montego bay feature

Plan how to travel from Philadelphia to Montego bay: find out best things to do in Montego Bay, places to go, hotel recommendations, and getting around once you are there.

Montego Bay is the most popular destination in Jamaica. Perhaps in the entire Caribbean, it has one of the busiest airports on the island. The Sangster International Airport welcomes visitors from around the world who are whisked off to their all-inclusive resorts. But it’s important to get out and explore Jamaica too, and we’ve rounded up the best things to do in Montego Bay plus popular attractions and activities.

Montego Bay is amongst the largest cities in the Greater Kingston Metropolitan area in Jamaica, having over half a million people in population. It is the fourth largest after Kingston, Spanish Town, and Portmore. Montego Bay is also one of the Anglophone Caribbean cities in Jamaica. 

The city is  a popular tourist destination with plenty of hotels and restaurants as well as a port for cruise ships. It is known for its beautiful beaches, notably Doctor’s Cave Beach, in addition to outdoor attractions like gardens, golf courses and adventure tours. Other popular places of interest for visitors include museums, shops and historic homes.

The city holds most of the weight of the country’s tourism sector. Most of the country’s visitors arrive and depart from Montego Bay‘s airport or port. Many international companies have resorts in the city including Hyatt, Hilton Hotels, Holiday Inn, RIU Hotels, Royalton and Iberostar. The city is the home to the headquarters of international resort chain Sandals.

Montego Bay is often considered the best place to stay in Jamaica. It is the second largest city in Jamaica, and the airport has several direct flights from the United States. Montego Bay is also one of the main cruise ship ports in Jamaica. If you want a little bit of urban adventure to mix in with your beach explorations, Montego Bay is the best city to stay in Jamaica as it has a nice mix of both.

While there aren’t as many serene sandy beaches in the Montego Bay area, many say it’s the best part of Jamaica for snorkeling. You’ll find a wider variety of Jamaica resorts here, too, if you are looking for budget or mid-range options. Montego Bay has the largest concentration of adults-only all-inclusive resorts, so it could be considered the best place to stay in Jamaica for couples, too.

 


Places to stay in Montego Bay

  1. Freeport

Freeport is one of the best places to stay in Montego Bay if you are visiting for the first time. It is located on the tip of Montego Bay, 3 miles west of downtown. Here you will find countless cool bars, many dining and shopping options (among which are the huge Freeport Shopping Centre), and the port of Montego Bay, around which the city spreads to the east and north.

The port is the final destination of many cruise ships and the starting point of boat tours and water sports like snorkeling. It hosts the largest number of exclusive hotels and resorts in Montego Bay. Visit the birthplace and hometown of reggae legend Bob Marley during this day trip here. 

Popular Accommodations

things_to_do_in_montego_bay
  1. Hip Strip 

This is the best area in Montego bay for nightlife activities.The area is also 5 minutes away from the Donald Sangster International Airport, perfect if you prefer to stay close to it during your holiday in Jamaica.You can check out the beautiful Saint James Parish Church here. 

Be prepared to be entertained from morning to very late at night. You can spend your days chilling on Doctor’s Cave Beach, engaging in water sports, or deep diving in the turquoise waters. And when the sun goes down, be ready to try the delicious Jamaican Cuisine in one of the multiple restaurants or hit a cool beach bar and dance the night away.

If one day you want to take a break from partying and absorb some culture, this is the closest area to the famous Rose Hall Great House, a former Jamaican Georgian plantation house now run as a historic house museum, offering also panoramic views of the coast.

Popular Accommodations

S Hotel Jamaica – Boutique All-Inclusive

Polkerris Bed & Breakfast

Mynt Retreat Bed & Breakfast

Million Dollar View

  1. Bogue Heights

If you’re visiting Montego Bay with the family, then this is the best place to stay. It is located at a 10-minute drive from Freeport. The area has a great location close to many eateries, and shops, and only 5 minutes from the beaches. You can listen to some songs at African Symbol Studio & Record Shop here. 

Here you’ll find the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary, a beautiful green garden where you can feed thousands of Jamaican & migratory birds. You will also love the “Ahhh…Ras Natango Gallery and Garden”, located 2000 feet above sea level, an eco-tourism attraction offering the most spectacular views of the city, and local paintings of the island life, and of course, lots of birds.

Popular Accommodations

Hotel Recommendations for Montego Bay

 


Top things to do in Montego Bay

  1. Visit the Gallery for West Indian Art

One of the things that makes Jamaica truly unique is its cultural diversity. The Gallery of West Indian Art is one of the things to do in montego bay if you’re shopping for an original piece of Haitian, Jamaican, or Cuban art. The gallery includes paintings, hand-turned pottery, tables, chairs, and a variety of hand-carved animals. 

You can check out the Gallery of West Indian Art which was founded in the 1960s. Paintings depict the environment, scenery and culture of the West Indies and make a unique addition to any home or office. All artwork is original and the shop will provide a certificate of authenticity. Once you select a piece of artwork that you like, the Gallery makes arrangements to pack and have it shipped to you.

  1. Visit AquaSol Theme Park

Aquasol Theme Park is a large amusement park on the ocean at Montego Bay. It is located at the Walter Fletcher Beach Complex, just a short walk from downtown Montego Bay. There are lots of fun activities for everyone at the theme park and it should be added as one of the things to do in Montego bay. Activities include: snorkeling, scuba diving lessons, guided dives, glass bottom boat or pedal boat tours, banana boat rides, kayak adventures, Jet Ski rides, go-kart racing, beach volleyball, table tennis and more. There are also water trampolines which are hugely popular with guests.

With go-kart racing, watersports and a white-sand beach, this is the perfect destination for families with young kids. Relax on a lounge chair by the water, use the professional tennis courts, or burn some energy on a kayak or jet ski. 

Relax on a lounge chair by the water, use the professional tennis courts, or burn some energy on a kayak or jet ski. Watersports are popular at the Aquasol Theme Park. Paddle around the calm beach waters on a banana boat. Rent snorkeling gear or a glass-bottom boat for a view of the marine life, including lionfish and colorful coral, just below the surface.

  1. Spend the day at Cornwall Beach

Cornwall Beach sits along a long stretch of creamy white sand beaches just outside Montego Bay on Jamaica’s west coast. The private beach offers stunning views and calm, clear blue water. It also offers travelers a gentle, crystal clear sea and well-managed facilities, making it a desirable spot for swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying a seaside meal. It offers amazing things to do in montego bay.

Though popular with tourists and locals alike, Cornwall is a less crowded Montego Bay beach than most, especially its well-known neighbor, Doctor’s Cave Beach. For a small admission fee, travelers have access to showers, bathrooms, and an on-site rental center with sun beds, umbrellas, snorkel gear, and lockers. Enjoy typical Jamaican dishes and burgers at the beach bar and restaurant.

It is perfect for solo travelers, couples, and families. Guests staying at the Royal Decameron Montego Bay have free access to the beach. Otherwise, the admission fee is about $5 for adults, $3 for children. Occasionally Cornwall Beach hosts special beach parties featuring a buffet and live musical group.

  1. Meet the animals at the Animal Farm and Nature Reserve

Among the more frequented things to do in Montego bay, is a visit to the Animal Farm and Nature Reserve where visitors can get guided tours and interact with the animals. Located in the Montpelier Hills near Montego Bay, Jamaica, Animal Farm and Nature Reserve sits in a beautiful rainforest valley, which serves as a natural haven for a wide variety of local flora and fauna.

You can also walk through the area on your own to see the wide range of animals and birds, and even feed the birds straight out of your hands in the walk-in aviary. The farm is known for its advancements in the alternative energy arena, and you’ll be able to learn about some of the projects that take place there including solar ventures and biogas generating plants there. 

Once you’re done exploring you can settle in for a picnic in the gardens, which are well appointed, even including outdoor cooking facilities. You’ll have to plan in advance or speak to your tour company or farm representatives to see how best you can make use of the facilities for a seamless and fun day out.

  1. Explore the Good Hope Estate and Plantation

This plantation was once Jamaica’s largest sugar plantation. It offers a unique and historical view of the 18th century life of the Island and is one of the most popular things to do in Montego bay. Visitors can enjoy horse-drawn carriage tours, an adventure park with ziplines, river tubing, ATV rides, and an exotic bird aviary. Overnight guests enjoy luxurious, colonial-era stone cottages.

A visit here makes for a great day trip, and you can even go on a carriage ride or tour the plantation house if you want to do something more low-key while there. It’ll take you about 45-minutes to drive from Montego Bay to Falmouth, Jamaica, where the Good Hope Estate and Plantation is located.

  1. Sample award-winning rum at Hampden Estate

Sampling the award-winning rum at Hampden Estate is definitely one of the things to do in Montego bay when visiting. Less than 30 minutes away from Jamaica’s cruise hub in Falmouth is the Hampden Estate Rum Tour. Established in 1753, Hampden Estate is one of the oldest sugar estates in Jamaica. Hampden Estate tours detail the inner workings of the distillery, and you’ll be able to learn more about the rum making process that has been steadily improving over 260 years and sample the award winning rums – Rum Fire and Hampden Estate Gold.

Start the tour travelling l through the rural Jamaican countryside, pass sugar cane fields, and enjoy the magnificent landscape and views. As you approach Hampden Estate you will appreciate why the early Scottish settlers ventured here to seek their fortunes in sugar and rum. Enjoy a hearty Jamaican welcome, and sip on a smooth rum punch while you learn a little about Jamaica, Hampden’s rich history, and the mysteries of rum making. 

Then take a guided walk through the grounds and visit the Distillery to see how our rum continues to be made very much like it was done 260 years ago. Return to the Visitors Center for rum sampling, souvenir shopping, lunch of jerk pork or jerk chicken with festivals and to rap with our tour guides. Finally, leave Hampden with a sense of satisfaction that you just experienced a taste of authentic Jamaica.

  1. Explore Fort Montego

Built in the early 1700s, Fort Montego is one of many forts built by the British to protect Jamaica’s coastline from Pirates, and the naval forces of the Spanish and French. Located just a few minutes from the Donald Sangster International Airport, and walking distance from Montego Bay’s hip-strip, the Fort is central and easy to get to.

Its purpose originally, was about keeping pirates at bay in Montego Bay, and now it’s a tour stop and one the things to do in Montego Bay when visiting. Visitors can explore what is left of the historic fort which also played a part in the defense of the Spanish and French in times of war. Here you’ll find old cannons, an ancient artillery store, and overall a chance to learn more about Jamaica’s history. Consider this as one of the things to do in Montego Bay when visiting.

  1. Sip, shop, and snack in downtown MoBay

Thinking of the best things to do in Montego Bay? Downtown Montego Bay is sort of the center of the city and is always a good time here. There’s always something fun to do, from duty-free shopping, to spending time on the ‘Hip-Strip’ or taking in the action when the sun goes down at places like the Montego Bay MargaritaVille location (which includes a waterslide) and other bars and clubs in the area. 

Here you can find a good spot for lunch and pair your meal with a good ‘ol Jamaican Red Stripe beer, try signature Jamaican beef patties, or other tasty treats. Make some time to check out Juici Patties, Tastee Patties, or Stanley’s for some of the best Jamaican patties while downtown. Doctor’s Cave Beach is also just a short walk away.

  1. Embark on a canopy zipline at Montpelier

This puts a lot of the things to do in Montego Bay into a scintillating feeling. Gain a totally new perspective of Jamaica from the heights of her rainforest! Journey to the heart of the jungle for an unmatched zipline canopy tour. Enjoy this uniquely heart-pounding tour as you fly along ziplines through the rainforest, over river canyons and across mountains. 

For the astonishing grand finale, summon your courage for the Inter-Parish Express – a 1,265-foot-long traverse capable of speeds of over 35-mph. This journey through two worlds sails over the Great River while the rushing waters pound in your ears, then glides through a tunnel of tree leaves as you bask in Jamaica’s profound silent beauty. It’s the only zipline of its kind in Jamaica!

  1. Stroll down the Hip Strip (Gloucester Avenue)

Gloucester Avenue, more popularly known as the ‘Hip Strip’, is the pulsating epicentre of Jamaica’s tourism capital, Montego Bay, that is mere minutes from the Donald Sangster International Airport extending along the stretch of road just above the hotel all the way to the Aquasol Theme Park. With constant music and activity daily from daytime until well past nightfall, this is where the town’s most popular shops, nightclubs, restaurants, bars, and beach hangouts come alive with fun-seeking travelers.

Shopping on the ‘Hip Strip’ is such a popular activity that most daytime sightseeing tours offered by hotels, include a stop off along the strip. You’ll find everything from the ubiquitous ‘Red Stripe beer’, ‘We Be Jammin’ and ‘Life’s A Beach’ t-shirts, eclectic local crafts of wood and seashell to a wealth of fine-jewelry merchants and duty-free items are also available with fair prices and helpful attentive store owners whose no-hassle attitude is a welcome pleasure.

The combination of friendly locals, fun-seeking tourists, thumping reggae music, free-flowing rum drinks and Red Stripe, along with great shopping deals, whether it be from high-end duty-free boutiques or souvenir trinket stalls, all make for exciting, safe, fun-filled experiences just mere steps away from our hotel. It’s a lively area, so it might not be suitable for those looking for a mellow, off-the-beaten-track experience or for small children. It attracts a lot of fun things in Montego Bay.

  1. Play a round of golf at Cinnamon Hill

The Cinnamon Hill Golf Course is a great place to play golf while considering things to do in Montego bay. The 18-hole course has stunning sea and mountainside views, and the varied elevations offer the best of links and inland golf. The course was originally designed by Hank Smedley in 1969 and redesigned by Von Hagee and Baril in 2001

At Cinnamon Hill, you’ll experience the best of Jamaican golf. The cool ocean breeze on your cheeks on a seaside with lush grass and winds moving musically through the pines. 350 feet above the beautiful blue Caribbean sea. The necessary tools will be supplied for the game.

  1. Have the time of your life at MargaritaVille

Montego Bay Margaritaville is located in the middle of MoBay’s famous Hip Strip, the center of nightlife for locals and tourists alike. It’s within walking distance of some resorts and a short cab ride from the cruise pier and other area resorts. Dining is pretty much what you’d expect at a Margaritaville — lots of burgers, jerk chicken, and mildly island-themed munchies.

The MoBay Margaritaville was opened in 1995 by Jamaican owners Brian Jardim and Ian Dear and hasn’t stopped offering fun by the glass since, including some 52 tropical-flavored margaritas and the signature 22-ounce bongs of beer. No kidding. During the day, there is a 120-foot water slide that winds down from the rooftop terrace and flings tourists into the warm water below, but by night it is wisely off limits.

On any given night the place will be wall-to-wall people, dancing, drinking and having the most marvelous time on the dance floor before the requisite giant shark head. Over the years, Margaritaville has entertained superstars such as rappers Nelly, Busta Rhymes, Jermaine Dupree, P.Diddy and Run DMC, and has seen big-name celebrities including the late Dennis Hopper, Cindy Crawford, Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and Uma Thurman. There are lots of fun things to do in Montego Bay in this attraction.

  1. Explore Rocklands Bird Sanctuary

Home to thousands of native and migrant birds, the family-owned Rocklands Bird Sanctuary in the hills of Montego Bay is a haven for feathered friends and a memorable way to spend a few hours. Set within a garden paradise, the sanctuary is a peaceful setting where a spectacular array of birds allow visitors to feed them by hand.

Rocklands Bird Sanctuary is home to some of Jamaica’s most exquisite species of bird. This place is a must as one of the things to do in Montego Bay if you are a bird or nature lover!

The bird sanctuary is located at a quaint little house.  The setting here is absolutely peaceful and relaxing. The birds here are very friendly and have no fear of humans whatsoever. 

Once you get in, you’re given a seat and a bottle of sweetened water. After no more than about 5 minutes, these exotic birds will start flying around you. Once they are comfortable enough and ready, they will land on your finger, and start drinking.

  1. Have a visit to Doctor’s Cave Beach

Visiting the beach should definitely be on the things do in Montego Bay for anyone going to the Caribbean .Set along Montego Bay’s famous Hip Strip stretch along Gloucester Avenue, Doctor’s Cave Beach is one of the most popular beaches on Jamaica’s west coast. A jumping-off point to the pristine 15-acre (6-hectare) Montego Bay Marine Park, the beach offers easy and direct access to fun water-based activities.

By far one of the most popular beaches in Jamaica, Doctor’s Cave Beach got its name in the 1920s, when a famous British osteopath made a public pronouncement that the water on Doctor’s Cave Beach had curative powers. This unlikely declaration lured visitors from all over the world, and not soon after lots of hotels sprung up in the area. It has been a major touristic hot spot ever since, whether or not there was ever any truth to the doctor’s words. 

You can experience Doctor’s Cave Beach as part of a private or group half-day, full-day, or multi-day tour, some of which include sightseeing, shopping, a meal along the Hip Strip, or even a scuba diving excursion. The welcoming beach accommodates all travelers, from relaxing sunbathers to active adventurers. Zoom around on a Jet Ski, take flight on a parasail, cruise in a glass-bottom boat, swim in the warm turquoise water, or simply laze about on the sandy beach with a pina colada in hand.

An on-site rental center offers umbrellas, beach chairs, and snorkel gear. When you’re feeling hungry, take a few steps to the beachside Sand Restaurant and Bar. Cruise visitors often frequent the beach, and it’s also popular for snorkeling. There’s a small charge for admission (US$6).

  1. Enjoy the beach at Sandals Montego Bay

Prepare for an upbeat, active and fun time at Sandals Montego Bay Beach, which is the largest private white sand beach on the north coast. It is also home to the most exclusive all-inclusive resorts that have over the years spread its wings over the Caribbean. The beach of Sandals Montego Bay is well maintained and always in pristine condition. The water reflects the sort of beauty you’ve always imagined you would be able to find on a tropical beach and relaxing on the shore sipping on a fruity cocktail. This beach is accessible for guests of any Sandals Resort in Jamaica.

Sandals Montego Bay – ALL INCLUSIVE Couples Only is located in White House, a neighborhood in Montego Bay, and is near the airport and on the beach. Aquasol Beach Park and AquaSol Theme Park are local attractions and those in the mood for shopping can visit Blue Diamond Shopping Centre and Whitter Village. 

Looking to enjoy an event or a game while in town? See what’s happening at Half Moon Bay Equestrian Centre or Jarret Park. Rafting and boat tours offer great chances to get out on the surrounding water, or you can seek out an adventure with ecotours and ziplining nearby.

Explore various things you can do in Montego Bay in this vidoe.


Getting Around Montego Bay

Taxis are generally the way to get around, as there is no practical bus service in Montego Bay and no minivan shuttles except those maintained by hotels — and they’re usually reserved strictly for the use of registered guests. There is, however, a loose cohesion of quasi-official minivans (referred to as “route taxis”) that follow vaguely predetermined routes, usually along major highways leading in and out of town. 

The best and most reliable of these communal vehicles bear red-colored license plates whose numbers contain the letters “PP” (an abbreviation for “public passengers”) somewhere within their sequences, and the words “route taxis” will be written on the outside of their doors. There are no individual signs indicating anything approaching a clearly designated bus stop, but locals know the points where they should stand along traffic arteries heading in and out of town. Rides cost from US$2, and fares are usually collected before you get in. Try to predetermine the fare before you board.

You can walk to most places within the center of Montego Bay itself, especially along Gloucester Avenue. In other cases, summon a licensed taxi. These have red license plates. A few of them have meters, but more often, government-sanctioned fares between most commonly requested destinations and points of departure are prominently posted inside each vehicle. If you want to hail a taxi to go somewhere outside of town, most of the cabs can be found along Gloucester Avenue.

For the truly adventurous, getting around by bike or motorcycle is another possibility, but frankly, the country’s narrow, deeply potholed roads, the many blind curves, and the general hysteria associated with road traffic make transport by bicycle hazardous.

 


Traveling from Philadelphia to Jamaica

Visa and Passport Requirement

US citizens enjoy visa-free travel to Jamaica for 90 days. However, US citizens are still required to provide some travel documents such as

  1. Valid passport
  2. Hotel itinerary
  3. Flight itinerary
  4. Travel insurance

A passport is always required for international aviation travel. As a result, individuals and minors flying to Jamaica must have a valid passport book. Furthermore, while there is no requirement for a tourist visa to visit Jamaica for up to 90 days, you must have confirmation of return. This can be a return ticket or a flight schedule that must be presented to immigration officers.

Covid 19 Requirement 

The Jamaican Government lifted the travel restrictions on April 16,2022. Therefore, you do not have to provide a negative COVID-19 test result. However, although you are not required to be vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises you to be vaccinated before traveling internationally.

Please make sure that you complete the immigration/customs C5 card online. This is just to ensure faster processing when arriving at the border. Alternatively, you can complete the form in-flight if you haven’t done so before departing from the US.

US citizens returning to the US from Jamaica  do not have to show proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test, or proof of recovery. This is because the CDC lifted the entry requirements for US citizens returning to the US on the 12th of June, 2022.

Visit Caribbean latest travel requirements covid-19 update to get  more information on the covid-19 guidelines. 

Transportation from Philadelphia to Jamaica

The flight time between Philadelphia (PHL) and Montego Bay (MBJ) is around 6h 34m and covers a distance of around 2391 km. This includes an average layover time of around 1h 27m. Services are operated by American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Delta and others. Typically 142 flights run weekly, although weekend and holiday schedules can vary so check in advance.

 

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Enjoy your vacation and stay safe!

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