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Kingston Vs Montego Bay
Which City Is Best For A Jamaican Vacation?

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Kingston Vs Montego Bay | The City of Montego BayKingston Vs Montego Bay | The Resort Area of Montego Bay

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

If I only had a few days to see all Jamaica has to offer I would be bewildered, so I commend all the travellers who make this hard decision ever so often. The decision usually boils down to Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril or Portland, for obvious reasons. But, when compared to these four places, very few tourists seem to venture to our capital city.


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As of late, however, the need to see more of the country outside of just the walls of the resort has risen to an all-time high and visitors and even locals are keener on learning about the history and culture of Jamaica. A quest that often leads you away from the poolside bars and grills and to the hills and valleys, cookshops and corner stops of the real Jamaica, which we locals traverse every day.

So the decision between Kingston and Montego Bay ultimately boils down to what vacation you would like to experience. Don’t worry, I will try to walk you through both options as best as possible and then you can make an educated choice.

For those of us who are still unsure, and are apprehensive about choosing, I’ve come up with an idea to help decide which Jamaican city would be perfect for you.

What is Kingston like?

Kingston, Jamaica is the commercial and cultural hub of the island, the heart of Jamaica. Most companies, whether private or government-owned, are usually headquartered in Kingston. While it has been the business centre of the country for decades and still continues to be, there is something to be said about the importance of Kingston in the creation of cultural staples, namely Reggae and Dancehall music.

Some of the most legendary studios are Kingston-based and as such, some of the greatest names in music and culture started their respective careers in Kingston. If you love busy cities, filled with people hustling to and from their respective jobs then this is the perfect place for you.

Is Kingston Bigger than Montego Bay?

Yes and considerably so. Kingston is the largest English speaking city in the Caribbean.

Is Kingston Jamaica worth visiting?

It definitely is! There is so much that Kingston has to offer.

Can you drive from Kingston to Montego Bay?

Yes, you can. That is the most common way to travel between the two cities. Although there is the option of an aeroplane ride down, it almost seems inconvenient and highly unnecessary unless you have pressing engagements in either city that you would miss if you drive.

There are many public buses that travel directly from one city to the next, stopping occasionally in other major towns such as Ocho Rios or Spanish Town for pick up or drop off. In the event you are unable to get a bus straight from one area to the next, then the next best thing to do is travel to another town such as Ocho Rios then on to your final destination Kingston or Montego Bay.

How far is Montego Bay From Kingston?

A trip from one city to the next will take approximately 3 hours, without consideration of traffic and public transportation.

The next best option is to use the services of Knutsford Express or drive yourself.

What is Kingston Best known for?

Though it is known for being the business epicentre of Jamaica, Kingston is also known as the birthplace of Reggae music, the past home of Bob Marley and other prolific figures in Jamaica.

Kingston is also known for its breathtaking array of food and restaurant options, its wide variety of niche attractions and the ease of access to every and anything, whether good or bad.

Does Kingston have beaches?

Most people would not think this is true as they think of everywhere but Kingston when they think of beaches. But there are actually some good options for beaches in Kingston and its environs. None rival those in Montego Bay though.

What is Montego Bay like?

Montego Bay is the tourist hub of the country. When you think of vacations to Jamaica filled with bottomless drinks, delicious food and beautiful beaches, then Montego Bay is where you’ll have to go to find that.

Built for “touristy” experiences, Montego Bay is filled with all-inclusive resorts, beaches, adventures, bars and clubs for entertainment right through the day and night. The majority of jobs in Montego Bay are centred around tourism, Business Processing Outsourcing and Financial Services.

What is the Hip Strip?

The Hip Strip is the centre of things touristy in Montego Bay. There are all-inclusive resorts, ranging in luxuriousness and size, many restaurants and of course many options to party. There is also a beach and a gaming lounge on the strip as well. Many duty-free shops line the streets where you can buy clothes, jewellery and arts and crafts.

Kingston Vs Montego Bay | Which should you choose?

It all depends on the kind of vacation you are hoping for, if you want a relaxing vacation, where you can avoid the noise and unwind for a while, then you will get that in Montego Bay. If you are seeking a more culturally driven experience then you will be in Kingston where you will have access to more museums, art galleries and parks.

  • Accommodations - If a particular type of accommodation is important to you, then you are more likely to find it in Montego Bay. This city has it all, all-inclusive, guest houses, boutique hotels, adult-only, family-friendly or pet-friendly, you will be able to find accommodations to suit your needs. All-Inclusive resorts are specially designed in a way where if you would prefer not to leave the resort for the entire trip you would be completely entertained for the duration of your trip just the same. Most hotels in Kingston are not all-inclusive and will be better suited for those who plan on being out for most of the day.
  • Partying - Both cities have a good party scene, however, Montego Bay is better, especially if you want to be able to choose when you are a part of it and when you are in the blissful company of yourself or your family. If you want to experience seasonal parties, like the Jamaican Carnival though, Kingston is the best place to do so.
  • Shopping - Montego Bay is better, with more variety in brands, locally made products and options for duty-free shopping. The best places to shop are the Hip Strip, the Shoppes at Rose Hall and Half Moon Shopping Centre.
  • Beaches and Water Sports - There are more hotels on beachfront properties in Montego Bay, therefore they are better suited for watersports, especially motorized ones.
  • Business - If you are in Jamaica on a business trip, the best place to be is in Kingston. More likely than not, you will be closer to the people and company you are here to see. Many hotels and restaurants in Kingston cater to these kinds of settings too.
  • Food - Both cities have exceptional food, however, Kingston is legions ahead as it relates to variety. Kingston does a great job of catering to all diets, and cultures. Food is also considerably cheaper in Kingston than in Montego Bay. Montego Bay has mainly fine dining and fast food options. Street food is more diverse and more prominent in Kingston.
  • First-time travellers - Montego Bay is better for first-time travellers to Jamaica. Most resorts have shuttles to shopping areas or at least reputable taxi services that you can contact through them to take you in and around the area. Being that Montego Bay was built with the visitors in mind, there are small but important details to the town such as duty-free shops and shopping centres, not only at the airport or hotels.
  • Beaches - There are good beach options in Kingston, but if an exceptional beach is important to you then it is best to go to Montego Bay where you will have multiple to choose from.
  • Visiting other parishes - In Montego Bay, you will be closer to Negril, Trelawny and the South Coast. A quick trip to these places is possible even on short notice. Kingston is closer to Portland, one of the most beautiful places in Jamaica, filled with unrefined attractions for you to explore. I would say Ocho Rios is a toss-up between the two, getting here from either place, should be too much of a hassle.

Which Airport is better?

That generally depends on where you which to go, both major airports are located in Kingston and Montego Bay. The Norman Manley International in Kingston has more flights and goes directly to more countries though.

Kingston vs Montego Bay | Which city is safer?

In terms of safety, Montego Bay is better. Montego Bay does have its fair share of unsavoury areas, however, they are clear indications as to where you should and shouldn’t go. Kingston is also a larger city and it is best to have a friend from the area in your group to help you navigate the areas you should and shouldn’t go.

Places to Visit In Kingston

  • National Heroes Park
  • Emancipation Park
  • National Art Gallery of Jamaica
  • Devon House
  • Blue and Joncrow Mountains
  • Trench Town Culture Yard
  • Bob Marley Museum
  • Grosvenor Galleries
  • Olympia Galleries
  • Hope Gardens
  • Port Royal
  • Lime Cay
  • Hellshire

Places to Visit In Montego Bay

  • Rose Hall Great House
  • Margaritaville
  • Pier 1
  • Croydon In the Mountains
  • Cinamon Hill Golf Course
  • Half Moon Golf Course
  • Rastafari Indigenous Village
  • Cockpit Country

So which is better Kingston vs Montego Bay? That is dependent on you, and the type of vacation you wish to have. Both cities are not too far apart where you can’t at least try to visit the two if you have the time. The great thing is, you are in Jamaica, that fact is the start of any good trip.

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References & Sources For Kingston vs Montego Bay

  1. Visit Jamaica, https://www.visitjamaica.com/
  2. Kingston or Montego Bay - Montego Bay Forum - Tripadvisor, https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147311-i93-k2491678-Kingston_or_Montego_Bay-Montego_Bay_Saint_James_Parish_Jamaica.html
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