13 Best Things to Do in Montego Bay, Jamaica

Pelican water bird flying over Beach, Montego Bay - Jamaica, Caribbean sea

Agustavop / Getty Images

Montego Bay is one of the top tourist destinations in Jamaica if not the entire Caribbean, welcoming visitors arriving by air via Sangster International Airport and sea from the multitude of cruise ships docked at the enormous cruise port downtown. The capital of St. James Parish, Montego Bay was founded in the 16th century by Spanish colonizers and today is home to scores of swanky resorts aiming to cater to every available budget. When visitors aren't relaxing on MoBay's beaches, there are countless options for fun and entertainment.

01 of 13

Get Outdoors on a Guided Tour

An Island Routes sailboat on tour in Jamaica

Island Routes

9 The Queens Dr, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Phone +1 877-768-8370

If you're gunning for more activities during your trip to Montego Bay, Island Routes offers a variety of half-day and full-day outdoor adventures like catamaran and snorkeling cruises, zip lining and river tubing day trips, deep sea sport fishing excursions, and dolphin encounters. You can also sign up for Jamaican cooking classes, horseback riding, ATV rides, and Blue Mountain bicycle tours. Other popular day trips, like bamboo river rafting on the Martha Brae River, nighttime swims at Luminous Lagoon, and eco-adventure tours of Good Hope Estate are also available.

For a memorable only-in-Jamaica kind of experience, try one of the Drive Your Own Adventure tours in Montego Bay or nearby Negril (about a 90-minute drive down the West Coast), which let you cruise around town in your own Mini Cooper as you explore some of the area's top sights and attractions at your own pace.

02 of 13

Do a Day Trip to Dunn's River Falls

Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica

narvikk / Getty Images

Main St, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Phone +1 876-974-4767

Located about 90-minutes away near Ocho Rios, Dunn's River Falls makes a great day trip, whether you decide to rent a car and explore more of the island or embark on a guided tour from Montego Bay. Besides enjoying panoramic views of the falls, you can also make the 960-foot climb up them, have a picnic in the gardens, and shop for souvenirs at the local craft market.

The beautiful terraced waterfall complex is also close to Nine Mile, the birthplace of Bob Marley. Stop by to learn more about his fascinating life at the museum (tours are given by local Rastafarian guides), or pay your respects at his final resting place.

03 of 13

Swim in the Healing Waters of Doctor's Cave Beach

Scenic View Of Beach Against Blue Sky
Manfred Muenzl / EyeEm / Getty Images
Doctor's Cave Beach, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Phone +1 876-952-2566

In the 1920s, a British osteopath claimed that the turquoise waters of Doctor's Cave Beach had curative properties. Practically overnight, the cove transformed into one of Jamaica's most popular beaches. It's still one of the island's most popular beaches, though it can get overcrowded when cruise ships are docked in Montego Bay. Its proximity to downtown, just steps away from the hip Gloucester Avenue, and cerulean waters keep it a favorite spot of sand all year long.

Be aware that since Doctor's Cave Beach is a private beach, travelers do have to pay to use it. That said, your admission goes toward maintaining the onsite bathrooms, restaurants, and snorkel equipment rental facilities. With crystal clear water and tropical fish swimming about, you'll definitely want to snorkel here.

04 of 13

Hand Feed Birds and Get Ecological

Hummingbird in flight in Jamaica
Tetra Images / Getty Images
Camrose District, Granville PO, Box21, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Phone +1 876-875-4453

Just the name of this Montego Bay bird sanctuary sounds relaxing. The Ahhh...Ras Natango Gallery and Garden houses all kinds of local birds and tropical plants, all while offering cliffside views overlooking the bay. This little slice of Eden is a great escape from the hordes of beach tourists and cruise passengers who are less likely to make it up to the gardens. It's about a 15-minute drive from the city center, though you can opt to include round-trip transportation from Montego Bay with your ticket.

Apart from the sheer beauty of the park, one of the highlights here is being able to hand feed the local wildlife, such as hummingbirds and lizards. Everything at the park is used intentionally, reused when possible, and the owners make it a point to teach visitors about sustainability. In addition to the flora and fauna, there's a gift shop featuring crafts made by local artists.

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05 of 13

Enjoy an Eco-Adventure at Good Hope Estate

Chukka zipline tour

Visit Jamaica

C89F+24J, Wakefield, Jamaica

Tour company Chukka Caribbean Adventures has converted the grounds of the historic Good Hope Estate, founded in 1774, into a playground for thrill-seekers while at the same time, preserving the stately home for tours.

Several packages and passes are available, with most including a combination of house tours, rum tastings, a chance to swim in the estate's pool as well as other adventure activities like zip-lining, ATV tours, river tubing, or taking on the challenge course. Carriage rides are also available for those not so thrill-inclined, making Good Hope Estate a fun and relaxing day trip that's worth the 45-minute drive from Montego Bay to Falmouth.

06 of 13

Tour Cockpit Country

People caving in Jamaica

Not far from Good Hope Estate, Cockpit Country is Jamaica's wildest outback, a land of steep hills and deep valleys that once helped escaped slaves known as Maroons elude and outlast their former masters for centuries. Today, it's one of Jamaica's top ecotourism destinations, and where you can also visit several still-thriving Maroon communities.

Popular activities in this part of the island include hiking, biking, kayaking, and caving. Check with local tour companies like Island Routes and Chukka to see which half- and full-day Cockpit Country tours you can do from Montego Bay.

07 of 13

Take a Nighttime Cruise to Luminous Lagoon

Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica

Visit Jamaica

Main Highway, F9MC+3HC, A1, Falmouth, Jamaica
Phone +1 876-954-3229

To experience Jamaica's bioluminescent bay—the only natural nighttime attraction on the island—head to the Glistening Waters Hotel before sunset to catch a nightly tour of Luminous Lagoon.

Tour boats leave from the hotel and cruise into a quiet corner of the lagoon inhabited by microscopic sea creatures that light up in response to movement. It's cool enough to see the effect when the boat moves through the water, but the real thrills happen when you jump in and see the glowing swirls and eddies created when you move your hands and feet. Meanwhile, your always-entertaining boat captain and guide are there to explain the science behind the display and share interesting stories about Jamaican life and culture.

08 of 13

Sample Some Jerk Cuisine

Scotchie's restaurant in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Bob Curley

G4CP+GW7, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Phone +1 876-953-8041

Spicy Jamaican jerk cuisine is world-famous, and Montego Bay is home to two of the best purveyors on the planet: Scotchie's and The Pork Pit. Scotchie's is a quirky roadside stand along Highway A1 (Falmouth Road) that serves jerk chicken, pork, and fish with sides of yam, breadfruit, rice and peas, and festivals (Jamaican dumplings). The backyard flavor of the place is enhanced with an open bar, where you can order Red Stripes and rum drinks to sip from on chairs made of old beer kegs.

Back in Montego Bay, check out The Pork Pit on Gloucester Avenue. As with Scotchie's, the jerk food here is cooked over big open fires fed with pimento wood with a dry rub for flavor, not sauce. You'll find the perfect balance here, as it's popular among locals, not overrun with tourists, and not too far of a walk from the rest of the action downtown.

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09 of 13

Shop, Sip, and Snack in Downtown MoBay

Jamaican patties

Ritcharnd Moskow / Wikimedia Commons

F3CG+6X6, Barnett St, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Phone +1 876-971-0816

This Caribbean port of call offers duty-free shopping as well as the boozy temptations of the "Hip Strip," the downtown nightlife zone that's home to the Montego Bay Margaritaville outpost and its famous water slide, among other popular dance clubs.

For a classic Jamaican-style lunch, grab a cold Red Stripe and a crusty "pattie" filled with beef, chicken, vegetables, or cheese at one of Montego Bay's many restaurants. While Juici Patties and Tastee Patties are great chains that offer these dishes, many locals swear by Stanley's. Take a few Jamaican patties to go and head to Doctor's Cave Beach (mentioned above) for a seaside snack.

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Go on a Haunted Tour of Rose Hall Great House

Rose Hall Plantation Estate House, Jamaica.

Visit Jamaica

Rose Hall Road, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Phone +1 876-953-2323

While tours of Rose Hall Great House are available during the day and at night, evening tours are best in order to set the mood for creepy tales about this haunted 1770 plantation house and its legendary dark past. Stop by the onsite pub, located in the estate's former dungeon, where slaves were once held as they awaited punishment by the cruel plantation owner's wife, Annee Palmer, known island-wide as the White Witch of Rose Hall.

Rose Hall is open for tours daily, while haunted nighttime tours of the estate happen Friday through Sunday evenings. For a go-big-or-go-home approach, consider the Annee's Escape package, which includes a guided tour of Rose Hall, championship golf at one or both of its courses, a shopping experience, Jamaican-style lunch, and special access to a private beach and pool. You can also tour the nearby Cinnamon Hill Great House, where Johnny Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, once lived.

11 of 13

Climb Aboard the Big Bamboo With Martha Brae River Rafting

Martha Brae River rafting

Visit Jamaica

F89V+68J, Martha Brae, Jamaica
Phone +1 876-940-7018

For a romantic excursion, grab your beloved and float down the Martha Brae River on a bamboo raft. Tours with Jamaica Rafting include round-trip transfers from your hotel, a 75-minute guided trip down the river, a complimentary fruit drink upon arrival, and a visit to Miss Martha's Herb Garden.

Tours begin about 20 miles from Montego Bay in the Rafter's Village, a six-acre recreational facility complete with a souvenir shop, bar, lounge, restrooms, a picnic area, and a swimming pool. The three-mile journey down the Martha Brae River passes through thick jungles, skirts quiet Jamaican towns, and includes a stop where you can purchase handicrafts from local artisans.

12 of 13

Admire Jamaican Art at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre

Montego Bay Cultural Centre
Montego Bay Cultural Centre
Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Phone +1 876-971-3920

The Montego Bay Cultural Centre is the fine-arts capital of western Jamaica and houses a gallery and museum containing paintings, sculptures, and other works of art celebrating the island's rich cultural heritage and artistic traditions.

Opened in 2014 in historic Sam Sharpe Square in the heart of the Montego Bay Craft Market, you'll find exhibits featuring ancient Jamaican arts and crafts as well as rotating displays on such topics as Rastafarian culture. It's open daily and makes a great rainy day activity or a nice break from the beach if you've soaked up just a little too much sun.

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13 of 13

Savor the Flavor of an Appleton Estate Rum Tour

Appleton Estate 21 Rum
Appleton Estate
Siloah P.O, Santa Cruz, Jamaica
Phone +1 876-448-2237

While Jamaica and Barbados continue to compete for the title of rum capital of the Caribbean, in Jamaica, the clear rum champ is Appleton Estate, producer of fine mixing rums and sublime sippers. You'll have to take a two-hour journey down back roads from Montego Bay to reach it, but once you're there, you'll be able to tour the distillery and sample a variety of rums. The 21-year is pricey but smooth and you can always sleep off your buzz on the ride back to your hotel.

Renovated and reopened in 2018, the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience includes complimentary welcome cocktails, a 75 to 90-minute guided tasting led by local rum experts, a movie about the rum industry in an on-site cinema, and an interactive tour through the Estate itself. Appleton Estate is open Thursday to Saturday. Reserve your tour in advance to avoid disappointment as these are quite popular.

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  1. Jamaican Treasures. "Doctor's Cave Beach."

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13 Best Things to Do in Montego Bay, Jamaica