10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Montego Bay
Montego Bay, affectionately called "MoBay" is Jamaica's second largest city and a package tourism hotspot. Golden beaches, palm-covered hills, and historic plantations complement this thriving port city, and the area offers more guest rooms than any other part of Jamaica. Many of Montego Bay's beaches offer public access, though some remain the private domain of the booming beachfront hotels. Fishing, horseback riding, zip lining, golf, and guided river rides on bamboo rafts are just some of the things to do in the immediate area. Divers and snorkelers can explore colorful coral reefs, and birders love to hand-feed hummingbirds at the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary.
At Harbour Street, a popular shopping area for cruise ship passengers, enthusiastic vendors flaunt their goods at the Crafts Market, while hip Gloucester Avenue boasts restaurants, art galleries, and duty free shops. A busy lineup of festivals, concerts, and sporting events adds to the fun. The Montego Bay Yacht Club hosts the bi-annual Pineapple Cup Montego Bay Race, and music lovers flock here each year for Reggae Sumfest.
See also: Where to Stay in Montego Bay
1 Doctor's Cave Beach
At Doctor's Cave Beach and Bathing Club, white sands fringe clear, calm waters that some believe are fed by mineral springs. In the early 1920s a famous British osteopath declared that the water had curative powers after swimming here - a claim which helped shape the future of Montego Bay by luring visitors from around the world. Hotels sprung along the beach and the area became a tourist hotspot.
Today the beach is as popular as ever and is often crowded with cruise ship passengers, despite the admission charge. Visitors will find change rooms, restaurants, and gift shops along this strand, and beach equipment is available for rent.
Address: Gloucester Ave, Montego Bay
2 Rose Hall Great House
Overlooking the ocean, about 20 minutes from Montego Bay, Rose Hall Great House is a restored plantation home built in 1770. According to legend, Annie Palmer (the White Witch of Rose Hall) ruled here with cruelty and possessed black magic powers that would eventually seal her husband's grim fate.
Today her home is decorated with furniture from the period, and visitors can tour the house during the day or opt for the spine-chilling candlelit night tour. Some claim to have seen the ghost of the White Witch drifting through the Great House.
Address: Rose Hall Hwy, Rose Hall Estate, Rose Hall, Montego Bay
3 Gloucester Avenue
Also known as the "Hip Strip", Gloucester Avenue is a trendy section of Montego Bay. Located near Doctor's Cave Beach, the street is lined with art galleries, cafés, and shops. T-shirts and souvenir stores dominate the strip and shoppers should be prepared for persistent vendors. Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville restaurant is a popular spot with blaring tunes and big-screen TVs.
4 Bellefield Great House and Gardens
The Bellefield Great House and Gardens is a restored mansion in Montego Bay that reflects the lifestyle of the 18th-century plantations. Visitors here can tour the original sugar mill and the antique-filled Great House and enjoy beautiful views of the tropical gardens. After the tour, guests are treated to a traditional Jamaican lunch. The plantation is also available for weddings and private events.
Address: Montego Bay, St James
5 Zipline Adventure Tours
Zipline Adventure Tours is a popular attraction for adventure seekers. Guests venture into the mountains on an off-roading adventure in a 6X6 Pinzgauer. Participants then learn about the sport before winging through the treetops along the longest ziplines in the Caribbean with fantastic views of the countryside below.
Address: Long Hill Rd, Lethe
6 Croydon in the Mountains
Tucked in the foothills of the Catadupa Mountains, Croydon in the Mountains is a 132-acre working plantation with magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. The plantation's main crops are coffee, pineapples, plantains, and citrus, and the plantation also produces honey. During the tour, visitors can learn about the different crops, sample the produce, and sip drinks made from the plantation's fresh fruit as they stroll around the beautiful grounds. Afterwards guests enjoy a barbecued lunch topped off with Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee.
Address: Catadupa, Montego Bay
7 Martha Brae River
Rafting the Martha Brae is one of Montego Bay's most popular tourist attractions. At Martha Brae Rafter's Village, guests can drift down five kilometers of the river on bamboo rafts poled by local guides. Along the way, rafters can admire the tropical scenery and learn about local flora and fauna. The tour includes a visit to a medicinal herb garden.
Address: Falmouth, Montego Bay
8 Sam Sharpe Square
The central feature of Montego Bay, Sam Sharpe Square commemorates Sharpe, a slave and local Baptist deacon who advocated passive resistance to force the planters to comply with emancipation. Sharpe was hanged in what was then Charles Square. After independence, Sam Sharpe was made a National Hero and the square was named in his honor.
Also in the square, the Cage was built in 1806 as an overnight jail for runaway slaves, disorderly seamen, and vagrants. Two blocks east of the square, lies Burchell Memorial Church, established in 1824, where Samuel Sharpe was a deacon. His remains are buried in the vault.
9 Greenwood Great House
Nestled in the hills a few miles off the highway, Greenwood Great House was once owned by the family of famous English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The antique-filled home is more than 200 years old and is one of the best-preserved great houses in Jamaica. During the tour, guests can admire the extensive collection of antique furniture and enjoy panoramic vistas of the surrounding countryside.
10 Rocklands Bird Sanctuary
At Rocklands Bird Sanctuary, visitors can view, photograph, and hand-feed exotic and endemic species of birds. Upon arrival, guests are provided with a bottle of nectar and hummingbirds quickly descend to outstretched arms. Look for Jamaica's national bird, the regal long-tailed Doctor Bird.
Address: Rocklands Rd, Anchovy
Where to Stay in Montego Bay for Sightseeing
For first time visitors to Montego Bay, the best place to stay for seeing all the sights is along the main beach area near Doctor's Cave Beach and Gloucester Avenue, the "Hip Strip," with its art galleries, restaurants, and shops. For those seeking a little more seclusion, the stretches of beach northeast and south of town are home to most of the exclusive, upscale resorts. Here are some highly-rated hotels in these areas:
- Luxury Hotels: Nestled in a 400-acre private estate, about 13 minutes' drive northeast of the Hip Strip, the family-friendly Half Moon, A RockResort encompasses impressive recreational facilities, including a private beach and dolphin lagoon, a nature reserve, equestrian center, tennis and squash courts, a children's playground, and a golf course. Catering to couples, Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort and Private Island is a romantic all-inclusive option with a British bent and a Georgian-style great house, while Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay presides over a peninsula south of town with more than a mile of private beach. Both of these latter resorts lie about 12 minutes by car to the "Hip Strip."
- Mid-Range Hotels: Less than ten minutes from the airport, the beachfront Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay is a great mid-range option with its all-inclusive rates, spa, volleyball courts, and sprawling outdoor swimming pools. Within walking distance of Doctor's Cave Beach, Royal Decameron Montego Beach scores rave reviews for its central location, great staff, and good-value all-inclusive rates, while the nearby SeaGarden Beach Resort is a family-run all-inclusive resort that also offers great value for money as well as an authentic Jamaican vibe.
- Budget Hotels: A short walk to town and Doctor's Cave Beach, about two kilometers from the airport, Toby's Resort is a value-packed budget option, with two pools, a restaurant, and free WiFi. Other popular value options include the Montego Bay Club Resort, in the heart of the Hip Strip opposite Doctor's Cave Beach, and Palm View Guest House & Conference Center, featuring basic apartments with fully equipped kitchens, a mere five-minutes' drive from the airport and a 12-minute walk to Doctor's Cave Beach.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Montego Bay
- Half-Day Tour: A fun way to experience the jungle-cloaked interior of the island is on a Jeep Safari Adventure Tour. This four-hour guided tour takes you through lush tropical forests in a 4x4 Land Rover while an experienced guide shares interesting details about the island's culture and history. Along the way, you'll have a chance to take a refreshing dip in natural pools and explore the terrain on foot during a jungle river walk.
- Full-Day Tour: To visit one of Jamaica's most well-known natural attractions and learn about one of the country's music legends, join the Jamaica Combo Tour: Dunn's River Falls and Bob Marley's Nine Mile tour. This tour packs plenty of fun into one day, with an informative guided visit to Nine Mile, where the legendary reggae musician, Bob Marley, was born. Here, you can learn about his life as you wander through the village. After a traditional Jamaican lunch, hike to the top of Dunn's River Falls and cool off in its terraced pools. If you want to pack even more attractions into your day, you can add an optional night boat ride on the Luminous Lagoon.
- Canopy Tour: For a bird's-eye view of the jungle, you can glide through the treetops over the Great River on the Canopy Tour. This adrenalin-pumping two-hour adventure includes short nature walks, and the expert guides share information about Jamaica's ecosystems along the way.