Football on Treasure Beach, Jamaica

Road Trip While Keto: Our Day in Treasure Beach, Jamaica

Sometimes you’ve just got to get out of Kingston… know what I mean? Like any major city, Kingston, Jamaica has its fair share of stressors: traffic, ongoing road improvement works, horrible taxi drivers that force your soul into your mouth with every drive, noise, searing heat especially now that they’ve removed what seems like every living tree all in the name of road network expansion and the everlasting presence of garbage. Everywhere. So two weekends ago H insisted on heading out of the city for the day. Who am I to fight against a drive out of town, that’s likely involve a beach stop and yummy food 🙂 Here’s what we did and how we stayed keto (and happily so!) on a perfect day on the road.

Elements of the Perfect Road Trip: Destination, Route and Food

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We weren’t quite sure where we would end up. We wanted beach and H wanted to grill chicken. Our road trips sometimes take us into the hills to hike or to a beach to chill. Sometimes we simply just drive out to buy fish or jerk and explore. We haven’t done a river move in while, but I suspect that’ll change soon given this hot summer that’s upon us! Anyway, this time around, we wanted to make our own food. H is Grill Meister Extraordinaire. No exaggeration. He prepares his own marinades by blending fresh aromatics in perfect proportion with the addition of one or two secret ingredients and really takes the time to give the meat sufficient love and time to absorb all of that yumminess!

We’re a keto household now (our son and I started this journey end August 2017, H joined the merry band almost a year ago and our daughter now home from college has just sorta fit in) and so H was sure to prepare LOTS of chicken, a real treat to anticipate! Being keto simply means that we no longer eat carbohydrates – carbs – for short. So we eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds and green veggies. We no longer eat rice, sugar, bread, pasta, potatoes, flour, etc. This converts us to fat burners for energy and allows our bodies to tap into its own fat stores, ergo, we lose weight!

So the next thing to decide on was the destination… This was a real challenge. Beach access in Jamaica is a very fraught issue right now. I wrote about it here. We are an island, surrounded by water, yet access to the best beaches is restricted to those who can pay, and in most every case, when you pay, you are unable to carry your own picnic, much less grill on the beach. I understand the need to pay for security, for rest room facilities and for a clean beach. Those things don’t fall like manna from on high free of cost. But I wish we could freely picnic while adhering to stated standards of behaviour including strict clean up rules that are enforced.

So we knew we needed a beach, we knew what we’d be eating. We just didn’t know which beach and therefore the route we’d be driving!

Grilling on the Beach: We do it best!

We had done the grilling on the beach move some years ago in Long Bay, Portland…the eastern end of the island. We simply pulled up on the side of the road and set up camp on the white sand looking out to the roiling surf characteristic of the north eastern coast of the island. It’s beautiful there. What a great day that was! There was a bit of garbage around, however, detracting from perfect enjoyment of that space. And we had recently driven out there since the beginning of 2019 and wanted a different experience this time around.

Grilling in Long Bay, Portland
Grilling in Long Bay, Portland
Long Bay beach
The Long Bay beach

We had also done the grilling on the beach move recently in Duncan’s, Trelawny, north coast. Again, we simply pulled up adjacent to the beach and set up camp under a huge tree on a wild, white sand stretch of the most beautiful blue/green beach. But recently, access to our usual entry point has been cut off, most likely by private interests who will eventually control that entire stretch. I wasn’t in the mood to confront anyone or go in any round-about way to access a piece of the coastline. So we nixed that option.

Grilling in Duncan's Trelawny
Grilling in Duncan’s Trelawny
Me at Duncan's Bay Then & Me Now
Me at Duncan’s Bay Then & Me Now

Jackson Bay in south Clarendon used to be a favourite spot of ours too. There is an issue with insufficient shade on that beach, but I’m sure we would have been able to improvise with our own make-shift shelter. We are, after all, road warriors! BUT there has been a recent upsurge in crime in that parish, and the relatively isolated Jackson Bay felt like a risky option. Sigh…

The beautiful but isolated Jackson Bay beach in South Clarendon
The beautiful but isolated Jackson Bay beach in South Clarendon

So we thought about south St. Elizabeth. We love south St. Elizabeth…Treasure Beach, Great Bay… The beaches there are not white sand, but there is something very special about that area of Jamaica. Treasure Beach is the home of Community Tourism in Jamaica, where visitors and locals mingle with ease and in safety. There are high-end villas and rustic B&Bs. For the last 2 or 3 years, we’ve vacationed there every summer. So we headed west out of Kingston, with plans to head south eventually.

The Destination: Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth

We eventually decided to try out the public beach area in Treasure Beach. We had packed one igloo with ice, marinating chicken, small packs of nuts and water (and vodka for H). I had decided on an alcohol free June (yes, there are low-carb alcohol options, but alcohol kicks you out of ketosis, and I was in serious fat burning mode!) That’s all we packed!

When we weren’t keto, a move such as this one would have seen us packing one igloo with rum, assorted chasers and sugary drinks for the kids, as well as another igloo with cookies, chips, cake perhaps, some sort of carby side like bread or rice or pasta. It would have been a major undertaking logistically speaking, demanding considerable prep effort the day before. For a day trip. Keto has really simplified things! And note: we were not about to be deprived.

The Route: Head West then South

The breakfast eaters ate before our 9 am departure time. Those of us who Intermittent Fast (yes, that’s something that becomes standard operating procedure for many low-carbers) had coffee and I tucked 2 hard boiled eggs into my personal bag for snacking on at noon. How easy is that!

Driving from Kingston to Treasure Beach is a delightful drive. The first half of the journey is along a wide, smooth highway. The highway ends in the parish of Clarendon, giving way to narrower roads, which thankfully are in decent condition. There are a few decent enough bathroom stop options along the way, a vital consideration for a low-carber who drinks a gallon of water per day…ME).

We transition uphill into cool, green Mandeville. And look, I love a good drive out! As a family we have the best conversations, some deeply philosophical dealing with weighty matters like restorative justice, political corruption and the merits and demerits of debates rooted in selective morality. And sometimes we simply recount funny stories, tease each other and listen to music. Poor kids groan in agony when we opt for throw back jams that H and I wild out to. It’s all good, right? 🙂

After wending our way out of Manchester, heading downhill now into St. Elizabeth, anticipation grows. We have to pass through the growing, bustling town of Junction. Wow! It’s amazing to see how quickly Junction has emerged as a significant commercial center in the parish! There are a number of new and refurbished petrol stations. The Texaco station at Top Hill offered a pristine bathroom stop. There’s also a well stocked convenience store where you can get snacks, beverages and even a hot meal of sorts (not anything for low-carb eaters, but not to worry…we were well prepared!).

On the drive down to Treasure Beach, whatever tension remains in your shoulders and neck is sure to disappear as you take in the beautiful coast stretching in either direction down below you, absorb the wonderful sight of small, well laid out bountiful plots of melons, thyme, escallion, tomatoes and sweet peppers. There are many opportunities along the way to stop and buy perfectly ripened cantaloupes, pineapples and watermelons. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly. You are now in God’s country.

We’re here! Treasure Beach

We pulled up adjacent the entrance to the public beach we knew as Treasure Beach. We left everything in the car and decided to reconnoiter before setting up camp. The surf was rough that day. There was a large group of teenagers who appeared to be visitors to the island and a few other people scattered up and down the beach enjoying the rough surf and sun. Seemed like a good place to set up camp. We found a shady enough spot, and cleaned up discarded plastic bottles and styrofoam containers and empty snack bags. Sigh. Then we set up camp. That involved schlepping our personal bags, the igloo and the portable grill from the trunk of the car. Yes, the car! We had driven my small car which comfortably sat the 4 of us, is great on fuel, ensured that we paid the lowest toll rates and it carried all the luggage.

Treasure Beach
Treasure Beach

Treasure Beach: Community Tourism at its Best

The residents of Treasure Beach are the chillest people on the planet. They didn’t bat an eyelid at this intrepid band of people with their luggage and equipment. They simply smiled and said welcome to Treasure Beach. Showed us where to park safely. And went back to whatever they were doing.

While H set up a vodka drink for himself, projected some Bob Marley from his phone through his trusty portable speakers, and started getting the grill hot, we spread our ground sheet, stripped down and hit the water! Point to note: our music could be heard only by us. We had no need to blast music through mega speakers to “share” with the wider public. I wish others (on other beaches that we’ve been to) were as enlightened and considerate.

We set up camp on the beach
We set up camp on the beach
Mom and daughter at Treasure Beach
Beach Babes!

Lord, the water was NICE! Once we cleared the substantial, breaking waves, the water was deep enough for swimmers to enjoy, and we were no longer at risk of waves crashing down on us. It was a hot, hot day and the sea was a welcome balm. I thoroughly enjoyed the sea!

Braving the rough surf at Treasure Beach
Braving the rough surf at Treasure Beach

I subsequently learned from a twitter friend who now resides in the UK, but who is from the area, that the specific area we were enjoying is called Fisherman’s Reef, and that there is a deadly undertow there! Yikes! Well the more you know. Next time (and there will be a next time) we will be guided accordingly. And apparently we weren’t the only ones who hadn’t gotten this memo! EVERYBODY was splashing and enjoying the sea. Thank God there were no issues.

We walked up and down the beach. In one direction were tied up fishing boats and the famous Eggy, which I wrote about here. Eggy serves the most delicious food with impeccable charm and service from his quaint establishment right on the beach, and we had enjoyed a memorable road trip here some months prior.

Treasure Beach, Jamaica

In the other direction, there was wild coastline. So beautiful.

Treasure Beach, Jamaica

Let’s Eat! Keto Style of Course!

Finally, H’s perfectly marinated, then grilled chicken was ready. We polished it all off. Every. Single. Piece. And there was a lot. And we’re not ashamed.

Chicken being grilled on the beach
The Grill Meister’s Handiwork!

We even had a live football game as entertainment while we ate! The group of young people arranged a 6-a-side game with girls and boys right there on the beach. It was a lively game, with the girls more than holding their own.

Football on the beach, Treasure Beach, Jamaica
Football on the beach, Treasure Beach, Jamaica

Some hours after arrival, well fed, waterlogged and sun burnt, we started to pack up. I’ve always enjoyed the beach. But there was something special about that day. I was significantly smaller and lighter and moved around with ease, comfort and self-confidence in my 2 piece swimsuit that I bought regular sized from Old Navy. Can you say NSV? (non scale victory).

Treasure beach, Jamaica
Livity at Treasure Beach, Jamaica

We cooled the grill down with sea water, bagged the charcoal, and left the space cleaner than we found it, with nary a trace that we were even there in the first place! We packed up the car and before heading home, drove around our community (yes, we claim Treasure beach as ours with no shame or fear 🙂 ). What a perfect day. Give thanks.

A Day Well Spent

We got back home at about 9:30 that night. It was a great day, not at all expensive to execute, no complicated logistics, we enjoyed good food, we created another memory, and we laughed just a little too much. A road trip doesn’t have to be an excuse or an occasion to go off-plan where eating is concerned. And being keto, as you can see, simplified things tremendously with zero deprivation. THIS is my livity: honouring my body with my food choices, saying no to deprivation, living in the present while seeking out joyous experiences right where I am.

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2 thoughts on “Road Trip While Keto: Our Day in Treasure Beach, Jamaica”

  1. Loved Ur story. U live part time in Jamaica. I lived in TBeach for about 6 years so U provided an accurate picture of a visit. Old Wharf is another spot to enjoy! I like Ur reminder to all about “leave no trace”. I now live on the northern coast up the hills 10 minutes from Ocho Rios. It’s much cooler there than in town but I have to go to the sea or River twice a week. I get the best of both up there. I’m learning about the beaches but yes many have an admission price. Again thanks for the wonderful share!

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