Montego Bay is the most popular destination in Jamaica. Perhaps in the entire Caribbean considering, it has one of the busiest airports in the islands.
The Sangster International Airport welcomes visitors from around the world who are whisked off to their all-inclusive resorts.
But it's important to get out and explore Jamaica too, and we've rounded up the best things to do in Montego Bay plus popular day trips and excursions.
After visiting Jamaica four times, we have personally tried these activities and can give honest opinions on how much fun they are and if they are worth doing.
We've even put in a couple of suggestions for things to skip when visiting Jamaica.
What to do in Montego Bay
We've tried most of the tourist attractions and day trips from swimming with horses to Bamboo Rafting, these are the tops.
1. Horseback Ride and Swim
It's one of the most unique excursions you'll ever do in your life. Swimming with horses in the Caribbean Sea is a dream come true.
The tour starts with a 30-45 minute trail ride where you'll go through farmland, jungle trails and end up at a beach for the obligatory photo stop.
It's then back to the corral via the beach and a chest-high ride through shallow waters before you change horses and get on the ride of your life.
Book a tour out to St. Anne and stop at Chukka Cove in Llandovery.
It's a 15-minute swim while on the bare back of a horse out to sea.
Don't worry, the horses like feeling the cool water on their coats and you are perfectly safe as at least 3 guides ride horses out there with you.
Plus, everyone wears a floatation device and horses are excellent swimmers!
2. Green Grotto Caves
Explore the beautiful cave system where James Bond's Live and Let Die was filmed is one of the top Montego Bay Attractions.
But it's not just famous for the movie, the Green Grotto Caves played a large roll in Jamaican history.
The 1.5 km long cave system was a hiding place for both slaves and the Spanish in the 17th century
It's an easy excursion taking you through paved pathways of Runaway Cave and Green Grotto.
Runaway Cave was once used as a nightclub in the 1990s, but today it is open strictly for tourists.
Be prepared to walk down 65 steps to an underground lake that was used for the submarine scene in James Bond. And watch out for bats! The caves are home to 10 million bats!
Check out more at Green Grotto Caves website
3. Mystic Mountain
Most people will remember the movie Cool Runnings with John Candy telling the story of the first Jamaican Bobsled team at the Calgary Olympics in 1988.
They have since gong on to world superstardom competing in the PyeongChang Olympics with sponsorship from Red Stripe.
You must visit Mystic Mountain to try bobsledding for yourself, It is one of the most unique tourist attractions in the Caribbean.
Take a chairlift to the top of the mountain where you'll arrive at the Olympic museum featuring the likes of Canadian favorite Donavon Baily, (who has Jamaican roots) Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt and of course the Jamaican Bobsled team.
You can stay for a bit, enjoy the pool or get directly on your bobsled and shoot down Mystic Mountain for a rip-roaring adventure in Jamaica.
4. Rose Hall Great House
Learn of the White Witch as you tour the most famous Great House of the Island, Rose Hall.
Rose Hall was a former plantation house run by the evil, Ann Palmer who killed three of her husbands and countless slaves during her reign of terror.
You can take a haunted night tour to really get a sense of the property as it is said the Ann Palmer still walks the grounds after the slaves put a curse on her body.
She was killed by her slave lover and visitors can see her sealed tomb on the grounds.
Book your tour here and get a free refund if canceled within 24 hours of departure.
4. Sam Sharpe Square
Sadly, slavery was a large part of the Island of Jamaica. But it was also the center of activism and an uprising that eventually lead to the end of Slavery.
Sam Sharpe was an anti-slavery activist and hero of Jamaica. He was hanged for instigating the uprising, but just one week after his death, Britain started looking for ways to end slavery.
5. Greenwood Great House
Rose Hall may be the most popular great house tour in Jamaica, but Green Wood Great House is a must.
It is one of the few Great Houses that survived the Slave rebellion of 1831.
Although slave owners The Barrets were benevolent and spared from the uprising thus making the home one of the best-preserved historical locations in Jamaica.
A guided tour will take you through rooms filled with original furniture and a very rare and priceless collection of antique instruments and books.
Greenwood has been locally owned by Bob and Ann Betton since 1976 and they still live in the house today!
6. Bamboo Rafting Martha Brae
There is nothing more relaxing or romantic than a bamboo rafting excursion down the Martha Brae River.
The scene is beautiful as you float through old plantations and jungle scenery.
We didn't have to do a thing, our friendly guide steers the bamboo raft through the maze of rocks and trees.
There are bars, shops and rope swings set up along the way, so bring some money along to enjoy a beer on the river.
You can book an excursion to the Martha Brae River with Get Your Guide – Free cancelation up to 24 hours in advance.
There is very little chance of getting wet, but a dry bag is a good idea should you want to be 100% sure to keep cameras and wallets dry.
7. Zip Line
There are zip lines and canopy tours in many parts of Jamaica, but most Montego Bay tours go to Montpellier for this excursion.
The two-hour tour has five flights over the river and through trees as you learn about the flora and fauna.
Be prepared to hike up ladders and stand on ledges but don't worry, you are strapped in at all times.
8. River Tubing – Montpellier
After ziplining, hop on a river tube and take a lazy tour.
The guides are a blast and have many stories to tell.
River tubing is similar to the bamboo rafting, except this time you are on inner tubes tied together as you float down the rushing water.
Note: It's not a white water rafting excursion, this tour is laid back and relaxing.
Check out prices and bookings here
9. Sail to Negril
Set Sail to Negril where you'll enjoy the scenic coast before hopping in for some snorkeling on the reef.
The Montego Bay Marine Park is a protected area to preserve the marine life in the area and it's a fun snorkel.
We saw barracuda, trumpetfish, and my personal favorite, the pufferfish.
Once we finished looking at the marine life, we took a swim to Pirates Cave.
Like Green Grotto Caves, it too was once a bar but today is a great spot for swimming.
It was once a spot where pirates hid their treasures. Hence the name.
10. Rick's Cafe
Before heading back, you will pop over to Rick's Cafe, one of the most popular bars on the island to watch the world-famous cliff divers.
Tourists can jump from the cliffs if they like as well, but there have been several injuries over the years.
We think it's best to leave it to the professionals.
11. Braco Hike & Bike Tour
The Tour starts with a hike up Braco Hill where you'll learn about the flora and fauna of the island.
The hike ends with spectacular views and cold towels to cool you off before setting down the mountain on bikes.
You'll pass through stables, and farmland before ending at the beach for a quick dip to cool off after all that exercise.
12. Jerk at Scotchies
Scotchies is a local staple and when asking our guide if Jamaican's still eat at Scotchies, he replied with a resounding yes!
Chicken, pork, and fish are cooked over an open flame on a giant grill.
It's the Scotch Bonnet Pepper Hot Sauce that makes Scotchies stand out giving your food a unique Jamaican Jerk flavor.
All seating is outdoors on picnic tables under a canopy of trees and cabanas.
Try a refreshing local drink here like Ting Soda or Coconut water.
13. The Hip Strip – Gloucester Avenue
For the party lover, the Hip Strip also known as Gloucester Avenue is the place to be. It's where all the hot bars are in Montego Bay.
There are several all-inclusive resorts in the area and there is a very busy tourist beach that costs $3 to enter.
Shops line the street as visitors walk in their flip-flops from shops, bars and nightclubs taking in the Jamaican Vibe.
Speaking of the Hip Strip, Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville is a staple bar and eatery in the Caribbean islands.
A stop here is a must for cocktails and fun.
The Margaritaville's in Jamaica have jungle gyms in the water where adults can find their inner child and have a blast playing on the slides and trampolines.
15. Dunns River Falls
Located near Ocho Rios, Dunns River Falls is one of the more popular Montego Bay day tours.
Be prepared though, it is an hour and a half drive from the city.
Dunns River Falls is a 180-meter high cascading waterfall that tourists love to walk up.
Many tours offer duo excursions like a trip to Dunns River Falls and then a stop at Green Grotto Caves.
Or there is the Ride and Swim in the morning and then on to Dunns River Falls in the Afternoon.
16. YS Waterfalls
YS Waterfalls is another place to visit but it is even farther at 2-hours away.
We loved YS Waterfalls though as we hired a private guide which is highly recommended. We got a lot more out of it than we would have on our own.
17. ATV Tour
A great excursion out of Montego Bay is the ATV Tour at Sandy Bay.
We rode our four-wheelers up a steep climb for beautiful panoramic views of the coast.
Chukka Tours offer Dune Buggy and ATV tours. If you aren't comfortable driving, you can always be a passenger on a Dune Buggy.
We were pleased that our guides kept a fun and steady pace. There was enough thrill balanced with the right amount of safety.
18. Special Dinner off the Resort
Half Moon’s Sugar Mill Restaurant is a great place to enjoy fine dining in Montego Bay.
You don't have to stay at the resort to enjoy their Sugar Mill Restaurant.
This beautiful setting has a working watermill set high on a hill. The outdoor open-air dining offers an intimate setting to celebrate the rich cuisine of Jamaica.
They have an award-winning wine cellar that your server will be happy to offer suggestions for pairing with each course.
If you are looking for a romantic setting, this is the place to do it!
19. Dead End Beach
Dead End Beach is the famous beach where airplanes land right over your head as the airport is right beside the beach!
Located just a short walk from the more famous, Doctor's Cave Beach, Dead End Beach is a more relaxed place to watch the sunset.
But be aware, there are some aggressive salespeople trying hard to sell you bracelets and necklaces.
Just let them know you are here to enjoy the beach, not buy trinkets.
What to Avoid in Montego Bay
20. Doctor's Cave Beach
A lot of travel guides will tell you to go to Doctor's Beach. But if you don't like crowds, don't go.
It's overcrowded with tourists; especially on cruise ship days.
I am sure it used to be beautiful, but now it is just filled with a sea of umbrellas and people drinking more than they should on a hot sunny day.
21. Luminous Lagoon
We love experiencing Bioluminescence, but the Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica was a bit of a letdown.
They use boat engines that race through the water stirring up the sea and killing the organisms.
It was once said that Jamaica had the best bioluminescence in the world, but it was quite dull on our tour, and we think it is because of all the boats doing out and disrupting the ecosystem.
That said, the people on our tour loved it and enjoyed seeing the blue and purple lights in the water.
I just feel that Jamaica should start using electric boats as they do in Grand Cayman to save the fragile bioluminescence.
Off the Beaten Path Montego Bay
22. St. Mary's Anglican Church
It was while driving back from our river tubing excursion that we stopped at St. Marys Anglican Church.
After stopping at a corner store for some banana chips, we drove down a narrow road to the St. Mary's School historical area.
Located on the Montpelier Estate, the church is located on the site of a notable slave uprising.
Unlike the Green Wood Estate, Montpelier was not so kind to their slaves and this estate was burnt to the ground between 1831 and 1832.
The church dates back to 1847 and is a tranquil and beautiful scene.
Where to Stay in Montego Bay
Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall
We stayed at the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall and found it to be a great central location. It also had a lot of activities including SUP, kayaking, and sailing included in the booking.
It was a resort that kept us busy inside with spa treatments, glamour nights, beach dinners and lots of activities.
When visiting Montego Bay, the resort can be as much a part of your vacation as the excursions themselves.
So be sure to give yourself a few rest days to kick back and enjoy some fun in the sun.
There are plenty of water sports to be had from sailing, standup paddleboarding, and snorkeling included in your stay.
Other Hotels in Montego Bay
Hot Tips: Montego Bay Excursions
We use Get Your Guide to book excursions and tours around the world. If you want to book in advance, most of their tours have easy cancelation within 24 hours of the excursion.
Book your airport transfers from Montego Bay Airport to any hotel island-wide.
- When booking any Montego Bay Excursions be prepared to spend the entire day off of the resort.
- One and a half hour drives can turn into 3-hour drives as you stop to pick up other patrons at their resorts. A lot of tours in Jamaica are very spread out so you will be on a bus for a while. But they are worth it.
- Or better yet, rent a car for the day and set off to see the sights yourself.
- Safety: We've always felt safe in Jamaica. We don't recommend going into Trenchtown in Kingston in the middle of the night, but to make your way from one attraction to another is perfectly safe.
- There are security checkpoints and after the crackdown by police, gangs are no longer running the streets of Montego Bay.
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There are so many things to do in Montego Bay, you'll have to go back again and again.
Our trip to Jamaica is in partnership with the Jamaica Tourism Board, all thoughts and opinions are our own.
Tours can be booked through your resort or online at Chukka Tours