Montego Bay is almost synonymous with Jamaica. It is without a doubt one of the most popular parts of the Caribbean island, highly touristic, and undeniably beautiful. Lots of people travelling to Jamaica choose to stay in Montego Bay because of the wide range of accommodations that can be found there, and the attractions and tours available in the area.
If you’ve already booked your Montego Bay vacation (or if you’re still deciding), here are some of the most interesting things to do in that part of Jamaica.
For more details on the most ideal time to visit Jamaica, read our Best Time to Visit Jamaica post.
Jamaica’s diversity is part of what makes it such an interesting vacation destination. On the artsy side, while holidaying on the island, you can check out the Gallery of West Indian Art which was founded in the 1960s. The gallery features and sells artwork from budding and renowned Caribbean artists. Art from Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica and prominent finds here. Once you select a piece of artwork that you like, the Gallery makes arrangements to pack and have it shipped to you. Art work includes paintings, sculptures, textiles, furniture, and other pieces, all highlighting Caribbean culture in various forms.
Fort Montego is an old British Fort constructed in the 18th century. Its purpose had to do with keeping pirates at bay in Montego Bay, and now it’s a tour stop where visitors can explore what is left of the historic fort which also played a part in the defense of the Spanish and French in times of war. Here you’ll find old cannons, an ancient artillery store, and overall a chance to learn more about Jamaica’s history. Fort Montego is on the ‘Hip-Strip’ on Gloucester Avenue.
The possibility of rum punch upon entry makes every beach day better, and you won’t find this sort of welcome gesture at all beaches in Jamaica. Tropical Bliss Beach is a different sort of experience, one you’ll have to pay a small entrance fee (US$5) to access. Once you’re inside, you’ll see why; the beach is carefully secured, there’s live music, buffet style dining (for a cost), and plenty of inflatables to go around. Sometimes things are super lively, with fire eating and dance offs, but you can also just chill and take in the ambiance. Tropical Bliss is a little over five miles from Central Montego Bay, near Sandals Montego Bay.
Downtown Montego Bay is always a good time. There’s always something fun to do, from duty-free shopping, to spending time on the ‘Hip-Strip’ or taking in the action when the sun goes down at places like the Montego Bay Margarita Ville location (which includes a waterslide!) and other bars and clubs in the area. Here you can find a good spot for lunch and pair your meal with a good ‘ol Jamaican Red Stripe beer, try signature Jamaican beef patties, or other tasty treats. Make some time to check out Juici Patties, Tastee Patties, or Stanley’s for some of the best Jamaican patties while downtown. Doctor’s Cave Beach is also just a short walk away.
At Barnet Plantation you can explore one of the older sugar plantations in Jamaica. The space is over 10 acres wide, and the plantation is part of a family-owned company. Tours are available for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the plantation, or you can just explore on your own. Inside the Great House on the property you’ll find lots of artifacts from back in the day, which were preserved and speak to the profound history of this site. Tours are available from Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
River tubing is amazing, and it’s a must while in Jamaica. All you have to do is hop into a tube and get ready for an exciting and leisurely ride down a winding river. This can either be done straight after your ziplining tour, or as a separate excursion. The river tubing experience is often compared to the bamboo rafting experience also available in Jamaica, but it is the ambiance of it all that sets the two apart, not to mention the vessel that you’re using to meander down the river. During the river tubing tour, the tubes are tied together, which helps keep the group together. The guides add to this experience as they always have interesting stories to share.
Very likely you’ve read about the Hip-Strip if you’re planning on travelling to Jamaica. Many people have good things to say about how lively and authentic the area is. The Hip-Street, or Gloucester Avenue, is near Doctor’s Cave Beach, and there are plenty of shops, restaurants, bars and other business establishments in the area. There always seems to be music playing from somewhere in this area, and many cruise ship visitors pass through here looking for souvenirs or fun. There are art galleries and cafes along this stretch but be aware that you may be approached by street peddlers.
Who doesn’t love a theme park? No matter your age, you can find something fun to do at the Aqua Sol Theme Park, a beachside location that’s popular with locals and visitors. Activities include: snorkeling, scuba diving lessons, guided dives, glass bottom boat or pedal boat tours, banana boat rides, kayak adventures, Jet Ski rides, go-cart racing, beach volleyball, table tennis and more. There are also water trampolines which are hugely popular with guests.
Sam Sharpe is a national hero in Jamaica, and there’s a square in Montego Bay named in his honour. It’s a prominent and central feature, which reminds of how the island was affected by colonization. As the story goes, Sharpe, once a slave and Baptist deacon in Jamaica, advocated for passive resistance promoting emancipation. He was hung in the then Charles Square. Later, he was made a national hero, and the square was renamed. On a regular day you’ll find lots of street vendors inside the square and business proceeding as usual, but it is a regular tour stop. Burchell Memorial Church can be found about two blocks east of the square where Sam Sharpe served as a deacon.
On the site of a notable slave uprising, St. Mary’s Anglican Church stands tall. That historic location is none other than Montpelier Estate, which has a colorful history. The estate was destroyed by fire between the years 1831 and 1832. The church is said to have been built around the year 1847 and makes for a peaceful and informative tour.
For stunning views and calm, clear blue water, look no further than Cornwall beach. The beach is not as popular at some of the other bustling beach spots in Jamaica, which adds to its charm. It’s a peaceful location with all the amenities you need for the day, including restrooms, umbrella and chair rentals, and even lockers. The Hip Street isn’t far from Cornwall beach, so if you want to turn things up a few notches after your serene beach day, you won’t have to travel very far. Doctor’s Cave Beach is also next door, so you can spend a bit of time on both, if you choose.
Have an artsy day at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre where you’ll find various exhibits of which ancient Jamaican arts and craft are the central focus. There are also sometimes displays on Rastafarian culture, and other relevant topics. During this tour you’ll learn more about Jamaica’s heritage, and art. The Centre opened in 2014, and features both a gallery and museum showcasing various paintings, sculptures, and other cultural artefacts.
Popularized by James Bond fame, Live and Let Die to be precise, a visit to the Green Grotto Caves is one of the top things to do in Jamaica. The Caves of course, were and are an important part of history, before their appearance in the famous James Bond Movie. Green Grotto is a 1.5 km long cave system that historically served as a hiding place for both slaves and Spanish soldiers. Today the caves are home to millions of bats. Even used as a night club in the 90s, today you can enjoy a leisurely tour of the caves, which includes walking down 65 steps to the underground lake featured in the James Bond submarine scene.
A tour of the Luminous Lagoon is a highlight while in Jamaica, and it was once described as “the best bioluminescence in the world”. Today there are mixed reviews of the tour, some who absolutely love it, and some who feel that the lights aren’t quite as bright. Nevertheless, if you haven’t experienced anything like this before, you’ll be thrilled by the blue and purple lights that you can see on the water as part of this tour. The lights, or the luminescence of the lagoon is due to microorganisms that light up when touched, causing the glistening views. This tour is done at night, and spans for 35-40 minutes.
The Cinnamon Hill Golf Course is a great place to play golf while in Jamaica. The 18-hole course has stunning sea and mountainside views, and the varied elevations offer the best of links and inland golf. The course was originally designed by Hank Smedley in 1969 and redesigned by Von Hagee and Baril in 2001. Sometimes there are strong coastal winds here, which can either be in your favor, or that of your opponent, but one thing’s for sure, there’s never a dull game here. Try Island Routes for the best Cinnamon Hill Golf Course experience.
This tour can get rough, rugged, and a little messy. You’ll be on a safari truck while navigating swampy grounds where you’re likely to come across rare birds, snakes, monkeys, racoons, and even crocodiles. This swamp safari tour is one of the best in Jamaica, and it is offered by Island Routes. One of the locations you will visit was made famous in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die (filmed in 1972), as the iconic croc-jumping scene was filmed here. This tour is perfect for thrill seekers.
Among the more frequented attractions in Montego Bay is the Animal Farm and Nature Reserve where visitors can get guided tours and interact with the animals. You can also walk through the area on your own to see the wide range of animals and birds, and even feed the birds straight out of your hands in the walk-in aviary. The farm is known for its advancements in the alternative energy arena, and you’ll be able to learn about some of the projects that take place there including solar ventures and biogas generating plants there. Once you’re done exploring you can settle in for a picnic in the gardens, which are well appointed, even including outdoor cooking facilities. You’ll have to plan in advance or speak to your tour company or farm representatives to see how best you can make use of the facilities for a seamless and fun day out.
By far one of the most popular beaches in Jamaica, Doctor’s Cave Beach got its name in the 1920s, when a famous British osteopath made a public pronouncement that the water on Doctor’s Cave Beach had curative powers. This unlikely declaration lured visitors from all over the world, and not soon after lots of hotels sprung up in the area. It has been a major touristic hot spot ever since, whether or not there was ever any truth to the doctor’s words. Cruise visitors often frequent the beach, and it’s also popular for snorkeling. There’s a small charge for admission (US$6). There are changing rooms, restaurants, gift shops, and rentals spots (chairs, umbrellas, etc.)
Good Hope Planation is different to other Jamaican plantations. While still highlighting some of its older and more historical aspects, from when it was founded in 1774, this plantation also offers newer activities like river tubing, ziplining, ATV tours, and a one-of-kind challenge course. A visit here makes for a great day trip, and you can even go on a carriage ride or tour the plantation house if you want to do something more low-key while there. It’ll take you about 45-minutes to drive from Montego Bay to Falmouth, Jamaica, where the Good Hope Estate and Plantation is located.
Dolphins are among the friendliest sea creatures in the world. Videos of them rescuing people or otherwise interacting with humans or animals are common, and in Jamaica you’ll be able to splash around with some playful dolphins. You can swim with the dolphins, shake hands, even get kisses and hugs. Island Routes offers an amazing tour at Dolphin’s Cove and in addition to swimming with the dolphins, you’ll also be able to snorkel with stingrays, kayak in a private lagoon, go on a jungle expedition, see tropical birds, and interact with other aspects of nature; all which will help make your day complete. It all ends with a buffet lunch with drinks of your choice.
Margarita Ville is an all-encompassing fun zone where adults can let out their inner child in a space that’s all about having a good time. There’s an aqua park with a 120-foot water slide, a water trampoline, a seaside nightclub, sunset patio, and lots of Dancehall and Reggae beats to set the mood. There’s also a full serve restaurant and bar, and live entertainment. Whether you go for a fun-filled date, or just to spend time with friends and family, you’re in for a good time at Margarita Ville.
Did you know that there are still existing maroon communities in Cockpit Country, Jamaica? Every year their historic presence and the fact that the area is such a significant ecotourism location in Jamaica, draws many visitors to experience the location firsthand. Cockpit Country is known to be a haven for birdwatchers, plant lovers, and other researchers and explorers. Tour companies like Island Routes offer full and half day tours in the area which played a huge part in popularizing this area. With its steep hills and extensive valleys, Cockpit Country helped the slaves who were then referred to as maroons, find their way to freedom.
Yup, you read right. You can literally take a regular horseback riding adventure to new levels in Jamaica. It may be one of the most interesting tours of your life, but it doesn’t start in the water right away. You’ll ride along a trail for 30-45 minutes which leads through farmland and other semi-forested areas until you get to the beach. Then, you’ll be able to stop and take photos and shortly after, ride through shallow waters with your horse for a few minutes. The experience is perfectly safe, and the horses love the water after a walk on a sunny day. The guides will be with you every step of the way (plus you’ll be wearing a floatation device), so you’re free to just relax and take it all in.
Established in 1753, Hampden Estate is one of the oldest sugar estates in Jamaica. Renowned for its flavorful pot still rums, products from Hampden Estate are a top choice throughout Europe and the world. Hampden Estate tours detail the inner workings of the distillery, and you’ll be able to learn more about the rum making process that has been steadily improving over 260 years. Sample the award-winning Rum Fire and Hampden Gold rums and explore the grounds and the Hampden Great House while appreciating its rich history.
You can get jerked meats pretty much anywhere in the world, but is it authentic? Probably not. Nowhere in the world can you get a better jerk experience than in Jamaica, the place where it originated. At Scotchies, a local staple, chicken, pork, and fish are cooked to tender proportions over an open grill. Scotchies has their own Scotch Bonnet Pepper Hot Sauce which they are famous for. This is what gives the meats here that unique Jamaican Jerk flavor. There’s outdoor seating and you can set up under the trees or in a cabana. If you want to keep things local, try a Ting Soda or Coconut water with your meal. In downtown Montego Bay, try the Pork Pit on Gloucester Avenue for a jerk experience. The food here is cooked over open fires which are kept going with pimento wood. A dry rub is used here for flavor, as opposed to sauce. This is a local spot, so you may not find many other tourists every single day, but you’ll get great food in the heart of downtown.
Products by Appleton Estate stand out on the world stage, but they are uniquely Jamaican. This company makes fine rums and offers tours to anyone who wants to learn more about their processes. To get there you’ll have to take a two-hour journey by car, but the trip is well worth it in the end. You can also speak with your resort about signing up for a tour of Appleton Estate to take you there. Once you get there, you can take a tour of the distillery, and sample some of the products available. The Appleton Estate Rum Experience includes welcome cocktails, a guided tasting tour with local rum experts, a film about the rum industry, and a tour of the Estate. It’s all super interactive, and the Estate is open from Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. A tour begins every hour.
A working plantation by description, Croydon in the Mountains in Catadupa, Montego Bay is a whopping 132-acres, and a tour here includes unforgettable views. There are quite a few crops grown here including plantains, pineapples, citrus fruits, and coffee. Honey is also produced on the plantation. Try some of their produce during the tour, and sip on freshly made juice as you enjoy a laid-back experience. One of the highlights of the day is a barbequed lunch, and later, a cup of authentic Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee.
There are a few plantations that you can explore near Montego Bay, and Rose Hall Great House is on top of the list for most. The Great House was originally built in 1770. It was once a plantation home and has since been restored. Some say the Rose Hall Great House is haunted, by the White Witch of Rose Hall, and there is a pretty dark accompanying history, if word of mouth is to be believed, but most people tour the space anyway in comprehensive day tours, and pretty scary night tours. Book your tour of the Rose Hall Great House with Island Routes.
There are lots of historical sites and structures waiting to be discovered in Jamaica, and the Greenwood Great House is one of them. It was once owned by English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s family, and today the house is still filled with antiques, and is over 200 years old. Tours of this location offer an opportunity to see how well preserved the Great House is, and a chance to take in amazing panoramic countryside views.
Mahee Bay Beach can get pretty crowded much due to its convenient location for guests at the two beachside resorts, as well as others who’ve heard the great reviews of the beach and want to check it out for themselves. It is located on the north western coast of Jamaica, and even though it’s popular, there’s still room for a serene experience on some days.
As it is away from the downtown area, it’s a little more low-key than some of the other beaches in the area, but it can still be a great place to socialize and generally enjoy a day of sea, sand and sun. There aren’t any restrooms here, but you probably won’t have a hard time finding one at a nearby business or other establishment. If you’re in the area, you may want to schedule a visit to Fort Montego which is located nearby, where you can learn more about Jamaica’s history.
Scuba diving for the first time can be an amazing experience. Once you’ve gotten the first dive done, it just keeps on getting more exciting as you look forward to more amazing discoveries. It’s a whole different world beneath the waves, and that’s what you’ll discover when scuba diving in Montego Bay where you can explore places like the Montego Bay Marine Park. Both scuba divers and snorkelers are in for a treat here, but if you’re planning on scuba diving, you’ll need to be certified first. At Sandals Montego Bay, or any other Sandals resort in Jamaica for that matter, you can get certified in 48 hours, and be diving in no time.
Insider Tip: Diving with Sandals is free for the duration of your vacation once you’re certified.
Off the coast of Jamaica, you’ll find some great deep-sea fishing opportunities. Island Routes offers one of the best deep-sea fishing tours where you’ll head out with an experienced crew who will show you the best fishing spots. Their boat fleet includes a 46’ Hatteras and two 31’ Bertram. You will troll for fish, which typically include Blue Marlin, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Sailfish and more. Snacks and beverages are provided on-board.
Picture this: You’re gliding down a peaceful river surrounded by greenery as far as the eye can see. Flowers and trees of all varieties drift past, or is you drifting past… you can’t be sure, as your mind is completely at ease, and the only thing that matters is how perfect the whole experience is. This is a journey down the Martha Brae River, which is a famous river rafting experience in Jamaica. Soak in the whole experience, map out the countryside in your mind, memorize the Reggae songs being sung by the guides, remember it all because this is a once in a lifetime experience. River rafting tours leave from the Martha Brae Rafting Village, which is about 32 kilometers from Montego Bay. On site you’ll find a picnic ground, swimming pools, restrooms, shops, a medicinal garden, and more. Bring your swimsuit just in case.
Bird lovers, this is the perfect tour for you. At the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary, you’ll get to come up close to rare birds, some of which are endemic to Jamaica. You can simply watch them in their natural environment, take photos, document your experience, and even feed the exotic birds. With a bottle of nectar in hand (provided to guests on arrival), you’ll be the center of attraction for hummingbirds which will flock all around you for a taste. Look out for the long-tailed Doctor Bird, Jamaica’s national bird. Rocklands is about 30 minutes by car from downtown Montego Bay.
What can be more romantic than a sunset cruise on one of the most romantic islands in the world? The Caribbean makes it easy to have a romantic vacation, sunset cruises are the cherry on top. On a sunset cruise you’ll be able to enjoy amazing views and entertainment. Expect a safety briefing once you get on board the popular Island Routes Reggae Sunset Cruise, and then a leisurely sail to Jimmy Buffet’s Margarita Ville. Here you’ll find things like water trampolines, inflatable obstacles and a must try 120-foot water slide that will shoot you straight into the Caribbean Sea! It’s exciting, and you’ll have time to try it all before heading back on the boat to watch the sunset, eat, and sip on cocktails while the DJ spins upbeat tracks. There are lots of things to look out for on this tour, including the bars, shops and rope swings you’ll spot along the way, all of which enhance the experience.
Located in Dean’s Valley Westmoreland, this nature park first opened in 2003, and is best described as an unspoiled natural attraction. The park has links to Abeokuta in Nigeria, and this is its closest physical comparison; there is nothing else like it on the island. The park is spread across 13 acres of land, on a hill that was originally a plantation yard, with a history of housing African slaves. The Great House still stands – what’s left of it anyway.
On the property itself you will find the oldest swimming pool in Jamaica, which is about 300 years old (Olympic size dimensions: 71ft long and 47ft wide, 4 to 10 feet in depth), a rope swing, lots of flowers and fruit trees, breathtaking views of the ocean and nearby sugar cane and “paw paw” fields. Abeokuta Nature Park can be found off the B8 Main highway, between Ferris Cross and Montego Bay. It is just a few miles from Ferris Cross. The park caters to private parties, weddings, marriage blessings, special moments, reiki, massages, crochet lessons, BBQs, picnics, and for people who just want to chill, explore or go for a swim.
Did you know: Both the main pool and kiddie pool at Abeokuta Paradise Nature Park are fed with mineral water by way of an aqueduct. The mineral water is said to contain therapeutic properties, which are particularly beneficial in the relief of arthritis, and muscle and bone problems. This is much due to concentrations of iron, calcium, chloride, magnesium, and other minerals found in the water.
If you haven’t driven a Mini Cooper before, now’s the time to try. Chances are, it’s different than your car at home, and in any other circumstance you’re unlikely to ride around with a gang of people driving the same car to the best local spots and famous landmarks. In this respect there’s more of a thrill as you head along the north coast of Jamaica as a group. This MINI Couper tour is quite interactive, and you get to take yourself to the main attractions, with the help of a guide. One of the major local spots along the way includes Discovery Bay, known to be the first place Christopher Columbus arrived in Jamaica. You’ll also get to spend some time at the Dunn’s River Falls, have lunch in Ocho Rios, and later, enjoy signature Jamaican desserts. Some of the proceeds of this tour, offered by Island Routes, go to support local communities.
You simply must try snorkeling during your vacation in Jamaica. Montego Bay is known as the best place for snorkeling in Jamaica, especially the popular Doctor’s Cave Beach. A snorkeling adventure will give you a chance to see the island from a different perspective and learn about the various species of coral and fishes found in Jamaican waters, like the angel fish, seahorse, butterfly fish, puffer fish clown fish and more. Buccaneer Beach, Montego Bay Beach, and Great River Bay are other good options for snorkeling. Sandals resorts in Jamaica offer free snorkeling (including equipment rentals) as part of your all-inclusive package, so you can pretty much snorkel every day of your vacation.
Insider tip: Want to make the most of your snorkeling expedition? Check out our snorkeling tips for beginners post.
Prepare for an upbeat, active and fun time at Sandals Montego Bay Beach, which is the largest private white sand beach on the north coast. It is also home to the exclusive all-inclusion resort that has over the years spread its wings over the Caribbean. That combination means that you’re in for something truly spectacular when you decide to spend the day on this beach. The beach is well maintained, and always in pristine condition, and you’ll have a blast tanning or just lounging on the sugary white sand which seems to stretch out for miles. The water reflects the sort of beauty you’ve always imagined you would be able to find on a tropical beach and relaxing on the shore sipping on a fruity cocktail, it’s hard to imagine that any of it is real. It would all be too good to be true, but Sandals Montego Bay Beach really is that perfect.
Due to its considerable size, you don’t necessarily have to get there early morning to secure a spot, but it is worth getting there early to have enough time to savor the experience.
There’s nothing quite like an epic ATV tour on rugged and scenic Caribbean terrain. It’s a great way to have an adventure while still taking in the sights along the way. Ride with Islandroutes on your four-wheel ATV adventure that’s thrilling, fast, and sometimes a little muddy. Get loose as the driver (safely of course) or kick back as a passenger as you take in panoramic coastal views. The tour takes about two hours, and includes stops at various viewpoints, drinks and lunch, and brief lessons on Jamaica’s flora and fauna. By the time you’re done exploring the trail, you’ll probably have fallen more in love with Jamaica.
Ziplinning is something you may have seen, or even read about, but you need to do for yourself to get the full experience. Jamaica is a great place to try it out for yourself, with lush jungle canopies that are perfect for testing the limits of freedom and getting your adrenaline racing. In Jamaica, you’ll find the longest zipline of the Caribbean, and amazing aerial views of the countryside and nearby areas. Join an amazing Island Routes Ziplining tour through the local jungle canope to experience the thrill.
Considered an “eco-tourism gem”, Ras Natango Gallery and Garden is an outdoor gallery and botanical garden. High up in the mountains, it was created with love by the Williams family, advocates for recycling and repurposing, as can see in how the attraction is designed and managed. Educational tours are available at Ras Natango, which include explorations of the gardens which are filled with more than 18 different species of plants, and are loved by birds, especially hummingbirds. You can try an art class here, shop for souvenirs and art, and stay for lunch. The Ras Natango Gallery and Garden is in Camrose District, but you can get here easily as the admission includes a shuttle from Montego Bay.
Montego Bay is a top choice for accommodation in Jamaica. Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean, two couples-only all-inclusive properties which offer numerous world-class restaurants, five-star service, and amazing inclusions are both located in Montego Bay. These resorts are top choices for accommodation in Montego Bay as they’ll put you right in the heart of things.