THINGS TO DO IN MONTEGO BAY

JAMAICA
Montego BAY Itinerary

Crystal clear waters, all-inklusives & Jamaican city life

Duration: at least 5 days

Budget: $ 75 per day

Stay:  Cloud 9 Suite or Five Gabels

I was a little weary of Montego as it seems such a popular all-inclusive spot. However, the city quickly grew on me, and I was happy to return before my flight back to Germany. The airport is located just outside of downtown and right by the beach. The plane was touching the ground as the sun was setting.
I found Montego to be the perfect starting point for my trip to Jamaica. Its touristic infrastructure allows you to settle in quite quickly while downtown affords you glimpses into real Jamaican city life. Furthermore, as the island is relatively small, one can set out to do anything from MoBay.
For starters, let’s divide Montego Bay into roughly two areas: Gloucester Avenue, aka the “Hip Strip,” lined by beaches and bars and restaurants on the other. The “Hip Strip” is Montego’s main tourist area, and you can feel an American vibe.

  • Sight Seeing 40% 40%
  • Beaches 70% 70%
  • Day-Trips 95% 95%
  • Party 100% 100%

The rest of Montego Bay and downtown feel a lot more real and offer an authentic feeling to those who venture out. To experience the best of both worlds, I can only urge you to venture beyond the Hip Strip and get to know Mobay from an Airbnb in a more local neighborhood.
I loved my stay with Cerri and Jah B in Mount Salem. The vibe was so lovely and welcoming. Not only did I have a fantastic view over Mobay, but some of my favorite food spots, such as Tradishonal, were within walking distance.

Please do not be afraid or even annoyed by the people who are trying to sell you souvenirs or tours, nobody means any bad. All-inclusive tourism is incredibly challenging for the locals. Show your love for Jamaica by supporting the public beaches, consuming, and shopping locally.

Beaches in Montego Bay

Harmony beach

Coming from downtown, Harmony beach is the first beach you’ll pass. It’s a free public beach that was just recently opened. To my surprise, it’s pretty large and was always empty when I walked by in the mornings. Unfortunately, the beach is closed Mondays for maintenance.

 

Harmony Beach Montego Bay
Doctors Cove

Doctor’s Cove

This stunning beach’s supposedly healing waters have attracted visitors since its opening in 1906. Today, it’s Mobay’s most famous beach offering visitors all kinds of amenities. You’ll find the entrance next to Starbucks (which already says a lot). The Entrance fee is $6. While the beach feels almost like you have entered a hotel complex, the color of the water and the views of incoming and departing flights are unique.
Doctor’s Cove beach is also the perfect spot to spend your last day before heading to the airport as it’s close by and even offers showers.

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One Man Beach

If you want to hang out with locals and have a good time, the place to be. There’s also a beachfront soccer place.

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Dead End Beach

Dead End Beach is the famous beach where airplanes land right over your head, as the airport is right beside the beach! This relatively small stretch of beach located north of Gloucester Avenue is also known as Buccaneer beach. It’s a free public beach with no facilities. Located just a short walk from the more famous Doctor’s Cave Beach, Dead End Beach is a more relaxed place to watch the sunset.

HipStrip

Montego's Gloucester ave, aka. "Hip Strip"

Mobay’s Hips Strip is the main party street in Montego Bay, with many bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. It’s also where you’ll find Jamaica’s largest duty-free shopping area. In addition, it is the center of tourism. It’s not my favorite spot as food and vibes are much better downtown, but you’ll find Island Strains Herb House there – my favorite place to spend sunsets in MoBay!

Downtown Montego Bay

Downtown Mobay isn’t exactly pretty and is a pretty gritty city. As I stayed in Mount Salem, my daily walk to the beaches took me along Chruch St., Mobay’s “most picturesque” street. You’ll find Mobay’s Townhouse, Gregorian-style structures, and some pretty churches there. While I found the beach areas of Mobay more touristic, I enjoyed my time downtown. The food is better, and it feels more like an actual Jamaican city with fewer tourists.

Sam Sharpe Square

The square was named after Jamaican National hero Samuel Sharp. Samuel Sharp led the Christmas rebellion in 1831. In the afternoon hours, you’ll find tasty street food around, and it’s a good spot for hanging out and observing the crazy hustle of the city. Close by, you’ll also find the National heros’ Monument.

Montego Bay Cultural Center

Southwest of Sam’ Sharpe Square, you’ll find Montego’s Cultural Center. Home to a history museum, a small art gallery, and (before covid) MoBay’s cultural events. The museum is especially interesting as it tells the story of Montego Bay from the Time of the Arawaks to the present day.

Mobay
Greenwood

Greenwood Great House

A visit to Greenwood Great House is a must-do for any history buff. This 18th-century plantation home was once owned by the famous pirate Henry Morgan.
Today, it’s a museum where you can learn about the area’s colonial past. Be sure to tour the grounds and see the beautiful bay views from the property. Greenwood Great House offers visitors a chance to explore Jamaica’s diverse history and culture, just a short distance from the bustling city center and overlooking the scenic Caribbean Sea. Whether you are interested in learning about old plantation life or exploring local artworks, Greenwood Great House has something for everyone. And if you want to relax and enjoy breathtaking views of the water and stunning mountain scenery, there are plenty of outdoor spaces where you can do just that.

Rose Hall Great House

 Rose Hall Great House is another must-see for history lovers. This 18th-century plantation home is brimming with history. Rose Hall showcases beautiful historical architecture and offers tours of the property that take you through interesting landmarks like the slave cemetery and Annie Palmer’s private chambers. Whether you’re a local or just visiting for a day, Rose Hall is a must-see destination for anyone interested in iconic Jamaican history. This 18th-century plantation home was once owned by Annie Palmer, the so-called “White Witch of Rose Hall.” Today, it’s a museum where you can learn about the area’s dark past. Be sure to tour the grounds and see the beautiful bay views from the property.

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Montego

Green Grotto Caves

This 1.5 km-long cave system is famous for being the filming location for the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, but it also has a rich history. The caves were a hiding place for enslaved people and the Spanish in the 17th century and later served as a nightclub in the 1990s. Today, the caves are open for tourists and offer a moving glimpse into Jamaican history. Visitors can explore the cave system on their own or take a guided tour, and there is also a small museum on site.

This 1.5 km-long cave system is famous for being the filming location for the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, but it also has a rich history. The caves were a hiding place for enslaved people and the Spanish in the 17th century and later served as a nightclub in the 1990s. Today, the caves are open for tourists and offer a moving glimpse into Jamaican history. Visitors can explore the cave system on their own or take a guided tour, and there is also a small museum on site.

Jamaican Food Tours

Check out one of the city’s food tours! You’ll get to try dishes from some of the area’s most famous restaurants and learn about Jamaican culture and history. You’ll also get to explore some of the city’s coolest neighborhoods.

You’ll begin your culinary adventure when you meet with your guide and explore Montego. You might try jerk chicken, one of Jamaica’s most common dishes- it tastes delicious! Whether dining at an authentic restaurant or roadside stand – everything smells & looks fantastic, so enjoy every minute while learning more than just “What’re some good places nearby?

Ackee in Jamaica

Walk with the hooligans

Are you looking for something unusual to do and love dogs? You will love the special tour Montego Bay Animal Haven haven has put together!

Beautiful Jamaica is also home to a large population of stray dogs, many of them in poor shape. I have been super excited to read about walking with the hooligans: spending a day with dogs, and getting to know Jamaica a bit better while supporting an amazing cause. Tammy Browne, the founder of the Montego Bay Animal Haven, in collaboration with Irina Bruce from IrieLab–a company specializing in interactive experiences for Jamaican visitors, has created something unique.

This tour allows you to explore the hills with large packs of rescued dogs! The best part? These playful “hooligans” will romp and remind you of how wonderful Jamaica is as they show you their world. Whether going solo or with a few friends, this tour offers an unforgettable way to experience inland Jamaica while making some four-legged pals along the way.

Hike Hours: 9 am – 10 am
Visiting Hours: 10 am – 12 noon
Costs: $65 including transport

Take in Jamaica's lush side: Animal Farm & Nature Reserve

Things to do in Montego Bay go beyond the busy nightlife typically associated with this paradise island – Animal Farm and Nature Reserve is just a 30-minute drive away, making it the perfect destination for anyone who needs to escape and relax. Powered by solar energy, these eco-cottages come with everything you need – from views of the forest canopy to the farm animals that provide a melodic soundtrack – so you can truly immerse yourself in nature. From birdwatching across the fields to floating down the roaring Great River on a raft, there’s plenty of ways to explore Jamaica’s lush green side here. So forget finding peace and quiet in the more typical resort hotels, as Animal Farm and Nature Reserve offers an unforgettable experience that allows you to get away from it all.

MOntego Bay

Practical travel tips for Kingston & Jamaica

Which language is spoken in Jamaica?

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The official language is English, but you'll also hear Jamaican Patois spoken throughout the country. It's a colorful and vibrant mix of English, West African languages, and Spanish influences. Don't be afraid to interact with locals and try out some basic phrases in Patois - they'll appreciate the effort and you may even learn a thing or two.

What is the offical currency in Jamaica?

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The Jamaican dollar is the official currency and is accepted everywhere on the island. However, US dollars are widely accepted as well, so it's always a good idea to have some cash in both currencies. You can easily exchange your money at banks or ATMs throughout the city. Just be aware that the exchange rate may vary, so it's best to check before making a transaction. Also, don't forget to tip - it's customary in Jamaica and greatly appreciated by service industry workers. So make sure you have some small bills on hand for tipping at restaurants, bars, and hotels.

What is the best time to visit Montego Bay?

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Montego Bay is really an all-year-round destination. As anywhere in the region, hurricane season starts in June and lasts till November.

Is Montego Bay safe for travelers?

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As a female traveler, I felt safe. Obviously, there are some hustlers you'll be fine with as long as you are friendly and walk with a purpose.
Montego's SoZo's
Zones of Special Operations were established about 10 years ago around Jamaica's cities after crime escalated. You'll notice the military around as soon as you enter a ZoSo. Salem is such a SoZo in MoBay. Be aware, but don't let it scare you. Flankers, Canterbury, and the area around the dump up beach are best avoided at night, though.

Public Transport in Montego Bay, Jamaica

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Route Taxis are the way to move around Jamaica. Official route taxis have a red license plate. In MoBay, you'll see the route they are catering written on the doors. Route taxis are the cheapest and most flexible way to move around. Just be careful to enter/exit on the route. Otherwise, you'll be charged as a charter taxi.

Public Bus: The bus stop is downtown. I couldn't find a schedule. They seem to go more frequently than the Knutsford.
Knutsford: Leaving Moby Airport, Jamaica's luxury bus connects more significant destinations. Be aware that the time stated refers to calculated driving time and not the actual time to reach a destination. Adding to the driving time are stops and bus switches which are not apparent when buying the ticket. Due to Covid, there are fewer buses than usual, and it is better to buy the ticket online.

Airport

Arriving at MoBay Sangster International is quite picturesque as the airport is located right by the beach. The airport is also only 10 minutes from the HipStrip, 15 to downtown, and 20 minutes up Mount Salem. Sangster International Airport is also small making it extra comfortable to move around.

Can I drink tap water in Jamaica?

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Even though Jamaica is considered a third-world country, it provides the best water quality in the region. You are, therefore, safe to drink tap water. This is especially true in the cities. However, if it makes you feel uneasy, bring a water purifier.

What's the biggest challenge for the conscious traveler?

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Tourism leakage: Jamaica is a tropical paradise that's adored by tourists worldwide, but it has a problem that's hidden from sight - tourism leakage. This phenomenon refers to the loss of revenue that occurs when international hotel chains capture a large chunk of tourist dollars, leaving very little money behind to benefit the local economy. If you're among the millions of visitors who flock to Jamaica every year, there's a simple way to help mitigate the effects of tourism leakage: support Jamaican-owned hotels, shops, and restaurants. By doing so, you can put your money where your heart is - and give the people of Jamaica a chance to thrive. So don't be shy about seeking out local businesses on your next vacation. Your decision to keep tourism dollars within Jamaica could make a world of difference.

Beach access

While Jamaica is known for its beautiful beaches, there have been some issues with access to these public spaces. In recent years, many resorts and private properties have restricted access to certain parts of the beach, making it incredibly difficult for locals to maintain their life and right to the sea. Support public beaches and say no to all-inclusive tourism!

Trash

Make sure to bring a foldable food container and cutlery with you! The amount of waste caused by food sold on the street is incredible.

Sunscreen

Make sure to protect Jamaica's marine life and bring reef-friendly sunscreen!

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Jamaica

As you see, there are plenty of things to experience in Jamaica. To come fully prepared, check out my packing list for Jamaica, which includes everything from eco-friendly toiletries to sustainable fashion and even the coolest travel gadgets!

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I’ll be going back to Jamaica for the fourth time this April. I promise you: no matter how many times you’ll return, you’ll always discover something new in Jamaica!

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