Montego Bay (or "MoBay" as the locals call it) is Jamaica's second largest city and indisputably its tourist capital. The horseshoe-shaped Doctor's Cave Beach, duty-free shopping and year-round entertainment make it one of the Caribbean's most popular resorts.
If all you want to do is relax on the beach, snorkel in the azure waters of the bay, or sip cocktails by the sea, Montego Bay is the ideal place to do so. But with the busy markets, street life, and energy of downtown MoBay a few miles away, you can get a taste of Jamaican life too.
You can get away from terra firma altogether by booking places on catamaran cruises, or use Montego Bay as a base to visit Jamaican tourist attractions like Cockpit Country or the Dunn's River Falls.
The star of the show in Montego Bay is definitely Doctor's Cave Beach, with its long stretch of soft, white sand and the legendary turquoise waters of the bay that are known for their healing qualities. If space is at a premium, there's no shortage of alternative beaches nearby, so finding room to stretch out is never a problem.
Nature lovers will find that Montego Bay has plenty to offer. Take a raft cruise down the Martha Brae River, see the crocodiles at the Jamaica Swamp Safari Village, or hike deep into the wilderness of Cockpit Country, with its dramatic scenery, tiny communities, and wild orchids strewn along the roadsides.
Montego Bay is famous for its high-quality, welcoming all-inclusive resorts, which make staying there such a joy. The best places like Sandals and Secrets Wild Orchid offer huge pools, comfortable accommodation and all of the seafood and cocktails you can manage at affordable prices.
Jamaica has a rich, fascinating history and MoBay is a good place to learn about it. You can visit plantation houses like Bellefield Great House (where tours of the 18th-century house are followed by a rum punch and jerk chicken buffet), or head to nearby Falmouth, which has changed little since the 1840s.
Montego Bay offers a wide range of outdoor sports and activities, from horse riding at Braco Stables to golf courses like White Witch and Cinnamon Hill. Try canopy tours with thrilling zipline descents or rent a Harley Davidson with Great Dane and hit the open road to see Jamaica.
Jamaica's rainy season tends to last from June to November, so beach fans may want to avoid those months (although you can find accommodation bargains and temperatures rarely go below 75 degrees). February and March are the favorite months to visit, with constant sunshine, while Thanksgiving and Christmas are also popular times to go.
Sangster International Airport (MBJ) is about three miles away and has direct connections with a range of American cities, including New York, Philadelphia, St Louis, and Los Angeles. The best way to get to your accommodation after touching down is probably via shuttle buses or taxis, although car rental outlets at the airport like Hertz, Budget, and Thrifty are a good option as well. Expect a cab to cost around J$3,800.
If you are driving from Sangster International Airport, take the A1 towards Montego Bay and then Sunset Boulevard to Doctor's Cave Beach. The A1 also runs all the way from Kingston, so it's possible to drive across the island if it fits in with your itinerary.
Knutsford Express run buses every day between Kingston and Montego Bay, and their services take around four hours to reach their destination. Buses arrive at Howard Cooke Highway, right next to the beach, so finding seafront resorts shouldn't be an issue.
All of the best all-inclusive resorts in MoBay are located near Doctor's Cave Beach or along the north coast of Jamaica. Leading resorts include Sandals, the Round Hill Hotel and Villas, the Half Moon, Iberostar, the Hotel Riu Palace, and Secrets Wild Orchid. All of them offer great food, plenty of amenities, and are seconds from the Caribbean. For something a little different, give the Richmond Hill Inn a try, with its hillside location, great views, and easy access to the city of MoBay.
The Seafront - packed with resort hotels, the seafront encompasses Doctor's Cave along with Cornwall Beach, where you'll find the Aqua Sol Theme Park and Dump-Up Beach, which is regularly a venue for concerts and other events. It's also the home of the "Hip Strip" (Gloucester Avenue), MoBay's main souvenir shopping and dining neighborhood.
Downtown MoBay - it's sometimes easy to forget when you are lying on the beach, but Montego Bay is a large city of over 200,000 people. Highlights include the stores at St James Place Shopping Centre and Sam Sharpe Square, home of the National Museum.
Spring Farm - one of the most upmarket neighborhoods in Jamaica, Spring Farm is filled with luxury villas and expensive cars. Located a few miles east of MoBay, it's the place to head if you want peace and quiet, some rounds of golf at championship courses like Half Moon, and easy access to the airport.
There are three routes on the Montego Bay bus network, all of which run from the coast to the city center. They could be handy if you want to visit Downtown MoBay, but they won't suit visitors who want to skip between beaches. Single fares cost around J$130. However, tourists generally rely on minibuses supplied by their hotels, which will take you wherever you need to go.
If you are ordering or hailing a taxi in Montego Bay, check that it is a "red-plate" variety as these are the officially licensed vehicles. Always establish the fare before you set off, whatever type of taxi you choose, and expect rates to be quite steep. Even short trips between hotels can cost J$2,000.
Having your own set of wheels is a much cheaper option than depending on taxis. You can rent from the airport or in coastal branches of companies like ACE or Montego Bay Car Rental. Rates are often fairly low at around J$6,000 per day. Driving around the island can be tricky for novices, but experienced drivers shouldn't have any problems, and with your own car, reaching Cockpit Country and attractions like Falmouth will be much easier.
Although Montego Bay isn't famous for fashion shopping or crafts production, it is a famous duty-free emporium. If you want to purchase souvenirs, the "Hip Strip" (Gloucester Avenue) is easily the best place to head. Check out Tropical Treasures where you'll find cigars, rum, jerk spices, and plenty of other Jamaican goods. The best duty-free shops are to be found at Montego Freeport, right next to the cruise ship terminal.
There aren't many supermarkets in the tourist areas of Montego Bay, but options include Progressive Foods, Hi-Lo, and MegaMart - all good places to stock up on food for beach lunches. Food prices are much lower than the American norm, at around J$1,000 for a gallon of milk and J$260 for a pound of apples.
Most of the best eateries in Montego Bay can be found at the resort hotels, but there are plenty of standalone restaurants where the food can be truly spectacular. For great jerk dishes, patties, and seafood cooked in authentic Jamaican style, try the Chill Out Hut, Scotchies, or Robbie's Kitchen. The Pork Pit is the best restaurant on the Hip Strip, closely followed by the Pelican Grill. Expect meals to cost around J$1,000-1,500.