What are the most unforgettable things to do in Montego Bay? There are a wide host of Montego Bay activities to choose from. Mainly because, in a short distance, the landscape does vary from dreamy white sandy beaches to lush tropical forests And it's located on the second largest Caribbean Island.
Montego Bay, affectionately called Mo’bay, is located in the north-western tip on the island of Jamaica. It is a major cruise port and it was my homeport when I worked on cruise ships. Therefore, I got to experience all the best things to do in Montego Bay.
I loved this coastal town for its relaxed atmosphere. Even though many resorts have sprouted up in this area over the years. But it still provides a nice balance between a small bustling commercial centre and relaxation at nearby breathtaking beaches.
History and views from a hill top plantation – Rose Hall
Start your Montego Bay exploration with a 20 minute drive inland to a former plantation house called Rose Hall Great House. It’s a majestic restored colonial home that was originally built in 1770. You can step back in time as you explore each room of this great house. Plus, from the balcony you have sweeping views of the forested hilly terrain below and the light blue waters of the Caribbean Sea in the background.
They conduct very interesting tours, where you learn about Jamaican plantation history and the wicked ways of a former mistress. The most unique thing to do is the After Dark tour, under candlelight. Quite spine-chilling, especially when some have claimed to have seen the ghost of the White Witch.
Who is the White Witch you ask? According to legend, Annie Palmer ruled this plantation from 1820 with the cruellest of intentions. Apparently, she murdered three husbands and repeatedly conducted or watched the torture of her slaves. While nothing has been categorically proven, it certainly does make an interesting story. I enjoyed reading The White Witch of Rosehall, by Herbert de Lisser while lazing on the beach.
Hop your way down the Dunn’s River Falls
This has to be Jamaica’s most famous natural attraction. It’s the most unique water fall I’ve seen in my travels. Dunn’s River Falls tumbles over a ‘wedding cake’ tier of rocks for 180 metres (960 feet). It starts from the middle of the forest and ends into the Caribbean Sea. It was the most fun day trip to do in Jamaica.
For the adventurous, I highly recommend starting at the top and walk or slide your way down into each terraced pool until you reach the sea. Do be careful, as the rocks are very slippery. You can hire/buy rubber shoes if you don’t have your own already. Then after all that concentration can hangout in one of the rock pools at the end. Or cool off with a swim at the picturesque beach.
I don’t recommend bringing your daypack, camera or phone as it will get wet or splashed or you might fall in! A waterproof camera is best. As its located in a rainforest, you do have other options such as hiking along the nature trail or view from above on the zipline.
There are a couple of restaurants here serving yummy Jamaican food. And for the shopaholics, there is a merchandise store.
The falls are located about 1.5 hour drive from Montego Bay, near the town of Ocho Rios.
TG Tip: For reggae enthusiasts. If you have the time, make a detour inland to Nine Mile, the home of the Bob Marley museum and mausoleum. Managed by Bob Marley’s family, it contains many historical artefacts and photos. It has become commercialised with a souvenir shop too. This is where his musical career began and also now his resting place.
The beaches of Montego Bay
Now for the coast. There is a popular bathing beach right in the heart of Montego Bay called Doctors Cave Bathing Club. It provides convenient amenities such as a restaurant, a bar (of course!), bathrooms, umbrellas for rent and a Starbucks! It’s a popular snorkelling beach too.
But, it also attracts many tourists, especially from the visiting cruise ships. So, it can be quite crowded. The entrance fee is USD6.
If you’re like me, I prefer to relax on a beach with less people around. I recommend the smaller Cornwall Beach. It’s located next to Doctors Cave beach, so you get the same white sandy beaches. And the same snorkelling experience. The only difference is less people. Unfortunately, the beach was purchased by the hotel next door, so there is now a small entry fee of USD5. But it includes on-site facilities, lounge chairs and snorkel gear.
If you have time to venture further out afield, I would highly recommend the iconic Seven Mile Beach in the town of Negril. It’s a 1.5 hour drive west from Montego Bay, so you will need to either take a taxi, hire a driver for the day or rent a car. I would say it’s the most beautiful beach on the western side of the island. With its white powdery sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters, you will never want to leave. And yes, it really is 7 miles long. The last 3 miles extends into Bloody Bay. Water based activities are spread out all along the beach so you can still experience some tranquillity. It really does have a carefree ambience about it and a wide range of accommodation. Take a look at some of the hotel choices by clicking on Booking.com below.
Literally drop into Margaritaville
Warren Buffets famous Margaritaville is my favourite hangout. It’s a colourful and hip restaurant plus bar. Known not only for its tasty Americana menu but also the panoramic views of the Caribbean.
The highlight is the 36m (120-foot) water slide that begins on the top level, sweeps around the bar and drops you into the turquoise waters below. Then, end the day watching a beautiful Caribbean sunset while sipping away on the best margaritas in town. Listening to some reggae or calypso music in the background, of course!
Best time to visit Montego Bay
Jamaica’s peak season is from mid-December to mid-April. This is when you'll find the hotels are most expensive.
So, to avoid the crowds and high room rates, it is recommended to travel between November to mid-December. However, the highest rainfall on average occurs from October to December. But don’t worry, they are short and sharp rains and it's still warm.
In saying all that, the weather is perfect for swimming all year round. I was based in Jamaica from November to May and the weather was warm enough for swimming every day.
Which fun things to do in Montego Bay would you choose?
This is only a small sample, but I wanted to share with you only the top things to do in Montego Bay. And the ones I enjoyed the most. This is most helpful, especially if you’re short on time.
But we all have different tastes. I would be interested to know which Montego Bay activities tugged at your travel groove strings.