Montego Bay, on Jamaica’s north coast, is the country’s second largest city and a major attraction for visitors to the Caribbean nation. In addition to being a cruise ship destination, this thriving port has a lot offer. From gorgeous white-sand beaches, all-inclusive resorts and hopping night clubs, to historic plantations and family-friendly tourist attractions, you’re bound to find something that’s right for you in “MoBay.” Let’s go exploring!
Find a great beach (hint: it won’t be hard!)
Many of Montego Bay’s beaches are open to the public, but some are privately owned and may charge a small admission. Doctor’s Cave Beach and Bathing Club is one of Jamaica’s most famous beaches, where white sands border tranquil and clear turquoise waters. According to local stories, the water is reinforced by mineral springs. In the 1920s, a noted British osteopath wrote about the waters, claiming that they were capable of curing various ailments after swimming there, thus drawing many visitors from around the globe and shaping the future of Montego Bay. The beach remains just as popular today despite the admission charge (under $8 CND per person), offering change rooms, restaurants and gift shops and a convenient location by the city’s “Hip Strip,” Gloucester Avenue. Sun worshippers will also find beach equipment available for rent.
Popular with locals and tourists alike, Walter Fletcher Beach is a 15-minute walk from downtown Montego Bay, offering clear and calm azure water that’s prime for snorkelling, with equipment for sale or rent from shops at the beach’s edge. The beach’s coral formations house an array of marine species that snorkellers can say hello to, including turtles and lionfish. In the summer season, the beach can be very lively and energetic, with music everywhere and a party-like vibe. The beach’s Aquasol Theme Park is also popular with families, with lots of activities, including jet-skiing, tennis and go-karts.
Gloucester Avenue, aka the “Hip Strip,” is Montego Bay’s trendy area, where you’ll find restaurants, cafés, art galleries and duty free shops – great for souvenir shopping, but be ready for some of the rather insistent vendors. After picking up a few tchotchkes for the folks back home, make your way to the ever-popular Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville restaurant, the place to be on the Hip Strip, for an entertaining time with great food and lively concoctions. Harbour Street’s shopping area is also a big draw, where you’ll find eager local vendors selling their wares at the Crafts Market.
Montego Bay also offers a variety of concerts, festivals and sporting events that add to the fun and excitement. If sailing floats your boat, the bi-annual Pineapple Cup Montego Bay Race, hosted by the Montego Bay Yacht Club, returns on Feb. 3, 2017. Fun ahoy!
See the great plantation houses
Experience Jamaica’s history with a visit to some of the Great Houses from its 18th-century plantation-era past. The Bellefield Great House and Gardens, located on the privately owned Barnett Estate, is a restored mansion complete with period furnishings and antique family heirlooms. You’ll be whisked back in time as you take in the magnificent views of the 3,000-acre estate and its tropical gardens, see the original sugar mill and tour the 300-year old Great House. At the end of the tour, you’ll enjoy a traditional Jamaican lunch of spicy “jerk” chicken, freshly pressed cane juice, coconut milk and age-old rums.
Take a bamboo rafting tour
Rafting the Martha Brae River is one of the must-do activities when you visit Montego Bay. As you drift quietly down the river’s five kilometres on a bamboo raft, your local guide steers through the languid currents with a pole while providing commentary and information about the lush scenery and tropical wildlife you see along the way. At Martha Brae Rafter’s Village, the excursion also includes a stop at a medicinal herb garden.
Ride a “sea horse”
A little to the east of Montego Bay, Braco Stables provides a unique equestrian experience the entire family (five years old and up) can enjoy. Led by trained guides, you’ll enjoy a two-hour horseback ride through the picturesque countryside to a scenic white-sand beach. Then, after leading the horses along the shoreline, you’ll get to ride bareback into the surf for the coolest dip in the ocean ever. Afterwards, you’ll reconvene at the Great House pool for free refreshments. Rides occur twice daily, and your horse is chosen to match your riding ability. It’s an unforgettable experience.