Montego Bay is both garden and playground. It's vibrant yet relaxing, luxurious yet rooted. This beach-rimmed corner of northwest Jamaica is truly intoxicating - and that's before the first sweet nip of Appleton's Rum.
Mo'Bay is called the complete resort, and it attracts some two million visitors each year - more than almost anywhere else in the Caribbean.
With one of the most recognizable cultures in the world, the laidback Jamaican people know how to put even the most stressed out businessman at ease. The reggae music sets the mood, the rum punch takes off the edge, the jerk chicken clears the sinus, and the lush mountains and clear Caribbean waters paint the perfect backdrop for relaxation.
The temperature and setting may be the initial draw, but it's the total Jamaican experience that keeps visitors coming back time and again.
Montego Bay’s all-inclusive Iberostar Rose Hall (IBTimes)
If all-inclusive is not your thing, you're out of luck. If it is, then this strip of miniature cities -- where a single bracelet acts like a golden ticket -- is a glutton's wonderland. The resorts of Montego Bay have a way of making anyone feel like a king - perhaps because everyone eats, drinks, and sleeps like royalty. These beachside castles boast immaculate gardens, turquoise pools, thatched cabanas, and mouthwatering cuisine - not to mention a packed schedule of activities to rival that of any cruise. Jamaica may be a developing country, but you'd never know it at these world-class resorts. With everything at your fingertip, you never need to leave the confines of the hotel. Jamaica comes to you.
Recommended: The Iberostar Rose Hall Suites
Rose Hall Great House:
Rose Hall Great House (creative commons/Sarah_Ackerman)
The Rose Hall Great House is so much more than a historic ruin. Built in the 1770s, the imposing Great House is Jamaica's most famous haunted house with a story the young tour guides are all too eager to share. The tale of the White Witch of Rose Hall has all the elements of a Hollywood thriller. The white witch, 4'11 Annie Palmer, was born in Haiti and moved to Jamaica where she married John Palmer in 1820. John, along with Annie's two subsequent husbands, died of suspicious causes and it is speculated that Annie was to blame. The mistress of voodoo is said to have terrorized the plantation, taking male slaves into her bed at night and murdering them the next morning. According to legend, the slaves finally took revenge during uprisings in the 1830s and Annie was ultimately murdered by one of her slave lovers. While the validity of the tale is certainly questionable, the lurid details are nonetheless devilishly enjoyable. Annie Palmer's historic Georgian mansion was restored to its former splendor in the 1960s thanks to the help of Americans John and Michele Rollins and is now a popular nighttime tourist attraction for candlelight tours.
The Hip Strip
Montego Bay Hip Strip (creative commons/FlyingLotus1983)
Ever since Bob Marley burst onto the world scene in 1975 with No Woman, No Cry, the colors of the Jamaican flag have been synonymous with cool. If the appearance of every departing foreigner at Sangster International Airport is any proof, pink-faced tourists want to be cool too. They want to have an excuse to say 'ya mon back home and the Hip Strip in Montego Bay is the perfect spot to pick up black, green, and yellow garb. It's also a good place to see a slice of the real Jamaica beyond the gates of the megaresort. This stretch of shops, bars, and eateries along Mo'Bay's Gloucester Ave is haggle-friendly and noticeably cheaper than anywhere else around.
Nighttime at Half Moon Resort (creative commons/NVinacco)
Sunset in Jamaica is symbolic not just for the end of another gorgeous day, but for the beginning of another throbbing tropical night. Jamaicans love to party and so do the people that frequent Montego Bay. Each of the major hotels from Sandals to the Blue Moon, Iberostar, and Ritz Carlton have facilities for nighttime entertainment, be it in the form of theater, dance, or music. For a high energy evening in downtown Montego Bay, Margaritaville and Pier One keep the party going until sunrise while the jazz inspired Blue Beat offers a more low-key alternative.
White Witch Golf Course (creative commons/Sarah_Ackerman)
Jamaica has more championship golf courses than any other Caribbean destination. A game of golf in Montego Bay is more like a scenic tour of the area as the hillside, coastal setting of courses like the Robert von Hagge-designed Cinnamon Hill or the Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-designed Half Moon offer enchanting panoramas to frame each shot. While some holes may be bedeviling, the views from the lush hills and orchid-encased valleys are heavenly and worth the price of the green fees.
Dolphin Cove Negril
Dolphin Cove Negril (creative commons/Loren Sztajer)
Want to smile like a Jamaican? Head to the Negril Dolphin Park. A 45-minute scenic drive from Montego Bay, this cheery attraction is sure to cause the following: warm fuzzy feelings inside, giddy laughter, gaping grins, and an overall cuteness overload. Six dolphins with svelte bodies and model good looks roam the saltwater lagoon just waiting to show off their remarkable skills. But this isn't an event for spectators, Dolphin Cove gives visitors the chance to swim, belly surf, and, wait for it, kiss the dolphins. You may have plenty of scenic shots of Jamaica to show the family back home, but the picture of your wife locking lips with flipper will likely overshadow the rest.