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To outsiders, Montego Bay presents a glitzy facade of Ironshore (the suburb containing the city's largest share of upscale resorts), expansive golfing grounds, white sand beaches and cerulean waters. There is, however, a much less glamorous side to the place, one that often escapes the touristic eye – downtown Montego Bay, with all the bustle and grit that comes along with a living city of over 100,000 residents. Head to the Hip Strip, as Gloucester Ave is known to tourists, and you'll find MoBay's famous Margaritaville, frequented by international revelers, along with multiple souvenir shops and eateries serving up jerk meats straight off the grill, Jamaican style. Venture outside of upscale resorts and you'll have no trouble mingling with locals, who exude an enigmatic joie de vivre.
White sand beaches and crystal-clear waters are an excellent attraction in and of themselves, but there are plenty of excursions available to those who wish to explore the surrounding areas.
Being a known destination for swanky resorts, Montego Bay has no shortage of restaurants, serving both elevated Jamaican fare and international specialties. The ackee plant prominently features as a dish ingredient, along with seafood offerings from local waters: saltfish (cod), snapper, and even lobster. Meat, naturally, rules them all, with the staples of chicken and pork complemented by goat and oxtail.
Jerked meat is ubiquitous in Montego Bay as much as the rest of Jamaica, deliciously juicy chunks of chicken and pork (and on occasion, shrimp and fish) served up at street-side stands and at "jerk centers" - casual eateries with jerked meats as their specialty. Side orders often include deep-fried bammy (flatbread), festival fritters, rice and peas.
Montego Bay's best-known nightlife destination is the Margaritaville complex (complete with a water slide leading out onto the sea and a catamaran seen as a floating extension of the bar), beloved especially by international revelers. There are a few other spots worth checking out, such as the attractive Pier One, as well as multiple waterfront restaurants that double as bars come sundown. Look out for special event announcements around town.
Duty free shopping is one of Montego Bay's primary attractions; deals can be had all across town, from boutiques on upscale resort grounds to shopping complexes in town, such as the reasonably priced City Centre Building (do check for hidden taxes prior to making a purchase). Jamaican art and crafts are sold throughout, and vary in quality greatly. At markets, haggling is a must.
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