A Destination Review of Montego Bay
MoBay, the Second City
Currency: Jamaican Dollar
Montego Bay has long been a popular tourist destination, and it’s not hard to see why. Located on the island nation of Jamaica, 90 miles south of Cuba in the Carribean Sea, Montego Bay is the center of tourism for the country. The year-round warm temperatures and pristine turquoise waters are an open invitation to vacationers and beachgoers around the world. The reefs around the island are perfect for scuba divers. With many all-inclusive resorts to choose from, it is the perfect place to relax and indulge.
The island of Jamaica has a long history with cannabis. The plant plays a major role in the Rastafarian religion which originates from Jamaica. Through the rise in popularity of reggae artists such as the late Bob Marley, cannabis has become closely associated with the island nation. In 2015 Jamaica officially decriminalized cannabis, and that may be a reason for the uptick in visitors in recent years. Luckily, it’s not something that is everywhere, so people who don’t partake don’t have to worry.
Things to Do and See
Tourism in Montego Bay may be a little different than what you are used to. More than likely your resort or hotel will be an all-inclusive where all of your food and drinks are covered. From your accommodations, you’ll hire a driver who will take you on what is basically an excursion. It’s all very reminiscent of a cruise. This system has advantages and disadvantages that we’ll look at shortly.
9 Mile is a small mountain countryside village and birthplace of Bob Marley. This is also where you will find the Bob Marley Mausoleum. Take a tour of Bob’s childhood home guided by the local rastas and see some of the inspiration for some of his most famous songs. This is also the final resting place of the reggae legend. In true Rastafarian fashion, this is a very cannabis-friendly tour.
You can also take a tour of a marijuana farm while in 9 Mile. The rastas take you through the row after row of the plants and explain why Jamaican weed is unique. It’s an interesting tour whether you partake or not. The tour may be on a hill that might be a little challenging for some. You may not want to wear your best shoes either.
YS Falls is a set of waterfalls located in St. Elizabeth on Jamaica’s South Coast on the Black River. The falls consist of seven tiers surrounded by lush green gardens. The waters are crystal clear unless it has been raining, but even then it’s still as beautiful. You can take a guided tour through the falls up to the top, or you can take the trail along the side to the top tier. The top tier has a swimming hole and rope swings. There is also ziplining from the top of the falls. But brace yourself, because the water coming down from the mountains is cold all year round.
Negril is another popular tourist and resort area of Jamaica. The town is consistently in the rankings for the best beaches in the world. To me where Montego Bay is about indulgence, Negril is more about beach bumming. Negril is also where you will find the famous Rick’s Cafe featuring cliff divers and arguably the best sunsets in Jamaica.
Go by Boat
You can’t really experience Jamaica unless you do it by boat. From the shores, you miss out on things like the rocky shoreline or the reefs that give the water those beautiful contrasting colors. You’ve got plenty of options from sunset booze cruises, glass-bottom boat rides, or charter a private catamaran for you and your friends to do some snorkeling.
As you can imagine, Montego Bay has a pretty decent nightlife scene. Many of the resorts have a variety of shows throughout the week as well as nightclubs and bars. Outside of the resorts, you won’t find big mega clubs, but more of an open-air beach vibe. Many of the popular spots are restaurants during the day and turn into clubs in the evening. There’s a good chance that when you leave the clubs outside of the resorts, there will be people outside trying to sell you everything under the sun. Hiring a driver to take you and pick you up, can help avoid some of the madness.
Jamaica as a whole is home to some excellent food. However, this is where the excursion system can let you down. There’s a good chance that your hotel will serve food with an international audience in mind, so you may not get that authentic experience. And drivers seem to always want to take you to a jerk chicken place. It makes sense being that jerk chicken is Jamaica’s most well-known dish, but there is so much more. Oxtails, curry goat, plantains, fresh seafood, and the list goes on. You may need to be a little proactive or risk missing out on deliciousness. Drivers can get you to some good places.
Montego Bay isn’t overly expensive. While the Jamaican dollar is the official currency, a lot of places accept and prefer US dollars. It’s convenient, but be aware that you probably won’t get the best exchange rate.
You probably won’t find any real deals on flights due to the limited number of airlines that fly into the island, but tickets, in general, aren’t ridiculous. With many of the resorts being all-inclusive, you won’t really need to budget for meals. Make sure that you have some cash for food when you’re out excursions. Excursion prices are on par with similar destinations.
Jamaica has some rough spots, but this is the real advantage of the excursion system. Hotels and drivers have a real incentive to take care of the people that visit. Tourism is a huge part of the economy and the last thing they need is an incident that makes tourists think twice about visiting. Hotel staff and drivers try to steer you out of trouble’s way. However, not all drivers are the same and many work independently without anyone overseeing their actions. Either book a driver with verified reviews online ahead of time or use one that the hotel staff is familiar with. Also, keep in mind that although hotels and resorts a generally safe, you should still use good common sense practices as there have been incidents involving hotel staff and other guests.
Name: Montego Bay
Description: Mobay, the Second City
Things to Do and See
MoBay, the Second City
Everything is guided
Safety could be an issue outside of resorts