Want to maximise your port time in Montego Bay? Here’s a guide to this popular Jamaican port of call with some suggestions of how to spend a day in Montego Bay.
About Montego Bay
Montego Bay is a north Jamaican cruise port that is an alternative to Ocho Rios or Falmouth. Affectionately called MoBay, it is the second largest city in Jamaica by area and fourth biggest by population.
Montego Bay Cruise Terminal
Montego Bay’s cruise terminal is a large empty building and it’s here where you can meet for your day’s excursions. From this building you can walk outside but just remember you will need to take your photo ID and cruise card in order to re-enter the building. Outside the building you will find wooden kiosks selling souvenirs. A word of warning, be careful here, some of our friends came away with additional purchases after the market ladies put bracelets on them before they could say no.
You cannot get taxis inside this area, you need to go outside of the gates. If you do decide to travel independently, ensure that you choose a government approved and licensed vehicle, which will have red licence plates with two letters and four digits.
Montego Bay Cruise Excursions
A lot of advice online suggests that you should book excursions for your visit to Montego Bay for your safety. There are many options to choose from:
- 4×4 Jeep safari
- Catamaran trips
- Zip lining
- Horseback riding and swim
- Rafting on the Martha Brae River
- Rose Hall
- River tubing
- Beach trips
Martha Brae River Rafting
Based on my research before the cruise, I pre-booked the rafting on the Martha Brae River. I discovered by booking this excursion directly with the Jamaica Rafting Company it was cheaper than the cruise excursion booked through the cruise line, saving $20 in total for two people. What was even better was that we found we were still with the cruise ship excursion (small triumph, fist pump).
Getting to Martha Brae River
The small bus we boarded to Martha Brae comfortably seated 21 passengers and we were introduced to our driver and tour guide who pointed out landmarks. We were given a flavour of life on Jamaica, including learning some common Jamaican phrases such as “Ya man” and “No problems”. It was this journey that reassured me that booking an excursion had been the right decision. We drove past many homes without proper roofs, burnt out cars and people loitering on street corners. These sights were punctuated by luxury, gated, all-inclusive resorts in juxtaposition to the real Jamaica outside the high walls of the complexes.
Arriving at the river rafting, we were greeted with a complimentary fruit juice and a life jacket. We were then shown to our raft for the journey. Each bamboo raft seats two passengers and is owned by its raft captain, who builds and maintains the raft. These rafts have a lifespan of around four months. They are the Jamaican equivalent of a Venetian gondola.
River Rafting Experience
The Martha Brae rafting was so tranquil and relaxing. The light shone through the bamboo trees, which lined the river and creaked faintly in the breeze as we snaked our way along the river for an hour and a half.
On the way we passed a few vendors on the river bank selling t-shirts, artwork, carvings, towels and beer. Once we said “No thank you” they didn’t hassle us any further and wished us a good day. There was only one vendor we bought from and we had to give him top marks for his sale technique. This involved him throwing his miniature bamboo raft model into the water next to us. We picked it up for closer inspection and he shouted “$5!”. “But how do we pay?” I shouted back, still drifting down the river away from him. With that he waded into the waist-deep water to collect his money. When we returned to the tour bus almost everyone had bought one of his miniature bamboo rafts!
The rafting was an excellent excursion choice, it certainly lived up to my expectations and I would definitely recommend this for a half day excursion.
Other Things to do
On the return journey to the cruise port, the tour stopped at the Shoppes at Rose Hall – a lot of cruise excursions stop here. There were souvenir and jewellery shops in a pleasant setting. If you want to grab some souvenirs quickly, this may not be the cheapest but it will save you time. Our tour guide gave us 15 minutes to explore! We discovered a guy selling fresh coconut water, served straight from the coconut, only a straw needed!
Once back at Montego Bay cruise port there are a number of options available to maximise your time in Jamaica.
Montego Bay Food
Go for a late lunch at Margaritaville’s rooftop terrace and enjoy beautiful sea views, and remember, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere! Thrill-seekers can take the 120ft water slide from the terrace into the sea. Margharitaville, Gloucester Ave (Hip Strip), Montego Bay is a 10 minute taxi ride from just outside the cruise terminal.
Try a Jamaican Patty, which can be purchased from one of the kiosks immediately outside the cruise terminal building. Delicious snack!
Montego Bay Beaches
Visit one of the stunning beaches near the cruise port such as Doctor’s Cave Beach. It’s $4 per person by taxi and $6 entry, you can also rent chairs and umbrellas for $6 each.
Our friends decided to visit Rose Hall and go horseback riding, which includes a sea swim with the horses. Both groups of friends enjoyed their respective excursions so I would not hesitate to go with their recommendations for my next trip to Montego Bay.
Most importantly, make the most of your time in Montego Bay, however you decide to spend your day.