What to do and see in Montego Bay, Jamaica
By Kaye Holland | 31 Jul 2022
Jamaica’s second city is a popular spot on Caribbean winter-sun cruises, bringing together the perfect blend of beach and city. As the island nation celebrates its 60th anniversary of independence, we find out the best things to see and do on a cruise call in Montego Bay
Soft sandy beaches, endless sunshine, spicy plates of jerk, plus rum, reggae and friendly locals – there’s a lot to love about Montego Bay, affectionately known as Mo Bay.
Add to this world-class championship golf courses, well-preserved plantation houses that tell the story of Jamaica’s troubled history of colonisation and slavery, and mesmerising waterfalls, and you have a Jamaican port city that rewards a pre or post-cruise stay.
With the Caribbean island set to take centre stage this summer as it marks 60 years of independence on August 6 – with a host of fetes and festivals for its annual carnival to mark this milestone – here’s your expert guide to Montego Bay. Get ready to soak up the good vibes…
What to see in Montego Bay
If it’s the three Ss – sun, sand and sea – that you’re after, Mo Bay won’t disappoint. Stake your spot at Doctor’s Cave, aka Montego Bay’s most famous beach. Founded as a bathing club in 1906, Doctor’s Cave owes its name to English osteopath Sir Herbert Barker, who wrote an article espousing the virtues of the water’s healing properties. Following the publication of Barker’s piece, people flocked to Doctor’s Cave in their droves to experience the supposedly therapeutic mineral effects.
While it’s tempting to spend your time slumbering in the sun, rum punch in hand with reggae music permeating the air, there’s more to Mo Bay than beaches and Bob Marley. When you’re ‘done’ at Doctor’s Cave, wander along adjacent Gloucester Avenue snapping up souvenirs. Must-buys include Blue Mountain coffee, woodwork, Wray & Nephew white rum, and Jamaican soaps.
From there, make for National Museum West which, as the name suggests, tells the history of western Jamaica. There’s a separate room dedicated to the rise of the Rastafarian movement, which began in Jamaica during the 1930s following a prophecy made by black political leader Marcus Garvey. However, for a proper introduction into the island’s famous religion, head to the Rastafari Indigenous Village. Here you can connect with Rastas and learn more about their culture and way of life.
Where to eat in Montego Bay
Jamaican cuisine is a feast for the senses, and no visit to the Caribbean’s liveliest island is complete without sampling some jerk cooking, bammy – a type of flatbread – and ackee and saltfish, the national dish that’s made with salted codfish and ackee fruit.
You can tuck into these dishes at street-side shacks and fine-dining restaurants alike but, for a fun night out, try Usain Bolt’s Tracks & Records. The legendary sprinter has added another string to his bow and opened a chain of eateries, including a branch in Mo Bay.
Just steps away from Tracks & Records lies the S Hotel, a sleek addition to the city’s sleep scene with a minimalist colour scheme and Insta-worthy Sky Deck, home to the island’s hottest rooftop pool lounge. Rooms from £237 per night.
Where to go from Montego Bay
East of Mo Bay lies Rose Hall, the most famous plantation house in Jamaica, whose origins go back to the mid-18th century. And to add some spice to its history, there is a ghostly tale of the so-called ‘white witch’ Annie Palmer, to whom the mansion owes its fame. Local folk legend has it that Annie murdered three husbands here and her ghost is rumoured to haunt this huge house. Theatrical 45-minute tours run both day and night.
Staying in the neighbourhood of Rose Hall, golfers who don’t scare easily won’t want to miss a chance to enjoy a round at the 18-hole White Witch Golf Club. Designed by Robert von Hagge and Rick Baril, its fairways offer players arresting vistas of the Caribbean Sea.
Further east, you’ll find Luminous Lagoon, whose waters glisten when disturbed – a magical effect that’s down to the presence of bioluminescent plankton. There are 45-minute boat tours allowing passengers to swim in this mystical place, departing from the Glistening Waters Marina every night.
If you want to go further still, the attractive port town of Ocho Rios is an hour’s drive east – and the jumping-off point for Jamaica’s number one tourist attraction, Dunn’s River Falls, a dramatic series of cascades and rock pools that empty into the sea.
Getting to Montego Bay
Virgin Atlantic flies direct to Montego Bay from Manchester and Heathrow four times a week with a flight time of around 10 hours. British Airways offers flights from Gatwick in spring and winter.
Tui serves Jamaica’s second city from a number of regional UK airports including Birmingham and Bristol, and has used Montego Bay as a home port for ships including Marella Explorer 2 and, from January 2023, Marella Discovery 2.
Other cruise lines that offer guided excursions in and around Montego Bay include Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard, MSC Cruises, Viking and Holland America Line.