The divine white-sand beach was once believed to be washed over by waters with strong curative properties. Today, over a century later, the possible medicinal effect has been eclipsed by its popularity with leisure vacationers, either idling in the sun or engaging in water sports (equipment available for hire).
The Montego Bay Marine Park emerged as part of the effort to protect and preserve the fragile flora and fauna of the area, damaged by human activity and pollution. Guides can be hired a few days in advance, to accompany visitors on activities like snorkelling and canoeing.
The Luminous Lagoon, just a short drive east of Montego Bay, is one of the few places in the world where the so-called "glistening waters" can be observed. At night, the waters of the lagoon light up with shining cerulean lights, forged by movement of rare microorganisms inhabiting its floor. Guided tours with a stop for bathing depart from the Glistening Waters Marina.
Some 30 kilometres east of Montego Bay is the Martha Brae Rafting Village, where one can embark on an unmissable journey along the lush banks of Martha Brae on board a bamboo raft steered by an experienced local captain. Tours may include stops for bathing, picking up refreshments from floating bars, and a visit to the Herb Garden.
Now here's a an experience hard to come by elsewhere: the Rastafari Indigenous Village, just outside city limits, is a neat introduction to Jamaica's indigenous religious movement that has gained followers worldwide since its emergence in the 1930s. A guided tour is good way to learn more about Rastafarianism and its central tenants, as well as witness the daily and cultural life of its Jamaican adepts.
Colonial Rose Hall offers a glimpse of what life was like for the white elites of Jamaica, and one of its arguably most notorious representatives: fabled, semi-fictionalized Annee Palmer, also known as the "White Witch" for her disturbing and devious deeds. Take the day tour of the house and surrounding gardens, or the spooky evening tour.
Arguably the finest dining the city has to offer can be enjoyed at the floating Houseboat Grill in the Bogue Lagoon. Select a lobster of your choice from the display and have it cooked right then and there, or choose from the appetizing menu featuring a lobster & beef surf 'n' turf, pork and beef tenderloins, Jamaican smoked chicken, and more.
One of the finest dining establishments on the island prides itself on telling the story of Jamaican cuisine from shore to shore, seafood to oxtail. It is an upscale affair located on premises of the (in)famous Rose Hall. A wide selection of rum is served, including a rare 50-year aged variety (Appleton Estate).
It's a real treat to have yourself a seafood dinner at the splendid Marguerite’s, one that a very special night calls for. Start with drinks at sunset at the on-site bar, and continue on to the sea-front dining area, where fresh catch is served polished to perfection, cooked "creative Caribbean" style.
Led by an award-winning head chef, Round Hill's excellent team crafts some of the island's finest dishes, inspired by regional produce sourced locally wherever possible, with an emphasis on sustainability. Pay particular attention to the daily catch, which often includes mahi-mahi, grouper, snapper, and lobster. Seating available on a breezy waterfront terrace.
The popular Scotchies is a casual affair with ample outdoor seating, an excellent pit stop for famed Jamaican jerk chicken, meat, or fish. Order the "festival" fritters to accompany the meal and go easy on the jerk sauce, which may be a little too spicty to the unprepared palate.
This unassuming shack isn't to be overlooked - that magnetic aroma you might have sensed walking down Hip Strip is most likely coming straight from here. The choices are plain but fabulous jerked chicken, pork, or shrimp, with the typical sides of "festival", rice and peas, and a further few.
This no-frills eatery at the edge of the Craft Market serves up delicious, uncomplicated fare, some items listed on the menu as simply "fish", with no further detailing - trust the chef (who also takes the orders while hard at work) to deliver. Food is consistently good and significantly cheaper than at some tourist hot spots.
The world's best-known lyrical escapist runs three locations of his worldwide chain in Jamaica, this particular one being the one known for its after-hour entertainment. There is an actual tube water slide leading out from the restaurant onto the ocean water, which revelers often take advantage of. At night, it's a popular dancing venue.
Located in Hopewell (a few minutes' drive outside of MoBay proper), Sky Beach Bar and Seafood Grill is the perfect spot for a low-key date night. The beach setting creates a romantic ambiance, and the the drink menu is complemented by a comparably extensive dining one.
The Harbour Street Craft Market is a collection of local vendors peddling all manner of Jamaican crafts and souvenirs, from hand-woven baskets and intricate wood carvings to borderline tacky Rastafari souvenirs and items of clothing in red, yellow, black, and green.
Another one of MoBay's craft markets can be found at the Old Fort. Items sold here can be hit and miss, creative originals mixing in with lower quality imports from elsewhere. Haggling is well-expected – if you happen to lay eyes on a particular piece, do not agree to a deal until the price it brought down by at least a third.
This collection of upscale boutiques selling quality crafts is most often visited by vacationers staying at Half Moon and other luxury resorts in the area. The showpiece here is "The Reggae Experience", entirely dedicated to the legendary Jamaican native Bob Marley. A short documentary dedicated to him is played on loop through the day, and pieces from his own clothing line, Tuff Gong Collection, are also on sale here.
Montego Bay is served by Sangster International Airport, located just a short drive away from town. Car rental is available at the airport, with several companies represented in the arrivals hall. There are two authorized taxi companies that serve the airport: JUTA (+1 876 952 0813; www.jutatoursltd.com) and JCAL (+1 876 952 7574; www.jcaltours.com). To arrange a private transfer to Montego Bay or other locations across the island, contact one of the many local companies that provide the service, some of which are also represented at arrivals (transfers may be arranged then and there). Jamaica Airport Transfers +1 876 596 0796 www.montegobay-airport-transfers.com Best Jamaica +1 876 403 5045 www.bestjamaica.com
Nationals of most countries do not require a visa to enter Jamaica if their planned time of stay does not exceed 3 months (6 months in many cases). This applies to citizens of the USA, all of the EU, Mexico, Japan, Israel, and countries of the Commonwealth. If you do require a visa, it can, in most cases, be obtained upon arrival, but do consult an official source in advance. To receive a visa, you will most likely need to produce proof of onward travel (tickets) and sufficient funds for the duration of the stay.
Cruise ships dock at Montego Freeport, 3 kilometers away from Montego Bay proper. Taxis may be hired directly at the Montego Bay Cruise Ship Terminal, or hailed off the side of the road just outside the port area; a shuttle bus is also available. Those arriving by a personal yacht or other sea vessel can get clearance at the Montego Bay entry port. Upon customs control, the quarantine flag can be lowered, and disembarking allowed. Montego Bay Yacht Club is a popular docking spot that also provides assistance with entry formalities.
The best months to visit Jamaica are either March and April, or November through December, when temperatures are just as comfortable but visitor numbers significantly lower. Summer has come to be known as "hurricane season", and temperatures can get uncomfortably hot in July and August, which means a trip is best planed outside of the summer months.
The most reliable option for long-distance travel are the Knutsford Express Buses, which operate on a fixed schedule with daily departures to destinations across Jamaica such as Falmouth, Ocho Rios, Negril, Kingston, and more (the station in Montego Bay is next to Pier One). Tickets may be booked in advance, and should be validated prior to boarding. The Montego Bay transportation center is located at the southern end of St James Street, just off Barnett Street; shared taxis, buses and minibuses depart from here to multiple destinations across the island. There is a special bus for the Montego Bay Metro Line, which connects the city with the suburbs.
Official taxis in Jamaica run with red plates. Despite being "official" carriers, these taxis often do not have fixed rates, which means these should be negotiated and firmly agreed upon prior to departure. There are several locations across town with official taxi stands, some of which include Gloucester Ave, by the Doctor’s Cave Beach Hotel, at the bus station, and the crossing of Strand and Market Streets. Private taxi drivers will also offer lifts, but these are advised against due to being unregulated. Inquire about approximate fares at your estimated time of travel. Alternatively, multiple local tour companies also offer adequately priced private transfers. JTL Jamaica Tours: