| Montego Bay:Things
to do and see
This region of Jamaica has much history, and opportunities
to visit historic sites abound. You can explore great houses and
plantations (some working, others in various states of disrepair).
In addition, reggae fans can worship the king of reggae, Bob Marley,
at the Marley Experience theater.
Go to complete listing
Adventure Guide - This travel guide walks with the adventurous
traveler to the heart of Jamaica, to the miles of sand beaches,
to the rugged Blue Mountains, to the country villages that provide
a peek at the real Jamaica|
Book with your hotel tour desk or 876-952-3692
Hours: 8:30 am-4 pm, Tuesday through Thursday
The Appleton Express is an air-conditioned bus
that travels from Mo Bay to the Appleton Rum Distillery on the south
side of the island. (If you traveled to Jamaica a decade ago, you
may remember that the Appleton Express was formerly a train that
took day-trippers across the island. Sadly, the train no longer
runs. Ahh... the good old days.)
There’s a tour of the distillery, and every visitor
gets a complimentary bottle; children get soft drinks. The tour
also makes a stop at Ipswich Caves.
Plantations & Great Houses
Granville Main Road
876-952-2382, fax 876-952-6342
After a short time here, you’ll soon notice how
often you hear the name “Barnett” and “Jarrett” on the island. Still
among Jamaica’s most powerful families, the Barnetts and Jarretts
were plantation owners and have owned land for many generations.
Today, a visit to the Barnett Estate offers you a look back at the
past to the days when this land grew everything from sugarcane to
coconuts. You can take a one-hour horseback tour of the estate or
a guided tour by a costumed docent. This plantation tour is one
of the island’s best.
BELFIELD GREAT HOUSE
Hours: daily, 10-5
This restored historic house is open to visitors,
with guided tours available before or after dinner. Located on the
3,000-acre Barnett Estate near Montego Bay, the site is also home
to the Belfield 1797 restaurant, operated by Elegant Resorts International.
876-956-7310 in Montego Bay
876-957-4171 in Negril
Hours: 10-4, Monday-Saturday
Take a peek back at the plantation days with this
heritage tour. Belvedere was one of the first estates to be burned
during the 1831 Christmas Rebellion, so today most of the sites
on the plantation are ruins or reconstructed. The uprising brought
about the end of slavery in 1838.
Tours include a look at the ruins of the great
house, dating back to the early 1800s, the ruins of a sugar factory,
a horse-drawn sugar mill and herb garden. Belvedere is staffed by
many craftspeople in period costume. Visitors can watch a blacksmith
at work, see a bakery using a clay oven, talk with an herbalist
in a wattle and daub house and see a canoe-maker carving the trunk
of a cottonwood tree. Also on site is the Trash House Restaurant
and Bar (where the sugarcane trash was once stored). Lunch is
served daily and visitors can picnic on the grounds.
INACCESSIBLE CINAMMON HILL
You can’t visit Cinammon Hill on the North Coast Highway, but
ask your guide to point out the sprawling mansion. This is presently
the home of country singer Johnny Cash, who spends quite a bit
of time on the island and has done a good deal of charitable work
in Jamaica. Cinammon Hill, located near Greenwood Great House
(below), was the birthplace of Edward Moulton Barrett, Elizabeth
Barrett Browning’s father.
CROYDON IN THE MOUNTAINS
Located 20 miles into the interior near the town of Catadupa
in St. James (take B6 out of town)
Hours: 8:30-5:30 daily; tours from 10:30-3:30
This 132-acre working pineapple and coffee plantation
offers half-day estate tours. The property was the birthplace of
Samuel Sharpe, a national hero on this island. Sharpe led a slave
rebellion in 1831 that helped bring about the abolition of slavery.
You can learn about the preparation of coffee, honey, pineapples
GREENWOOD GREAT HOUSE
North Coast Hwy., 15 miles east of Montego Bay
Hours: 9-6 daily
This was once the home of the Barrett family (as
in Elizabeth Barrett Browning). Tours include a look at the finery
enjoyed by the plantation families. Like Rose Hall (below), Greenwood
is a reminder of the turbulent period in Jamaica’s history when
wealthy plantation owners lived in luxury thanks to the profits
of the slave labor used to power sugar plantations.
North Coast Highway
Hours: 9-6 daily
Rose Hall is the best-known great house in the
country and is an easy afternoon visit from Montego Bay. This was
once the home of the notorious Annie Palmer, better known as the
White Witch. Guided tours take you to the ballroom, dining room,
and Annie’s bedroom and grave. The gift shop displays photographs
of what many believe are ghostly apparitions in the bedrooms of
THE WHITE WITCH
As the story goes, Annie was born in 1802 in England to an English
mother and Irish father. At the age of 10, her family moved to
Haiti, and soon her parents died of yellow fever. Annie was adopted
by a Haitian voodoo priestess and became skilled in the practice
of voodoo. Annie moved to Jamaica, married, and built Rose Hall,
an enormous plantation spanning 6,600 acres with over 2,000 slaves.
According to legend, Annie murdered several of her husbands and
her slave lovers. To learn more about the tales of Rose Hall,
read the novel, The White Witch of Rose Hall, which you’ll
find in gift shops around the island.
BOB MARLEY EXPERIENCE
Half Moon Shopping Village
North Coast Highway
Hours: 10-6 daily
This new attraction features a 68-seat theater
where you can watch a documentary on the life and works of reggae
great Bob Marley. The film runs several times daily. The largest
part of the attraction is a huge shop filled with Marley memorabilia
– CDs, books, T-shirts. The shop claims to have the largest collection
of Marley gifts in the Caribbean.
Montego Bay has the best collection of golf courses
in Jamaica; most take full advantage of the city’s location, offering
gorgeous views of the sea and hills. Fees include US $10-30 for
a golf cart and $5-20 for clubs. Caddies are mandatory and will
cost an additional US $5-15.
HALF MOON GOLF CLUB
This 18-hole course hosts the Red Stripe Pro Am
and is considered one of the island’s best. Rates run $95. Facilities
include a clubhouse, restaurant, bar and pro shop. Par 72.
Links-style golf is the attraction of this 18-hole
course. Rates run $45; facilities include a clubhouse, restaurant,
bar and pro shop. Par 72.
This 18-hole course is one of the best in the
Caribbean (some even say the world). Built on a 19th-century sugar
plantation, it is an official PGA tour course and many tournaments
are held here. Facilities include a clubhouse, restaurant, bar and
pro shop. Rates run $40-60 for guests, $100-125 for those not registered
at Tryall. Par 70.
AUTHORS’ TIP: Even if you’re not a golfer, don’t miss the waterwheel
next to the main road at Tryall. It’s a great photo spot.
WYNDHAM ROSE HALL
This 18-hole course has hosted many invitational
tournaments and is well known by golfers and non-golfers alike because
of its location on the grounds of the historic Rose Hall great house.
Rates run $50-60. Facilities include a clubhouse, restaurant, bar
and pro shop. Par 72.
FUTURE COURSE AT WHITE WITCH
At press time, construction was underway on the White Witch
golf course, adjacent to the Wyndham Rose Hall course and the
Rose Hall great house. It will be part of the new Ritz Carlton,
and is expected to draw a lot of attention.
Adventures on Water
AGUASOL THEME PARK
Hip Strip, downtown Mo Bay
Most of the larger properties offer a good selection
of watersports fun. If your property isn’t beachfront, consider
a day at AguaSol, a theme park on Walter Fletcher Beach. This sand
beach park has a full day’s worth of activities aimed at travelers
staying in downtown properties without beach access. The beach (which
has lifeguards and security) includes water trampolines, jet skis,
banana boat rides, Wave Runners, kayaks, pedal boats, glass-bottom
boat rides and snorkeling. There’s also tennis (a tennis pro is
on staff for lessons), a GoKart racetrack, table tennis and an evening
Doctor's Cave Beach, downtown Mo Bay
Sea Trek is a 45 minute
excursion that will take swimmers and non-swimmers 8 years and older
15 feet below the sea in a safety helmet that provides air. (876) 953-5619
Montego Bay is home to several beautiful beaches
and almost any beachfront property will have a great slice of sand.
Most vacationers use the beach at their property to avoid the numerous
vendors found on public beaches offering everything from hair braiding
to jerk pork to “something special.”
Some of the most notable and best-known public
beaches in the city are:
- Cornwall Beach. A favorite with locals.
There’s plenty to do at this action-packed beach, including
watersports. Located off Gloucester Avenue.
- Doctor’s Cave Beach. This downtown
beach is really the birthplace of Montego Bay’s tourism. In
1906 Dr. Alexander James McCatty stated that the waters off
this beach had all kinds of health benefits (there are minerals
in the water). The doctor donated his property to start a bathing
club. In the early twenties, the beach was the subject of an
article by Sir Herbert Barker, a British osteopath, who claimed
that the waters had curative powers. Soon the beach became a
tourist attraction and visitors sought the healing waters. Hotels
sprang up near the beach, which at that time was accessed through
a cave that was destroyed by a hurricane in 1932. Today, this
spot is still called Doctor’s Cave Beach and is a favorite with
locals as well as with travelers staying in the downtown hotels.
876-952-2566. Open daily; admission charged. Off Gloucester
Avenue, near downtown Montego Bay.
- Walter Fletcher Beach. Another downtown
beach, Walter Fletcher is a favorite with local and vacationing
families because of its calm waters. Off Gloucester Avenue,
near downtown Montego Bay.
North Coast Hwy.
This operator offers snorkel trips and sunset
cruises. Snorkel cruises stop in the Montego Bay Marine Park,
which offers some of the island’s best snorkeling areas. Equipment
and lessons (if needed) are provided. After the park, the vessel
sails along the coast past Doctor’s Cave Beach and the party begins.
There’s unlimited beer, rum punch and soft drinks. The sunset
excursion also hugs the shoreline and drinks are provided.
204 Chatwick Plaza, Queen’s Drive
Sailing cruises can be booked through most hotel tour desks and
you can also call the Rhapsody office directly. Cruises
include day trips, snorkel excursions and sunset sails, as well
as private charters.
CAPTAIN’S WATERSPORTS LTD.
White Sands P.O.
876-952-3624, fax 876-979-0843
E-mail: [email protected]
This 36-foot private charter company offers excursions to many
beaches and reefs. The vessel has two double berths and is available
for charter by the hour or day. Land and sea packages.
Montego Bay is home to several sport fishing
companies that offer you the chance to reel in marlin, sailfish,
dolphin or wahoo. With most operators, groups can charter the
boat or opt to share the vessel with other travelers. Expect to
pay about $300 for a half-day cruise, and that includes just about
everything your group will need for the excursion, including equipment.
Many companies offer free hotel pick-up.
Irie Lady, 876-953-9266 (phone and fax)
E-mail [email protected]
No Problem, 876-995-2912
North Coast Marine at Half Moon 876-953-9266
The Montego Bay Marine Park (876-952-5619)
was the first protective park in Jamaica. It was established to
preserve the natural resources of this underwater wonderland. A
quick look at the area and it’s easy to see the treasures that lie
beneath the surface. Several sites draw divers with their protected
- Basket Reef. Known for its basket sponges.
- Airport Reef. Just offshore near the
Donald Sangster International Airport, this site includes coral
- Chubb Reef. This site is near the Holiday
Inn east of town.It is known for its large schools of Bermuda
- Widowmaker’s Cave. Do you really want
to dive at a site named Widowmaker’s Cave? Well, many adventure
travelers do. Many fish congregate here and you’ll also see black
Fun Divers, Wyndham Rose Hall 876-953-2650
North Coast Marine Sports, Half Moon 876-953-2211
Resort Divers, 876-973-5750
Sandals Inn, 876-952-4140
Sandals Montego Bay, 876-979-9130
Sandals Royal Caribbean, 876-953-2231
Seaworld, Holiday Inn/Wyndham Rose Hall 876-953-2180
Most Mo Bay resorts offer opportunities to
take a boat just offshore and snorkel or dive among the reefs.
Even first-time snorkelers can appreciate a look at colorful
corals, graceful fans and fish that include friendly sergeant
majors, butterfly fish and shy damselfish.
MOBAY UNDERSEA TOURS
Gloucester Avenue, downtown Montego Bay
876-971-1049 or 952-2347 or 940-4465
We especially enjoyed our tour aboard this
semi-sub. If you aren’t a diver or don’t have the opportunity
to snorkel at the Montego Bay Marine Park during your stay,
a trip with MoBay is a good option, enabling you to catch a
peek at the best-preserved reefs in Jamaica. During our tour,
we spotted a sea turtle as well as countless tropical fish and
some very healthy sea fans and sponges. Highly recommended for
River Rafting & Cruises
EVENING ON THE GREAT RIVER
Hours: Sunday and Thursday evenings
This quiet, romantic raft ride on the Great
River includes dinner and a show. Price includes transportation
from Montego Bay hotels as well as dinner and bar.
LETHE MOUNTAIN VALLEY RAFTING
20 minutes west of Montego Bay, North Coast Highway
Hours: 9 am-5 pm daily
This is the epitome of relaxation. Climb aboard
a bamboo raft and take a one-hour float down the tranquil Great
River. The ride is quiet and hassle-free (no vendors here, in
contrast to the Rio Grande rafting excursion) and you’re welcome
to take a dip in the river if you like. The ride isn’t cheap,
but it is very relaxing.
MARTHA BRAE RIVER RAFTING
876-954-5168 or book through your hotel tour desk
Hours: Opens daily at 9 am; closes at sunset
Like the mountain rafting at Lethe and the
Rio Grande near Port Antonio, this attraction features rafting
down a tranquil river, the Martha Brae. The ride lasts about
According to legend, the river is named for an Arawak who killed
herself rather than tell the Spanish the location of a local
gold mine. The Indian maiden took the Spanish upriver then
used her magic to change the course of the waterway, drowning
herself and the Spaniards in the process. Today her “duppy”
or ghost is said to haunt the entrance to the mine.
Adventures on Horseback
Riding a horse through the surf is a favorite
Mo Bay activity. There are also many beautiful trail rides.
AUTHORS’ TIP: We suggest morning rides. By midday, temperatures
away from the beach trade winds can get high. Be sure to wear
long pants and sneakers or boots for a ride.
ROCKY POINT STABLES
North Coast Highway,
next to Half Moon Golf, Tennis and Beach Club
Rocky Point is a full-service horseback riding
facility near Half Moon Golf, Beach & Tennis Club on the
North Coast Highway. You can ride on your own mount or participate
in organized trail rides with a group. These range from the
45-minute Jungle Jaunt to the two-hour Trail and Treat option.
Instruction is available in dressage, riding technique, show-jumping
and even polo. Transportation can be arranged to and from Montego
Bay area hotels.
ROCKLANDS FEEDING STATION
Feeding times: 3:30 pm and 5 pm daily
Founded by Lisa Salmon, Jamaica’s best-known
ornithologist, this bird sanctuary is surrounded by clouds of
grassquits, saffron finches and, most especially, hummingbirds.
Salmon moved to this verdant hillside in April
1952 and found the site, located a short drive from the beaches
of Montego Bay, filled with feathered friends. “I went out every
morning and gave them water to bathe in,” recalled Salmon. The
practice continued for six years and gradually she moved the
bath up to her porch, put out sugar water for the hummingbirds,
and slowly trained the tiny visitors to eat from her hands.
Through the years, Salmon worked as a bird
advocate, achieving a limit on Jamaica’s bird hunting season.
In 1959 she opened the bird sanctuary and since that time travelers
from around the world have hand-fed the regular guests of this
bird diner. Tiny finches flutter around outstretched palms filled
with birdseed, while fast-as-lightning hummingbirds drink from
a hand-held bottle of sugar water.
East of Montego Bay
The capital of Trelawny parish, Falmouth is
almost untouched by tourism. It was once a bustling center of
commerce and had many fine buildings; today the community is
well worth a look for its Georgian homes, many, alas, in poor
repair. One building exterior you should make an effort to see
is the Falmouth Parish Church, built in 1795. Today craftsmen
have an open-air market near the church.
AUTHORS’ TIP: The best market days in Falmouth are Wednesday,
when clothing and crafts are sold, and Friday and Saturdays,
when fruits and vegetables fill the stalls.
Beyond Falmouth lies Glistening Waters
and the Luminous Lagoon (some people call it Oyster Bay).
This bioluminescent lagoon shimmers with microscopic organisms
in the moonlight. When fish swim through the luminescent waters,
they leave a streak of light. Night boat rides on these sparkling
waters are offered by Rose’s by the Sea (876-954-3427).
South of Montego Bay on B8 to B6, which leads to Marchmont.
Turn west at Marchmont and continue to Seaford Town.
Seaford Town is one of Jamaica’s most unusual
communities. It was founded by German settlers in the 1830s.
Today descendents of those early residents populate the community.
While here, stop by the Seaford Town Historical Museum,
876-995-9399, 9-5 daily, filled with artifacts from the town’s
Montego Bay offers the best shopping on the island. If it glitters,
glimmers, shines and sparkles, you’ll find it here – gold jewelry,
precious gems, watches, and less expensive goods such as coffees,
liquors and crafts.
Top shopping areas in town are the Half
Moon Shopping Village for very upscale items and the Holiday
Village Shopping Centre for a little bit of everything.
In the Half Moon Resort, the Shopping Village is one of the
island’s best, both for its high-end goods such as designer
watches and fine jewelry, as well as for its clothing. The open-air
village sits adjacent to the resort’s conference center and
is also home to several restaurants and the Bob Marley Experience.
The Holiday Village Shopping Centre is across
the road from the Holiday Inn and has a collection of inexpensive
shops offering everything from Bob Marley T-shirts to rasta
tams, woodcarvings to straw baskets. Liquor stores offer local
rums, liqueurs and coffees.
If you’re looking for Jamaican artwork, an
excellent stop is the Gallery of West Indian Art. The
shop has an outlet in Montego Bay at 11 Fairfield Road, Catherine
Hall (876-952-4547, fax 979-5156) and another at the Round Hill
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the craft
market, an adventure in itself. Many travelers avoid the market
because of the high-pressure sales people, but we have found
it delightful. A friendly good morning, abstaining from photos
until a purchase (no matter how small) is made, and general
good manners will go far with the salespeople. Some smaller
items available at the market include straw baskets ($3), tiny
straw purses ($4), friendship bracelets in rasta colors ($1),
coffee bean necklaces ($2) and bamboo bangles ($4).
AUTHORS’ TIP: After shopping, take a break with a soft drink
or sky juice (like our snow cone) sold from pushcarts beneath
the shade trees.
Your nights in Montego Bay can be as exciting
or as peacefule as you wish. Try your luck at poker. Dance the
night away to the reggae rythm. Or take in a local dance show.
CORAL CLIFF CASINO
11 am - 3 am
You’ll find slot machines in some of the larger
resorts on the island, but the most extensive gambling site
is at the Coral Cliff Casino on the Hip Strip. You can’t miss
it – just look for the flashing neon lights. Only slot machine
gambling is found here, but jackpots do get quite large. Free
draft beer, sodas and rum punch are served at the slot machines.
Half Moon Shopping Centre
The black and white decor of the Half Moon
Resort is carried out in this disco as well. Located in the
shopping village, Planet Xaymaka, or Planet X, features all
types of dance tunes and plenty of reggae. There is a cover
charge, which includes one drink. On Sunday nights, Planet X
features oldies. Nightclub action begins at about 11 pm
MONTEGO BAY LITTLE THEATRE
This local theatrical group produces a variety
of shows. Call for show days (shows always start at 8 pm);
admission is a very reasonable JA $250.
More information on
• Where to stay
• Where to eat
• Things to see &
for anything and everything Jamaican in our online store.