Jakes, the iconic, family-owned boutique resort nestled in the fishing village of Treasure Beach on Jamaica's rural southwestern coast, is slowly and carefully expanding its room stock.
Longtime guests and other fans of Jakes need not worry, however. According to owner Jason Henzell, the resort is the antithesis of Jamaica's tourist hubs in Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios and will remain so.
The area in and around Treasure Beach has no sprawling all-inclusives, no rum-and-reggae bars pounding out music day and night. It's a farming and fishing community, and Henzell aims to keep it that way.
"We have five villas now in addition to our 30 cottages, and we will slowly build more villas, about one a year for the next 10 years," Henzell said. "But the goal here always has been about low-density, sustainable development for the community."
Henzell helps villa owners select sites in Treasure Beach next to the resort and then supervises construction, hires the staff and manages the units. The villas are placed in Jakes' room inventory and are rented out to guests when not owner-occupied.
The newest villa, named Seaweed, will open in June.
Cottage names include Abalone, Starfish, Sweetlip and Jack Sprat.
"The villas are very popular with families, particularly at holiday times and in the summer, but our customer spread is an interesting mix, with couples and honeymooners also booking the villas," Henzell said.
Summer season rates, available from April 20 to Dec. 14, start at $95 per night, double, in the cottages and go up to $800 a night in the four-bedroom Calabash Bay luxury villa.
The rates do not include a 10% service charge and 10% tax.
Facilities at Jakes include Dougie's Bar, famous for its rum punches; the Driftwood Spa; a media room with games, satellite TV and a DVD player; a saltwater pool; WiFi in the public areas; and two restaurants.
Jakes' latest project also is a community-driven endeavor that's been in the planning stages for several years.
"We are in phase three now of our 17-acre Treasure Beach Sports Park," Henzell said. "We've got three soccer fields with another on the way and one tennis court with three more planned. We have netball [a game similar to basketball] and basketball and are working with local coaches who go into the schools and work with the local kids through a program called EduSport."
The park is just the kind of project that has fueled Jakes' pivotal role in the Treasure Beach community over the years.
"This is a work in progress, one which will have a huge impact on the kids here as well as our guests and their kids who are coming to the park to play cricket and other games," Henzell said.
He will launch a sports program this summer at the park called Peak Performance Academy that features school, college and club teams coming from the U.S. to train and compete with local teams.
A group from Villanova University will kick off the academy's first tournament, scheduled for June 21 to 28.
The park charges no entrance fee; there are modest charges to play tennis ($10 an hour per person) and basketball ($5 per hour).
Another community-based project spearheaded by Jakes is the protection of a fishing sanctuary on nearby Galleon Beach.
"This is an important fishing and breeding ground, but the water quality was being compromised," Henzell said. "The government asked us to manage it, and we brought in marine biologists through an agreement with the worldwide Nature Conservancy organization."
Jakes now offers environmental nature tours of the sanctuary for its guests.
A popular program at Jakes is called Farm to Table, which takes place on a 30-acre farm in the hills of St. Elizabeth in Pedro Plains, an area known as Jamaica's breadbasket. The farmers in the area grow the fruits and vegetables used in Jakes' two restaurants.
"Once a month, on the Saturday closest to the full moon, 32 guests sit down at an elegantly set trestle table in a working field for a four-course dinner with wine," Henzell said. "The menus feature organic dishes prepared and served on site. I call this 'agro-tourism,' and the guests love the experience."
The dinner is priced at $95 per person, including transfers, wine, tax and service charges.
Jakes also offers locally guided farm tours and cooking classes for its guests.
Coming up at Jakes from May 25 to 27 is its annual Calabash International Literary Festival, featuring 30 authors and performers celebrating 50 years of Jamaican literature through readings and music.
This year's festival commemorates the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence.
The festival, which began in 2001, is free and open to the public.
"It's crazy; we usually have 1,200 to 1,500 people a day coming to the festival," Henzell said. "It attracts a very cool set of people. We feed them all, and it's a wonderful gathering."
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