Lyssons Beach is one of Jamaica’s better public beaches, a prime jewel in Saint Thomas near its capital Morant Bay. This white strip of coastline has two sections but the best part of it is that they’re both free! One is managed by the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), a government arm charged with maintaining Jamaica’s shoreline. The other is owned and operated by the University of the West Indies (UWI) for its students. My experience is based on the UWI portion but the coastline and views are the same.
Starting from Downtown Kingston, I took a coaster (small public buses) headed to Morant Bay which board passengers along West Parade. The fare is $250 per person. Check the destination of the bus with the conductor (man who collects the fare) before boarding since buses which run to other communities of Saint Thomas such as Yallahs also load there. It will be a tight fit as all Jamaican country buses are. The ride is an hour and a half, inclusive of stops to pick up and let off passengers. The landscape along the way varies from urban, suburban to entirely rural where trees replace buildings. Coastline appears, disappears and reappears along the way until you’re finally at the Morant Bay bus terminal, the bus’ final stop.
Taxis line the left side of the A4 main road in Morant Bay. Ask which one is going to the hospital or look out for taxis marked Lyssons. The hospital to which I’m referring is the Princess Margaret Hospital, St. Thomas’ only hospital and practically just across from the beach. You’ll blend in more if you ask for the hospital which is likely what the driver will be calling out as the destination in his bid to obtain passengers. As soon as you pass the hospital on your left, ask him to drop you in front of the beach which is on the right side of the road. The fare costs $100. Try to take a legitimately licensed one. The paraphernalia to confirm this are a red licence plate on the vehicle and a Transport Authority (TA) sticker on the windshield with the driver’s name and other information.
There’s a barbed wire fence separating the beaches, visible in this photo if you look carefully. Both have lifeguards, picnic tables, sun, sand and sea but I think the only difference is the availability of clean changing rooms and bathrooms, BBQ grills, seclusion and better security at the UWI portion. The UWI beach is open everyday except Mondays & Tuesdays for cleaning, and on Good Friday and Christmas Day but is open on all other public holidays even if they fall on Mondays and Tuesdays. It normally opens from 10am to 5pm.
Such few students utilize the beach even though its management costs are paid by each and every one of us in our fees! I like to think that my expensive tuition/miscellaneous fees are to be utilized to their last drop, thus I should have gone here earlier with friends, run a boat* and relax. It’s not too late though and that’s exactly what I’ll do in the distant future before my undergrad tenure is over. Nonetheless, here is the lovely beach:
The staff was warm and welcoming and left my friend and I to our own devices. Since the UWI portion of the beach is underutilized, we had a private beach to ourselves and got to release our inner child with sand art, cartwheels and paddling in the Caribbean sea. It was overcast and therefore much more bearable than the sun I experienced at Carib Beach nearly three months ago.
I’m not aware of any strict open/closing hours for the government-run part of Lyssons beach. It’s not fenced around like the UWI portion so I’m sure it’s 24/7 since there’d be no means by which to restrict access. Of course, there wouldn’t be a lifeguard or caretaker around after hours so use it at your own risk I’d say.
We easily retraced our steps to get home although Morant Bay-Downtown buses take longer to load in the evenings since most people are travelling in the opposite direction.
UWI Lyssons beach could use a bit of work though to be honest. I’m sure deck chairs with umbrellas, pool tables and a few more comforts aren’t too much to ask, so I’d rate it 3 stars, ☆☆☆. I must add too that St. Thomas’ beauty is so unrecognized! People should notice this parish more but hopefully after I’m done exploring it so my posts still count as “off the beaten path” (Haha I’m just kidding). Lastly, I had featured the UWI Lyssons Beach in my inexpensive 2017 bucket list so this is 7 down, 10 more to go.
‘Til next time. ✌
*Run a boat: Jamaican colloquial expression for cooking a big hearty meal outdoors, usually with friends or family over open fire, a BBQ/jerk pit or grill.