Lyssons Beach, Saint Thomas

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.

Getting There

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.

The Beach

benches uwi beach

UWI Lyssons Beach

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.

UWI lyssons beach changing rooms

Changing rooms & bathrooms at the UWI Lyssons Beach

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.

Wrap Up

tree lyssons beach

A royal poinciana tree in full bloom

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. ✌

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*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.

Bull Bay Beaches, Saint Andrew

I figured it was time I feature a stereotypical Jamaican chill spot having written about waterfalls, museums, a botanical garden, mountain and mineral spring. You guessed correctly: a BEACH! 🌴 In keeping with A.f.Elle budget-friendly style, I chose an unpopular one: the Wickie Wackie beach in Bull Bay. Bull Bay is a suburban town on the border of the Saint Andrew and Saint Thomas parishes. It lies beside its lesser-known sister bay, Cow Bay. Both place names reflect their former purpose of cattle-rearing predominantly for leather during Spanish colonial rule of Jamaica, before British conquest in 1655. This beach only comes up in conversation when it is the venue of a party or concert such as the annual Wickie Wackie Music Festival. I wanted to see what it looks like when it isn’t pulsating to the ‘riddims’ of the latest fete.

Getting There

Starting from Half-Way-Tree (HWT), parish capital of Saint Andrew, we boarded a JUTC bus (state-run public buses) en route to Downtown, Kingston from the HWT transport centre. We came off at Parade, an area surrounding the Sir William Grant Park where most buses in Downtown load. Circling this park takes you to North Parade from which we took a Bull Bay JUTC bus, route 97. Total travel time from HWT to our stop in Bull Bay took about 90 minutes, inclusive of waiting time. We came off opposite to Little Copa Club and Restaurant. However, we unintentionally gave ourselves unnecessary walking. 😅 There is a closer stop so it’s safe to say press the buzzer after passing Little Copa on the right– not alight at Copa.

Secondly, note the original aim: Wickie Wackie Beach. What we got instead by choosing that stop: Carib Beach as shown by Google Maps. Both beaches are adjacent and honestly, it’s one coast line anyway. Both are public beaches (i.e. free) and we found no clear line of demarcation separating the two. I’m almost certain we crossed that “invisible line” and visited both beaches with our wandering feet.

Bull bay beach

Carib Beach against the backdrop of omnipresent mountains

The Beach

Slightly missing our beach target was a blessing in disguise. We wound up at a surfing school-turned-hostel by the name of Jamnesia, run by an affable Rastafarian family. Public beaches in Jamaica are a dwindling kind and finding clean bathrooms and changing facilities at them is elusive. In other words, you have to pay for such “privileges.” Thus, if we didn’t find Jamnesia, we likely wouldn’t have accessed such facilities. They allowed us to use them for free. This beach strip is found along Sugar Loaf Bay and presents a good surfing spot. Showing up on a day when waves were ‘flat’ denied us such opportunity, not that I was intent on learning how to surf before nailing swimming 😂. Surfboards and instructors are available but sadly I never obtained the price.

coast

Abundance of trees on the Bull Bay coastline

It is undeniable that Jamaica has far better beaches but if you want a safe, free and secluded beach for a few hours, this is it! Impetuous waves break against a brown-sanded rocky coastline with fiery sun blazing overhead. Only the saltwater and occasional shady tree offered respite. Beaches are beautiful with that seemingly endless horizon and 50 shades of blue as sea meets sky. However, saline and unshaded sun reminded me of why beaches are lower on my list of outdoor attractions. Cool fresh-water rivers and waterfalls have spoiled me rotten and I don’t mind. That aside, I had myself a wonderful peaceful day strolling along the shore and swimming. The water was very pristine, if not the sand.

coast2

Carib Beach, Bull Bay

Wrap Up

Leaving by bus was easy, as coasters (smaller public buses) run all the time between Bull Bay and Downtown at the same price as JUTC buses, JM$100/person. We got one in under 5 minutes. If you wait on a JUTC bus, expect an unpredictable waiting time ranging from several minutes to an hour.

I’d recommend going with a friend like I did, unless the goal was for solo time and meditation which seems safe enough to do here. Carry sunscreen and adequate water as it is easy to become dehydrated fast. Also, do consider wearing your swimsuit. It was our stroke of luck to find good amenities, but on a public beach in Jamaica it’s possible you won’t find any.

I had a wonderful time, likely due to the company I had who enjoys unfrequented spots as much as I do. However, I won’t romanticize the attraction. The lack of amenities, occasional plastic bottle litter on the sand and the ubiquitous stones (albeit smooth) earn it 3 stars, ☆☆☆ from my book.

‘Til next time ✌