Montego Bay, Jamaica | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
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Montego Bay, Jamaica

Montego Bay, commonly referred to as MoBay, is the second largest city in the island nation Jamaica, a member of the British Commonwealth. Montego Bay is the capital of St. James Parish, one of the 14 parishes in Jamaica.

Christopher Columbus sailed into the bay in 1494 and named it "el Golfo de Buen Tiempo" or Fair Weather Bay. The first record of a Spanish settlement here shows it as Monterias. The Spaniards hunted the herds of wild hogs that used to roam the hills and produced and exported 'hog butter' or lard. The name Montego derives from the Spanish "manteca" meaning lard, and Montego Bay is shown on some ancient maps as Lard Bay.

Due in part to its location on the island's north shore, Montego Bay has long since earned the title of 'tourist capital of Jamaica.' It receives the bulk of international flights, and is home to Sangster International Airport, the larger of Jamaica's two main international... Read more

Montego Bay, Jamaica


Montego Bay, commonly referred to as MoBay, is the second largest city in the island nation Jamaica, a member of the British Commonwealth. Montego Bay is the capital of St. James Parish, one of the 14 parishes in Jamaica.

Christopher Columbus sailed into the bay in 1494 and named it "el Golfo de Buen Tiempo" or Fair Weather Bay. The first record of a Spanish settlement here shows it as Monterias. The Spaniards hunted the herds of wild hogs that used to roam the hills and produced and exported 'hog butter' or lard. The name Montego derives from the Spanish "manteca" meaning lard, and Montego Bay is shown on some ancient maps as Lard Bay.

Due in part to its location on the island's north shore, Montego Bay has long since earned the title of 'tourist capital of Jamaica.' It receives the bulk of international flights, and is home to Sangster International Airport, the larger of Jamaica's two main international airports. It is a tourist destination known for its duty-free shopping, cruise line terminal, and the sheltered Doctor's Cave beach with clear turquoise waters, which is one of the most famous beaches on the island.


When Christopher Columbus for the first time visited the island in 1494, he named the bay Golfo de Buen Tiempo ("Fair Weather Gulf"). The name "Montego Bay" is believed to have originated as a corruption of the Spanish word manteca ("lard"), allegedly because during the Spanish period it was the port where lard, leather, and beef were exported. Jamaica was a colony of Spain from 1511 until 1655, when Oliver Cromwell's Caribbean expedition, the Western Design, drove the Spanish from the island.

During the epoch of slavery, from the mid-17th century until 1834, and well into the 20th century, the town functioned primarily as a sugarcane port. The island's last major slave revolt, the Christmas Rebellion or Baptist War (1831–1832) took place in the area around Montego Bay; the leader of the revolt, Samuel Sharpe, was hanged there in 1832. In 1975, Sharpe was proclaimed a national hero of Jamaica, and the main square of the town was renamed in his honor.

Montego Bay's city status prior to British rule was debated, however, it had its city status revoked during Jamaica's British colonial. In 1980, it was re-proclaimed a city by act of parliament, but this has not meant that it has acquired any form of autonomy as it continues to be an integral part of the parish of St. James.

Today, Montego Bay is known for its large regional hospital (Cornwall Regional Hospital), port facilities, second homes for numerous upper-class Jamaicans from Kingston as well as North Americans and Europeans, fine restaurants, and shopping opportunities. The coastland near Montego Bay is occupied by numerous tourist resorts, most newly built, some occupying the grounds of old sugarcane plantations with some of the original buildings and mill-works still standing. The most famous is the White Witch's Rose Hall which now features a world-class golf course.

The infrastructure of the city is going through a series of explosive modernizations which once completed, aims to keep Montego Bay as a top destination in the region. The Montego Bay Convention Centre, built on a large site near to the Rose Hall estate, was opened by Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding on 7 January 2011.

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Montego Bay, Jamaica: Port Information

Four cruise ships can dock at the pier simultaneously. Downtown is about three miles away. 
Cruise terminal has many duty-free shops, an info center, an Internet cafe, a lounge zone, etc.
Taxis are available for a good price. However, we recommend buying a day pass for a shuttle so you can hop on and off all day long.  

Get around Montego Bay, Jamaica

By foot

Gloucester Avenue, which is lined with tourist hotels, shops, and restaurants, has sidewalks on both sides and is best visited on foot. Aside from this road, walking may be considerably less safe.

By bus, taxi

Buses, minibuses, and route taxis arrive and depart from the transportation station off Barnett St at the south end of St James St. There’s an inspector’s office (7 AM-6 PM) inside the gate where you can ask for the departure point of the bus you’re seeking.

Montego Bay Metro (952-5500; 19A Union St) introduced in 2000 a municipal bus service. Montego Bay Metro now operates three routes: Greenwood to City Centre; Sandy Bay to City Centre; and Cambridge to City Centre.

Taxis are readily available, but as with all cities be aware that some drivers will be less honest or reliable than others. Follow your instincts; never get into an unmarked car with someone who offers you a ride, and stick with taxi services you recognize. 

Another very common way of getting anywhere is by tour van.

What to see in Montego Bay, Jamaica

  • The Centerstage Theatre, Dominica Dr. New Kingston, ☎ +1 876-968-7529. Small but cozy. Family-oriented musicals in patois.
  • Downtown. Busy, noisy, intimidating, but refreshingly real. This is not quite what people think of as a tourist attraction. However, this is the best place to go and experience the "real" Jamaica. Amidst the crumbling buildings and incessant traffic, Jamaicans go about their daily lives only 1km but a world away from the glitzy resorts on the hip-strip. Here, sidewalks are almost non-existent, hawkers sell their wares next to garbage-piles and getting around is like playing an advanced level of Frogger. Nevertheless, this is the place to go and eat at a real local eatery or buy some more authentic souvenirs. What's more, there is some seriously interesting architecture in and around the central square. Don't be too intimidated, here, people are generally more likely to be genuinely interested in you (and why you're walking around the city center) rather than try and hustle you for money. Still, it's probably best to avoid here after dark, leave unessentials behind, and to dress down...wearing shorts, sunglasses, sandals, and a tank-top will immediately scream "Lost Tourist!". Wear pants, shoes, and a button shirt, and people may even ask what kind of work you do in Jamaica (seriously!), or (perhaps tongue-in-cheek)if you are Jamaican. Stick around for more than a half hour, and the intimidation wears off and you feel at one with the crowd. The most important thing to gain here is a little perspective. Come face-to-face with the harsh realities of Jamaican life, and maybe you'll have a little more respect for Jamaicans.
  • The hip strip on Gloucester Avenue-which is lined with tourist hotels, shops, and restaurants-has sidewalks on both sides and is best visited on foot.

What to do in Montego Bay, Jamaica

  • Cornwall Beach, ☎ +1 876 952-3463. 9 AM-5 PM. Snorkeling, swimming, and other fun beach activities.

  • Doctor's Cave Beach

    , Gloucester Ave, ☎ +1 876 952-2566. 8:30 AM-Sunset. The water is crystal clear and snorkeling is available. It can get a bit crowded during the busy season, but it's still a great place to go for the family. 
  • Dunn’s River Falls & Park

    Ocho Rios, Jamaica, W.I., ☎ +1 876 974-2857. 8:30 AM - 4 PM. Dunn's River Falls & Park comes to mind which is in Ocho Rios that is about two hours from Montego Bay by taxi cab. There are four rivers combined into one unending flow of rapid descent that drains directly into the Caribbean Sea. Adventurous tourist can climb the falls by forming a human chain led by an experienced Dunn’s river falls guide. 
  • John Halls Montego Bay Adventure Tour. Thorough and thrilling tour of Jamaica's beauty and culture. 
  • KiteBoarding Jamaica, Bounty Bay, Trelawny (only 20min from Montego Bay), ☎ +1 876-583-2255. Jamaica's only Kite surfing center, great kite surfing on the Caribbean sea, suitable for all levels.
  • Montego Bay Sea Trek AdventureDoctor's Cave Beach. 1 hour. Underwater adventures on the ocean floor. 
  • Walter Fletcher Beach, ☎ +1 876 979-9447. M-Th 9 AM-7 PM, F-Su 9 AM-10 PM. Swimming, boat rides, and other beach time fun. 
  • Chukka Caribbean Adventures.
  • Mayfield Falls 

    (Renting a car and driving on an adventurous unsealed road (in parts) might be the easiest way to get there.). Mayfield Falls is the less-touristy option and much calmer than Dunn's Falls. They are a 1,5hr drive south-west from MoBay. Local guides offer 1,5hr tours where you climb up the falls and return on a short trek. The tour includes jumping in pools, diving through tunnels and climbing stones. Jumping from a high tree might also be possible. You might ask your guide for an unofficial "nature tour" which takes you 2hrs up the falls through fields (maybe ganja as well) and means climbing the falls down. With driving there you will also have the chance to see rural life on Jamaica as you pass through little farmer villages. 
  • Jamaican Taxi Tours, ☎ +1 (876) 429-8664, e-mail: Jamaican Taxi Tours provide professional and licensed drivers who can take you to the desired destination and sightseeing tour comfortably and safely. Our tours are ideal for every traveler, covering various interests such as archeology, history, culture, religion and the best aspect of Jamaica in the most relaxing and exciting way.
  • Travel Around Jamaica Tours, ☎ +1 (876) 287-2180, e-mail: Travel Around Jamaica Tours is a Montego Bay, Jamaica-based private airport transfer and tour company, which offers private airport transfers to all hotels, resorts and villas in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Negril. As well as private transfers to popular tourist destinations in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril.


  • Dreamer Catamaran Cruises, Rapsody Tours, Charters & Cruise Limited, Gloucester Avenue, ☎ +1 876 979-0102, fax: +1 876 979-0101, e-mail: M-Sa 10 AM-1 PM/3 PM-6 PM. The Dreamer Catamaran cruises are a great way to explore the Caribbean Ocean. On the Catamaran cruise, there is an opportunity for sightseeing, snorkeling, drinking, sunbathing. The staff is very friendly, helpful and patient, making sure newcomers to snorkeling feel comfortable with their equipment and what to look for while exploring the sea. After snorkeling, alcohol is served on the catamaran, along with massages by the crew members. The Dreamer Catamaran cruises are fun, safe, and a great experience. 

All day, representatives from tour companies will stroll the beaches, offering parasailing, horseback riding, and a million other fun activities; if you're interested, keep your ears and eyes open for these guys, but remember to always play it safe and go with companies you recognize and trust. A lot can go wrong during these activities if the people in charge don't know what they're doing!

  • Rockland Bird Sanctuary, e-mail: 9 AM-5 PM. Enjoy the many varieties of birds that make the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary a wonderful nature place.

What to eat and drink in Montego Bay, Jamaica


Most restaurants also serve drinks. Try a tropical drink or grab a cold Red Stripe in the signature brown bottle, then relax and take in the scenery!

  • Pier One Seafood, Howard Cooke Blvd, ☎ +1 876 952-2452. Open-air restaurant serving well-liked seafood and umbrella drinks with a great view of the bay.
  • Evelyn's, Whitehouse (near Sandals Montego Bay), ☎ +1 876 952 3280. M-Sa 9 AM-9 PM, Su 10 AM-6 PM. Very reasonable prices, right on the beach, and the food is heavenly.
  • Pork Pit, 27 Gloucester Ave, ☎ +1 876-952-3663. Right on the main strip in town, serving what some say is Jamaica's best jerk chicken and pork cooked over coals.
  • Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville, Gloucester Ave. A tourist spot on the "hip strip" Gloucester Avenue, that is great for the whole family. Jamaica is known for its Jerk and Curry Chicken, which are both excellent here at Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville. They have entertainment, a hot tub, an 11-foot water slide that leads you into the ocean where there is also a water trampoline. Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville also has a gift shop, with a wide variety of souvenirs including t-shirts, shorts, hats, shot glasses, key chains, etc. This is a great place to get away from the resorts, it is located about 15 minutes from the resort areas and is always a great place to grab a bite to eat. Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville is always a great reminder of home, and always has a sense of “home” even in other countries.
  • Day-O Plantation Restaurant, ☎ +1 876-952-1825. A favorite spot for romantic occasions, offering garden dining and Jamaican fusion cuisine.
  • Belfield 1794. M-Sa 6:30-11 PM. Located in an old sugar mill and offering Jamaican favorites in an unusual setting. 
  • The Pelican Grill, Gloucester Avenue Hip Strip (Across the street from the old Hospital Park on the Gloucester Ave. Hip Strip. Near Doctor's Cave Beach.), ☎ 1-876-952-3171NOCC, e-mail:


  • Royal Stocks English Pub (in the gardens of The Half Moon Village Shopping Village), ☎ +1 876 953-9770, e-mail:

Shopping in Montego Bay, Jamaica

  • Montego Bay shopping center. You can find more reasonably priced souvenirs, and eat some real native Jamaican food. A traveler can find really great deals on gourmet coffee in which is produced right on the island, and Jamaican spices, art, and scented body oils. You can get there by taxi or local shuttle.

Safety in Montego Bay, Jamaica

While Montego Bay is a relatively safe city, normal precautions should be observed. Stay in groups, and stick to tourist areas. The rural areas are especially dangerous. Most locations in close proximity to the resorts are safe.

Jamaicans are very friendly people. In touristy areas though, be aware there are many people who will welcome you, ask you where you're from and offer advice are looking for money. Especially people who go out of their way to say hello. Many will be willing to walk you to a recommended restaurant or offer to show you around. These people will always ask for money in return. Even after giving a few dollars, they will even ask for more. Don't be afraid to say no, and to avoid these people from the start.

When walking down the street, people looking for money will look for ways to grab your attention, such as a fist pound or handshake. Do not be afraid to keep walking, and politely say "no thank you". This can get very tedious at times but think similarly to how you will deal with panhandlers in any major city. When choosing not to stop, you might get some accusations of being "racist", "why you in a hurry", "why you being rude" and such. Remember when walking away they are still trying to get your attention, don't take it personally. Typically, a pleasant "thank you" and "have a nice day" will stop them. Also note, shops will have staff standing in front of stores, to get you to come in. A simple no thank you will suffice.


It is illegal to buy and/or use drugs in Jamaica. Commonly, you may be offered marijuana 'smoke... smoke?', "the Bob Marley" or simply "weed" by the locals. A pleasant "no thank you" will usually suffice. Do not be surprised if you are offered weed several times throughout your stay because there is a demand for it by some travelers. In addition, you might be offered a free amount. If you are not interested, just firmly but politely say "No, thank you" and go on your way.

Language spoken in Montego Bay, Jamaica

Jamaican Standard English is the official language of Jamaica, and Jamaican Patois is the national language. 


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