Caribbean: Jamaica - Montego Bay

Home to beautiful beaches and all-inclusive resorts, you'll want to come back again and again.
by Lori Seto

Kingston may be Jamaica's capital, but Montego Bay owns tourism and shopping. Ever since Sandals opened the first all-inclusive resort near the Montego Bay airport on the northwest coast of the island, "MoBay" has been the tropical destination for young honeymooners on a budget or strapped for time.

In a Word: Shopping

Browse for island crafts such as woodcarvings, paintings, straw bags, and silk batiks at the colorful crafts market, called the "bend down" (and pick things up) market. (Be forewarned: Sellers are insistent. Be polite and don't hesitate to haggle.) Gloucester Avenue has many galleries and duty-free shops, but be patient -- buy rum, Jamaica-born Tia Maria, and handmade Macanudo cigars at the airport on your way home to keep baggage light during your trip.

Why We'd Go: 5 Features You'll Never Forget

  • Golf: MoBay is laden with picturesque, world-class golf greens, including links at Half Moon Golf Club, Tyrall Golf Club, Ironshore Golf and Country Club, and Wyndham Rose Hall Country Club.
  • River rafting: Take the slow, scenic route down the Martha Brae River on a long bamboo raft built for two. (The river was named after an Arawak Indian girl who used her supernatural powers to change the course of the water to drown her Spanish captors, and herself, and keep them from finding a local gold mine.) A guide perched at the front of the raft does all the work, allowing you and yours to sit back, snack, and soak up the sights.
  • Haunted houses: Tour the spooky Rose Hall Great House where Annie Palmer, who was known as the White Witch, brutally murdered three husbands and a plantation overseer who was her lover. Visitors claim that they can see reflections of the murderess in pictures they take of the dining room's chandelier and her bed's headboard.
  • Medicinal properties: Turn-of-the-(last)-century travelers visited the popular Doctor's Cave Beach because its waters were reputed to cure almost any ailment. For earthly remedies, visit the Maroons in Cockpit Country, 15 miles inland from MoBay. These descendents of fugitive slaves who won their independence from imperialistic England live in untaxed and practically ungoverned harmony, and are considered the island's greatest herbalists.
  • Island eats and nightlife: Savory food and hours of dancing will occupy your evenings.

When to Go: Montego Bay at its Best

  • Best weather: December to April. Rain (called "liquid sunshine") is common, especially in October.
  • Best prices: Mid-April to mid-December; exact dates vary by hotel. Hurricane season swirls from June to November (September is trickiest).
  • Festival highlights: Carnival, the highlight of the Jamaican year, is held every April; reggae lovers flock to the Reggae Sumfest every August.

Photo: The Jamaica Tourist Board

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