JAMAICA // MONTEGO BAY
Located on Jamaica’s northwest coast, Montego Bay positions itself as the
“complete resort,” where white-sand beaches are edged by flowering trees, and
palm-dotted hills make a lush backdrop to long stretches of rolling meadowland.
Called el golfo de buen tiempo (meaning the gulf of good weather) by Christopher
Columbus, it became the main shipping port for lard, or manteca in Spanish, and
earned the title of Bahia de Manteca (Lard Bay). Later, sugar and bananas took
over as the primary exports shipped from this seaport.
Often referred to as Mo-Bay, Montego Bay has grown and flourished, becoming the
country’s premier tourist destination and the second-largest city. It offers more
guestrooms than any other part of the island. The range is enormous, and includes
five-star hotels offering European-plan rates (exclusive of meals), large hotel
properties with sophisticated convention facilities, high-action all-inclusive resorts,
small inns, guesthouses and some of the most luxurious private villas in the
Caribbean. Many of the larger properties offer a wide range of on-site activities.
Images Courtesy of: The Jamaica Tourist Board
There are many excellent art galleries to explore, among them the Gallery of West
Indian Art and the Bay Gallery. Historic landmark buildings include St. James Parish
Church, built between 1775 and 1782, and The Cage, a temporary lockup dating
from the19th century that once held runaway slaves and unruly seamen, and now
operates as a small museum.
Fascinating stories surround the legendary plantation Great Houses that dot the
countryside. The most famous is Rose Hall, haunted by the ghost of the notorious
Annie Palmer, who murdered three husbands before meeting a gory death at the
hand of her slave lover.
A large collection of photographs exhibited in the gift shop at Rose Hall represents
ghostly sightings by modern-day visitors. Greenwood Great House, built by a cousin
of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning more than two centuries ago, is another
beautifully maintained great house and features an intriguing collection of rare
Taking the Cure
Early in the 20th century, Doctor’s Cave Beach developed a reputation for the
remarkable healing powers of the ocean at this coastal point. Travelers came great
distances to bathe in the waters here, which some believe are able to cure a wide
range of ailments. Its popularity is still enormous with locals, who subscribe to a
special membership for beach privileges. Members of the public are welcome to use
this beach for a small entry fee, payable at the gate.
Five 18-hole championship golf courses are beautifully situated along this coastline,
and offer exciting degrees of challenge. They are: the Cinnamon Hill Golf Club at
the Rose Hall Resort & Country Club; the Half Moon Golf Club; SuperClubs Golf
Club at Ironshore; Tryall Golf Club; and the White Witch Course at the Ritz-Carlton
Scuba diving is spectacular in the protected waters of Montego Bay Marine Park,
with 10 square miles (26 square kilometers) of coral reefs teeming with exotic fish.
Deep-sea fishermen in search of the prized blue marlin can rent boats and crew
from several charter companies. Yachting has a serious following here, and the
Montego Bay Yacht Club is a popular meeting place.
Several parks are great for families, including Aquasol Theme Park, featuring
banana boating, parasailing and a water slide; Blue Hole Nature Park, with its
plantation tour, swimming pool and picnic area; and Animal Farm, Jamaica’s newest
animal sanctuary, where visitors can explore the natural habitat of exotic birds and
learn the benefits of solar electricity.
Chukka Blue Adventure in Sandy Bay keeps a large stable of 125 horses, and riding
tours cover mountain terrain before heading for the beach for a trek through the
water. Jeep tours go through the rain forest of Montpelier; mountain biking, river
tubing and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) tours are also extremely popular here.
Shopping is another big sport in this area, and the Crafts Market on Harbour Street
is a hot favorite, with vendors selling straw baskets, handmade leather goods, wall
hangings, batiks and carvings of wood and bone. Nearby duty-free shops overflow
with luxury items ranging from Scottish cashmere, china and glassware to perfume,
cigars and liquor.
Visitors can hand-feed hummingbirds, grassquits and dozens more colorful species
at the Rocklands Bird Feeding Station in Anchovy. Or they can venture further
afield: from Montego Bay, excursions depart for almost every place on the island,
including the uncharted limestone hills of Cockpit Country, where the fabled
Maroons, descendents of slaves who escaped from the Spanish, still live in the town
Falmouth, an 18th-century town on the coast, near Ocho Rios, features wellpreserved
Georgian houses. Rafting trips begin here, carrying visitors along the
Martha Brae River, named for an Arawak Indian girl said to have had supernatural
powers. Nearby, horseback riding is offered at Good Hope Plantation, where miles
of trails wind through rolling countryside.
Hot Action, Fun Dining
Home to the annual Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival in January and the Red
Stripe Reggae Sumfest Festival in July, Montego Bay is a particularly lively part of
the island. Popular weekly theme events attract both locals and visitors to the bars
and eateries of Gloucester Avenue, known as the Hip Strip, where music, dancing,
food and drink are offered in an upbeat street-festival setting. Margaritaville is a
special favorite here, offering lots of outdoor seating as well as an intimately sized
indoor bar area and a cozy dining room. By day, children and adults alike enjoy the
thrill of a great sea-chute that dives from the deck straight down into the waves,
challenging and fun, scary and irresistible.
From reggae to rock, clubs throughout the area provide visitors with an endless
variety of nighttime action. Restaurants are equally varied, ranging from the spicy
jerked pork and chicken of the casual Pork Pit and the relaxed beach atmosphere of
Time N’ Place near Falmouth, to the classic elegance of Round Hill Resort’s seaside
terrace restaurant, just a few miles west, serving creative Jamaican-influenced
cuisine. Sunset cruises make a great ending to the day.
Montego Bay is famed for its great resort properties, all with sophisticated facilities
and many with dynamic entertainment programs each evening. An attractive range
of small hotels and inns offers charm and personalized service with great warmth.
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