Montego Bay: A pocket guide

Montego Bay Marine Park, Jamaica

Montego Bay, on Jamaica’s north coast, is the island’s second largest city and a major port for cruise ships. Since the 1950s, Montego Bay has been the vacation spot of choice for sun seekers arriving both by plane and cruise liner. A myriad of tourist attractions and a strongly beating nightlife make for a lively Caribbean hub, ideal for beachgoers who prefer to spend their days sunbathing and their evenings on the dance floor. There are amusement parks, world-class golf courses, and the inevitable Caribbean golden-sand beaches, as well as numerous beach resorts.

The town is lively but laidback, the bustling cobbled plaza of Sam Sharpe Square a cacophony of car horns, voices, and reggae. Named after Samuel Sharpe, national hero and leader of the Christmas Rebellion of 1831, the square is a popular gathering place. Historical features such as lockup cages and bronze statues tell stories of days gone by and a past not forgotten. The most intriguing buildings can be found along Church Street. A highlight is Saint James Parish Church, built in the 1700s in the shape of a Greek cross; its stained glass windows glimmer in the warm Jamaican sun, and inside are marble monuments, including works by John Bacon, the English sculptor.

Montego Bay’s most popular beach, favored by both tourists and locals, is Doctor’s Cave, an arc of sand shaded by palms and studded with a series of conveniently placed shops for a top-up of sun cream or a rum-punch cooler. From the beach, glass-bottom boats venture into the clear waters, parasailing rides are undertaken by the braver souls, and Jet-Ski riders whip along at thrilling speed. Just offshore is Montego Bay Marine Park, a protected area that runs the length of the bay, from Doctor’s Cave Beach to Dead End Beach. Water sports are restricted in this area, but swimming, snorkeling, and private boat trips are permitted.