It’s been a long time since we took a Jamaica vacation – almost 17 years in fact. We took our honeymoon to Jamaica, way back in 2001. We stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Ochos Rios, and we barely left the resort. I swore this time it would be different. We planned a trip to Jamaica, in part to eat Jamaican food, and to find the best things to do in Montego Bay, outside of the resort. Because when planning a trip to Jamaica, it’s important to know that there is more to Jamaica than rum and all-inclusive resorts.
It’s true that a lot of Jamaica holidays start and stop on the resort. And, that is perfectly fine. But, when planning a trip to Jamaica, think outside the box! And, think outside the resort! Let us help you plan a trip to Jamaica that helps you learn more about the island and the Jamaican people.
Jamaica is a large island. It’s virtually impossible to see the whole thing in one trip. So, during this trip to Jamaica, we stayed in Montego Bay. There are some really nice Montego bay resorts, some of them only minutes from the Montego Bay airport. But we wanted to explore, and explore we did! Let this Jamaica travel blog help you do the same, to explore a Caribbean island in a somewhat different way.
Planning a Trip to Jamaica
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
Best Things to Do In Jamaica
Many of the attractions in Jamaica are found all over the Caribbean, including zip-lining and other adventure activities. But, when looking at what to do in Jamaica, we focused on what to do in Montego Bay that was a little bit different. And, we were able to find some unique Montego Bay attractions, all of which are about an hour or less drive from the best Montego Bay beaches. Some of these activities are not ones that we generally would’ve booked ourselves. So, when they were booked for us, we found ourselves a little surprised by many of them. Let this Montego Bay trip planner help you.
Traveling to Ochos Rios? Check out this list of the best things to do in Ochos Rios.
Things to Do In Montego Bay
In addition to eating amazing traditional Jamaican food, when planning a trip to Montego Bay Jamaica, think about how many days you have. When looking at your days, think about how many you want to spend poolside versus looking at what to do in Jamaica. There are plenty of Montego Bay things to do and see even if you only have one day to explore.
Montego Bay Travel Guide
Croydon Plantation Tour
One of the Montego Bay activities that we did that was slightly farther away from the Montego Bay beaches was Croydon Plantation Tour. Set up in the hills, over an hour away from the center of Montego Bay, Croydon is a working plantation, where it’s possible to learn all about pineapples, coffee, and other products that have been grown on the island for generations. When looking to plan a trip to Jamaica, it’s a great idea to learn about the history and nature of the island. Both of these are possible at the plantation.
Tours are about 3 hours long, not including transportation from your hotel. The tour includes transportation from Montego Bay, plenty of pineapple and fruit tastings, and a lunch of jerk chicken and other local specialties, while surrounded by mountain views. They offer tours Tuesday through Friday.
Rose Hall Great House
This was the most surprising of our Montego Bay activities by far! Rose Hall Great House is an old, restored plantation house, with a twist. Yes, the tour includes a walkthrough of the house, and it’s history. But, the real treat is the telling of the story of the former house mistress, Annee Palmer, the famed White Witch of Rose Hall. Our tour guide, Ana, was great and offered real imagery when telling the story.
The reason why we liked this visit so much, is that even though the visit was short, the story was compelling. It’s one we talked about throughout the days following our visit to Rose Hall.
Tours can be booked on the Rose Hall Great House tour website. Tickets start at $18 and the tour lasts around 45 minutes. There is a bar on site where it’s possible to enjoy a witches brew. Rose Hall is also centrally located in, of course, the Rose Hall area of Montego Bay.
Montego Bay Travel Tip: Book the Rose Hall haunted night tour!
Martha Brae Rafting Tour
We’ve seen a lot of rafting tour options offered while we traveled and lived in Southeast Asia. But, we’ve never actually taken one ourselves. Our Martha Brae Rafting Tour was unique. Not only did we get to float down the river on a bamboo raft, but our river captain also shared interesting information about Jamaica and its history.
The tour includes roundtrip transfers from Montego Bay hotels. The rafting experience covers over 3 miles of river and takes about an hour. It’s also possible to swim in the river. Rafts are $65 and are made to hold two people.
Montego Bay’s Hip Strip – Doctor’s Cave Beach
Almost all Montego Bay holidays include a trip to Doctor’s Cave Beach and the Hip Strip, particularly for those staying outside of the larger Montego Bay all-inclusive resorts. I am the first to admit that it is difficult to leave an all-inclusive when there is a beach, pool, activities, and free-flowing Jamaican rum!
But, Doctor’s Cave Beach is often considered one of the best beaches in Montego Bay. Founded as a bathing club in 1906, it was so named because the doctors who founded it entered the beach through a cave. Unfortunately, the cave collapsed during a hurricane. The beach, however, remains. And, the famous beach really started the business of tourism in Montego Bay.
Doctor’s Cave Beach is open 7 days a week from 8:30-5:30, and it costs $6 to enter. It’s only a few minutes drive from downtown Montego Bay. Learn more here.
Falmouth Food Tour
Taking a food tour is always a great idea when traveling because it provides an opportunity to learn about the local culture, and to try dishes you might be unfamiliar with. The Falmouth Food Tour runs from the cruise port in historic Falmouth and makes 5 tasting stops, all while learning about the unique history of Falmouth. The best stop was for Jamaican meat patties.
Food tours are $49 per adult and last around 3 hours. The tour departs from the cruise port so it’s important to bring identification for security. It’s also a good idea to prepare for the hot Jamaican weather – maybe even bring an umbrella for the sun.
Check out reviews here.
Learn more about What to Eat in Jamaica
Luminous Lagoon – Glistening Waters
This is another travel experience that we’ve seen elsewhere but never actually booked for ourselves. We took a brief, but illuminating (pun intended) tour with Glistening Waters to their Luminous Lagoon. The lagoon is home to microscopic organisms that offer a bio-luminescent light when disturbed, either by the boat moving or by swimming in the water.
Tours of the Luminous Lagoon cost $25 and include a little rum punch before the cruise. The entire experience takes about an hour. And, yes, it’s possible to bring a bathing suit to swim in the lagoon. Don’t worry, it’s only between 4 and 8 feet deep. For groups of 4 or more, they will also offer transport from Montego Bay hotels.
Montego Bay Travel Tip: If you want to book a Glistening Waters tour, try to avoid a full moon or nearly full moon evening. Even better, try it on a cloudy night. That’s when the waters sparkle the most. If looking for a bit of adventure, this is definitely one of the more fun things to do in Jamaica.
Check out TripAdvisor reviews of Glistening Waters.
Book a combo tour – Rose Hall Great House & Luminous Waters – From $250
Montego Bay Shopping
When it came to shopping in Montego Bay Jamaica, we did things a little differently. There are loads of duty-free options at the Falmouth Port, where the cruise ships come in. If you want to see the port shops and dining options, it’s necessary to show an identification. And, there are a handful of duty-free shops as well near some of the resorts.
But, because we are foodies, we stopped at the Hi-Lo Supermarket! We love visiting local supermarkets when traveling. At the Hi-Lo, we purchased some jerk sauce, jerk seasoning, and even some scotch bonnet pepper hot sauce, all at great prices. Don’t forget when traveling to go local!
We bought Walkerswood jerk seasoning, which is available at Amazon too!
Take in the View Over Montego Bay
Merely a quick stop between two other activities, our driver took us to Hi-Lites in Montego Bay. Mostly a gift shop for tourists, Hi-Lites also offers a rooftop restaurant with a strong Indian-influenced menu and amazing views over the island, and for the AvGeeks out there – the Montego Bay airport. We didn’t get a chance to eat there, but it is possible to just stop by for a beer and enjoy the view.
Learn more about Hi-Lites Cafe Montego Bay on TripAdvisor.
Check out these other Montego Bay attractions when you plan a trip to Jamaica:
- Book a tour of Appleton Estate and learn all about Jamaican rum – From $220.
- Explore the famous Jamaican Blue Mountains on a bike – From $195
- Go crazy, explore the entire island, and let an expert take you around. Book a 7-day bus tour of Jamaica island.
Or, check out TripAdvisor’s Montego Bay Reviews for a list of more top Jamaica attractions.
Montego Bay Map – Montego Bay Things To Do
All of our recommendations on things to do in Montego Bay Jamaica are really not that far from the top resorts along the beach. Many of the hotels can arrange transport for you. Or, some of these Montego Bay attractions will arrange transport for you. Or, check out Paradise Travels to arrange transfers or to hire a driver for the day. Ask for Willie, a great Jamaican tour guide!
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
Hotels in Jamaica
We stayed at two Jamaica hotels during our trip. They were as different from each other as beer and champagne! There is a such a variety of Jamaica accommodation options.
Jamaica All Inclusive Resorts
First, we stayed at the Riu Palace, one of the all-inclusive resorts in Montego Bay Jamaica. The Riu offers an easy, and good value, option for a Montego Bay vacation. It’s only about 5 minutes from the Montego Bay airport, and they offered some pretty decent local Jamaican food at their buffet. They also make some tasty frozen drinks!
In addition to the Riu Palace, there are plenty of other all-inclusive hotels in Jamaica. For a fun holiday, the all-inclusive resorts can be a great option. There is little that you need to think about once you arrive. They can also be a lot of fun when traveling with friends.
But, here are a few travel tips. First, don’t feel compelled to stay at the resort! Take advantage of our recommendations above on fun things to do during a trip to Montego Bay. Also, if you love food, read some of the TripAdvisor reviews about the food options at the resort. Some all-inclusive resorts do offer decent local Jamaican food options, so make sure you choose one of those.
Check out the best all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica on Hotels.com.
Luxury Jamaica Resorts
But, there is so much more to Jamaica than all-inclusive hotels in Montego Bay. After the Riu, we checked into Half Moon Bay, one of the best resorts in Montego Bay. It’s only a 10-minute drive further from the airport than the Riu but feels like a lifetime away. Set on over two miles of Montego Bay beach, the hotel has a prestigious history as the go-to Jamaica hotel for celebrities and royals. We slept in the same cottage as the Queen of England! The food is impeccable, and the service top notch.
Check out our review of Half Moon Jamaica
FAQs on Jamaica Travel – Jamaica Travel Tips
Here are few more tips on how to book a trip to Jamaica, particularly when traveling to Jamaica for the first time. There are some more Montego Bay travel tips and general Jamaica travel tips.
- Where is Jamaica? Jamaica covers about 11,000 square kilometers and is one of the largest islands in the Caribbean. It lies south of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea. Because the island is so big, there are a lot of cool Jamaica destinations to explore.
- Where is Montego Bay? Important first question when booking a trip to Jamaica. The Jamaica island is big. To see the entire island, it’s probably necessary to book multiple holidays to Jamaica. Montego Bay is only one small portion of the island. It’s on the north side of the island, towards the west. Other popular Jamaica travel regions include Negril, to the west of Montego Bay, Ochos Rios to the east of Montego Bay, and the south. The south of Jamaica includes the capital Kingston, and some other pretty cool areas and things to do in Jamaica.
- When is the best time to visit Jamaica? Caribbean travels need to be planned around the hurricane season, which runs from June into early November. The best time to go to Jamaica is in November and December, after the hurricane season, when the weather is just lovely.
- How expensive is airfare to Jamaica? Flying round trip to Jamaica from the US is pretty easy if flying from a main hub. There are two airports in Jamaica: Kingston, and the Montego Bay Jamaica Airport called Sangster International Airport. It’s possible to find round-trip flights for a few hundred dollars, particularly from hubs like Miami and New York.
- How long should a Jamaica getaway be? If coming from the US, it’s possible to do Jamaica in a long weekend, particularly if you stay at one of the Montego Bay hotels close to the airport. I would recommend at least 5 nights if possible. Traveling from Europe is harder, and normally requires an overnight flight from Montego Bay to Europe. If traveling to Jamaica from Europe, shoot for a trip to Jamaica between 7 and 10 nights.
- Is it a good idea to book Jamaica vacation packages? There are plenty of great hotels in Montego Bay, at every budget. Each of them can arrange Montego Bay tours and day trips. And, they can book airport transfers as well. It might not be necessary to book a Montego Bay all-inclusive vacation or package.
Get more ideas on TripAdvisor – Jamaica Things To Do – Includes Things to Visit in Montego Bay Jamaica
Number 1 Montego Bay Travel Tip: Priority Pass Membership!
We’ve had a membership to Priority Pass Lounges for well over a year now. Particularly because we no longer have status on any US airline, this lounge pass has saved us from a lot of airport frustration over time. But, it really paid off on our departure from Montego Bay airport. We flew out on a Sunday afternoon, a busy time for sure. The security line was crazy mon! But, Priority Pass came to the rescue.
Priority Pass partners with over 1,000 airport lounges around the world. It’s possible to buy a day pass for long layovers. Or, an annual pass provides access to all of these lounges on one card, even when your airline doesn’t have a lounge, or even if you are not flying business class. I saw ads for the MOBAY lounge throughout Jamaica, and the airport. MOBAY allows access to their VIP lounge and helps you speed through security with a shorter line. And, our Priority Pass gave us access to both services. This easily saved us at least 30-45 minutes in airport security lines. It was a welcome surprise.
Sign up with Priority Pass and receive 10% off your first year.
We were supported by the Jamaica Tourism Board and Blogilicious during our trip to Jamaica. For more Jamaica information contact the Jamaica tourist board at Visit Jamaica. They can provide even more advice on how to book a trip to Jamaica, including what to do in Montego Bay and other areas of the island.
Find more Jamaica hotel deals on Booking.com to help you plan your Montego Bay travel.
Pin It! Montego Bay Travel
When traveling to Jamaica, use the Montego Bay airport lounge to make travel a breeze! Check out our review of the Priority Pass Lounge program, and consider using it during your travels to Jamaica.
Looking for more help to plan a trip to Montego Bay Jamaica? Ask us any questions you have below and we can provide some more tips on how to plan a trip to Jamaica.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.