Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Laura Cooper
You can see it as soon as your plane starts to descend: the clear blue waters that surround the island of Jamaica. It is truly paradise along the beach here, where the waters lap the shore, where the laid back attitude comes across in everything, and where the people are as friendly as the beach is inviting. Let our Montego Bay travel guide show you what this island has to offer.
From the red, yellow, green, and black of the Rastafarian beliefs to the turquoise of the idyllic beaches, Jamaica is known for its tropical climate, local cuisine, luscious nature, and rich culture. Our travel guide of Montego Bay covers it all – from the best jerk chicken, to the best hotels.
Who should take a Montego Bay vacation?
Montego Bay, or MoBay as it’s often called, is a bustling city, second only to Kingston in terms of status and chaos on the island, with a booming resort area just outside the downtown core. Montego Bay offers the simple relaxation travellers come to expect of all-inclusive vacations on its white-sand beaches, but also plenty of exciting excursions and nature activities on the island.
Montego Bay, or other Jamaica destinations like Ocho Rios, has plenty of excursions in the immediate area: making the island perfect for the visitors who wants to experience somewhere new and really explore the country. Visitors here will not only be introduced to everything Bob Marley and the laid back “all right” attitude, but have a chance to enjoy more of the island through heritage tours, enjoying the Jamaican rainforest, safari adventures, catamaran cruises, and more. In Jamaica, the focus is on the beauty of the island and that means a range in activities for the outdoorsmen to the less adventurous, the animal love, and the foodie. Jamaica is an English-speaking country meaning a Montego Bay vacation might be perfect for a first-time traveller to the Caribbean, looking to experience the beaches and all-inclusive culture without a language barrier.
For the traveller looking to just visit Jamaica, Montego Bay is a great starting point as the entrance to the eastern part of the island, the resort towns, and an overview of all things Jamaican.
Jamaica is usually visited as an all-inclusive vacation, with day trip and excursion add-ons for one or more days of the vacation. The majority of Canadians travel to Jamaica for 7 days, though some visit for 2 weeks. In addition, the island is a popular wedding destination for its lush vegetation lining the beach and beautiful backdrops, and the romantic feel in this country that holds onto the “one love” ideology.
Most Canadians taking a Jamaica vacation say they’re hoping to visit the country – without specifying which resort area they’d like. While Negril vacations are known for the true realization and don’t worry attitude the island exudes, Montego Bay vacations and Ocho Rios are similar in their offerings of resorts and beaches, and excursion options. Few travellers visit Port Antonio, Kingston and beyond (especially during their first visit to the island), but hotels in Jamaica can be booked separately to explore further.
In addition to being a popular all-inclusive vacation destination, Montego Bay is a popular cruise port, with cruisers docking to experience the best of Jamaica and Montego Bay vacations by way of hitting the top attractions. Visitors stopping over to Montego Bay on their cruise itinerary may choose to enjoy the island’s shopping in Rose Hall, river rafting, the famous Doctor’s Cave Beach, or scuba diving.
Montego Bay travel guide: hotels
Wake up to a mug of Blue Mountain Coffee on the balcony, or a walk on the beach. Our Montego Bay travel guide lists the best hotels, from Montego Bay Jamaica resorts offering luxurious adults-only escapes to family-friendly, and everything in between. The best hotels and resorts for your Montego Bay vacation dot the beaches that line the area. Most Montego Bay resorts are all-inclusive, meaning you don’t need to worry about having cash on hand for meals, drinks, and some activities.
To find out which of the many Montego Bay hotels is best for you, talk to a travel agent who has been to the island, or use trip matchmaker to find a vacation matched to your preferences and budget. Some of our favourite Montego Bay travel guide suggestions include:
Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall, 5-star
The Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall, just 15-minutes from the Montego Bay airport, is nestled along a small private beach. You’ll experience the best of both worlds here: stay at the adults-only Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall and receive access to the neighbouring Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall resort, where more dining options, pools, and activities await. With 11 restaurants, several snack bars, and 7 bars between the two properties, as well as three pools, and more than 50 per cent of rooms (at the Hyatt Zilara) as ocean viewing, a vacation here is true luxury.
Holiday Inn Resort, 4-star
The Holiday Inn Resort Jamaica offers unrivaled family vacations in Montego Bay. With excellent value, a kid’s programme, waterpark, movie room, and countless non-motorized watersports ranging from pedal boating to snorkelling, time truly does fly when you’re having fun. An onsite casino, 5 bars, fitness centre, and pub will keep mom and dad busy, while the whole family can refuel at the Jamaican restaurant, or buffet, Italian, Japanese, and other options.
Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton, 4-star
A stay at the Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton, just 40 minutes from the airport, offers an all-inclusive vacation you won’t forget. With seven themed restaurants, 13 bars, a sauna, gym, kids club, and great nightly entertainment, the Grand Palladium is great for couples and families. With three small bays and beaches, the Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton offers a higher-end feel, and is isolated for a quiet all-inclusive Jamaica vacation.
Things to do in Montego Bay
The list of things to do in Montego Bay is a long one, ranging from enjoying the island’s beaches to experiencing the culture and discovering the history of the area, to enjoying the great outdoors and natural landscape that Jamaica prides itself on. With pamphlets at each resort outlining Montego Bay excursions and day trip options, to the knowledge from your travel agent and the best activities they’ve experienced, there’s something for everyone in Montego Bay when it comes to fun. We highlight some of our favourites in our Montego Bay travel guide:
Scotchies: Just 15 minutes from the airport, don’t miss a stop at the famous Scotchies restaurant for some of the best jerk chicken on the island. Watch the sweet wood smoking station as the jerk chicken and jerk pork cooks slowly – making it juicy, spicy, and perfect for your lunch, dinner, or any-time-of-the-day snack. A visit here isn’t complete before you’ve tried a cold Red Stripe, the traditional festival side dish, and some jerk: don’t forget to ask your server how jerk is made for an educational lesson, and dig in. A plate of jerk chicken (1/2 chicken) and a Red Stripe is approximately $12 CAD or $1100 Jamaican dollars.
Doctor’s Cave Beach: Doctor’s Cave Beach, now a bathing club, is a famous beach along the shores of Montego Bay. With on-site facilities, including showers and changing rooms, gift shops, and a bar and grill, the beach is a great for travellers visiting on a short stay or in the cruise port, or travellers exploring the island on their own and needing a bit of beach time. Not far from the cruise port, this paradise of crystal-clear water is one of the most famous beaches on the island.
Martha Brae River: Just outside Montego Bay, near Falmouth, find the green waters of the Martha Brae river, known for its river rafting. Rafting here means boarding a 30-foot long bamboo raft and enjoying a 3-mile stretch of the river. Opt to learn more about Martha Brae, swim, and enjoy the landscape as you float downstream through trees and bushes.
Rick’s Café: No trip to Jamaica is complete without a quick trip to Negril and a visit to Rick’s Café. Perched on top of the stunning cliffs overlooking the turquoise waters, Rick’s is known for its rum punch, live reggae bands, cliff diving, and the sunsets: known as the most beautiful in the Caribbean. Grab a stool at the bar for a front-row view of brilliant oranges and yellows that will reflect off the waters and make perfect pictures. If you’re daring, jump from the 35-foot cliff and plunge into the cool waters below, or just settle for drinks and dancing and have your camera ready. Rick’s is a true Jamaican hot-spot, filled with locals and tourists alike.
Rose Hall Great House: The legend of the Rose Hall Great House, and the supposed ghost of Rose Hall, is one of Montego Bay’s top attractions. The home, which sits on a former plantation, is a type of museum, filled with stunning 18th century Colonial style and furnishings. Tours here are offered daily and will walk you through the plantation, and family history of the Rollins family, tell the legend of the ghost of Rose Hall, and give you a peak into the Colonial history of the island.
Shore excursions for cruise passengers range from day trips to Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, to river kayaking adventures, trips to Negril and Rick’s Café, and more. For a full list of what your options are for Montego Bay attractions when visiting by cruise, click here.
When should I visit?
Jamaica sees July as the hottest month and January as the coldest, but comfortable temperatures year-round for Canadians looking to hit the beach, and truly relax on the island. Temperatures can reach up to 32C in the summer months, with winter lows dipping down to 24C in January. The fall is considered to be rainy season, and hurricane season, in Jamaica, and temperatures will remain fairly consistent week to week, offering a perfect escape to the palm-lined beaches this island boasts.
Montego Bay travel guide: How do I get there?
Your vacation will start with the arrival at the Sangster International Airport, along the shores of Montego Bay, where you’ll see the turquoise waters as your plane lands. Opt to enjoy the Club MoBay VIP arrival (and departure) services, which include a private lounge with drinks, Jamaican patties (and other snacks), and even a spa in the departure area.
Flights to Montego Bay from Toronto leave daily, year-round on Air Canada and WestJet. Charter airlines fly to Montego Bay year-round, with higher frequencies during the winter months. Flights from other gateways like Halifax, Calgary, and Vancouver are connecting flights.
Getting around Montego Bay
You’ll fly into the Sangster International Airport (MBJ) and receive transfers to your resort on an all-inclusive vacation, while those booking flights and hotels separately will mean you’ll need to organize a private transfer, cab, or other means of transportation between the airport and your hotel. We recommend travellers visit Jamaica on an all-inclusive vacation, meaning your flights, transportation, meals, drinks, and accommodations are taken care of. You’ll have little need for transportation in Montego Bay unless you’re planning to visit the downtown core yourself. Many resorts offer shuttle buses or cabs from the resort into town or into markets, for a cost, on a set schedule. For travellers looking to explore more of the island and to experience the “all right” attitude of the people through attractions, excursions can be set up in advance or at the resort, which will include your transportation.
Montego Bay vacations range from $530 to $1800 for Toronto departures (on average), while high-travel periods like Christmas and March Break may see higher prices. Prices are also dependent on departure airport, with cities like Halifax and Calgary – which are further flight times from Montego Bay – seeing higher costs.
Expect to pay $12 for jerk chicken and a Red Stripe at the famous Scotchies, and $5 for Rick’s famous rum punch if you visit Rick’s Café in Negril.
Language: The official language of Jamaica is English, though you will also hear the local dialect, Patois, which is a mix of Spanish, French, and English with island slang.
Currency: The Jamaican dollar, but the US dollar is also accepted in most tourist places. Most ATMS accept international bank cards like VISA and Mastercard.
Electricity: 110V, the same as North America