Montego Bay, the capital of Jamaica’s St. James Parish, covers the second largest city area on the island and is the fourth most populated city. It is a popular tourist destination, marked by duty-free shopping, a terminal for cruise ships, and world-famous beaches. Christopher Columbus first visited Jamaica in 1494 and gave the region the name of Golfo de Buen Tiempo, or The Gulf of Fair Weather. The last major slave revolt occurred in the Montego Bay area in 1832. Montego Bay was designated a city through an act of Parliament in 1980. Its coastline feature many tourist resorts, several being built on the grounds of former sugar plantations.
1) The Martha Brae River
Visitors to the river have the opportunity to take a slow, relaxing raft trip through the inviting natural beauty of the area. The river, only about four feet deep most of the year, can rise as high as 12 feet in the rainy season. Besides the chance to see native lemongrass, allspice, and almond trees, as well as wild parrots, visitors may also take advantage of excellent swimming
2) Rose Hall Great House
Rose Hall is the greatest of the “great houses” on Jamaica. It was built in 1770 by John Palmer but then was inherited by his grandnephew John Rose Palmer. John married an English woman named Annie, who was thought to use “black magic.” It is said that Annie’s powers resulted in the death of John, after which she ruled Rose Hall and eliminated two other husbands and several lovers. She was known as the White Witch of Rose Hall, and some believe that Annie can still be seen passing through the rooms of the Great House on occasion. Rose Hall’s dungeon has been made into a tavern, which serves a famous cocktail called “Witches Brew” that protects visitors from the lingering effects of any black magic they encounter there!
3) Cornwall Beach
Cornwall Beach is a popular destination for scuba diving and snorkeling enthusiasts, featuring a protected underwater marine park that offers close-up encounters with fish and other sea life. There are also cabanas, a bar, and a cafeteria on the beach, as well as a crafts center where visitors may watch artisans working. Saturdays feature a beach party with dancing and gambling on donkey and goat races.
4) Croydon Plantation
For those who want to experience the true spirit of Jamaica, a visit to Croydon Plantation in the interior of the island is recommended. Croydon is a working plantation located at the foot of the Cataldupa Mountains and offers breathtaking views of the countryside. Samuel Sharpe, a major fighter against slavery and one of Jamaica’s national heroes, was born here. Visitors have the opportunity to sample several varieties of pineapple, citrus fruits, and sugar cane. Guided tours through coffee groves provide information about growing and processing coffee.
5) Montego Bay Marine Park
This is the first national park established in Jamaica. It is especially famous for its wall dives and underwater attractions like coral reefs, ship wrecks, tunnels, and sea creatures. Underwater adventurers may dive to depths ranging from waist-deep to 30 feet to 100 feet straight down. A paradise for snorkelers, this park also features glass-bottom boats by which visitors can view Buccaneer Beach and Doctor’s Cave. Large catamarans are also available for large groups to view the marine park’s islands, white-sand beaches, river estuaries, and mangrove forests
and coral reefs.
6) Greenwood Great House
Greenwood Great House was once the home to the cousin of English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It features a museum the largest collection of antique musical instruments on the island. It was built in 1800 and retains much of the original furnishings. The Barrett family’s possession of the property began in 1655 when Hersey Barrett, an officer sent by Britain to capture Hispaniola from the Spanish, was granted lands in Jamaica for his efforts and settled here. The Barretts became extremely wealthy and ultimately owned more than 84,000 acres and over 2,000 slaves. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s father Edward had an income of over 60,000 pounds per year when he left the island to live in London. His cousin Richard remained in Jamaica, eventually becoming Speaker of the House of Assembly and a judge.
7) Zipline Adventure Tour
The tour features some of the longest ziplines available on the island and offers excellent view of rural Jamaica. The lines travel in the tree canopy for 250 to 1,600 feet. Views include the Jamaican hills, farms, and rivers. Visitors can reach speeds of 40 mph along the lines! Each tour includes an off-road ride in a military troop transport vehicle and an eco tour exploring the “Flavors of Jamaica.”
8) Doctor’s Cave Beach
Although the beach is only some 300 yards long, its calm waters make it the best beach in Montego Bay. The beach was developed in 1906 when Dr. Alexander James McCatty donated the property in order to found a bathing club in the area. The beach was originally entered through a cave, and most of the bathing club’s members were physicians – hence, the name “Doctor’s Cave.” In the 1920s, British osteopath Sir Herbert Berker claimed curative powers for the waters at the beach. Unfortunately, the cave was destroyed during a hurricane in 1932, but the clear waters, which have an average temperature of between 78 and 84 degrees all year, continue to attract many swimmers.
9) Animal Farm
Birdwatchers and nature lovers will enjoy a visit to the rain-forested hills near Montego Bay. Visitors to the animal farm will see exotic birds, butterflies, and botanical gardens. The site features picnic grounds, a petting zoo, river rafting, and hiking along nature trails. Tourists can also visit the herb garden and take advantage of the massage gazebo.
10) The Gloucester Avenue
Gloucester Avenue in Montego Bay is also called the “Hip Strip” and is home to more than 60 shops and 35 bars and restaurants. Nearby is the famous Doctor’s Cave Beach as well as other fine local beaches. The Hip Strip is the one of the premier shopping areas in Jamaica, and it is near Montego Bay’s airport.