Montego Bay, commonly referred to as MoBay, is the second largest city in the island nation Jamaica. It has a population of 428,000 people (2018). Montego Bay is the capital of St. James Parish, one of the 14 parishes of Jamaica.
Christopher Columbus sailed into the bay in 1494 and named it "El Golfo de Buen Tiempo" or Fair Weather Bay. The first record of a Spanish settlement here shows it as Monterias. The Spaniards hunted the herds of wild hogs that used to roam the hills and produced and exported 'hog butter' or lard. The name Montego derives from the Spanish "manteca" meaning lard, and Montego Bay is shown on some ancient maps as Lard Bay, or Bahia de Manteca in Spanish.
Due in part to its location on the island's north shore, Montego Bay has long since earned the title of 'tourist capital of Jamaica.' It receives the bulk of international flights, and is home to Sangster International Airport, the larger of Jamaica's two main international airports. It is a tourist destination known for its duty-free shopping, cruise line terminal, and the sheltered Doctor's Cave beach with clear turquoise waters, which is one of the most famous beaches on the island.
- 1 Sangster International Airport (MBJ IATA), Montego Bay (on the northwest part of the island, very close to the cruise ports at Montego Bay and Ochos Rios.).
Montego Freeport, built in the 1960s on what was called the Bogue Islands, is the port of Montego Bay. The Montego Freeport terminal consists of five primary berths two of which are dedicated exclusively for cruise shipping. There is a telecommunications centre for cruise passengers (and crew), snack and refreshment stand.
Transportation is available from the terminal building, supervised by the Jamaica Tourist Board, which also maintains a visitor information booth. Montego Freeport is about 3 km south of town. Taxis to downtown MoBay cost about US$10. Shuttle bus service from the cruise ship pier to downtown City Centre Shopping Mall for US$2 per person each way.
Gloucester Avenue-which is lined with tourist hotels, shops, and restaurants-has sidewalks on both sides and is best visited on foot. Aside from this road, walking may be considerably less safe.
By bus, taxi
Buses, minibuses and route taxis arrive and depart from the transportation station off Barnett St at the south end of St James St. There’s an inspector’s office (7AM-6PM) inside the gate where you can ask for the departure point of the bus you’re seeking.
Montego Bay Metro (952-5500; 19A Union St) is the municipal bus service (around J$100). Montego Bay Metro now operates three routes: Greenwood to City Centre; Sandy Bay to City Centre; and Cambridge to City Centre.
Taxis are readily available, but as with all cities be aware that some drivers will be less honest or reliable than others. follow your instincts; never get into an unmarked car with someone who offers you a ride, and stick with taxi services you recognize. Your hotel can suggest trustworthy drivers. Reliable driver (as used by the Bird's Nest and Five Gable include Frankly (local ☏) and Smith (local ☏ )
Another very common way of getting anywhere outside the vicinity of your hotel is by tour van. If you book a tour to the falls or the canopy, the driver will usually pick you up at your hotel. For more on tours, check the Do section below.
- The Centerstage Theatre, Dominica Dr. New Kingston, ☏ . Small but cozy. Family-oriented musicals in patois.
- Cornwall Beach, ☏ . 9AM-5PM. Snorkeling, swimming, and other fun beach activities. US$3.20/2 (adults/children).
- Doctor's Cave Beach, Gloucester Ave, ☏ . 8:30AM-Ssunset. The water is crystal clear and snorkelling is available. It can get a bit crowded during busy season, but its still a great place to go for the family. Adult US$5, child under 12 $2.50 - extra for chairs and umbrellas.
- Dunn’s River Falls & Park, Ochos Rios, Jamaica, W.I., ☏ . 8:30AM - 4PM. Dunn's River Falls & Park comes to mind which is in Ochos Rios that is about two hours from Montego Bay by taxi cab. There are four rivers combined into one unending flow of rapid descent that drains directly into the Caribbean Sea. Adventurous tourist can climb the falls by forming a human chain led by an experienced Dunn’s river falls guide. Adult US$20, child (2-11 years old) US$15.
- John Halls Montego Bay Adventure Tour. Thorough and thrilling tour of Jamaica's beauty and culture. Adult US$75, child $31.50.
- KiteBoarding Jamaica, Bounty Bay, Trelawny (only 20min from Montego Bay), ☏ . Jamaica's only kite surfing center, great kite surfing on the Caribbean sea, suitable for all levels.
- Montego Bay Sea Trek Adventure, Doctor's Cave Beach. 1 hour. Underwater adventures on the ocean floor. US$60.
- Walter Fletcher Beach, ☏ . M-Th 9AM-7PM, F-Su 9AM-10PM. Swimming, boat rides, and other beachtime fun. Adult US$5, child $3.
- Chukka Caribbean Adventures.
- 1 Mayfield Falls (Renting a car and driving on an adventurous unsealed road (in parts) might be the easiest way to get there.). Mayfield Falls is the less-touristy option and much calmer than Dunn's Falls. They are a 1½-hr drive south-west from MoBay. For an entrance fee of $15 local guides offer 1½-hr tours where you climb up the falls and return on a short trek. The tour includes jumping in pools, diving through tunnels and climbing stones. Jumping from a high tree might also be possible. You might ask your guide for a unofficial "nature tour" which takes you 2 hr up the falls through fields (maybe ganja as well) and means climbing the falls down. With driving there you will also have the chance to see rural life on Jamaica as you pass through little farmer villages. US$15 + tip for the guide.
Travel Around Jamaica Tours, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Travel Around Jamaica Tours is a Montego Bay-based private airport transfer and tour company, which offers private airport transfers to all hotels, resorts and villas in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Negril. As well as private transfers to popular tourist destinations in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril.
- Dreamer Catamaran Cruises, Rapsody Tours, Charters & Cruise Limited, Gloucester Avenue, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. M-Sa 10AM-1PM/3PM-6PM. The Dreamer Catamaran cruises are a great way to explore the Caribbean Ocean. On the Catamaran cruise, there is an opportunity for sight seeing, snorkelling, drinking, sun bathing. The staff is very friendly, helpful and patient, making sure new comers to snorkelling feel comfortable with their equipment and what to look for while exploring the sea. After snorkeling, alcohol is served on the catamaran, along with massages by the crewmembers. The Dreamer Catamaran cruises are fun, safe, and a great experience. US$89.
All day, representatives from tour companies will stroll the beaches, offering parasailing, horseback riding, and a million other fun activities; if you're interested, keep your ears and eyes open for these guys, but remember to always play it safe and go with companies you recognize and trust. A lot can go wrong during these activities if the people in charge don't know what they're doing!
- Rockland Bird Sanctuary, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 9AM-5PM. Enjoy the many varieties of birds that make the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary a wonderful nature place. @ Rocklands Road, Wiltshire, Anchovy Montego Bay
- Montego Bay shopping center. You can find more reasonably priced souvenirs, and eat some real native Jamaican food. A traveller can find really great deals on gourmet coffee in which is produced on the island, and Jamaican spices, art and scented body oils. You can get there by taxi or local shuttle.
Most restaurants also serve drinks. Try a tropical drink or grab a cold Red Stripe in the signature brown bottle, then relax and take in the scenery!
- Pier One Seafood, Howard Cooke Blvd, ☏ . Open-air restaurant serving well-liked seafood and umbrella drinks with a great view of the bay.
- Evelyn's, Whitehouse (near Sandals Montego Bay), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-9PM, Su 10AM-6PM. Very reasonable prices, right on the beach, and the food is heavenly.
- Pork Pit, 27 Gloucester Ave, ☏ . Right on the main strip in town, serving what some say is Jamaica's best jerk chicken and pork cooked over coals.
- Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Gloucester Ave. 11AM-?. A tourist spot on the "hip strip" Gloucester Avenue. Their Jerk and Curry Chicken are excellent. They have entertainment, a hot tub, a 110-foot water slide that leads you into the ocean where there is also a water trampoline. The gift shop, with a wide variety of souvenirs including t-shirts, shorts, hats, shot glasses, and key chains. It is about 15 minutes from the resort areas.
- Day-O Plantation Restaurant, ☏ . A favourite spot for romantic occasions, offering garden dining and Jamaican fusion cuisine.
- Belfield 1794. M-Sa 6:30-11PM. Located in an old sugar mill and offering Jamaican favourites in an unusual setting. US$15-$20.
- The Pelican Grill, Gloucester Avenue Hip Strip (across the street from the old Hospital Park; near Doctor's Cave Beach), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- Bethel Court Guesthouse, ☏ . Mount Salem. Here you will have your own private furnished apartment. $20/night dorms, $50 private 1-bedroom apartment.
- The Bird's Nest, Patterson Avenue, Ironshore, ☏ . Jamaica's only sports-orientated hostel. The Bird's Nest is run by passionate kite surfers. $20/night dorms, $30 private rooms.
- Caribic House, 69 Gloucester Ave. Hostel - very much budget accommodation. Great views of the beach from the third floor. Across the street from Doctor's Cave Beach. $35/night (double occupancy).
- Hotel Gloriana, 1-2 Sunset Blvd, ☏ . A cheap place to sleep, with lovely staff, but the rooms are very basic. $30/night.
- [dead link] Ridgeway Guest House, 34 Queens Dr. An inexpensive, well-liked guest house run by a very hospitable and helpful staff. $50/night.
- The Jamaica Grandiosa Resort, 3 Ramparts Close, ☏ . Another budget option, with nice views and a friendly staff. $60/night.
- Grand Palladium Resorts & Spa, Lucea, toll-free: . All-inclusive 3 meals daily plus snacks and all drinks and house wines with meals included. Free activities (snorkeling, sailing, paddle boating) all of these activities are on the beach adjacent to the Grand Palladium Resort. Lifeguard on duty. $60/night. Kids stay free.
- Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort, ☏ .
- Five Gables, Lot 285 Fairview, Ironshore (Route taxis and buses commute between MoBay and Ironshore. From the junction you can either walk (2,5km uphill) or find a taxi (see Get Around, J$150)), ☏ . Five Gables is a hostel in a villa in the suburb of Ironshore. The house consist of multiple rooms with bathrooms, a kitchen and a huge community area. Outside, the property features a pool, a sun deck with bar, hammocks and chairs as well as a garden. It is closely associated with the bird's nest. Even if it appears fully booked on hostel world, call the owner Ian, he might let you camp in the garden or offers you another room right next door. dorm $20 / double ensuite $70.
- Allspice Villa Bed & Breakfast. Refurbished bed and breakfast villa overlooking Montego Bay, owned and managed by a young American couple. $125-200 per night.
- Doctors Cave Beach Hotel. A moderately priced hotel along Gloucester Avenue (called the Hip Strip). A well-established alternative for those seeking a good value. $115-170/night.
- El Greco Resort, P.O. Box 1624. Popular resort village. Furnished one and two bedroom air-conditioned suites, just a elevator ride down to famous Doctors Cave beach. $112-177/night for 2-4 people.
- Royal DeCameron Resort, 2 Gloucester Ave, ☏ . Oceanview rooms and patio, includes all food and drinks (including international drinks and wine). 3 beaches, and 2 pools. 1 Al a carte restaurant and 1 buffet. $100/person/night, including all beach activities.
- Rose Hall Resort & Spa, a Hilton Resort, ☏ . Rose Hall Road, Montego Bay. This island resort in Montego Bay was a legendary sugar plantation during the 18th century. $250/night.
- Altamont West Hotel, 33 Gloucester Ave, ☏ . Rates start at $90.
- Half Moon Rose Hall, Half Moon P.O., Rose Hall, ☏ . A large hotel with golf courses, spa facilities, a variety of vacation villas, and conference and meeting facilities. Rooms and suites start at $350/night.
- Riu Montego Bay. Ironshore P.O, Rose Hall. Less than three miles from downtown Montego Bay, and 1.7 miles from the airport, it has a wide variety of activities and comfortable accommodations in a beautiful setting, including an on-site spa, entertainment by the pool and on the beach during the day and on stage at night. $400/night The Riu Montego Bay has a total of 5 bars and 5 restaurants. The restaurants include a steakhouse, Italian restaurant, Asian Rrestaurant, main restaurant and a pool-side buffet. There are 2 pool-side bars, and 2 inside the resort and 1 sports bar. The sports bar is open 24 hours with a mini-casino next door. There is always entertainment during the day at the pool area and at night, either in the entertainment area, or on the beach.
- Silent Waters Villa, River Road, Great River Private, ☏ . Luxury villa with nice views and good service. The 5 guest suites and the owner's villa can accommodate one group of up to 20. Tennis court, 2 pools, heliport, 14 staff. $2,000-4,857/night..
- 1 The Tryall Club, Alice Eldemire Dr., Hanover Parish (15-20 minute drive west of the city), ☏ . A splurge, but worth it. A world-renowned golf course designed by Ralph Plummer lies on this property, making the Tryall one of the premier golf destinations of the Caribbean. Each villa has a private pool along with personal staff that cater to your needs. Other amenities at the Tryall include a kids club, 9 tennis courts (four which are red clay), and a private beach. $400/night.
While Montego Bay is a relatively safe city, normal precautions should be observed. Stay in groups, and stick to tourist areas. The rural areas are especially dangerous.
You can get domestic flights to Kingston's second airport Tinson Pen.