small waves (at Bloody Bay in Negril, the water was almost eerily calm). Actually I like to hear waves lapping at the shore (Slept like a baby).
- You can’t see the bottom as well at Lost Beach, the water isn’t as clear (once again, I’m comparing a little less than perfect to the perfect crystal clear water of Negril). We were there in August…I’m told that at other times of the year the water approaches Negril’s clarity.
- The beach faces South rather than West, so the sunset is off to your right, not right over the water. (If you get up in the morning, however, you can see the sun rise over the mountains mentioned before. I’m sure that must be beautiful. Somehow I missed it (Slept like a baby).
- Sand flies
- There are no crowds. No tourists. None. We had the whole beach to ourselves that day. And pretty much every day. Miles and miles of almost perfect beach. All to ourselves.
You don’t have to be a dog lover to stay at Lost Beach, but it helps. My daughter quickly discovered the five resident dogs: two mommies (Cheech and Chong), and three puppies (Geezer, Dozer and Squeak). Squeak was the runt of the litter, and she really does squeak. From then on, there was always a bowl of water on our porch for them, and the puppies would often hang out in my wife’s beach bag. In addition, it was not uncommon to find one or more of the dogs sleeping in our room (other guests told us they didn’t allow the dogs in their rooms, so please don’t let this scare you off if you don’t like dogs). They were cute, we enjoyed watching them play, and we miss them a lot.
After the first day’s rainstorm, the wind stopped and it started to warm up ouside. We closed all the louvered windows, cranked up our air conditioners, and they ran constantly from then on. The room cooled down nicely, and remained comfortable for the length of our stay. We never opened the windows again, but you could still hear the tree frogs and waves at night.
We had the whole resort to ourselves for most of the afternoon, but Dennis had told us that there were two more families staying there. They showed up late in the day. They had all been on an excursion. Burra and Martin, Lost Beach’s designated water sports guides, had taken them on their boat to a reef for snorkeling, a bat cave that sounded fascinating, and to a restaurant called Uncle Sam’s. We never made it to any of these places (One more reason to go back!)
By now, everything in the room was working well…the air conditioner was cooling the room, the refrigerator was cooling the drinks. One thing I never did get to work was the wall safe. I read the instructions three times and I still couldn’t get the thing to open. I asked Al and Karel about it, and they said the salt air ruins the mechanism. Al volunteered his safe behind the front desk, and our passports, airline tickets, jewelry, and extra money went in there. We enjoyed having most of the day alone, but it was a bit of a relief when the other families returned home. There was more than enough room for everyone to have privacy, but somehow a restaurant seems a little strange with no one else in it. While we were cleaning up we noticed that our daughter had disappeared. I figured she was at the bar playing with the dogs. When we got to the restaurant, we found that the other two families had pulled several tables together and our daughter had joined them for dinner. They asked if we wanted to pull up another table, and we did. One family had two children about the same age as ours, which was convenient. When they arrrived a few days earlier, they WERE the only guests. A few days later another family arrived, and then us a few days after that. All of us had purchased seven day vacations, so we would all be leaving a few days apart also.
I had Rasta Pasta for dinner that night, which is pasta smothered in a sauce of ackee, butter and garlic, I think. Excellent. There are nice printed menus at the restaurant, one each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition, there is a blackboard with daily specials. These include a fresh catch (and at Lost Beach, that usually means a fisherman hauled it in a few minutes ago!), and entrees ranging from chicken kebabs to curried goat. There is always a special dessert listed, but we never had room for dessert! I would be willing to bet they are cooked from scratch that day. I know the bread (like the delicious coco bread we had for lunch) is baked fresh. Our fellow guests informed us that after a day or two, they dispensed with the menu entirely. If you can imagine a dish, and they have the ingredients for it, they’ll make it. One night my daughter ordered a T-bone steak (not on the menu), and sure enough, a perfectly prepared one arrived at the table. Prices are reasonable, much less than the price of comparable meals in the tourist restaurants of Negril.
You have to be prepared to spend some time at the restaurant. When each meal is individually prepared to order, it takes time. I can’t think of a nicer place to spend that time, though. Every table has a view of the beach and the water. As darkness falls the full moon makes a river of moonlight across the ocean, and the only sounds are the lapping waves, the tree frogs, the cooing doves, and the laughter of contented guests, thrilled to be sharing this moment with you.
The pool at Lost Beach is open any time, The only rule: don’t disturb the other guests! After dinner that first night, we decided to head for the pool. When I say “we”, I mean all of the guests at the resort (if you’re counting, that’s seven adults and four kids). It’s kind of hard to disturb the other guests when you bring them with you. The kids had fun diving and swimming ‘til all hours, and the adults shared a few bottles of wine. We had discovered that the “Hi-Lo” had Vin de Pays (French country table wine) at very reasonable prices and our room’s refrigerator was now well-stocked. The management suggests that you not bring your own beverages to the bar/restaurant, which means you can run up a bar bill during those long dinner hours, but you can BYO every place else, including the pool. Plastic cups are recommended (also available at Hi-Lo, by the way). We all made plenty of noise, splashing, talking, laughing, and absolutely no one complained to the management. I made a mental note to call the office tomorrow, and slept like a baby.