At the end of our Jamaica honeymoon, Mr C and I checked in to MarBlue, a small set guesthouse in Treasure Beach.
After an incredibly relaxing four days at Jakes Hotel, we didn’t think it was possible to find a place that was even more serene. But this was it. It was just a five-minute drive down a couple of potholed roads from Jakes, yet felt like we had uncovered the quietest hotel on earth. Neighboured by only one or two buildings (one of them apparently a house which British boxer Lloyd Honeyghan began building but never finished) it was clear that there was no shortage of peace and quiet here.
After a brief meeting with the owners – German born Axel and Andrea – we were shown to our room and it soon became clear that we weren’t wrong in thinking this place was serene.
With just four or five ‘villa suites’ on one side of the property, we virtually had a lovely pool all to ourselves, which overlooks some nice gardens. And next door there were some self-contained apartments, which had self-catering facilities and their own separate pool.
In between the two was a colourful open-air reception and at the end of the garden was a former restaurant and kitchen with thatched roofing. At night it was adorned with twinkly lights and became a place to just hang out and admire the view.
The view I’m talking about is Pedro Beach, one of the most unspoilt and wild beaches I have ever seen, accessed via the gate at the bottom of the garden.
Our room was pleasant, if a little on the ‘no-frills’ side. And it wasn’t the luxury abode some might expect when they first read the description of Marblue. But a day into our stay, I began to appreciate the ethos of this place; the bespoke furniture which Axel had designed for every room, the wide open living area that had no fourth wall so you could walk straight out of bed and through the living room door to a view of the ocean, and the sheer beauty of having Pedro Beach at your feet where we would do sunset walks in our rock shoes and rarely see another soul in sight.
Yes, we had a lizard living in our roof which kept making an appearance but it felt like we were always steps away from the most unspoilt and wild side of Jamaica I’d ever seen. It was all bliss.
But how did a couple from Germany end up setting up a guesthouse in Jamaica? I had a chat with Axel to find out.
‘I was working as an architect in Germany and Andrea and I decided to move to Naples in Florida to set up a new life. Germany wasn’t what it used to be and It just felt like the right time to leave.’
While they lived a comfortable ex-pat life in the Sunshine State, it was a chance opportunity to borrow his friend’s Bob Marley CD that led Axel to become curious about Jamaica.
‘I’d never really listened to reggae music before and as soon as I listened to it I said ‘I’m going to Jamaica. As soon as I arrived on the island, I fell in love with the place.’
While on the island, Axel stayed at Jakes in Treasure Beach and met Jason and the rest of the Henzel family. Getting a taste of the island life, he began to get itchy feet again. But the urge to uproot to the Caribbean got even stronger when the 9/11 attacks struck.
‘I was due to fly home to Florida that day and was about to leave for Montego Bay airport when news hit about the twin towers,’ he says, ‘Jason (Henzell) said: “Wait a minute, I have to tell you what happened, the first tower is down. Soon after he said the second tower had been hit,” and his dad said: “You’d better stay”
Axel eventually returned to the States, but two months later, he returned to Treasure Beach and bought the plot of land that Marblue now stands on. They signed the papers and his and Andrea’s vision of an island escape began. In 2002 they began building Marblue and in six months, it was complete.
There’s more of a traditional Mediterranean-meets-Caribbean style at Marblue and that’s down to inspiration from a hotel called ‘Marblau’ in Ibiza, Axel tells me.
Being an architect, Axel created Marblue based on the hotel he’d seen in the Balearics. You can tell he’s very proud of what he’s achieved.
A further chat with Axel and I also find out that the restaurant they once ran from Marblue was renowned for being one of the best fusion restaurants in the Caribbean. But with prices too high and a community rooted firmly in affordable local dining, they decided to close the restaurant and focus on providing a straightforward and relaxed place to stay, with simple in-room dining services for anyone who needs it.
‘We are more rustic than Jakes and people who come here are travellers, not tourists,’ he adds.
And while it may not have the sprinkling of luxury I often like in a hotel stay, it adds to our understanding of what Treasure Beach is really about. It’s refreshing to hear that the owners have helped build a new fence for the local school, donate tyres to neighbours who can’t afford to buy them, and that they employ local school leavers who otherwise may struggle to find work. What’s more, there’s zero crime in Treasure Beach. Yes, zero. After three days, we’ve explored Alligator Pond, Lover’s Leap and enjoyed scenic drives through the countryside on the way, easily slipping into the slow pace of life. We’ve also fallen head over heels for Pedro Beach. I still think about that place when I’m sitting at my desk back in London.
But what’s it like upping sticks to live in a country where the way of life and culture is so different to your home country?
‘The times when we want to go home gets less and less frequent,’ says Axel.
It sounds like they are more than happy with their Jamaican life, and as we spent the last few days of our honeymoon feeling utterly relaxed, I can see why.