Welcome to Montego Bay, Jamaica
Of Jamaica's many resort towns, Montego Bay is easily the most cosmopolitan and most versatile. Start to think of it as "Mo Bay", a nice compromise between a posh, all-inclusive beach resort and a locally-flavoured Jamaican market town. Visitors can find just the right accommodation along its sweeping crescent bay, from romantic Sandals to jet-setting Round Hill.
Montego Bay is a major port where cruise ships dock when visiting Jamaica, so the town itself is usually bustling with both tourists and locals. Most people are here to relax on the beach or catch up on partying. It's easy to do both, either right in your resort or along the cool strip of Gloucester Avenue where the bulk of restaurants, bars and shops are strung out along the coastline.
Montego Bay - Travel Facts
Population: approximately 100,000
Time zone: UTC - 5
Country dialing code: +1 876
Language: English / English-African Creole (Jamaican Patois / Jamaican Creole)
Currency: the Jamaican Dollar (JMD)
Location: St James Parish / County of Cornwall
Area: approximately 571 square miles / 1,480 square kilometres
Average daily Montego Bay winter temperature: 28°C / 82°F
Average daily Montego Bay summer temperature: 33°C / 91°F
Montego Bay Highlights
There's little reason to drag yourself off the idyllic sands of Mo Bay's beaches, where water sports and sublime swimming help to keep the blood flowing between rounds of sun-tanning. But if you do, the town offers a couple of museums, historic landmarks and plenty of socialising along Gloucester Avenue. Adventurous fun is also on hand with a range of outdoor daytrips available through local tour companies.
There are a handful of superb beaches at Montego Bay, some of which are attached to their respective resorts and others that are open to the public. You'll have to pay a reasonable entry fee to touch the sand, but this small price is well worth it. Doctor's Cave Beach and its neighbour, Cornwall Beach, are two of the most popular. The sugar white sand, the impossibly clear, calm water and the festive crowds of tourists give these beaches a great vibe. Water sports, snorkelling and swimming are all excellent at Mo Bay's beaches. Right downtown is Walter Fletcher Beach, offering boat rides and the usual fun. Head out of town a bit and private beach clubs like Rose Hall boast amazing beaches, water and facilities for the same cost as the public beaches but without the crowds.
There is no shortage of things to do in Mo Bay, from the active to the relaxing. The water here is so clear that snorkelling and scuba diving are excellent in many spots like Rose Hall Reef. Seaworld Resorts is a good stop for sailing, windsurfing, scuba and snorkelling excursions and gear. You can swim with dolphins at Half Moon or rip it up at Walter Fletcher Beach with jet-skies, banana boat rides and glass-bottom boat cruises. Off the water, there are five stunning golf courses to try, horseback riding at Rose Hall and rafting outings along the Great River. Families can get one-stop water park fun at AquaSol Theme Park, which is situated right on the edge of Walter Fletcher Beach.
Jamaica's dark relationship with slavery is the main historic theme running through the landmarks of Montego Bay. Around Sam Sharpe Square you can check out the colonial-era ruins of the Civic Centre, the Courthouse and the Cage, a stirring enclosure where runaway slaves and drunken sailors were once imprisoned. Just outside of town, the colonial Great Houses at Rose Hall and Greenwood make for wonderful afternoon outings to experience the feel of the plantation and slavery era of Jamaica.
To get a better understanding of the role plantation slavery played in the history of Jamaica, visit the central Montego Bay Museum, which relates the era of plantation agriculture, the native Arawak people and the rise of tourism on the island. More engaging are the preserved 18th century Great Houses, such as Rose Hall, Greenwood and Bellfield, which place you right in the scene of these huge plantation properties. You can explore the grounds, get a guided tour and imagine how life once was in Montego Bay. Just outside of Mo Bay, the Blue Hole Museum has taken a historic sugarcane plantation and recreated the daily routine of slaves and native Arawaks.
There's plenty to do around Mo Bay when the urge comes to get off the sand for an afternoon. St James Parish is a scenic part of the island with all kinds of different destinations, from the natural to the historic. Rental cars are the way to go for excursions to nearby highlights like the tropical village of Reading or Lethe, the starting point for amazing rafting outing along the Great River. Adventurous drivers can hit the bumpy road to the Maroon Country, an otherworldly landscape with a couple of interesting historic hamlets tucked away deep in the hills where few tourists venture. The town of Falmouth, 40 minutes away from Montego Bay by car, is a cool and mellow historic port town, and Discovery Bay where Columbus first landed is also with easy driving access. If you're a Bob Marley fan, a trip to Nine Mile?where the star was born and is buried?may be on the cards.
Click here for additional information about things to do in Montego Bay.