Montego Bay, Jamaica
Montego Bay: visit her outstanding underwater marine park at Cornwall Beach. Explore the Chester Castle Great House set on some 200 acres, or tour Rose Hall, a restored plantation house. The driving force of Reggae, Bob Marley, is honored here at the Half Moon Shopping Village. Learn the history; hear the music; buy some merchandise; support the cause.
The north coast town of Montego Bay makes for a very lively and colorful welcome to Jamaica for the many visitors who arrive here by air or sea. MoBay, as it’s called, offers a steady schedule of food and cultural festivals, and some of the Caribbean’s most entertaining beaches (offering water sports, waterfront bars and more) fringe its shores. Add in golfing, duty-free shopping and easy access to the island’s active adventures, and visitors can have as lazy or as action-packed of a day as they choose.
For nature lovers, head to Dolphin Cove or Rockland’s Bird Feeding Station and Sanctuary in Anchovy (20 minutes away by taxi).
Rose Hall Great House is a very popular excursion with visitors.
YS Falls are a quieter alternative to the busier Dunn’s River Falls in Ochos Rios.
Doctor’s Cave Beach and Cornwall Beach are both not far from the ‘Hip Strip’ (entrance fees may apply).
The disabled cruiser visiting Montego Bay
Where You’re Docked
Cruise ships dock a few miles outside of Montego Bay proper at the Montego Freeport port — a rather unsightly complex surrounded by office parks. It’s a five-minute, fixed-rate ride into Montego Bay from there ($5).
There’s not a whole lot to see or do at the port itself, save for browsing the usual smattering of shops selling touristy items like Tortuga rum cakes and Red Stripe Beer baseball hats, complete with bottle openers in the visors. There is a small, indoor tiki bar of sorts inside the airy but dated terminal building, just in case you can’t be bothered to venture farther afield for a tropical drink, but it lacks atmosphere in a big way. The port does serve its purpose as a departure point for catching taxis into town, and there’s a Jamaica Tourism Board kiosk inside, too, where you can get tour advice and area info.
Just outside of the official port complex, behind a chainlink fence, is a rather ramshackle shopping area called the Montego Freeport Shopping Center. It’s little more than a collection of beachwear and souvenir shops and empty offices. There is one homey-looking restaurant, Swizzle’s, which sells inexpensive jerk specialties; the crowds, however, seem to be mostly due to the fact that there’s free wireless Internet with your food or beverage purchase. Though you’ll find a few restaurants within about 10 minutes’ walking distance of the port (including a juice bar and seafood restaurant), you’re better off heading into town for the most options and atmosphere.
Good to Know
While there aren’t too many touts outside the terminal building itself, you’re likely to be approached with offers for everything from tours and souvenirs to more illicit things in the town of MoBay itself. A firm “No, thank you,” usually does the trick if you’re not interested. Marijuana or ganja is smoked openly, but make no mistake: Drugs are illegal in Jamaica.
Mosquitoes and other creepy-crawlies can be particularly brutal in Jamaica, due to its tropical climate. Be sure to use insect repellent frequently to avoid bites and potential illness. And don’t forget the sunscreen, either.
Jamaica is known for its high crime rates, so be careful when carrying cash, purses or wallets, and leave any unnecessary valuables stowed in your in-cabin safe.
The Jamaican dollar is the national currency, but U.S. dollars are readily accepted at most places, including all of the favorite haunts in Montego Bay. Be prepared: If you pay with U.S. dollars, your change might be returned to you in the local currency.
There is no ATM machine at the Montego Freeport port, but cash machines can be found throughout town. Several stops along the Hot Spots Shuttle have Scotiabank ATM’s, including the Harbor Street Craft Market, the Yacht Club and the Hip Strip across from the Jamaica Bobsled Cafe.
English is widely spoken and understood in Jamaica. But, when the locals talk among themselves, it’s with a colorful patois, based on English but with a thick accent and different vocabulary that makes it hard for new arrivals to understand.
Jamaica is known for beautiful artisan work, especially the wood carvings that are sold all over the island. With designs inspired by mother Africa, the carvings run anywhere from 80 to several hundred dollars, depending on intricacy and size. You’ll find lots of options at Montego Bay’s craft markets, and it’s well worth bringing your best bargaining skills to the table to save a few bucks.
Jamaica’s most famous cooking method is the process called jerking, wherein meats are marinated with dry or wet rubs made of a concoction of spices that might include pimento (all spice), sugar and scotch bonnet peppers. The meats are then cooked over wood coals. Don’t leave Montego Bay without trying it, and wash it down the way the locals do, with a cold Red Stripe Beer.
While there are a few restaurants along the road from the port to the town of MoBay, your best bet for the most varied dining options is the area in and around the Hip Strip. From laid-back restaurants where smoke from the jerk pits clouds the air to the more refined atmosphere of resort restaurants, there’s a lunch niche for everyone.
Points of Interest
- Montego Bay – a seven-
Montego Bay Accessible Excursions
Whether your cruise ship stops in
Montego Bay Accessible Guided Tour
This 4 hour accessible