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The term Jamaica invokes iconic images in a traveler’s mind. Be it visions of perfect Caribbean beaches or the archetypical visuals of smoke wafting from Bob Marley's lips, this tiny island makes a considerable impression around the global stage.
Jamaica's history is comparable to those of other Caribbean islands. In 1494, Columbus made way into Montego Bay and called it Fair Weather Bay. Flowing that, the Spaniards came here to search wild hogs and export lard. The bay grew to become known to as Manteca Bay (Manteca is Spanish language for lard), and lastly became, Montego Bay.
Jamaica is situated just 90 miles south of Cuba, and trails only its neighbors Cuba, coming in at forty-400 square miles. Inland, Jamaica is verdant and eco-friendly, featuring a mountain range that contrasts dramatically using the shoreline.
Montego Bay may be the second biggest city in Jamaica, trailing only Kingston; however it might be the king of local tourist attractions. Located on the northwest belt from the island, Montego Bay may be the usual entranceway for air travel and cruise people from the US Individuals who arrive here find perfect beaches, first class resorts, top-notch courses and tennis courts, and five-star restaurants.
Mo Bay, because it is passionately known, took its start like a tourist destination in early twentieth century. In the earlier 20th century, the town marketed itself like a heaven for people looking for change from the American weather. It became popular only in the 1940’s, once the mineral springs of Doctor's Cove Beach began to draw in the affluent traveling class.
Recently, Jamaica's image has had a little of the beating, owing to a growing crime rate. A few of the more affluent private resorts took to forbidding their visitors from departing the place with no guide. Obviously, which means that many people don't get an authentic feel of the island nation.
Vacationers to Jamaica do not need to feel unsafe if they take basic precautions and avoid travelling late into the night without guides. Overall, Jamaica's people are friendly and hospitable, and they're proud to greet you for their island paradise.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock a few miles outside of Montego Bay proper at the Montego Freeport port -- a rather unsightly complex surrounded by office parks. It's a five-minute, fixed-rate ride into Montego Bay from there ($5). Cruise ships pier in the Port Authority of Jamaica in Montego Bay. In the port, there's quick access to any or all primary streets. Taxis and buses are run by the Jamaica Union of Vacationers Association, or JUTA body. Minute rates are monitored, and a listing of costs can be acquired from the JUTA office.
Hanging Around
There's not a whole lot to see or do at the port itself, save for browsing the usual smattering of shops selling touristy items like Tortuga rum cakes and Red Stripe Beer baseball hats, complete with bottle openers in the visors. There is a small, indoor tiki bar of sorts inside the airy but dated terminal building, just in case you can't be bothered to venture farther afield for a tropical drink, but it lacks atmosphere in a big way. The port does serve its purpose as a departure point for catching taxis into town, and there's a Jamaica Tourism Board kiosk inside, too, where you can get tour advice and area info.
Just outside of the official port complex, behind a chainlink fence, is a rather ramshackle shopping area called the Montego Freeport Shopping Center. It's little more than a collection of beachwear and souvenir shops and empty offices. There is one homey-looking restaurant, Swizzle's, which sells inexpensive jerk specialties; the crowds, however, seem to be mostly due to the fact that there's free wireless Internet with your food or beverage purchase. Though you'll find a few restaurants within about 10 minutes' walking distance of the port (including a juice bar and seafood restaurant), you're better off heading into town for the most options and atmosphere.
Getting Around
On foot: Downtown Montego Bay is a 20-minute walk from the cruise port along a two-lane road that's fairly busy with traffic. Unless the weather is cool and you're up for some exercise, definitely spring for a taxi instead. As long as you're walking in daylight hours, safety is not an issue.
Taxis: Taxis line up where you exit the terminal building, and all of the taxis arriving there are licensed JUTA (Jamaica Union of Travelers Association) vehicles. (Look for the stickers.) Touts will often try to beckon you hither (and off port property) from behind the chainlink fence of the external shopping area, but you're best off going with a licensed JUTA taxi departing from the port itself for haggle-free, set fares. The cost of a cab ride from the cruise port to downtown Montego Bay is $5, and if you get off anywhere along the way, you'll have to pay another $5 to get back into town with another taxi or back to the ship. Rates are listed inside the terminal for taxi fares to popular north coast destinations, too, such as Falmouth and Dunn's River Falls.
Shuttles: If you'd like the option to hit a few of the town's sites (the Market, the beach, the Hip Strip) throughout the day, it's worth buying a Hot Spots Shuttle pass, which allows you to get on and off an air-conditioned bus as much as you like throughout the day for a flat $15 fare. The shuttle departs from the cruise ship terminal, and tickets can be purchased inside the port.
Car rentals: There are no car rentals at the port, but you can take a taxi to Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport, where Hertz, Budget, Avis and several local companies are all represented. Expect to pay between $65 and $150 per day, and don't forget that Jamaicans drive on the left!
Tourist Attractions in Montego Bay
Montego Bay, affectionately called "MoBay" is Jamaica's second largest city and a package tourism hotspot. Golden beaches, palm-covered hills, and historic plantations complement this thriving port city, and the area offers more guest rooms than any other part of Jamaica. Many of Montego Bay's beaches offer public access, though some remain the private domain of the booming beachfront hotels. Fishing, horseback riding, zip lining, golf, and guided river rides on bamboo rafts are just some of the things to do in the immediate area. Divers and snorkelers can explore colorful coral reefs, and birders love to hand-feed hummingbirds at the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary.
At Harbour Street, a popular shopping area for cruise ship passengers, enthusiastic vendors flaunt their goods at the Crafts Market, while hip Gloucester Avenue boasts restaurants, art galleries, and duty free shops. A busy lineup of festivals, concerts, and sporting events adds to the fun. The Montego Bay Yacht Club hosts the bi-annual Pineapple Cup Montego Bay Race, and music lovers flock here each year for Reggae Sumfest.
Doctor's Cave Beach
At Doctor's Cave Beach and Bathing Club, white sands fringe clear, calm waters that some believe are fed by mineral springs. In the early 1920s a famous British osteopath declared that the water had curative powers after swimming here - a claim which helped shape the future of Montego Bay by luring visitors from around the world. Hotels sprung along the beach and the area became a tourist hotspot.
Today the beach is as popular as ever and is often crowded with cruise ship passengers, despite the admission charge. Visitors will find change rooms, restaurants, and gift shops along this strand, and beach equipment is available for rent. Address: Gloucester Ave, Montego Bay -- Official site: http://www.doctorscavebathingclub.com/
Rose Hall Great House
Overlooking the ocean, about 20 minutes from Montego Bay, Rose Hall Great House is a restored plantation home built in 1770. According to legend, Annie Palmer (the White Witch of Rose Hall) ruled here with cruelty and possessed black magic powers that would eventually seal her husband's grim fate.
Today her home is decorated with furniture from the period, and visitors can tour the house during the day or opt for the spine-chilling candlelit night tour. Some claim to have seen the ghost of the White Witch drifting through the Great House.
Address: Rose Hall Hwy, Rose Hall Estate, Rose Hall, Montego Bay Official site: https://rosehall.com/ 3 Gloucester Avenue
Gloucester Avenue
Also known as the "Hip Strip", Gloucester Avenue is a trendy section of Montego Bay. Located near Doctor's Cave Beach, the street is lined with art galleries, cafés, and shops. T-shirts and souvenir stores dominate the strip and shoppers should be prepared for persistent vendors. Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville restaurant is a popular spot with blaring tunes and big-screen TVs. Official site: http://www.visitjamaica.com/margaritaville-montego-bay -- 4 Bellefield Great House and Gardens
The Bellefield Great House and Gardens is a restored mansion in Montego Bay that reflects the lifestyle of the 18th-century plantations. Visitors here can tour the original sugar mill and the antique-filled Great House and enjoy beautiful views of the tropical gardens. After the tour, guests are treated to a traditional Jamaican lunch. The plantation is also available for weddings and private events. Address: Montego Bay, St James -- Official site: http://www.bellefieldgreathouse.com/
Zipline Adventure Tours
Zipline Adventure Tours is a popular attraction for adventure seekers. Guests venture into the mountains on an off-roading adventure in a 6X6 Pinzgauer. Participants then learn about the sport before winging through the treetops along the longest ziplines in the Caribbean with fantastic views of the countryside below. Address: Long Hill Rd, Lethe -- Official site: http://www.ziplinejamaica.com/ 6 Croydon in the Mountains
Croydon in the Mountains
Tucked in the foothills of the Catadupa Mountains, Croydon in the Mountains is a 132-acre working plantation with magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. The plantation's main crops are coffee, pineapples, plantains, and citrus, and the plantation also produces honey. During the tour, visitors can learn about the different crops, sample the produce, and sip drinks made from the plantation's fresh fruit as they stroll around the beautiful grounds. Afterwards guests enjoy a barbecued lunch topped off with Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. Address: Catadupa, Montego Bay -- Official site: http://www.croydonplantation.com/ --  7 Martha Brae River
Martha Brae River
Rafting the Martha Brae is one of Montego Bay's most popular tourist attractions. At Martha Brae Rafter's Village, guests can drift down five kilometers of the river on bamboo rafts poled by local guides. Along the way, rafters can admire the tropical scenery and learn about local flora and fauna. The tour includes a visit to a medicinal herb garden. Address: Falmouth, Montego Bay -- Official site: http://www.jamaicarafting.com/ 8 Sam Sharpe Square
The central feature of Montego Bay, Sam Sharpe Square commemorates Sharpe, a slave and local Baptist deacon who advocated passive resistance to force the planters to comply with emancipation. Sharpe was hanged in what was then Charles Square. After independence, Sam Sharpe was made a National Hero and the square was named in his honor.
Also in the square, the Cage was built in 1806 as an overnight jail for runaway slaves, disorderly seamen, and vagrants. Two blocks east of the square, lies Burchell Memorial Church, established in 1824, where Samuel Sharpe was a deacon. His remains are buried in the vault.
Greenwood Great House
Nestled in the hills a few miles off the highway, Greenwood Great House was once owned by the family of famous English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The antique-filled home is more than 200 years old and is one of the best-preserved great houses in Jamaica. During the tour, guests can admire the extensive collection of antique furniture and enjoy panoramic vistas of the surrounding countryside. Official site: http://greenwoodgreathouse.com/
Mystic Mountain: Ochos Rios' Mystic Mountain is a rainforest adventure park that's great for kids and adults and home to some very unique outdoor activities. The adventure begins with a ride on the Sky Explorer, a chairlift that soars 700 feet over the lush landscape below. Once at the top, travelers can opt to try the park's signature Bobsled Jamaica ride, the Zip-Line Canopy tour or a twisty slide that ends up in the mountaintop swimming pool. Have lunch, and take in the view from Lookout Tower before making your way back down the mountain on the chairlift.
Margaritaville: It's a Caribbean cliche, but high on the list of must-dos for many visitors to MoBay. Smack dab on the Hip Strip, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville us the spot to down a boatdrink (Buffettspeak for a fruity cocktail) and cheeseburger in paradise while watching people bounce on the trampolines in the ocean and fly down the waterslide that drops dead into the sea.
Hip Strip: A stroll along the Hip Strip (also known as Gloucester Avenue), past bars and shops in MoBay's most bustling tourist district, which fronts the beach, is a must-do for every new arrival. Margaritaville is the hub of the Hip Strip action, but in the blocks nearby, you'll find other fun bars and hangout spots like the Jamaican Bobsled Cafe, Blue Beat jazz and blues bar and shops selling everything from swimwear to souvenir T-shirts.
Dunn's River Falls: It takes about an hour and a half by taxi to get from Montego Bay to Dunn's River Falls, these most famous of Jamaica's cascades near Ocho Rios, where you can climb 600 feet up from the base of the falls or retreat to the beach where the rushing water exits into the ocean.
Rocklands Bird Sanctuary
At Rocklands Bird Sanctuary, visitors can view, photograph, and hand-feed exotic and endemic species of birds. Upon arrival, guests are provided with a bottle of nectar and hummingbirds quickly descend to outstretched arms. Look for Jamaica's national bird, the regal long-tailed Doctor Bird. Address: Rocklands Rd, Anchovy
Doctor's Cave Beach, on Gloucester Avenue (tel. 876/952-2566; www.doctorscavebathingclub.com for the beach club), is arguably the loveliest stretch of sand bordering Montego Bay. Its gentle surf, golden sands, and fresh turquoise water make it an inviting place to swim, and there's always a beach-party atmosphere. Placid and popular with families, it's the best all-around beach in Montego Bay. Sometimes schools of tropical fish weave in and out of the waters, but usually the crowds of frolicking people scare them away. Since it's almost always packed, especially in winter, you have to get there early to stake out a beach blanket-size spot. Admission is US$5 for adults, US$2.50 for children 12 and under; it's open daily 8:30am to sunset. The beach club here has well-kept changing rooms, showers, restrooms, a food court, a bar, a cybercafe, and a sundries shop. Beach chairs and umbrellas can be rented daily.
Doctor's Cave Beach is part of the Montego Bay Marine Park, which was established to protect the wide variety of marine life among the coral reefs right offshore from the popular beaches. You can rent snorkel gear from the beach club at Doctors Cave Beach Hotel, or from the beach clubs at any of the local beaches.Frankly, you may want to skip all these public beaches entirely and head instead for the Rose Hall Beach Club (tel. 876/953-2650 for the beach club), on the main road 18km (11 miles) east of Montego Bay. The club offers .8km (1/2 mile) of secluded white-sand beach with crystal-clear water, plus a restaurant, a bar, a covered pavilion, an open-air dance area, showers, restrooms, hammocks, changing rooms, beach volleyball courts, beach games, and a full watersports program. Admission is US$65 for adults, US$45 for children. Hours are daily from 9am to 5pm.
Best Beach for the Dedicated Beach Bum: Seawind Beach is a private club, a short walk (or ride) from the port, fronting an immaculately maintained if small stretch of sand that's dotted with lounge chairs and catamarans. With your entrance fee, you'll get access to the pool, too, and there's an on-site restaurant, as well. The shallow, protected beach there is great for families, and there are catamarans and other watercrafts available for rent.
Best Beach for Active Types: Formerly known as Walter Fletcher Beach, the beach now called Aquasol is an oceanfront theme park of sorts. There's a water park, go carts and a nice stretch of sand where you can rent jet skis and pedal boats and go on banana boat rides.
Best Secluded Beach: Cornwall Beach, on a crescent bay not far from the Hip Strip, has lots of room so you can wander off and find a quiet stretch of sand for spreading out your beach towel. You can rent lounge chairs there, too.
Deep-Sea Fishing
Seaworld Resorts, whose main office is at the Cariblue Hotel, Rose Hall Main Road (tel. 876/953-2180; www.diveseaworld.com), operates flying-bridge cruisers, with deck lines and outriggers, for fishing expeditions. A half-day fishing trip costs US$500 for up to four participants.
Diving, Snorkeling & Other Watersports
Some of the best dive sites in the area include Rose Hall Reef, a shallow reef teeming with marine life and underwater visibility of 7 to 14m (20 to 40 ft.). A large pillar of coral rising to the surface is called "Fairy Castle" by local divers. Nurse sharks often swim at this reef, and you can invariably see grunts, soldier fish, and red snapper. Named after the James Jones novel, Go to the Widowmaker, the ominously namedWidowmakers Cave starts at 12m (40 ft.) with its entrance cave stretching for 24m (80 ft.). As you swim into its cavernous depth, you're greeted with barracuda, reef fish, and other denizens of the deep, along with such natural wonders as gorgonians, black coral, and sponges. At the aptly named Chub Reef, the site is teeming with Bermuda Chubs and other rainbow-hued marine life in 8m (24 ft.) of water. The coral caverns here are particularly stunning. Finally, the Point, whose wall drops to 60m (200 ft.), is for very experienced divers only. Expect strong currents and exotic black coral, deep-water gorgonians, sponges, and other marine life. Seaworld Resorts also operates scuba-diving excursions, plus sailing, windsurfing, and more. Its dives plunge to offshore coral reefs, among the most spectacular in the Caribbean. There are three certified dive guides, one dive boat, and all the necessary equipment for both inexperienced and already-certified divers. One-tank dives cost US$70; night dives are US$95.
North Coast Marine Sports (tel. 876/953-2211), located at the Half Moon resort, offers everything from scuba diving to Sunfish, snorkel gear, kayaks, and more. They can arrange for deep-sea fishing trips and snorkel cruises, too. A one-tank dive goes for US$60, a two-tank dive for US$90, plus US$20 for equipment rental.You might also like to head across the channel to check out Coyaba Reef, Seaworld Reef, and Royal Reef, which are full of barjacks, blue and brown chromis, yellow-headed wrasses, and spotlight parrotfish. You must have a guide here, as the currents are strong and the wind picks up in the afternoon.
Montego Bay has five championship courses within a short ride of the cruise port. If you only play one MoBay-area course, however, it's got to be the Tryall Club. Consistently ranked among the best in the Caribbean, the course has remnants of a historic 1800s estate incorporated into the holes, including an aqueduct at the seventh hole. The White Witch Golf Course, a par-71 course designed by Robert Van Hagge and Rick Baril, is spread on 600 acres and has panoramic ocean views from the 17th hole. Cinnamon Hill Golf Course at Rose Hall Resort underwent a redesign in 2001 and has a very challenging back nine overlooking a great house that was Johnny and June Cash's former home. SuperClubs Ironshore course is known for its challenging layout -- it's a par-72 and 6,633 yards long. And, the Robert Trent Jones-designed Half Moon Golf Course is a hit for its gorgeous ocean views and challenging drives.
The White Witch of Rose Hall Golf Course, part of the Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall (tel. 876/518-0174), is one of the most spectacular courses in the Caribbean, set on 80 hectares (198 acres) of lush greenery in Jamaica's old plantation country. The course is named after Annie Palmer, the notorious "White Witch" and mistress of Rose Hall nearby. Ten minutes from the deluxe resort by wheels, the course was created by Robert von Hagge, who designed the course to wind up and down the mountains, with panoramic vistas of the sea visible from 16 of the 18 holes. Greens fees are US$99 to US$159 for hotel guests, US$179 for nonguests.
Cinnamon Hill Ocean Course, Rose Hall (tel. 876/953-2650), has a noted course with an unusual and challenging seaside and mountain layout. Its 8th hole skirts the water, then doglegs onto a promontory and a green thrusting 180m (590 ft.) into the sea. The back 9 are the most scenic and interesting, rising up steep slopes and falling into deep ravines on Mount Zion. The 90m-high (295-ft.) 13th tee offers a rare panoramic view of the sea and the roof of the hotel, and the 15th green is next to a 12m (39-ft.) waterfall, once featured in a James Bond movie. Amenities include a fully stocked pro shop, a clubhouse, and a professional staff. Guests pay US$119 to US$189 for 18 holes; nonguests US$129 to US$199. Cart rental and the use of a caddy are included in the greens fees.
The excellent course at the Tryall Club Jamaica (tel. 876/956-5660), 20km (12 miles) from Montego Bay, is so regal that it's often the site of major tournaments. For 18 holes, guests of Tryall are charged US$100 in winter, US$70 the rest of the year. Nonguests pay US$110 to US$145 year-round.
Half Moon, at Rose Hall (tel. 876/953-2211), features a championship course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., with manicured and diversely shaped greens. Half Moon hotel guests pay US$85 for 18 holes, including caddy and cart. Nonguests pay US$130 for 18 holes.
The Superclubs Ironshore Golf Club, Ironshore, St. James, Montego Bay (tel. 876/953-3681), is another well-known 18-hole, par-72 course. Privately owned, it's open to all golfers. Greens fees for 18 holes are US$65.
Horseback Riding
A good program is offered at the Rocky Point Riding Stables, at Half Moon, Rose Hall, Montego Bay (tel. 876/953-2286). Housed in the most beautiful barn and stables in Jamaica, the stables have around 30 horses and a helpful staff. A 90-minute beach or mountain ride costs US$80.
Mountain Valley Rafting, P.O. Box 23, Montego Bay (tel. 876/956-4920), gives somewhat tame and touristy excursions on the Great River, which depart from the Lethe Plantation, about 15km (10 miles) south of Montego Bay. For a little more adventure, skip that, and head over to Falmouth, 45km (28 miles) to the east, where you can raft on the Martha Brae. To reach the starting point from Falmouth, drive approximately 5km (3 miles) inland to Martha Brae's Rafters Village (tel. 876/952-0889). The rafts are similar to those on the Rio Grande, near Port Antonio; you sit on a raised dais on bamboo logs. The cost is US$60, with two riders allowed on a raft, plus a small child if accompanied by an adult (but use caution). The trips last 1 1/4 hours and operate daily from 9am to 4pm. It's not necessary to wear swimsuits. Along the way, you can stop and order cool drinks or beer along the banks of the river. There's a bar, a restaurant, and two souvenir shops in the village.
Swimming with the Dolphins
Montego Bay's Half Moon features daily sessions of swimming with the dolphins at its Dolphin Lagoon in a natural cove in the vicinity of Sunrise Beach. For US$155 per person, you get into the water with some of Flipper's cousins for a bottlenose kiss and a dorsal-fin ride. A trimmed-down close encounter with the dolphins -- called "Beach Encounter" -- costs US$89 per person. Before joining the program, a trainer gives a briefing about the "politically correct" ways to mingle with these friendly sea animals. For more information or to make reservations in advance, call tel. 800/626-0592. www.dolphinswimjamaica.com.
Dolphin Cove: With Dolphin Cove locations both in Negril and Montego Bay, this marine theme park of sorts is the place to have encounters with dolphins in a controlled lagoon, pose with parrots and interact with stingrays and other marine animals.
Half Moon, outside Montego Bay (tel. 876/953-2211), has the finest courts in the area. Its 13 state-of-the-art courts, seven of which are lit for night games, attract tennis players from around the world. Lessons cost US$35 per half-hour, US$35 to US$65 per hour. Residents play free, day or night. The pro shop, which accepts reservations for court times, is open daily from 7am to 9pm. If you want to play after those hours, you switch on the lights yourself. If you're not a hotel guest, you must purchase a day pass (US$40 per person) at the front desk; it allows access to the resort's courts, gym, sauna, Jacuzzi, pools, and beach facilities.
Tryall Club Jamaica, St. James (tel. 876/956-5660), offers nine hard-surface courts, three lit for night play. Day games are free for guests; nonguests pay $30 per hour. There's a US$20-per-hour charge to light the courts after dark. At least four on-site pros provide lessons for US$25 to US$45 per half-hour, or US$45 to US$65 per hour.
Rose Hall Resort & Country Club, Rose Hall (tel. 876/953-2650), outside Montego Bay, is an outstanding tennis resort, though not the equal of Half Moon or Tryall. The hotel offers four hard-surface courts, each lit for night play. The resident pro charges US$60 per hour for lessons, US$40 for 45 minutes, or US$35 for 30 minutes.
Eating Out
Jamaica's most famous cooking method is the process called jerking, wherein meats are marinated with dry or wet rubs made of a concoction of spices that might include pimento (all spice), sugar and scotch bonnet peppers. The meats are then cooked over wood coals. Don't leave Montego Bay without trying it, and wash it down the way the locals do -- with a cold Red Stripe Beer.
While there are a few restaurants along the road from the port to the town of MoBay, your best bet for the most varied dining options is the area in and around the Hip Strip. From laid-back restaurants where smoke from the jerk pits clouds the air to the more refined atmosphere of resort restaurants, there's a lunch niche for everyone. Here are some suggestions:
For something authentic and cheap, pop into one of the Jamaican patty shops (like the Tastee chain) for a hot, meat-filled dough pocket that goes for less than a buck.
Right on Doctor's Cave Beach, the Groovy Grouper is your quintessential island-style lunch spot, with things like jerked calamari, escovitch fish, bammy (cassava flatbread) and conch fritters. (Gloucester Avenue; open all day for lunch)
The Pelican Bar & Grill, across from the ocean at the start of the Hip Strip, is a great place to try Jamaican fare like steamed snapper with pineapple ginger sauce, curried goat and fried johnnycakes. There are American standards like pork chops and roast beef on the menu, too. (Gloucester Avenue; open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
The Pork Pit, near Aquasol, has the best jerk chicken and pork in town. The restaurant is open-air, with lots of picnic tables set up around it and various bottles of hot sauce at the ready. (open all day from 11 a.m.) Head to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville on the Hip Strip for grilled fish, fajitas, cheeseburgers in paradise and Key lime pie, along with 52 flavors of margaritas. There's a water trampoline, rooftop hot tub and monster slide that plunges 110 feet into the Caribbean. (Facilities open from 10 a.m. daily, and lunch is served from 11 a.m.)
At The Native, a gourmet, open-air restaurant with ocean views, Jamaican fare is elegantly rendered in dishes like smoked marlin, grilled lobster and jerked seafood and meat. (Gloucester Avenue; it's open for lunch from 11 a.m.)
Be prepared to be pursued by aggressive vendors. Selling a craft item may mean the difference between having a meal or going hungry, and that situation often leads to a feverish attempt to peddle goods to potential customers, all of whom are viewed as rich. Warning: Occasionally this harassment turns ugly or even violent, so watch your back if you decide to turn it on an angry vendor. Duty-free Shopping: Montego Bay's duty-free shopping in the City Centre shopping area stretches along one block downtown; there, you'll find gold, timepieces, perfumes, crystal, leather goods, souvenirs and boutique clothing. MoBay's most upscale shopping center is located at Half Moon Shopping Village in the Rose Hall area, featuring fine duty-free shops, souvenir shops, clothing, restaurants and a post office in case you want to send some stuff home. You can buy everything from designer lingerie to Cuban cigars there. (Just smoke them before you head back to the U.S.) Nearby, a new upscale shopping center is in the works at Whitter Village Centre.
Arts and Crafts: For sourcing everything from hand-carved wooden statues of eagles and sea turtles to rasta-themed baby clothes and those ubiquitous coconut-shell purses, set your sights on MoBay's two bustling craft markets. The Harbour Street Craft Market has the largest selection, and it's a good place to buy straw hats and bags and to meet the Montegonians who carve the wood sculptures onsite. The Old Fort Craft Park, next to the old fort, is a collection of wooden stalls with some good local wares, too. Just bring your bargaining skills to the table! The main shopping areas are at Montego Freeport, within easy walking distance of the pier; City Centre, where most of the duty-free shops are, aside from those at the large hotels; and the Holiday Village Shopping Centre, located across from the Holiday Inn, on Rose Hall Road, heading from Montego Bay toward Ocho Rios.
If you have time for only one shopping complex, make it Old Fort Craft Park, as its handicrafts are more varied. It's grazing country for both souvenirs and more serious purchases. This shopping complex with 180 vendors (all licensed by the Jamaica Tourist Board), fronts Howard Cooke Boulevard (up from Gloucester Ave. in the heart of Montego Bay, on the site of Fort Montego). You'll see wall hangings, hand-woven straw items, and wood sculptures. You can even get your hair braided. Be aware that vendors can be very aggressive. If you want something, be prepared to bargain.
What's the best souvenir shop in Montego Bay that isn't part of any larger crafts market? It stands alone on the Hip Strip, surrounded by less appealing shops on at least one side. It's Tropical Treasures, Shop #1, 55 Gloucester Ave. (tel. 876/971-8531). Open daily from 9am to 7pm, under the ownership of the genuinely charming Sam Chhugani, it offers handmade gift items, a wide range of Jamaican rums, cigars, jerk spices, coffees, CDs by Jamaican musicians, rum cakes, some very intriguing beachwear, and some of the most attractive women's dresses we've seen. Many were crafted in India, come in "one size fits all" motifs, seem appropriate for cocktail parties within moonlit gazebos, are undeniably sexy, and rarely exceed US$50 in price.
At the Crafts Market, near Harbour Street in downtown Montego Bay, you can find a good selection of handmade souvenirs of Jamaica, including straw hats and bags, wooden platters, straw baskets, musical instruments, beads, carved objects, and toys. That jipijapa straw hat is important if you're out in the island sun.
One of the most intriguing places for shopping is an upscale minimall, Half Moon Plaza, on the coastal road about 13km (8 miles) east of the commercial center of Montego Bay. It caters to the guests of the Half Moon resort, and the carefully selected merchandise is upscale and expensive. On the premises are a bank, about 25 relatively upscale boutiques, and a private and well-respected prep school named in honor of the longtime manager of Half Moon, Heinz Simonowitz.
Klass Kraft Leather Sandals, 44 Fort St. (tel. 876/952-5782), offers sandals, caps, and leather accessories made on location by a team of Jamaican craftspeople.
Golden Nugget, 8 St. James Shopping Centre, Gloucester Avenue (tel. 876/952-7707), is a duty-free shop with an impressive collection of watches and a fine assortment of jewelry, plus cameras and a wide assortment of French perfumes.
Copasetic, Half Moon Shopping Village (tel. 876/953-3838), is a good outlet for Jamaican crafts, including pottery, jewelry, and straw products.

The best selection of native art is found at the Gallery of West Indian Art, 11 Fairfield Rd. (tel. 876/952-4547), with a wide selection of paintings not only from Haiti and Jamaica, but Cuba as well, along with Jamaican hand-carved wooden animals -- even some painted hand-turned pottery.
Mezzaluna, Half Moon Shopping Village, Half Moon Plaza (tel. 876/953-9683), is an upscale women's boutique selling lingerie, La Perla perfumes, and various garments, along with chic accessories such as belts.
Avoiding the Mo Bay Hustle
With some two million tourists arriving each year, often with fat wallets, the Mo Bay hustle developed. Although the government has improved the situation considerably, in the 1990s you couldn't walk more than a few steps before a hustler approached or cornered you.
Rivaled by the Ocho Rios hustler, the Mo Bay hustler is still an annoying presence and works hard to keep you from walking around the resort and enjoying it on your own terms.
Sometimes even a simple "no" is not enough to free yourself from the bondage of your uninvited guest. If a hustler will not leave, you can threaten to call a resort patrol, a group of police officers hired by the government to prevent harassment of visitors. The patrol (both men and women) wear dark-blue quasi-military uniforms with black berets and are easy to spot.
Some vendors try to peddle themselves as guides. Some try to sell junky souvenirs such as carvings. Many are peddling drugs, especially ganja (marijuana). Be careful of pickpockets when shopping the markets, and don't let a carver etch your name on a piece of wood. He will later claim you ordered him to do so. Resist having jewelry put on your body; similarly, if someone places a straw hat on your head, you'll be billed whether you want it or not.
When "Duty-Free" Isn't -- Some so-called "duty-free" prices are actually lower than stateside prices, but then the government hits you with a 10% "general consumption tax" on all items purchased. Even so, you can still find good duty-free items here, including Swiss watches, Irish crystal, Italian handbags, Indian silks, and liquors and liqueurs. Appleton's rums are an excellent value. Tía María (coffee-flavored) and Rumona (rum-flavored) are the best liqueurs. Khus Khus is the local perfume. Jamaican arts and crafts are available throughout the resorts and at the Crafts Market.
Grooving on Marley's Reggae Beat
The Reggae Experience, at the Half Moon Shopping Village, North Coast Highway (tel. 876/953-3946), provides a keen insight into Bob Marley's life. On-site you can visit a shop stuffed with Marley memorabilia, everything from CDs to T-shirts, from postcards to incense. Marley's exclusive clothing line, the "Tuff Gong Collection" of denim wear, is also sold here -- and there's a free 15-minute documentary on Marley's life and music showing continuously in a wide-screen theater seating about 70. Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

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