In the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to go to Montego Bay, Jamaica twice. While the beaches were stunning, the ocean was warm, and the Caribbean island vibes were absolutely dreamy, the fact was that both times, my Jamaica experience was really just a Jamaica resort experience. As a traveller who encourages other’s to get off the beaten track and experience the local culture, I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t have any truly valuable Jamaica tips to offer my readers outside of my resort experience. Which is why I’m thrilled to have this guest post from Monique Solomon, a Jamaican expert and the blogger behind IrieDiva. So, if you are interested in learning more about Montego Bay then here you go! This is Monique’s local guide for the best things to do in Montego Bay.
Jamaica is a tropical island in the Caribbean that’s famous for its year-round warm weather, reggae music, spicy jerk chicken and beautiful beaches.
If you’ve ever been to Jamaica, you may have stayed in an all-inclusive resort, only leaving to go on a guided tour or two. In this post, I hope to show you some alternative ways to enjoy the island safely just like the locals do by sharing the best things to do in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
If you’re currently researching the best things to do in Montego Bay, I hope you’ll add a thing or two from this list because there’s a lot of Jamaica to be enjoyed outside the gates of your chosen hotel. One of them is experiencing the culture of the island through a local beach that’s open to the public.
The Best Things to do in Montego Bay, Jamaica
Doctor’s Cave Beach
The beach experience at your resort is a whole different vibe than a public beach. In Montego Bay, Doctor’s Cave Beach is your go-to public beach (or Cornwall Beach right next door.)
Doctor’s Cave Beach is right on the “hip strip” i.e. the main road running through the heart of the tourist capital. Recently I took some friends visiting from Canada to a public beach. They were all accustomed to resort beaches and were in awe of the vibe on this beach. Music blared from nearby shacks selling the most delicious fish, shrimp and lobster they’ve ever had.
Vendors passed by with oysters, peppered shrimp, sugar cane, cold coconuts, local candy made from peanuts and coconuts, handmade slippers, cotton candy, homemade Irish moss, and the list went on. They handpicked their snacks, had their fill, and wanted more.
We rented lounge chairs and laid out blankets for the kiddos and posted up under the shade of almond trees when we weren’t enjoying the water. Fellows were out playing football on the sand and pockets of people were dancing and enjoying the music. There was even a table set up with KFC buckets and balloons for a birthday celebration.
The vibe on a public beach in Jamaica is amazing, and Doctor’s Cave Beach is one of the best thintgs to do in Montego Bay. You gotta go!
This is another spot in the city centre that’s loved by locals. In the daytime, it’s a quiet restaurant on the water serving local dishes like oxtail and brown stew chicken with traditional rice and peas. Head there in time for sunset and enjoy your dinner with the most amazing view.
At night time it comes alive as a party spot with DJs thumping the latest reggae and dancehall hits. Partygoers love this spot for the open air vibe and a free flow of cheap drinks from the bar. I Pier 1 is one of the best things to do in Montego Bay, Jamaica especially if you’re a hardcore party fan and love a good reggae beat.
Sports Bars with a View
Speaking of great entertainment spots in town, Montego Bay is home to a handful of sports bars both local and international. The world-famous Hard Rock Cafe has a venue on the beach with the most spectacular views that you will quickly forget that it’s an American chain.
Day parties are often held at this location because of the large pool on the property and a gorgeous calming slice of the Caribbean Sea.
Margaritaville is another chain owned by musician Jimmy Buffet that is a favourite because of the waterslide that empties out into the sea below. You’ll catch a great party vibe here at night as well with a more international flavour.
Blue Beat is right beside Margaritaville on the hip strip and is a local bar and restaurant with gorgeous seating above the water, though it has no direct access.
Newest to the strip is Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records, the local chain by our world record holding sprint champion. The Olympian’s chain is also in Ocho Rios and Kingston and is set to open soon in London.
Here you’ll be able to order local favourites like curry goat and stew beef as well as the usual sports bar offerings but with a Jamaican flavour. Try the jerk chicken spring rolls and the island nachos topped with jerk sausage.
White Witch of Rose Hall
This is an excursion that can be booked at the tour desk of any hotel but is well worth the trip. The Rose Hall Greathouse was once a sugar cane plantation and the lady of the house, Annie Palmer, is buried there. Word has it that she would make the slaves her lovers and then dispose of them permanently in the Greathouse dungeon when she’d had her fill.
The tour is very entertaining, more so if you’re able to catch it at night and aren’t afraid of the bogeyman. It’s said she still haunts the plantation today and some visitors claim to have captured her on film.
If you’re a golfer then you must try the 18 holes nearby at the Cinnamon Hills Golf Course with its spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea.
Raft the Martha Brae River
This is a tourist and local favourite and, as such, deserves a spot as one of the best things to do in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Enjoy a relaxing ride down the Martha Brae River on bamboo rafts handmade by guides who will regale you with stories of the surrounding environment. The beauty of nature is the spotlight here, it’s worlds away from the skyscrapers and sirens of the big cities. Instead, you’ll enjoy the rustle of trees as old as time and music from the birds chirping high above.
Take a dip in the cool, refreshing emerald green river water and stop at the riverside restaurant that offers up delicious vegan eats and treats. It’s a relaxing ride in nature with the most picturesque views that will melt away all the stress of the “real world.”
This is another natural must see when you’re on vacation in Jamaica. There are very few of these kinds of luminous lagoons in the world, it would be a shame to come so close and not see it.
Tiny organisms in the water emit a glow when disturbed by any kind of ripple in the water. You’ll be able to see fish light up the sea as they zing by and light up the water. It’s a must for those looking for unique things to do in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Boats go out beginning at sunset allowing you to see this phenomenon and take a dip in the water. This is your opportunity to take a dip and come up glowing neon blue! The lagoon is fed by a mineral spring which has positive effects on your skin. It’s common to see swimmers take a dip and rub the silty mud on their skin.
The restaurant at the beginning of the tour serves up delicious homestyle meals as well so head out early and catch dinner and drinks for a different flavour.
Ahhh…Ras Natango Gallery and Garden
If you want an immersive experience into the art culture of Jamaica then check out this art gallery, aviary, and botanical gardens. 18 of the 28 birds endemic to the island can be seen here on the nature walks high up in the hills above Montego Bay. The gallery features art from Ras Natango and his son as well as other local artists. Souvenirs here are authentic, all handmade here in Jamaica.
If it interests you, you can also take an art class or a cooking class on the property. What better way to get to intimately know the culture of a people than learning to cook their food. Your day will be well spent exploring the landscape here and enjoying fresh food and local art. Even though it is set in a rural community outside of Montego Bay, this attraction is only 15 minutes away from the city centre and a great way to enjoy nature in a less touristy setting.
Jamaica Food Tours
If you’re a foodie and want a quick way to sample lots of different Jamaican eats then this is the tour for you. It’s a tour that goes to several different locations throughout Montego Bay, allowing you to sample much of what Jamaica has to offer from street food to gourmet flavour. The tours either walk through the hip strip or take the town by bus, stopping at restaurants on the town’s outskirts. The company also offers cooking classes and what they call a River Jam, offering a splash in a river while a natural meal is prepared for you riverside.
There are many things to do in Montego Bay, Jamaica and this list is not at all exhaustive. The town is a favourite for locals to visit from all over the island for its beauty and nightlife. There may be concerns with safety, especially with recent news, however, the same precautionary measures will keep you safe here as you would take when visiting any place new to you. Incidences of danger are usually kept to communities you aren’t likely to visit and are not targeted towards visitors.
The internet and social media has a high penetration here. Any offering or attraction you’re not sure about, look it up online like you would any other place before heading out. They may not have a website but they’re bound to be on social media if they’re credible. Hook up with a driver here to take you around. He or she is likely to take good care of you to secure recommendations and your repeat business.
The best time to visit Jamaica is now. I hope to see you out on the hip strip soon!
About the Author
Monique Solomon is a Jamaican lifestyle blogger at www.iriediva.com where she shares the best of her tropical island paradise with her readers. She’s into DIY beauty, fashion, health and wellness.