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The Towns of Jamaica: Montego Bay

Updated: Jun 10, 2019

Map of Jamaica showing Montego Bay


Montego Bay, capital of the parish of St. James, is one of two Jamaican cities with with an official city status. Referred to as "The Second City," it is more widely known as MoBay in local lingo and sometimes Bay by the locals. With a population of 100,000, the city is the fourth largest urban area by population after Kingston, Spanish Town and Portmore. Montego Bay is designated the second-largest Anglophone city in the Caribbean, after Jamaica's capital city, Kingston.

Montego Bay, a resort town with a thriving cruise ship port, is a hot spot for value-seeking tourists. Its attractions include golf courses, restaurants, cafes, shops, galleries, and hotels and resorts lining the beaches. This is a lively area with reggae music and all kinds of entertainment day and night. Montego Bay is home to some splendid colonial architecture and a few prominent historical sites. One of the biggest attractions in the area is the Rose Hall Great House, a former plantation with an accompanying legend. Some noteworthy buildings are the 1770s Court House, the restored Bellefield Great House and Gardens, and the Burchell Memorial Church, built in 1824. Shoppers may want to stop by the craft market or take a stroll along Gloucester Avenue or Harbour Street.


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

During the epoch of slavery, from the mid-17th century until 1834, then well into the 20th century, the town was mainly 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 renamed in his honor.

Today, Montego Bay is known for its large regional hospital, port facilities, vacation homes, fine restaurants, and shopping. The coastland near Montego Bay boasts numerous tourist resorts, some occupying the grounds of old sugarcane plantations. 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 modernizations which should 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, opened on 7 January 2011.

Sharing a Coconut Water


The majority of the city's population is of African descent. The city is also home to minority ethnic groups such as the East Indians and Chinese. They came to the country as indentured servants in the mid-to-late 19th century. The Chinese especially, occupy important roles in retail in the city's economy. The city's East Indian population also play a key role in retail as they operate many gift and jewelry shops in the city. Another minority group are the Europeans, descendants of German and English immigrants.

The city is also home to many immigrants from Hispanic countries such as Mexico, Cuba and Spain, also European countries such as France, Russia and Italy.


Montego Bay is important to Jamaica's economy. The city holds most of the weight of the country's tourism sector. Montego Bay port has the highest volume of stopover visitors. The city hosts many international resorts such as the Hyatt, Hilton Hotels, Holiday Inn, RIU Hotels, Royalton and Iberostar. The city is home to the headquarters of international resort chain, Sandals. The Government of Jamaica is focusing on boosting the city's entertainment and culinary offerings. Although the city's airport hosts a number international chains like Auntie Annie's, Quiznos, Nathan's, and Dairy Queen, the city does not have access to these restaurants. By virtue of this new focus, the city has become home to a newly established Hard Rock Café. In November 2017, Starbucks opened its first Jamaican location, at Doctor's Cave Beach, Montego Bay. The city also serves as the Head Office for Starbucks' operations in Jamaica.

Cruise Ship in Montego Bay Port



The North Coast Highway runs through the city of Montego Bay; it connects Montego Bay with Kingston. The Montego Bay to Falmouth route is another major road within the city. The city is also well served by buses, mini-buses and taxis, which operate from the Montego Bay Transport Centre.

The Government of Jamaica is building a toll road city bypass to reduce traffic congestion and travel times. The bypass is to begin at Westgate and end at Ironshore.


The disused Montego Bay railway station once used to serve the Kingston to Montego Bay route. The railway station opened about 1894 and closed in 1992 when all passenger traffic on Jamaica's railways ceased.


Montego Bay is served by Jamaica's largest airport, the Sir Donald Sangster International Airport. The airport is the busiest airport in the English-speaking Caribbean, serving 4.3 million passengers in 2017.

The airport was the hub of Jamaica's former national airline, Air Jamaica. The site is now the headquarters for Island Routes, a company owned by the Sandals-ATL Group.

Montego Bay is served by several North American and European airlines, connecting Jamaica with the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and South America. The southern U.S. city of Miami can be reached within 70 minutes from Montego Bay. The southern U.S. cities of Charlotte, Houston, Atlanta and Tampa can be reached by non-stop flights in less than three hours. Other locations like Philadelphia, New York City, Toronto, Washington D.C. and Montreal can be reached in under four hours. The airport is also one of two airports in the Caribbean, that has non-stop flights to Los Angeles. This allows passengers to connect with flights to Asia, Australia and Oceania. The airport has undergone a major expansion since 2003; it has won awards, including the coveted World Travel Award for being the Caribbean's Leading Airport.


There is a free port and cruise line terminal on a man-made peninsula jutting into the bay.


Accommodation is abundant. Large resorts and all-inclusive hotels preside over the best patches of sand, and you'll find more guest rooms here than any other part of Jamaica. For first time visitors to Montego Bay, the best place to stay for seeing all the sights is along the main beach area near Doctor's Cave Beach and Gloucester Avenue, the "Hip Strip." The Hip Strip also boasts art galleries, restaurants, and shops. For those seeking a little more seclusion, the stretches of beach northeast and south of the town are home to most of the exclusive, upscale resorts.

Sundown at Doctor's Cave Beach


Sun-soaked beaches, historic plantations, tropical gardens, and a lush countryside rippling with jungle peaks provide a peaceful escape from the urban grit of the downtown area. Divers and snorkelers can explore the protected waters of the Montego Bay Marine Park as well as reefs on the outskirts of the beaches. Other popular things to do include fishing, golfing, guided river rides on bamboo rafts, and ziplining through the jungle. A busy lineup of festivals, concerts, and sporting events adds to the fun. The Montego Bay Yacht Club hosts the bi-annual Pineapple Cup Montego Bay Race, and music lovers flock here each year for Reggae Sumfest.

The top 8 attractions in Montego Bay are:

· Martha Brae River Rafting

· Doctor's Cave Beach

· Rose Hall Great House

· Dunn's River Falls & Nine Mile Day Trip

· Jungle Ziplining Tours

· Croydon in the Mountains

· Greenwood Great House

· Rocklands Bird Sanctuary


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