Montego Bay

Destination Location

Montego Bay
Hotel reviews summary
4.0

Our guest rating from 6 reviews

Overview

Your first glimpse of Montego Bay is of a sprawling seaside city framed by blue sea and hills of rugged jungle known as Cockpit Country. Jamaica's second-largest city (population 100,000) has it all – white sand beaches, endless sunshine, shopping, distinctive cuisine and a laid-back, reggae-splashed culture steeped in history.

Stately old sugar plantation houses dot the steep hillsides overlooking Montego Bay (or Mo Bay, as the locals call it). There's an intoxicating mix of cultural attractions, richly spiced foods, music and dance (think reggae legend Bob Marley). Accommodations range from simple beach cabanas and homey inns to elaborate, all-inclusive villages.

Blessed with sunshine and hot weather nearly 365 days a year, the tropical climate and warm water attract adventurers, young and old. Montego Bay sits approximately halfway between the towns of Negril to the west and Ocho Rios and Port Antonio to the east. Cuba is 130 km to the north.

Take the family on a horseback ride through a Jamaican village, then cool off with a swim. Soar above a jungle stream on a zipline under a canopy of trees. Climb a waterfall and swing, Tarzan-style, into a freshwater pool. Or go snorkelling off a coral reef, catching glimpses of everything from stingrays and colourful angelfish to eels, dolphins and sharks.

If you want a slower pace, indulge in a massage in a private cabana, or stroll the powdery sand beaches and watch the setting sun tint the horizon orange and lavender. Barter with a market vendor or stop at a roadside stand for a Red Stripe beer and jerk chicken. 

For a taste of local life, head out on a Saturday night to Doctor's Cave or Cornwall Beach, or take a drive into the backcountry.

Montego Bay is a fantastic destination for:

  • beaches
  • nightlife
  • golf

Events of interest:

Reggae Sumfest

This reggae event, held annually in July, showcases the best talents in roots, rock and reggae music to a diverse audience. In keeping with the motto, “Promoting Music, the Universal Force,” each year top Jamaican acts perform along with international artists. Previous headliners include Destiny’s Child, Chris Brown, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Neyo, Jasmin Sullivan, Kerry Hilson, LL Cool J, Rihanna, 50-Cent & G-Unit, Missy Elliott, Morgan’s Heritage, Sean Paul, Damian Marley, Trey Songs, R. Kelly, Miguel, Flo Rida and many others.

Bob Marley celebrations

The first week of February features activities throughout the island to celebrate the life and achievements of music legend Bob Marley. Activities in Jamaica usually include a service at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and ceremonial laying of plaques at the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston.

Destination basics

Jamaica enjoys hot temperatures averaging 25 C to 30 C. It varies in the summer months between late May and September, when it's even warmer and rainier. Many days there is a refreshing cool breeze and coastal regions around Montego Bay tend to have slightly cooler temperatures in the higher elevations (for example, the pointy hills of Cockpit Country).

Pack a loose, long-sleeved shirt and one pair of long pants for protection against the mosquitoes and warm rain.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Montego Bay

Bob Marley became an international superstar, singing about his people and encouraging the world to “come together” and share in “one love.” In Jamaica, this rings true. About 95 per cent of Jamaicans are black, while Spanish descendents and indigenous Arawak Indians make up the rest of the population.

Religion is a huge cultural influence, with more than 90 per cent practising Christianity. Yet, just about every religion can be found in the Montego Bay area and all co-exist. Sometimes there are two to three churches of different denominations in a single town block. Even in tiny villages, elaborate churches share streets with ramshackle shrines or temples that are home to different faiths.

A small population of Jamaicans are practising Rastafarians. It's a spiritual belief focused on African-centric philosophies involving world harmony and peace. Their one life, one love beliefs extend to their choice not to eat animal products, so there is always plenty of available food for vegetarian travellers.

The local joke about a bar being within a block of every church does not stray far from the truth. “From the holy spirit to the liquid spirit,” folks say here. Locals also like to boast that they have more bars and more churches than any other country in the world.

The U.S. dollar and credit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants, shops and almost all other attractions in major cities where tourists visit. If you're planning to leave the tourist areas and visit local shops on the outskirts of town or in the rural areas, you'll need Jamaican dollars. Most Jamaican ATMs accept international bank cards and dispense funds in Jamaican dollars. Exchange rates can vary daily so it's best to shop around for the best rate before converting your cash.

Gloucester Avenue

Gloucester Avenue, also known as the Hip Strip, is where many of Montego Bay’s liveliest bars and most exclusive resorts are located. The Hip Strip also boasts some of the area’s finest beaches, like Cornwall Beach, where visitors can lounge in the sun and play in the warm, azure surf. Popular restaurants and bars can also be found along Gloucester Avenue, including the delightful Pelican Grill and local-favorite The Pork Pit. Shops and stalls line the street, selling everything from high-end fashion to freshly cut coconut.


Downtown

Montego Bay’s bustling downtown area boasts lively markets, an array of affordable dining options, and some authentic watering holes that draw both locals and visitors alike. Sip an ice cold beverage while sitting on a park bench in Sam Sharpe Square, or shop for locally made items in one of the downtown area’s boisterous stores. Keep in mind, however, that this area may not be safe to walk around in at night, and that precautions should always be taken when exploring an area you have never been to before.


Outside the City Centre

Several all-inclusive resorts, beaches, and attractions are located along the Caribbean just south of downtown. Resorts like Sunscapes Splash and Secrets Montego Bay stretch across a spit of land that forms that southern tip of Montego Bay. Here, visitors will find several charter cruise options, resort beaches, and scuba and snorkeling shops.

Sports

A tropical vacation just wouldn’t feel quite as relaxing without a round of golf thrown into the mix. At Three Palms Ocean Course, you can swing your way through all 18 holes while gazing out at the tranquil waters of the Caribbean. The course winds its way through swaying palm trees and emerald greens; it’s a golfer’s paradise.


If watching sports is more your cup of tea, check out the Montego Bay Sports Complex. The complex hosts a variety of sporting events, though it emphasizes soccer, and can seat roughly 7,000 spectators. Located in the Catherine Hall area of Montego Bay, this arena is frequented by locals and visiting sports enthusiasts. The complex is perhaps best known for its role as host during the 2014 Caribbean Cup.


Outdoor Activities

One of Montego Bay’s most popular features are the beautiful beaches that line the bay and the surrounding areas. Grab a fuzzy towel, some sunscreen, and a great book before heading out to the area’s finest beaches, including Doctor’s Cave Beach and Cornwall Beach. There’s nothing like a day of lounging on a soft, sandy beach while turquoise waves roll in gently in the distance.


Thanks to the area’s proximity to reefs, snorkeling is also a favored outdoor activity in Montego Bay. Water-lovers can rent gear from shops like Kelly’s Water Sports, or join a cruise that goes out to some of the reef located further out into the Caribbean Sea. While snorkeling, be sure to keep your eye out for turtles, who love to coast slowly through the Caribbean’s warm, blue waters.


For a more thorough exploration of the area’s reefs, head out on a scuba diving excursion with one of the area’s many dive shops, including Dressel Divers. While diving, you can get up close and personal to some of the area’s most exquisite aquatic life, including colorful fish like angel damsel fish and several species of eels. One of the most popular dive spots in the area is the Widowmaker’s Cave, a location known for its gorgeous coral and fascinating underwater features.


Cinema

If movies are your passion, then head to the Palace Cineplex. The movie complex features a selection of silver screens showing the latest flicks to come out of Hollywood. Several resorts also host movie nights, so be sure to check with the reception of the hotel you are staying at if you are interested in seeing a movie without having to leave your own private paradise.


Museums/Historic Sites

While there are plenty of historical sites located throughout Montego Bay, the area’s most famous historical spot is the eerie Rose Hall. This Georgian mansion was built in the 1770s by John Palmer. It was his wife, however, that made the site infamous. Legend has it that Annie Palmer practiced voodoo and eventually murdered both John and her two subsequent husbands. While this story has largely been debunked, it hasn’t stopped visitors from coming to explore the building’s spooky halls. The legend, and the house itself, even inspired American musician Johnny Cash to immortalize the woeful tale in the “Ballad of Annie Palmer”.


Nightlife

If you feel like getting your groove on, Montego Bay has you covered. The area boasts a variety of nightclubs so you are sure to find one playing some tunes that are sure to get you moving. One of the city’s most popular spots is Taboo Montego Bay, which hosts events almost every night of the week. If live music is more your style, Montego Bay’s own Margaritaville occasionally hosts local and traveling bands.

Gloucester Avenue

A trip to Jamaica would be incomplete without a taste of jerk chicken. Jerk chicken features hot spices combined and spread across a perfectly pimento wood-smoked piece of chicken. Visitors who want to try some of this divine dish need look no further than the Pork Pit, a local joint located along Gloucester Avenue that also boasts an incredible homemade barbecue sauce. For a proper sit-down dinner, the Hip Strip features restaurants like Margaritaville and Biggs BBQ. Be sure to set aside one dinner to be enjoyed seaside at Marguerite's, where you can dine on fresh seafood while watching the Caribbean waves gently roll across a powder-white beach.


Downtown

While Montego Bay’s downtown area does not feature as many restaurants as the Gloucester Avenue area, there are still some spots that are worth checking out, including the dining room at the Round Hill Resort. However, the most popular spot in the downtown area may well be Pier One, a hip establishment located on the water that features a full bar, a dance floor, and events like karaoke.


Outside the City Centre

The area south of downtown features some of Montego Bay’s most popular restaurants and bars, along with several establishments found on peaceful properties of the area’s resorts. Spots like Robbie Joseph’s Seahorse Grill and House Boat Grill Restaurant boast seaside views and delicious menus featuring local seafood and grilled delights. The Hard Rock Cafe can also be found here, which hosts several events each week, as well as offering a menu featuring perfectly prepared burgers.

Montego Bay

Country: Jamaica

City By the Numbers  

Population: 110,115

Elevation: 39.3 feet / 12 meters

Average Winter Temperature: 25°C / 77°F

Average Summer Temperature: 28°C / 82°F

Average Temperature by Month

January: 25°C / 77℉

February: 25°C / 77℉

March: 26°C / 78.8℉

April: 26°C / 78.8℉

May: 27°C / 80.6℉

June: 28°C / 82.4℉

July: 29°C / 84.2℉

August: 29°C / 84.2℉

September: 28°C / 82.4℉

October: 27°C / 80.6℉

November: 26°C / 78.8℉

December: 26°C / 78.8℉

Best Time to Visit


The months of January through March have the lowest rainfall, making them attractive for visitors who would like to catch some rays on the beach.


Quick Facts

Electricity: 110 and 120 volts, AC

Time Zone: GMT-5

Country Dialing Code: 1 876

Area Code: none

Currency: The Jamaican Dollar


Did You Know?

Montego Bay was the home of Annie Mary Palmer, or the White Witch of Rose Hall. While the whole affair is shrouded in mystery and hotly debated by historians, legend has it that Miss Palmer practiced voodoo within the mansion, murdered all three of her husbands, and was ultimately murdered herself by her slaves. Johnny Cash, the famous American musician, immortalized this dark tale in his song, “The Ballad of Annie Palmer”.


Orientation


Montego Bay is located in the northwestern section of Jamaica. Its northern border is flanked by the Caribbean Sea.

The coast highway between the eastern city of Port Antonio and the west island area of Negril is scenic and lined with pristine beaches. Some beaches are on private land and some are publicly accessible. At Sunset Beach and Doctor's Cave, you have to pay an entrance fee for showers and other amenities.

Towering over this stretch of coast is Cockpit Country, a 190-sq.-km area of mostly wilderness. It is difficult to travel by road and car because the region's mainly composed of porous Karst limestone. A four-month rainy season creates pitted roads and, often, vast sinkholes, giving the Cockpits its distinct upside-down egg carton appearance. This beautiful rolling landscape is habitable in some parts but in others, becomes so waterlogged that roads can be impassable.

More than 300 plant varieties, including ferns, shrubs and trees as well as medicinal herbs dominate the rolling inland areas of Cockpit Country. It's also dotted with palms, orange groves and fruit trees of every possible variety.

Surprisingly, there are few snakes here. When the country fell under British rule in the 1670s, foreigners brought a ferret-like creature known as the mongoose. The snakes are mostly gone but the mongooses remain. There is a local legend that if a mongoose crosses your path and turns back, you must do the same to avoid bad luck.

Please keep in mind that parts of Cockpit Country are remote and wild and exploring the region without a guide is not recommended.

Montego Bay is perhaps best known as one of the places Christopher Columbus landed during his quest to reach India. However, a thriving culture existed here for many centuries before the Spanish arrived. The Taino people, also known as the Arawaks, and their ancestors are believed to have inhabited the area for as many as 10,000 years before Columbus stepped foot in the “New World”. Before Columbus’ arrival, the Taino people, who called their land Yamaye - the land of springs - lived relatively peaceful seafaring lives, though they occasionally battled with another tribe, who the Spanish called the Caribs for their violent attacks of other communities. However, with the coming of the Spanish, the Taino met a foe that they could not overcome. Like many of the other tribes that came into contact with Spanish explorers, the Taino population was eventually decimated by slavery and sickness. While some families were able to escape to the mountains, most of the Taino people perished. The families that did manage to get away were eventually absorbed into other tribes, where some of their skills, like a particular style of hammock-making, are still practiced today.


After their initial exploration of the land in 1494, the Spanish controlled Jamaica, including Montego Bay, until the arrival of Oliver Cromwell and his fleet in 1655. Under British rule, Montego Bay was used mainly as a sugarcane and slavery port. Many slave uprisings occurred during the following century, but perhaps the most famous was the Christmas Uprising, which was led by Samuel Sharpe and lasted from 1831 to 1832. Samuel Sharpe, whose name at birth was Archer, was a well-educated and respected slave who grew up on a plantation owned by Samuel and Jane Sharpe in the Montego Bay area. Young Samuel became a preacher who traveled to other plantations and taught slaves about Christianity, all while seeing the horrible treatment of slaves at many of the plantations across Jamaica. In 1831, Samuel led a peaceful general strike that soon grew into the largest slave revolt Jamaica had ever experienced. While the revolt was eventually put down, the brutality with which British troops retaliated led, in part, to Britain’s outlawing of slavery in 1833. Sadly, Samuel did not live to see the abolition of slavery. Today, visitors to Montego Bay can sit in Sam Sharpe Square in downtown Montego Bay and honor the spirit of this brave leader.


Today, Montego Bay is a flourishing tourist town that features both resorts and massive second homes of some of Jamaica’s most wealthy families. The town has experienced a large amount of growth in the last decades. The population is predominantly of African descent, though East Indian and Chinese communities have also settled in the area. This lively town is as eclectic as it is enthralling, with pristine beaches, world-class cuisine, and resorts situated alongside a vibrant community.

Taxis in Jamaica are either metered or flat rate. Rates are charged by the car, not by the number of passengers. Check with your driver prior to the start of your trip for rates and details. To arrange taxi services, most hotels and resorts have assigned Jamaican Tourist Board (JTB) or Jamaican Union of Travellers Association (JUTA) drivers who carry photo ID and display a JTB or JUTA sticker on their front windshield. Tipping your driver is recommended—about 10 to 15 per cent is customary. Travellers should be aware that trips taken between midnight and 5 a.m. run on a standard tipping rate of 25 per cent on top of the metered fee.

Roundtrip transfers between the airport and your hotel can also be purchased in advance by contacting WestJet Vacations at least three days prior to your departure. Motorcycles, mopeds, scooters and bicycles can also be rented for the day or for the week from most resort locations.

Car rentals are also available in Jamaica, but not recommended. Driving here is on the left hand side of the road and you must be at least 23 years old (and have a valid credit) to rent.

Sightseeing buses also run frequently in Montego Bay. Check with your Jamaica Tours Limited representative or your hotel concierge for further information.

Arrival

When traveling to Montego Bay, you'll fly into Montego Bay Sangster International Airport. During your flight, you'll receive a double-sided Jamaican Immigration/Customs form. Please note that this information must be complete in order for it to be stamped by immigration officials upon arrival.

After a brief stop at baggage claim, you'll bring the stamped portion of the form to a customs officer. When you depart, you will need to present this form to outgoing immigration. Do not lose this portion of the form since the screening process at departing immigration will be much lengthier if you do. In addition, make sure you sign this form before returning it.

Guests should also be aware that a transfer or return flight ticket and proof of sufficient funds are required upon entry into Jamaica. So make sure to have your return WestJet ticket accessible in your carry-on when you arrive.

If you have purchased transfers to and from your hotel with WestJet Vacations, look for a Jamaican Tours Limited representative holding a WestJet Vacations sign after you exit the customs area. Simply identify yourself as a WestJet Vacations guest and you'll be on your way.

Departure

Smiling WestJetters will be ready to assist you at the check-in counters in the departure area of the Montego Bay Sangster International Airport. An airport tax of J$1,000 is charged upon departure but when you fly WestJet, this tax is included in your ticket price.

If you have some time before your flight, the Montego Bay airport has all the shopping conveniences of an international airport, including duty free shopping. There are also many places to grab a bite to eat, as well as business, play and lounge areas to pass the time before your departure.

Vaccination

Although yellow fever is not a disease risk in Jamaica, the Jamaican government requires travelers arriving from countries where yellow fever is present to show proof of vaccination. It is also always recommended that you stay up-to-date on standard vaccines. Check with your local clinic for more information.

Jamaica uses the North American standard plug; however some properties have only two-pronged receptacles in the room rather than three-pronged receptacles

Whether you're on the beach, floating downriver in a bamboo raft or looking for a bag of June plums and mangoes at a roadside stand, Jamaica's unique character stays with you at every turn. Open your eyes, embrace the reggae beat and remember to enjoy the slower pace of Montego Bay.

Make the effort to leave your hotel or resort and experience authentic Jamaican life. Walk the Hip Strip, a popular stroll packed with locals and travellers, along with a dense concentration of shops, restaurants and bars. This strip is popular day and night, but really gets hopping when the sun goes down.

Head to the city centre and Market Street on a Saturday for a busy produce market. It fills up with exotic goods, vendors, shoppers and drivers trying to navigate a maze of people. Here you'll find tons of products and animals like goats and donkeys. You should also explore one of the city's three craft markets.

Hire a guide to take you to the scenic countryside and stop to buy freshly picked mangos, papaya and avocados. Jamaica's warm climate means many types of fruit are grown here. Some are rarely found elsewhere, like ackee (Jamaica's national fruit), half a dozen varieties of berry-sized plums and other dietary staples.

Just don't leave Jamaica before indulging in street food and local treats. These include fresh coconut water, a pear-shaped, juicy Otaheiti apple and spicy jerk chicken or pork, served simply with soft white bread. The spicy wood smoke is enticing and you can usually spot the vendors' telltale giant black drums with clouds of smoke. Pimento wood makes the food taste and smell of pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and other spices.

For dinner in your hotel room, local supermarkets and strip malls offer the best prices for everyday items and groceries. Find hot sauces, Blue Mountain coffee and even Jamaica's famous rum, Appleton Estates – one of the country's main exports.

Taxis in Jamaica are either metered or flat rate.

Learn more

The U.S. dollar and credit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants, shops and almost all other attractions in major cities where tourists visit.

When traveling to Montego Bay, you'll fly into Montego Bay Sangster International Airport.

Departing from:

^Total price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions.

*Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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