11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Montego Bay
Packed with all the ingredients for a fun tropical vacation, Montego Bay ("MoBay") is a thriving cruise ship port and a hot spot for value-seeking tourists. Sun-soaked beaches, historic plantations, tropical gardens, and a lush countryside rippling with jungly peaks provide a peaceful escape from the urban grit of the downtown precinct. Accommodation is abundant. Large resorts and all-inclusive hotels preside over the best patches of sand, and you'll find more guest rooms here than any other part of Jamaica.
Activities in Montego Bay tick all the tropical boxes. Divers and snorkelers can explore the protected waters of the Montego Bay Marine Park as well as reefs fringing the blonde-sand beaches. Other popular things to do include fishing, golfing, guided river rides on bamboo rafts, and ziplining through the jungle.
A busy lineup of festivals, concerts, and sporting events adds to all 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 Martha Brae River Rafting
Rafting the Martha Brae River is one of the most peaceful and romantic things to do in Montego Bay. It's also a relaxing way to soak up the lush scenery of Jamaica's countryside. The trip involves drifting down five kilometers of jungle-fringed river on bamboo rafts poled by local guides. Along the way, you can learn about the local flora and fauna. Some guides also serenade you with reggae songs.
Trips leave from the Martha Brae Rafting Village, about 32 kilometers from Montego Bay. Amenities here include picnic grounds, swimming pools, restrooms, souvenir shops, a lounge area, and a medicinal garden. It's a good idea to bring your swimsuit in case you want to take a dip before or during your rafting adventure.
River tubing is another fun way to float Jamaica's jungle rivers. From Montego Bay, these trips usually take place on the Great River and include an exhilarating chance to shoot some rapids.
Location: 5 kilometers from Falmouth
2 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 that helped shape the future of Montego Bay by luring visitors from around the world. Hotels sprung up along the beach, and the area became a tourist hot spot.
Today, the beach is as popular as ever and is often crowded with cruise ship passengers, despite the admission charge. This is also a popular place to go snorkeling in Montego Bay. Amenities at the beach include change rooms, restaurants, and gift shops, and you can also rent beach equipment.
Address: Gloucester Ave, Montego Bay
3 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 you 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
4 Dunn's River Falls & Nine Mile Day Trip
One of Jamaica's most famous natural features, Dunn's River Falls tumble down 180 meters of smooth limestone terraces into the sea. The falls lie about a 90-minute drive from Montego Bay, near Ocho Rios, but they are a popular day trip, and you can combine a visit here with a tour of Nine Mile, the birthplace of legendary reggae musician Bob Marley.
The Jamaica Combo Tour: Dunn's River Falls and Bob Marley's Nine Mile tour packs plenty of fun into one full day. The tour begins with an informative guided visit to Nine Mile, where you can learn about Bob Marley's 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.
5 Jungle Ziplining Tours
Ziplining through Jamaica's jungle canopies gives you a unique perspective of this tropical island as well as a huge rush of adrenaline. Zipline Adventure Tours is one of the most popular companies. Trips include an off-roading mountain adventure in a 6X6 Pinzgauer. You then learn about the sport before winging through the treetops on the longest zipline in the Caribbean, with fantastic views of the countryside below. Tours also include tropical fruit tastings and refreshments.
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, you can learn about the different crops, sample the produce, and sip drinks made from the plantation's fresh fruit as you stroll around the beautiful grounds. After your tour, enjoy a barbecue lunch topped off with Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee.
Location: Catadupa, Montego Bay
7 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, you can admire the extensive collection of antique furniture and enjoy panoramic vistas of the surrounding countryside.
8 Rocklands Bird Sanctuary
At Rocklands Bird Sanctuary, you 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. Rocklands lies about a 30-minute drive away from downtown Montego Bay.
Address: Rocklands Rd, Anchovy
9 Ahhh...Ras Natango Gallery and Garden
Clinging to a hillside high in the mountains, with spectacular views over Montego Bay, Ahhh… Ras Natango Gallery and Garden is an eco-tourism gem. This outdoor gallery and botanic garden is the labor of love of the Williams family, who strive to recycle and repurpose everything on the property and love to share their garden and environmental ethics with visitors on educational tours. Orchids, bromeliads, bougainvillea, ginger, fruit trees, and other tropical plants flourish in the terraced rock gardens, and the garden is also a haven for birds, with more than 18 species spotted on the grounds, including many hummingbirds. Art classes are also available. Entrance includes a free shuttle from Montego Bay about 15 minutes away, and lunch is available for an extra fee. This is also a favorite spot to buy unique, locally-made artwork and souvenirs.
Address: 1 Ras Natango Way, Camrose District
10 The Hip Strip: Gloucester Avenue
Also known as the "Hip Strip," Gloucester Avenue is a famous street near Doctor's Cave Beach, lined with shops and heaving with cruise ship passengers. This is a popular place for tourists to go shopping for souvenirs. Besides a colorful array of kitschy knickknacks and T-shirt shops, you'll also find art galleries and cafés along this bustling strip. If you're planning on browsing, be prepared to deal with persistent vendors..
11 Sam Sharpe Square
The central feature of Montego Bay, Sam Sharpe Square offers a gritty slice of important Jamaican history. It 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. Today, the square is packed with street vendors and traffic, but it's a key stop on most sightseeing tours.
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.
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.
- 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.
More Must-See Destinations in Jamaica and the Western Caribbean
For information on other areas to stay and things to do in Jamaica, see our pages on Ocho Rios, also a major cruise port, and the relaxed resort town of Negril. Its stunning palm-lined beach is one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. If you're wondering where to stay in Jamaica, some of its resorts also grace our list of top luxury all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean.
Other islands in the Western Caribbean are also popular vacation destinations. See our pages on Cuba and the Cayman Islands for more information on things to see and do here. For inspiration on the hottest beach holiday destinations our article on the Best Tropical Vacations will give you some ideas.