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by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer
As a tiny island, Jamaica isn’t overflowing with cities to visit. There is our metropolitan area and capital city, Kingston and the resort area and second city, Montego Bay. Those are the two areas on the island acknowledged as cities. I guess you could consider Ocho Rios a town as we sometimes sneak it into the conversation based on what is available there. If you are looking for a “city vacation” in Jamaica these three would be your options.
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Montego Bay never fully turns down for the night. Somewhere there will be a party until the sun rises the next day. While some people prefer to relax on vacation. This is exactly what others love to hear.
Montego Bay has an impressive catalogue of nightclubs, restaurants, weed dispensaries and entertainment all in relative proximity to each other. You can visit nightclubs depending on your taste in music and the atmosphere you would love to be a part of. Pier 1 has mainly popular music from the genres of dancehall, R&B and Afrobeats.
Blue Beat Club on the hip strip is more for Jazz bands and live comedy performances. Rehab is known for its legendary dancehall sessions and Coral Cliff has something for everyone.
In the lower half, it is an arcade suitable for all ages, and on the top floor is the adults-only casino and the restaurant, Bubble and Spice which has live performances every night. Treasure Hunt in Whitter Village is another casino option.
Now one of the main reasons for vacationing in Montego Bay is the beaches so head down to Doctor’s Cave, Buccaneer Beach (Dead End) or Old Hospital Park.
There are also many culturally and historically significant buildings, the Sam Sharpe Square has the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, Sam Sharpe’s Statue and the Cage and Freedom Monument. Fort Montego isn’t only a place to shop, but you can see the now retired cannons that were a part of the English defence artillery when they once ruled Jamaica.
For a little history and mystery, visit the Rose Hall Great House and learn about Annie Palmer.
And, if Rastafarian culture is interesting to you, a trip to the Rasta Indigenous Village is in order. If you are lucky enough you might visit during their monthly live show that may have prominent Reggae artists in attendance.
But that isn’t all you can do, Montego Bay has a bowling alley, go-kart and rollerskating as well, where you are bound to see other locals just enjoying the city.
Food is a very big deal to Jamaicans and Montego Bay does an excellent job of showcasing authentic Jamaican food in both fine dining and street food settings. You will also find some restaurants that are more focussed on other cuisine or a fusion of multiple, these are a must-try just the same.
For a little shopping, to get your shirts, jewellery and other trinkets to commemorate your trip, you can head to the craft market, Fort Montego or the Hip Strip to see what the vendors have in store.
Another perk of being in the city is not having to commute long hours to the airport. Most hotels are within 5 to 10 minutes.
If golfing is your thing, then Montego Bay has some of the most beautiful and challenging courses. The Half Moon and Cinnamon Hill courses immediately come to mind.
Kingston isn’t the place to go if you love the easy access to the beach and slow days of walking around the town. As the business centre of Jamaica, Kingston doesn’t have as many visitors. It mainly caters to businesspeople. Don’t expect all-inclusive hotels either. There are hotels there though, as well as Airbnbs and villas.
But, I think there is a positive to all this. Since it isn’t built as a “tourist destination” per se, you will get to experience Jamaica the way we do and enjoy even more of the things we love to do.
For example, a night out at Ribbiz, dinner at TGIF or a picnic on the lawns of Devon House followed up by ice cream after is standard here.
The museums, cultural and reggae tours will give you amazing insight into what Jamaica was like in the past and how the influential Reggae music was invented in downtown Kingston.
It would be a missed opportunity to not visit the murals in downtown Kingston but for this, a guide is recommended. The Bob Marley museum is also located in Kingston.
Restaurants in Kingston have far more variety than in any other town or city in Jamaica, and I am always impressed by what they offer. Jamaican cuisine is a must, but there are loads of others to try as well.
Again, you won’t be far from the airport so commuting won’t be a hassle unless there is traffic.
Now for our unofficial city. It has much more than Kingston when it comes to accommodation. As the garden parish, there is more room for all-inclusive resorts, villas and Airbnbs.
Exciting excursions are a big part of Ocho Rios’ appeal to visitors. Ochi has the most adventure parks of all the other towns in Jamaica. Chukka Jamaica, Mystic Mountain Yaaman Adventures and Konoko Falls and Park each provide a unique experience to their visitors.
If you are visiting Jamaica on a cruise ship chances are you will be stopping over in Ocho Rios for at least a day. Dolphin Cove, Green Grotto Caves and Dunn’s River falls are three other attractions that you absolutely must visit.
As far as beaches go, you are spoilt with choices. Puerto Seco, Ocho Rios Bay, Bamboo Beach Club, James Bond Beach and Pleasure Cove are all great options for a frolic in the Caribbean Sea.
While the Bob Marley Museum is located in Kingston. The Mausoleum, where his body was buried, is actually in Nine Miles, St. Ann, where he grew up. There you will meet surviving members of his family, see plaques and awards given to him for his outstanding contribution to Reggae, be treated to live Reggae music from the live band and last but not least, see his final resting place.
These are all family-friendly activities, but if you would like more adult activities, you can head out at nighttime to a casino, bar or nightclub. It isn’t uncommon for hotels in Ocho Rios to have their own nightclub and they are actually among the best in the city. Margaritaville is child-friendly during the day, but it is strictly for adults at night.
These cities are 3 of the resort areas in Jamaica. For a summary of all 7, click here.
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Best Jamaican City For Vacation | Written: November 22, 2022
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