Welcome to Montego Bay cruise port! (Post updated: October 2023)
Nestled on the northwest coast of the island, Montego Bay (aka Mo’Bay) is Jamaica’s second-largest port and one of its most popular tourist destinations. Known for its bustling Hip Strip, golf courses and historic estates, Montego Bay is one of the most visited cruise ports in the Caribbean cruise itineraries. In this article, read about:
- Montego Bay cruise port (Montego Bay cruise terminal, getting around, helpful info)
- Top 10 things to do in Montego Bay port and best Montego Bay shore excursions
Montego Bay Cruise Port
Montego Bay cruise terminal, known as Montego Bay Freeport, is a duty-free area located 4.5 km/2.8 miles (a 10-minute drive) southwest of Montego Bay city center and the tourist Hip Strip area. There are three cruise ship berths that can accommodate up to 4 cruise liners at a time. The cruise terminal consists of one terminal building where you can find basic facilities including a tourist information desk, a refreshments stand, duty-free shops and souvenir stores. Outside the terminal, you’ll find a taxi rank with official taxi rates, shuttle buses and tour buses for those of you joining the shore excursions.
- The port area is flat and wheelchair accessible. The Hip-Strip area is also flat and easy to navigate, however, the city is partially hilly.
- There are a few ways to get to Montego Bay downtown. Taxis have official rates that you can check at the tourist information office and will take you to town for around $5 per person. There are regular-sized and minivan-style taxis. They normally wait until the vehicle is full because many people go in the same direction. However, when returning back to the port, arrange the price with the taxi driver in advance to avoid being overcharged.
- Alternatively, you can take the Hot Spot Shuttle bus, which has a similar concept to Hop on Hop off buses and stops at several different locations in Montego Bay including Hip Strip, Margaritaville, Doctor’s Cave Beach and the downtown area. The pass is valid for a day and you can hop on/off as many times as you wish. The price varies depending on where you purchase the ticket (some cruise lines may sell the tickets onboard for a slightly higher fare).
- Walking to the town is not recommended as it’s shadeless and takes at least 1 hour.
- Gloucester Avenue, more popularly known as “Hip Strip” is the heart of tourist activities where you can find shops, parks, public beaches, restaurants and bars, as well as a few city attractions and historic landmarks. The street runs parallel to the coast and lines Montego Bay’s most popular beaches including Doctor’s Cave Beach, One Man Beach/Old Hospital Park Beach, Harmony Beach Park and the seaside Aqua Sol Theme Park. Hip-Strip is a lively crowded area and the street is normally congested, so keep this in mind when returning to the port.
- Shopping in Montego Bay is centered around Hip Strip and the downtown area (Sam Sharpe Square, St James Street). You’ll find many shopping malls such as Baywest Shopping Center, Centrepoint Plaza, Union Square Plaza, and St James Place Shopping Plaza. There are also a few Craft markets, and the largest one is the Craft Market on Harbour Street. For those of you who prefer to stay around the port, Montego Freeport Shopping Center is the perfect choice because it’s located within the cruise terminal complex.
- Montego Bay is not the safest place in the world, so it’s not recommended to explore on your own the non-touristy areas.
- Do not be surprised and shocked if locals offer you marijuana at the beach, or in a shop. I’ve experienced it in Montego Bay several times in one day, so be mindful of that.
- The currency in Jamaica is the Jamaican Dollar (JMD). 1 USD equals approximately 152 JMD. US dollars and credit cards are accepted, however, I suggest you use cash due to safety reasons.
- Jamaica has a warm, tropical climate all year round, with relatively dry winter and spring. To get useful packing information for your cruise to Montego Bay, check out my article What to Pack for a Cruise – Top 60 Cruise Essentials
- Sangster International Airport is located 7 km/4.5 miles (a 15-minute drive) northeast of Montego Bay port.
- Explore Montego Bay tours and activities
- Search the best Caribbean cruise deals
Top 10 Things to Do in Montego Bay Cruise Port
1. Hip Strip
Hip Strip is definitely a must-see if you are coming to Montego Bay for the first time. Buzzing with activity and music all day and night, the Hip Strip (aka Gloucester Avenue) stretches for about 2 km/1.3 miles along the coast between Aqua Sol Theme Park and the airport. Here, you’ll find the city’s most popular shops, restaurants, nightclubs, banks and businesses, the top-rated beaches and a few city attractions. Below is the list of the most popular places to visit:
- Doctor’s Cave Beach
- Aqua Sol Beach Park
- Harmony Beach Park
- One-Man Beach/Old Hospital Park Beach
- Dead End Beach
- Cornwall Beach
2. Doctor’s Cave Beach
With its powdery white sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters, this iconic beach ranks among the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Doctor’s Cave Beach is safe and well-maintained, and the waters are calm and perfect for water sports and swimming. The amenities such as changing rooms, showers, bathrooms, beach chairs and umbrellas are available, as well as a couple of restaurants and bars including Starbucks.
Doctor’s Cave Beach is relatively small and can be crowded due to its popularity, especially when ships are in port. There is an entrance fee of around $6 per person, plus an additional charge for beach chairs and umbrellas. Doctor’s Cave Beach is part of the Montego Bay Marine Park, so those looking to explore the marine world won’t be disappointed with snorkeling. Just make sure you bring your snorkeling gear! Doctor’s Cave Beach is located within walking distance from shops, bars and restaurants on Gloucester Avenue (aka Hip Strip).
Situated at the heart of Hip Strip, the famed Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville offers the ultimate fun and by far the best entertainment in Montego Bay! The multi-level dance floors, booty-shaking beats, the island’s most popular DJs, and island cuisine and drinks await you in this tropical paradise overlooking the Caribbean Sea. There is also a 120-foot waterslide that goes straight into the ocean, a selection of water sports and an aqua park available for all visitors.
4. Aqua Sol Theme Park
Aqua Sol is a family-friendly amusement park located within the Walter Fletcher Beach Complex at the entrance of Hip Strip. The park offers activities such as waterslides, banana boat rides, jet-skiing, kayaking, glass-bottom boat trips, go-karts, tennis, and volleyball. A small entrance fee includes some activities, while some require an extra charge. The facilities including beach chairs, umbrellas, changing rooms, and showers are available, as well as a bar-restaurant serving Caribbean specialties.
5. One-Man Beach/Old Hospital Park Beach
Situated next to Walter Fletcher Beach, at the Hip Strip entrance, this sandy beach features crystal clear water and a relaxed vibe. This beach is mainly popular with locals and is perfect for those looking for a laid-back atmosphere with reggae music and drinks, away from the touristy crowded places. Next to the beach is located Old Hospital Park, a small waterfront park great for sunset views and family picnics.
6. Sam Sharpe Square
Sam Sharpe Square lies in the heart of downtown around 500 m from Harmony Beach Park, which is located at the entrance of Hip Strip. It is a cobblestone square named after national hero Samuel Sharpe, an enslaved Jamaican who was the leader of the Baptist War slave rebellion (aka “Christmas Rebellion”) in 1831. The square features the Cage, which used to be a jail for runaway slaves, and Montego Bay Cultural Centre housing the National Museum West and National Gallery West.
Around the square and on St James St you’ll find numerous shops, shopping malls, restaurants and bars. Craft Market, located a stone’s throw from Sam Sharpe Square on Harbour Street, features dozens of stalls where you can find authentic handicrafts, local art and souvenirs.
7. Rose Hall Great House
Built on the 650-acre Rose Hall Plantation, the 18th-century Rose Hall Great House preserves the memory of White Witch Annie Palmer who, according to the legend, tortured countless slaves and murdered her three husbands on the property. The Georgian mansion was renovated and transformed into a history museum where you can learn about Jamaican history and hear the haunted stories of the White Witch of Rose Hall. Rose Hall Great House is located around 20 km/12.5 miles (a 25-minute drive) northeast of Montego Bay cruise port.
Alternatively, you can visit a few other 18th-century plantation houses such as Bellefield Great House (a 15-minute drive from the port) and Greenwood Great House (a 40-minute drive). The plantation houses and estates will provide you with an insight into Jamaica’s rich historic and cultural heritage.
Finally, if you want to learn about rum production and taste the country’s premium rum, head to Appleton Estate rum distillery located about 60 km/37 miles (a 2-hour drive) southeast of Montego Bay Port.
If you are into golf, Montego Bay boasts four championship courses rated among the best ones in the world. The iconic Rose Hall Estate features two golf courses – Cinnamon Hill Golf Course with 18 holes and amazing views of the Caribbean Sea, and White Witch Golf Course with 16 holes set in the rolling hills of Jamaica’s countryside. Both courses are located a 30-minute drive from Montego Bay cruise terminal.
Half Moon Golf Club is located a 25-minute drive from the port, next to the Half Moon Shopping Village, while Tryall Golf Club (a 30-minute drive from the port) features a resort-style course with magnificent ocean views.
9. Dunn’s River Falls
Jamaica’s legendary waterfalls are located about 100 km/62 miles or a 1 h 50-minute drive east of Montego Bay cruise port. Nestled in the middle of the jungle, right by the ocean, Dunn’s River Falls ranks among the most visited attractions on the island. The terraced waterfall is popular for climbing and it takes around 45 minutes to climb from its bottom to the top.
The climb is strenuous, however, if you don’t wish to do it, you can spend your day within the complex where you can walk, shop at souvenir shops, have a drink, or grab a bite at one of the eateries. There is a staircase parallel to the waterfall so you can walk alongside and take beautiful pictures of the falls.
Bring water shoes and a swimsuit if you want to climb the falls. I also suggest you get a waterfront phone case so you can bring your phone with you (as there is no professional photographer taking pictures of you). Changing rooms and restrooms are available within the complex.
10. Martha Brae Bamboo Rafting
Martha Brae Rafting Village is a starting point for a peaceful 3-mile journey down the river set in unspoiled nature and lush vegetation. For an ultimate relaxing day in nature, embark on a tranquil bamboo raft ride and enjoy the untouched beauty of the Jamaican countryside. The village features picnic areas, a bar, and gift shops. It is located 38 km/24 miles (a 45-minute drive) from Montego Bay cruise terminal.
If you are planning a cruise to Montego Bay, make sure you plan your day according to the ship’s schedule to maximize your stay in port. If you are a first-timer, I suggest you explore the Hip Strip, the downtown area and Montego Bay’s beaches rather than Dunn’s River Falls as they are too far and you will waste a lot of time in traffic.
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