A Guide to the Nightlife of Montego Bay

Vacation
••• David Neil Madden / Getty Images

Sure, most people come to Jamaica for the laid-back beach scene and mouthwatering food. But in Montego Bay, a city on the northwest shore of the island, the nightlife is worth staying for. The main drag of Montego Bay in Gloucester Avenue, which is often referred to as the Hip Strip. Here, the bars, clubs, and restaurants are a scene of elbow-to-elbow people, pounding music, free-flowing drinks, and just a rock-solid good time, as long as you don't mind staying up and dancing into the wee hours.

The best part: these party hotspots are all within walking distance of the area's best all-inclusive resorts and hotels, making it easy for visitors to come and go as they please.

Three of the most popular (read: packed) bars are Margaritaville, Blue Beat Ultra Lounge, and Pier One. They are all radically different in architecture and ambiance but with the common thread of loud music, dancing, and drinking. Although more of a drinking den than a restaurant, all three serve fantastic food, if you come early enough to eat. Otherwise, come in the evening for a sundowner and the killer waterfront views. For a more relaxed evening, go to Pier One on Mondays for karaoke nights (instead of weekend DJ sets) or on Sundays for its seafood specials—think fresh conch, scallops, shrimp, and lobster.

Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville is great for families thanks to its massive water park, with a three-story water slide and more. Meanwhile, Blue Beat Ultra Lounge is more of a dance club than a bar, so make sure to dress up in going-out clothes (no shorts, flip-flops, or tank tops allowed). On certain nights, Blue Beat has live jazz music and comedy shows as well.

This trio of nightlife hot spots is in the thick of Montego Bay activity, meaning there's a ton of folks flowing about the traffic-jammed streets. Play it safe, keep on the sidewalk and away from speeding cars and any inebriated drivers that may be behind the wheels.

Just walking up and down this stretch of Gloucester Avenue is an adventure in people watching, with street vendors and pot stands. Just make sure that you stay cautious as pickpockets can be aggressive with tourists. Men, keep your wallet in your front pocket, and women, hold tight to your purses. If you want to spend some cash—or win some, if you're lucky—try your hand at a game of blackjack at the flashy Coral Cliff Hotel casino in the heart of the district.

At the end of the night, if you need a cab home, there are some tips you should use as it is common for taxi drivers to try and swindle tourists. First, make sure that you tell them the destination (and possible directions) up front. Then, agree on the price of the taxi before you leave, not at the end of the ride.

That said, enjoy the dark ambiance of one of Jamaica's most fabled nightlife spots. Hey, it's Montego Bay, mon, go with it.