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Towns of Jamaica: The Popular Tourist Haunt of Montego Bay

Montego Bay is an exceptional, lively town enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. Experience the lively Caribbean charm with its unique Jamaican experience that is Montego Bay. It used to trade in sugar and bananas and has become the tourism capital of Jamaica with easy access and offering many activities for tourists. Activities ranging from relaxing at the famous Doctor’s Cave Beach to rafting on the Martha Brae river.

Coconut Trees Waving, Montego Bay, Jamaica

1. Overview of Montego Bay

Since 1494 when the legendary explorer Christopher Columbus first dropped anchor in Montego Bay, its history has been linked to the development of Jamaica. The Spanish used it as a small port for exporting lard, called 'manteca' in Spanish. The lard was obtained from wild pigs that roamed the hills behind the bay. This led to its English name, Montego Bay, or the 'Bay of Lard.' As the hub of the island's vast sugar industry, the city has been the site of wealthy plantation barons and slave uprisings. Recently, it has become something of a hot spot for tourism, being famous for its idyllic beaches.

In 1655, a British expedition forced out the Spanish and established the parish of St. James that would evolve into the most prosperous region of Jamaica. At the core of this success was sugar, and the handful of sugar barons who owned the plantations became rich on the backs of African slaves. They built lavish homes, churches and other buildings in Montego Bay, most of which were ultimately destroyed by natural disasters, such as hurricanes and fires.

Following the emancipation of slavery in 1834, the island's sugar trade all but vanished. Montego Bay slipped into a period of obscurity until the late 1880s, when a sanatorium was built at Doctor's Cave Beach. Wealthy Brits and Americans began to visit the health retreat to rest and recuperate, leading to the eventual development of tourism in the area. An American airstrip built by the military just east of the city during WWII opened up Montego Bay to larger scale tourism. In the years that followed the war, holiday makers began to discover the beauty of the region's beaches. The city went upscale as chic resorts at Tryall and Round Hill were built in the 1950s and 1960s, together with golf courses.

In recent years, other beach clubs were built in the area, each with its own special character. The Aquasol Beach Park is closest to town on Gloucester Avenue. Cornwall Beach is just a little beyond Doctor's Cave, Tropical Beach and Rose Hall Beach lie further out of town.

A Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica

2. The Resort Town

Montego Bay is the second largest city in Jamaica by area and the third by population (after Kingston and Spanish Town). Montego Bay is called the tourism capital of Jamaica, and arguably one of the premier Caribbean resort destinations. The beautiful seaside city has long been the playground of the world's rich and famous. Easily accessible, Montego Bay boasts a first class international airport as well as a modern port visited by many cruise lines.

Tourism started in the St. James capital back in the 1880s when Dr. Alexander G McCatty founded a sanitarium that he and his medical colleagues could enjoy. Years later it became Doctor’s Cave Beach and now is still a hub for attracting tourists.

Sam Sharpe Square, a pleasant cobble stoned hub of activity, is roughly the centre of the town where stands the Cage. The Cage was formerly a jail for runaway slaves, and the ruins of the Courthouse, built in 1804 and destroyed by fire some 20 years ago. Follow the Heritage Trails to discover more about the rich and vibrant history of the Jamaican people.

On the western side of the harbour, Montego Freeport has been developed on what were once the mangrove swamps of the Bogue Islands. Here are the deep water piers which serve as a cruise port of call and unloading of freight.

The Montego Freeport is the site of the Montego Bay Free Zone, focusing on the manufacture of such things as T-shirts and sportswear, all for export. There are a few Business Process Outsourcing operations here such as Global Outsourcing Solutions.

Rafting on the Martha Brae, Trelawny, Jamaica

2.1 Activities

As Jamaica’s third most populous city, Montego Bay is booming with attractions and activities for every type of traveler.

You can:

· go on an epic eco-adventure with Cockpit Country Adventure Tours where you’ll journey through caverns gleaming with geographical treasures that were once a hideout for Maroon warriors.

· take the family or friend group over to Paintball Jamaica for a fun-filled day of playing in a wooded area with plenty of shade.

· ride down the Martha Brae River on a hand-crafted bamboo raft surrounded by nothing but nature.

· play a round of golf at the Cinnamon Hill Golf Club. The expert caddies are Montegonian and have been rated as some of the best in the world.

· Visit the Montpelier Estate maintained by Chukka’s Jungle Outpost. Hike up to the Montpelier waterfall, zipline over the jungle and go river tubing down the gentle rapids of the Great River.

· explore some of the rivers and caves in Montego Bay with the Bunker’s Hill Cultural Experience while learning about the Tainos, Jamaica’s very first inhabitants. Enjoy an authentic Jamaican meal, then relax by the river as you watch for our beautiful indigenous hummingbirds.

· Shop at inbond stores at plazas such as City Centre Plaza, Holiday Village, Half Moon Shopping Village; and at The main Crafts Market on Harbour Street in town but there are two smaller ones in the hotel area, one next to Fantasy Hotel and another on Fort Street on the site of a 17th century fort

· visit the Lester Art Gallery in the hills above Reading which can be a tour in itself or combined with visits to other places of interest. The house has stunning views. In the same area are Rocklands Bird Sanctuary and Mountain Valley River Rafting.

· find lots of different types of beaches here to explore along with an abundance of water activities among the multitude of things to do in Montego Bay.

2.2 Hotels

Like the plethora of things to do is the vast number of resorts and hotels in Montego Bay. This Jamaican resort city boasts a wide selection of accommodation options including older well-established 5-star luxury resorts, newer all-inclusive hotels, intimate bed and breakfast inns and private villas.

Stay in the center of the action close to the energetic “Hip Strip,” which is Gloucester Avenue where the coast lies just on the other side of businesses that line the avenue. Browse any of the more relaxed options in the hills above the city and the outskirts of the town. Choosing to stay at a hotel in Montego Bay is ideal for those wanting to tour several major attraction sites across the island in opposite directions. Montego Bay has easy access to Ocho Rios, Negril, and St. Elizabeth, which makes it perfect for those planning day trips to see and do it all.


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Jacqueline Cameron is a writer with decades of writing experience running the gamut from blogging to reporting. She lives in Kingston, Jamaica and is the chief writer for the Jamaica So Nice Blog. She is a trained engineer and musician and loves to see people transformed through her work.

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