Life is fresh in Jamaica. It’s one of those places you can travel to and almost feel as though time is standing still, or at least moving slow enough that you can actually keep up. You can move at your own pace…take a breath even.
This is the magic of the Caribbean in general, but in Jamaica, this laid back island ambiance feels amplified. It’s a beautiful and hypnotizing feeling… but before you can even experience it, there’s so much to decide about your trip. Like where to stay.
Expectedly, with an island so gorgeous, there are lots of nice areas to stay in while in Jamaica. Two of the most popular are Montego Bay and Negril. Both Montego Bay and Negril are popular vacation destinations in Jamaica.
Montego Bay is known to be the tourist hotspot and for its opulent all-inclusive resorts. ‘Mobay’ is located near Ras Natango Gallery and Garden, Rocklands Bird Sanctuary and Rose Hall Great House. Negril is known for its laid back atmosphere, boasting some of the best beaches in Jamaica. Some of the top attractions located near Negril are the Seven Mile Beach, Mayfield Falls and Blue Hole Mineral Spring.
Overall, there are lots of things to consider before deciding to stay in either place. If you’re having a tough time choosing, this article should give you some more insight on which would be best for you.
Montego Bay is a popular tourist hotspot in Jamaica that appeals to travellers looking for a luxury vacation experience. It is the capital of Saint James Parish and visitors love this part of Jamaica because of the wide range of attractions that can be found.
Resorts, restaurants, bars, and entertainment of all kinds are in abundance in this part of Jamaica. There’s decent (duty-free) shopping as well, which you can make time for in between beach hopping and maybe even some diving action somewhere like the Montego Bay Marine Park!
Montego Bay is located on the north coast of Jamaica. It is the second-largest city in Jamaica after Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. It will probably take less than 10 minutes to get from the Sangster International Airport to your resort in Montego Bay.
This makes Montego Bay the ideal Caribbean island getaway from the United States, especially if you’re only staying for a couple of days: you’ll lose minimal time on the road.
As the name suggests, this location makes it possible to indulge in art and nature in one place. This is one of the best combo tours of this kind in Jamaica. Visitors can view art from the gallery (and purchase as well) at their leisure. The paintings, mostly acrylic, are Jamaica inspired and the nature tour includes a chance to see some of Jamaica’s endemic birds as well as the unique blooms of this island. There’s also a koi pond where you can pet the turtles and a few small waterfalls.
Thousands of birds in one place and a chance to spot lots of different species is what you can expect your day to be like if you choose to spend some time at the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary. Described as a “truly magical place”, a tour here is simple, and you’ll be able to get right out there with the birds in the garden of a quaint cottage as they shoot around eating from the feeders and maybe even from your hands - if you’re lucky!
The Martha Brae river promises a romantic and meandering afternoon underneath the canopy of Jamaica’s finest greenery. This river is located on the north coast of Jamaica in an area known as Trelawny and it is most popular for river rafting adventures. If you’re traveling to Jamaica as a couple, this activity should definitely be included on your to-do list.
Sandals Montego Bay: Sandals Montego Bay was the very first Sandals Resort in existence, and now with all the fresh and imaginative touches, this all-inclusive resort is as luxurious as it’s ever been. This is an open-concept resort set right on a long private white-sand beach. Guests at this lively adults-only resort can enjoy unlimited food and (alcoholic) drinks at 12 restaurants, 6 bars including one of the first ever swim-up bars in the world.
Sandals Royal Caribbean: The Sandals Royal Caribbean experience includes a private island and Over-The-Water Bungalows if you’re really looking for a luxurious couples getaway for that special occasion. This laid back adults-only resort features 9 restaurants and 5 bars including swim-up bars. All food and drinks are always unlimited, always included.
Insider tip: Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean are located on a 5-minute drive from each other. Sandals guests can go between these resorts and make use of the amenities and restaurants at both resorts at no additional cost (transfers in between these resorts are included as well).
Negril, a town described by some of its own as a place where one can experience “true life, true love, and true harmony” is one of Jamaica’s most popular tourist areas. Even though it is a popular tourist destination, Jamaican culture is thick, rich and unfiltered in Negril.
Surrounded by nature, it won’t be hard to sink into your deepest state of relaxation while spending endless hours on the beach. Fun places to go in Negril include the gorgeous Seven Mile Beach, Mayfield Falls, and Rick’s Cafe.
Negril is on the western tip of Jamaica. It is about an hour and thirty minute drive from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, but it’s worth the drive!
Just as soon as you arrive in Jamaica (and even before), you’re likely to get lots of recommendations to go to Seven Mile Beach, a gorgeous stretch of sea and sand in Negril. Walking along this beach, there’s lots of little bars and restaurants you can pop into to get a bite or something to drink while you enjoy the ambiance of this popular beach.
Feel like a waterfall dip? If this is something you’ve never done before then Jamaica is a great place for it. At Mayfield Falls there are about 21 mini waterfalls, with the tallest being the ‘Washing Machine’ at about 10 feet high which you’ll get to experience along the Mayfield Falls River Walk. A tour of this area can take about an hour and a half, and you’ll definitely want to bring swimwear for a refreshing dip.
A visit to the Blue Hole Mineral Spring is perfect if you want to relax in therapeutic mineral waters while taking in the beauty of Jamaica. The Blue Hole is literally a large sinkhole filled with water from a natural spring. This mineral spring is located about 30 minutes away from Negril, and here you can jump (or climb down a ladder if you prefer) into the blue hole. There’s also a ground level pool which also has the same mineral waters that doesn’t require jumping or climbing to get in. Sometimes there’s a dive show that the staff and lifeguards put on, which is fun to watch!
Insider tip: When in Negril, also check out the cliff jumping at Rick’s Cafe. This is an easy, breezy, Jamaican chill out spot with a pool, lounge area, restaurant, bar, and even a stage area with an incredible ocean backdrop.
Also read: 38 Exciting Things To Do In And Near Negril
Sandals Negril: Sandals Negril is a paradise within itself in Jamaica, located on Seven Mile Beach. This is one of those all-inclusive adults-only resorts that echoes the beauty of its surrounding space and amplifies the most loved attributes in the most magnetizing way. Guests of Sandals Negril get to enjoy world-class dining in 7 restaurants, unlimited water and land sports, and a host of other quality inclusions.
Beaches Negril: Beaches Negril is another all-inclusive property on Seven Mile Beach in Jamaica. This resort was created for families and everything within focuses on ensuring not only that kids have the time of their lives, but parents too! This resort has lots of kid-friendly inclusions like the Pirates Island Water Park, Kids Camps for children of all ages, unlimited land and water sports, and Club Liquid, a ‘night club’ where teens can mingle.
Insider tip: Much of the action in Negril happens within the resorts, so it’s a good idea to book an all-inclusive package that includes lots of entertainment options. The nightly entertainment at both Sandals Negril and Beaches Negril ranges from extravagant beach parties to live reggae music, from fire shows to steel drum bands - you won’t be bored for a second!
The weather in Negril is comparable to the weather in Montego Bay, although daytime temperatures from June to August can be a bit higher in Montego Bay. In these summer months, Negril reaches 86 °F, where temperatures can rise up to 91 °F in Montego Bay.
During the wet season in Jamaica (July - October) you can expect twice as much rainfall in Negril than in Montego Bay, but the same amount of days with rainfall per month (~ 5 rainy days a month).
Don’t worry though! Jamaica’s quick tropical downpours seldom last long, and often makes way for an otherwise sunny day.
It can be hard to choose from two great places in an already fantastic destination, but choose you must! Okay, so maybe it isn’t that pressing — vacations (and even the planning process) should be relaxing, after all.
On a more serious note though, when it comes to choosing between these two destinations, at the end of the day your biggest deciding factor might be minuscule. It might come down to one of the attractions nearby, or maybe even a particular resort.
The fact of the matter is, both are great places. If short airport transfers and a buzzing nightlife are important to you, Montego Bay is your pick. Looking for a more quaint and laid back destination, with some of Jamaica’s best beaches? Negril is the vacation destination of your choice. You really can’t go wrong with either of these dream destinations.
Staying a bit longer? A split stay between Montego Bay and Negril might be the best option! The drive from Montego Bay to Negril takes about one and a half hours.