Top 10 Things To Do In Montego Bay

Enjoy these ten can't-miss activities when you're at Jamaica's Montego Bay.

Montego Bay is Jamaica's most popular travel destination. Nestled in a sheltered area of Jamaica's northwest coast, you can have the vacation of your dreams without leaving the "MoBay" area, as annual visitors call it.

Although most tourists enjoy the sugary sand and convenience of soaking up sunshine at Doctor's Cave Beach, Montego Bay offers many other attractions for visitors, too. Let's start with the beach and explore the town from there.

1. Doctor's Cave Beach - This five-mile stretch of perfection offers everything that you need for a great vacation in the sun. It's not a surprise that the beach can be busy during spring break, with plenty of places to eat and drink, as well as changing rooms and water sports. If you spend every day relaxing at this beach, you're likely to feel that it was a vacation well spent.

2. Snorkeling - If you've never explored the vibrant world just beneath the waves, Montego Bay offers some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean. Expect huge, brightly colored fish that emerge dramatically from their hiding places amid ocean floor vegetation. Because these fish are accustomed to tourists, they often linger and even brush against you in welcome. But, be certain to use waterproof sunscreen, especially on your back. The sun's rays will still reach you through the crystal clear water; you'll be so fascinated by the underwater scenery, you can get a sunburn without realizing it. Bring an underwater camera for memorable photos of ornate coral reefs and beautiful, exotic fish.

3. White water rafting - Several companies offer half-day rafting trips from Montego Bay, to lazy rivers and mineral pools for beginners, and--for more daring guests--adrenaline-filled rafting adventures along Jamaica's fast-paced canyon rivers. These tours take you into the rainforests for a close-up view of unspoiled nature. Experienced international guides lead you safely along the river, and trips are open to children over age four as well as adults.

4. Golf - Montego Bay is possibly the most attractive destination for golfers, with four legendary courses each within a half hours' drive of each other.

Start at the Half Moon Golf, Tennis, and Beach Club. It is well respected for its par-72 course, and Jack Nicklaus includes the Half Moon on his list of "Great Golf Resorts of the World."

Nearby, the Tryall Club also offers a par-72 club, and it has hosted important golf events such as the Johnnie Walker World Championship. Golfers return here year after year, as the Tryall Club earns its reputation for pampering its guests with frankly opulent accommodations.

The new White Witch course at the Ritz-Carleton Resort in nearby Rose Hall is challenging in unique ways: The spectacular views from this 600-acre resort may distract you as you're trying to play. However, the course may be most famous for its ninth hole. Although it's a par-four, the unparalled views starting at the eighth hole and the 150-foot drop at the ninth, make this one of the high points of the course.

Cinnamon Hill (formerly Three Palms) recently underwent a fabulous facelift to emerge as one of the Caribbean's premiere golf courses. Located on a former 400-acre sugar plantation, look for aqueducts and ruins of the old sugar mill that add color and history to this landmark location.

5. Crafts Market - Don't miss a chance to haggle for the lowest prices on wonderful locally made goods and mementos of your vacation. The big market is appropriately on Market Street, and it can be a wild and bustling spot on the weekends. Bargaining with each vendor is considered part of the fun; never pay full price!

6. Shop for art - The internationally famous Gallery of West Indian Art on Fairfield Road is a perfect place to find paintings, hand-turned pottery, and magnificently carved and painted wildlife figures by local artists. Browse other nearby galleries to discover new artists, too. Finally, when you're leaving Jamaica, leave early for the airport. "Things Jamaican" at the Sangster Airport features exquisite smaller (and generally unbreakable) art pieces to tuck into your carry-on luggage.

7. Rockland Feeding Station - Spend an afternoon discovering the many spectacular varieties of birds that are native to Jamaica. Bring your camera for photos that you'll want to display on your walls when you return home. Whether you're lucky enough to capture a picture of Jamaica's famous vervian hummingbirds--the world's second-smallest birds--or elegant coral and white flamingoes on parade, you're sure to be amazed at the variety of wildlife at Rockland, just south of Montego Bay.

8. Rose Hall - This eighteenth-century Colonial home was once the grandest estate in the islands. Today, its ruins are open to visitors, and a pub--in the estate's dungeons--is a fine place to spend a late afternoon after touring the remains of the mansion.

At dusk, watch for the ghost of beautiful Annie Palmer who still haunts her infamous home. Mrs. Palmer was murdered in 1831 during a slave uprising, but her colorful life and ruthless acts led to her inevitable downfall. Was it Voodoo or something else that Annie, the "White Witch" used to kill each of her three husbands? No one is sure, but her ghost and the spirits that she once summoned--including the startlingly powerful "three-legged horse from Hell"--make Rose Hall one of the Caribbean's favorite sites.

9. Festivals, carnivals, and special annual events - If you can handle the heat and the crowds, plan your Montego Bay vacation for the summer during the annual Reggae Sumfest at the Bob Marley Performing Center. Locals as well as top-name performers provide energizing entertainment amid a boisterous party atmosphere.

If you're looking for elegance, the Hanover Charities produce an annual fundraiser that's usually a black-tie event. In 2005, it was a carnival with a James Bond 007 theme. For over 40 years, money raised by these annual events has provided the island with services including educational supplies for schools and help for the homeless. If you're planning your vacation around February, be sure to ask about these popular annual fundraisers.

Or, if you'll be in Jamaica during an odd-numbered year, join the Pineapple Cup-Montego Bay Yacht Race. Every second year, over a dozen yachts race from Florida's Port Everglades through the Bahamas, and then takes the Windward Passage to Montego Bay. This race covers about three days (72+ hours), and three-time winner Ted Turner aptly described it as "the world's greatest ocean racing course."

10. Sunset cruises and midnight sails - From the exuberance of yacht racing to lazy, sultry cruises just beyond the shore, Montego Bay's waters earn their reputation for beauty. Choose a luxury yacht, or sail pirate-style aboard an old wooden sailing ship. Boats depart from Montego Bay for unforgettable cruises and the most romantic and peaceful sunset views you'll ever experience. Most offer dinner as well.

Or, for something more dramatic, schedule a late night cruise on nearby Falmouth's luminous lagoon. Watch the ghostly outlines of fish as they dart and swim through the phosphorescent waters, leaving streaks of eerie light behind them.

Whether you choose relaxation, romance or adventure, Jamaica's Montego Bay is an ideal vacation destination.

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