Montego Bay is a gorgeous city full of so much to do and see. Accommodations are abundant here so this is where you will most likely be staying. No matter what type of activity you are into Montego Bay has something for everyone. Seriously, I couldn't believe how awesome it was.
Don't forget that even if you aren't staying in Montego Bay you can still visit it from surrounding cities. For example, Ocho Rios is less than 2 hours away from Montego Bay and Negril is only 90 minutes. When we visited we were actually staying in Montego Bay and got a private driver for the day to take us to all of the attractions in Ocho Rios.
And I know that hiring a private driver sounds uber expensive but it actually wasn't! We went with the company Paradise Travel Jamaica and it was totally worth the money. Our driver Willy picked us up in the early morning from Montego Bay and drove us to Ocho Rios while we slept a bit. He suggested things we would have never thought of and he got us to attractions during the quieter times when other tour groups weren't present. If you do go with the company Paradise Travel Jamaica I highly recommend asking for Willy specifically.
Anyway, onto the best things to do in Montego Bay....
Best Activities near or in Montego Bay
Martha Brae River Rafting
If you are staying in Montego Bay this is a serious must do. Experience a romantic ride on top of a hand-crafted bamboo raft. Your guide will paddle you along the river while you take in the scenery. You can stop at some of the many beautiful points or rope swings along the way. The whole ride takes 2-3 hours.
Rockland Bird Sanctuary
Located a 30 minute drive from downtown Montego Bay, Rocklands Bird Sanctuary is a gorgeous place you can view, photograph and even hand-feed exotic species. When you arrive you are given a bottle of nectar - this persuades the hummingbirds to land right on your arms. You'll also be able to spot Jamaica's national bird, the long-tailed Doctor Bird.
Doctor Cave Beach
If you aren't staying at an all-inclusive you'll want to come here. The beach charges a small admission (around $6) but is as popular as ever. You'll mostly find it crowded with cruise ship passengers and once 4 pm hits the crowd thins as most of them head back to the ship. It is also a popular place to snorkel in Montego Bay! They rent snorkels or you can bring your own from home - here's the exact one I recommend via Amazon. Other amenities include change rooms, restaurant, bar, a gift shop, and beach chair/umbrella rentals.
Rose hall Great House
Have you heard the legend of Annie Palmer - aka the White Witch of Rose Hall? Legend goes she ruled here with intense cruelty and even had black magic powers that impacted her husbands sad fate. The original 1700's plantation home has been restored and is around 20 minutes from Montego Bay. It overlooks the ocean and has some gorgeous views. Definitely worth a look.
If you have never zip-lined before Jamaica is the place to test it out. You will sail through the air and over the canopies with a bit of adrenaline rushing through your veins. Jamaica Zipline Adventure Tours is one of the most popular and close to Montego Bay. They also have one of the longest ziplines in the caribbean.
Scuba Dive or Snorkel
Where ever you end up in Montego Bay you should try to Scuba dive or snorkel. We dove during our stay at Secrets (full review of that experience here) and had a great time. They took us to a site called Spanish anchor and guys, it was magical. You know that scene in the little mermaid where she sings "Part of your world" in that cavern, with all the tiers of objects. That's what we dove through! We looked up and there were tiers of coral with fish just looking down at us.... MAGICAL.
How do I explain this one... Well first off, have you heard about this species of plankton that is luminescent? Basically, when they are disturbed they give off this neon glow of light. So when you boat through them, or jump in the water, you are surrounded by light! There is a tour in Jamaica you can do - but beware it is touristy - many people packed on boats to see these unique creatures. Also, if you do go, make sure to book a trip earlier in the night. The more the plankton are disturbed the more they less light they give off.
Beach Horse Ride
Explore the beautiful island of Jamaica on horseback! The ride includes passing castles and sugar factories that are over 100 years old. You'll see birds fly overhead before you enter the shallow beach waters. No experience is necessary for these rides and most tours include pick up from your hotel. The cost is usually around $70 a person depending on the company.
Best Activities via Day trip to Ocho Rios
Ocho Rios is only a 90-120 minute drive from Montego Bay and you can combine a lot of awesome activities for a great day trip. Again, we hired a private driver to spend the day in Ocho Rios and I highly recommend it.
Dunn's River Falls
The most famous waterfall in all of Jamaica, but I'm here to tell you it is certainly not the best. Dunn's River Falls is a gorgeous cascading tiered waterfall that you can climb (with a trained guide). If you are short on time I suggest skipping it because of how crowded it has gotten in recent years. By the way, I have a full list of the best waterfalls in Jamaica here.
Also, I want to add that you should 100% bring water shoes with you to Jamaica. All of the waterfalls require them and once you arrive you’ll either rent or buy them before you head in. Avoid overpaying while in Jamaica and buy them on Amazon before you leave. They are super tiny and will definitely fit in your luggage. Here are the exact ones I bought for our trip and definitely recommend.
The Cool Blue Hole
Now this is the place you need to be. I read about the Blue Hole before traveling to Jamaica and honestly it EXCEEDED my expectations. And not just a little bit, it exceeded it by far. This place is magical.
Basically, this place was purely local up until about 6 or 7 years ago when it started to become insta-famous. Now it has railings and guides for tourists and it is soooo fun. You enter through the front to a small lagoon with a rope swing. Then you climb a short trail (maybe about 10 minutes) to another portion that has the huge waterfall and small pools above it you can wade in. Under the huge waterfall is a cave that is epic and next to the waterfall is a 20 ft diving platform that is scary in the funniest way possible.
I have a whole entire article here on why I would go to the Blue Hole over Dunn's River Falls. It also contains practical information like how to get there, what it costs, and what you should pack.
Fern Gully Scenic Drive
This is one of those things that I really didn't hear much about until I was with our driver Willy from Paradise Tours Jamaica. He suggested the gorgeous drive and I am so glad that he did. Fern Gully is a five-kilometer winding road built atop an old riverbed. You'll pass under giant tree ferns that form a canopy overhead, creating a tunnel-like effect. Along the way, you can stop at roadside stalls to buy wooden carvings (that are hilariously phallic in nature) and other souvenirs.
Best Activities outside of Montego Bay
Relax on an inner tube and drift along over extremely gentle rapids. I suggest this tour company booked through Viator.
Ricks Cafe in Negril
This is a bit of a hike from Montego Bay (around 90 minutes each way), but if you make a night of it - it's totally worth it. The sunset is beautiful from here. Plus, you can watch all of the locals do crazy jumps off the cliffs outside the restaurant. You can jump yourself as well - but I would advise extreme caution.
Another place that is a kind of far away from Montego Bay but totally worth the drive. Pelican bar is a dicey looking shack, literally in the middle of the ocean, that serves up drinks and fries up fresh fish that was caught 10 minutes before. You can find group tours to this super cool bar pretty much from any major Jamaican city.
YS Falls is 90 minutes from Montego Bay, but worth the drive.
This gorgeous waterfall in western Jamaica actually consists of seven main tiers that are in close succession. Once you arrive you’ll take a Disney-like tram pulled by tractors to the start of the play area. Here there is a gift shop, return tram, restrooms, and a man-made swimming pool. From the main area, you’ll find walkways that lead you to the falls and various turn-offs to take a swim in the pools or use the rope swings. There is A LOT to do here. Last I heard the cost was $15 per person.
By the way, the letters YS are in reference to the original landowners John Yates and Richard Scott.
Read on: How to travel Jamaica on a budget
Final Thoughts on Jamaica
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a guidebook along with you. Here are some books I recommend...
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (email@example.com).