Hellshire Beach – Portmore, Jamaica
I’ve Never Been A Beach Girl But….
Not many beaches (NONE!) could convince me to drive two hours to get there except now, Hellshire Beach in Portmore. I’ve heard from so many people about how nice the beach is and that the fried fish is to die for, so when I met someone from Kingston in Ocho Rios who invited me I gladly accepted! The next morning we loaded up in my Budget Rental Car and left on my first road trip of this vacation. The drive was approximately two hours from Ochi through Fern Gully and Spanish Town, through Portmore and straight to the water’s edge at Hellshire. Who would have ever thought there would be a beach so pretty near Kingston? I guess I need to get out more.
Driving into the beach is like driving into a little town. There’s a multitude of wooden buildings – food shops, bars, vendors of all sorts. Weaving through them all we found a decent parking spot near the water and set out on foot in search of food. The people I came with are very familiar with all the food shops and took me to the one they prefer. I was starving and couldn’t wait to try the fried fish I’ve heard about for years.
The Amazing Fried Fish
We went into “Bev & Sons” to eat. There is a large cooler full of fresh fish and you can choose whichever fish you think looks good. I chose a Parrot fish (the colorful ones) because they look pretty. Once you select your fish the cook puts it on a scale and you pay by weight. It’s not super cheap, I think two fish for us was about $1500 jmd. Once the fish was weighed the cook got to work while we bought some rum at the little bar in the same food hut and waited for our meal. After about 20 minutes we were served a huge platter of the tastiest looking fish, escovietch sauce, bammy and festival!
I’m not exaggerating that this was the best fried fish I’ve ever eaten in Jamaica! And the escovietch sauce burned my mouth off but the taste was incredible. Well worth the price and by the time we finished eating there was nothing left but a skeleton of fish bones.
The Hellshire Beach Vibe
The actual beach is beautiful with nice sand and warm water – it’s Kingston area and bound to be hot out! The entire beach is lined with wooden food huts which I was told, all serve fried fish. I asked what’s the difference and why they chose the one we ate at and they said sometimes price and the way it’s cooked. They just liked this one.
There are also plenty of tall wooden beach chairs to chill out on while sipping rum and watching kids play football in the sand. Occasionally, beach vendors will come up and try to sell you everything from snacks to jewellery to whatever else they have for sale that day. Same as every other beach on the island but this one has a much more local vibe – hardly any tourists. I found it hard to believe I was so close to Kingston yet seemed so far from the hustle of the big city.
One thing to note is that washrooms and change areas are not free to the public – you might pay $50 jmd to use a toilet. I got off the hook by telling the “bathroom guy” that I have already spent money at a restaurant on the beach and he seemed fine with that. Before my swim I didn’t want to pay to use a change room so one of the guys I was with found me a quiet spot and held up a towel while I changed behind it. I didn’t realize until I was naked that I was standing in a pile of ants and getting bit to death but I couldn’t do anything about it because I had nothing on!
We lingered in the water under the hot afternoon sun for quite a while and it was magical.
Unless you’re already in the Kingston / Portmore area this was a hell of a drive just to hit the beach for a day. If you’re coming from the north coast plan to make it an entire day trip and get home after dark.
As I mentioned, I did this road trip twice in two weeks – the second time there were 5 of us. Some of my Canadian friends had arrived in Jamaica and I really wanted them to experience something new and great away from the normal tourist areas of the island. Hellshire beach is a fabulous day trip to take with good friends, spend the day and come home well tired. And if you’re lucky you might catch a spectacular sunset on your drive home like we did!