Jamaica’s second largest city second only to Kingston, the country’s capital, Montego Bay is a bustling paradise popular for its glorious golden sand beaches, duty-free shopping and adventure aplenty. Mo Bay is also one of the world’s hottest tropical destinations with its thriving cruise port and large selection of fabulous resorts.
Montego Bay Basics
- Getting there – Visitors traveling by plane will arrive at Sangster International Airport, located just three miles east of Montego Bay. Those voyaging by ship will dock at the Montego Bay Cruise Port; a large cruise ship terminal located about three miles west of downtown.
- Location – Montego Bay is located in the northwest region of the island of Jamaica and is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Kingston.
- Climate – Sun and sand is one of Montego Bay’s big appeals to visitors. The city’s annual average temperature is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit year round and has two rainy seasons: May and October through November.
- Currency – The national currency is the Jamaican dollar, however, U.S. dollars are accepted in most places. ATMs can be found around town for travelers looking to pay in cash.
- Language – Many Jamaicans are fluent in English, in some parts of town, travelers may hear locals speaking in patois, a variation of English with a thick accent and different vocabulary.
Montego Bay is a lively city bustling with nightlife. Many of the area’s most popular hotels are sprawled along the island’s northwest coast and are close to all the hottest attractions on Gloucester Avenue, aka “the Hip Strip.”
Jamaica specializes in marinating meats with dry or wet rubs in a style of cooking referred to as jerking. These rubs are often a combination of spices such as pimento, sugar and scotch bonnet peppers. To perfect the flavor, the meats are then cooked over wood coals. Many of Montego Bay’s most popular dining options are located along Gloucester Avenue including Tastee, the Groovy Grouper, the Pelican Bar & Grill, the Pork Pit and The Native.
Foodies will also want to take note of the Jamaica Blue Mountain Culinary Trail where they can savor delicious eats from restaurants and cafes along a route that ascends the foothills of the Blue Mountains.
From thought-provoking art to a wild night on the town, Montego Bay has a little something for everyone. Looking to soak up that island lifestyle? Take a trip to sea on a catamaran. Want to give your kids a good story to bring back to their friends? Take them on a zip-lining adventure of a lifetime. No matter your vacation needs, Montego Bay has plenty of fun to offer.
- Entertainment – For nightlife, travelers won’t want to miss barhopping along the Hip Strip, Montego Bay’s downtown district with the best bars and attractions. A few popular stops along the Hip Strip include Margaritaville, Pier One, The Brewery and Blue Beat Ultra Lounge.
- Adventure –
- Swim with Horses: Chukka Tours – Have you ever daydreamed about riding off into the sunset on horseback? Chukka Tours turns dreams into reality with their Ocho Rios Horseback Ride N’ Swim tour where travelers explore both backcountry trails and the sea with a hooven friend.
- Ahhh…Ras Natango Gallery and Garden – Eco tourists are sure to enjoy a visit to Ahhh…Ras Natango, an outdoor gallery and botanic garden perched atop a sunny mountainside. With orchids, ginger and fruit trees among the greenery, the garden is also a hotspot for birds including hummingbirds that flutter from plant to plant.
- Rocklands Bird Sanctuary – Speaking of hummingbirds, at Rocklands Bird Sanctuary, travelers can hand-feed exotic birds including the red-billed streamertail, grass quits, Jamacia mango and of course, hummingbirds.
- High Adrenaline Fun – Montego Bay is a prime destination for travelers looking to fuel their adrenaline, river rafting, zip-lining, river tubing, cliff diving and off-roading, there are tons of opportunities in the area to raise your heart rate.
- Shopping – When it comes to souvenirs, Jamaica is most known for its intricate African-inspired wood carvings. Wood carvings can be picked up at various shops and markets throughout Montego Bay in addition to other touristy gifts, local crafts and brand name jewelry. Here are a few of Mo Bay’s most popular stops for all your shopping needs.
- Casa de Oro – Specializes in luxury and brand name jewelry such as Gucci, Fossil, Christian Dior and more.
- Harbour Street Craft Market – Walking distance from the city’s most popular restaurants and activities, the Harbour Street Craft Market is your stop for creative craft pieces and ethnic jewelry.
- Montego Bay Cultural Center – The Montego Bay Cultural Center offers more than just shopping, at this stop visitors can observe comprehensive historical, cultural and artistic exhibitions at an historic site. The Cultural Center is home to the works of some of Jamaica’s most iconic painters, photographers and sculptors, including the “Freedom Monument”, a tribute to slaves who fought in the rebellion of the 1800s.
History and Culture
With ties to Christopher Columbus, Spanish colonies, sugar farms and slavery, Montego Bay has a complicated history that led to the slave rebellion of 1831. Things slowed down for the island post-slave emancipation until the boom of the banana trade and tourist trade in the 1800s. Today the bay is a popular travel destination with fabulous resorts and busy cruise ports. Here are a few historical sites travelers can visit near Montego Bay:
- Rose Hall Great House – Just 20 minutes from downtown, the Rose Hall Great House is a restored plantation home from the late 1700s. The home is said to have been owned by a cruel woman named Annie Palmer who was accused of murdering not one, not two, but her three husbands for control of the plantation. Although it’s regarded by many as the finest Great House on the island, the Rose Hall Great House is notoriously haunted by Annie Palmer herself.
- Greenwood Great House – Formerly owned by the family of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, the Greenwood Great House is one of the best preserved great houses on the island. Built in the 19th century, Greenwood is an example of architectural elegance that captivates the imagination of its visitors.
- Hampden Estate Rum Tour – One of the oldest sugar estates in Jamaica, the Hampden Estate has been reimaged and is now the hottest spot on the island for high quality rum with a touch of history. Visitors 18 and older can embark on a two hour tour where they’ll learn the ins and outs of the distilling process and of course there are samples to follow.