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Montego Bay Vs Ocho Rios
Where Should Your Next Jamaican Vacay Be?

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Horseback Riding In Ocho RiosMontego Bay vs Ocho Rios | Horseback Riding In Ocho Rios

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

Montego Bay vs Ocho Rios. It is difficult to choose between the two very popular tourist destinations, isn’t it? Well, the best way to decide where to go, is to know what each town offers, then pick the one that aligns the best with the vacation of your dreams.

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Both places are sunny, beachside towns but, that is about how far their similarities go.

What is the difference between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios?

Montego Bay

Montego Bay vs Ocho Rios | Margaritaville Montego BayMontego Bay vs Ocho Rios | Margaritaville Montego Bay

As soon as you get to Montego Bay, you can immediately tell it was built for the ultimate tourist experience. And that begins with the proximity between the airport and the many luxurious all-inclusive resorts that litter the seaside. In under 30 minutes, you can be checked in at your resort if you decide to stay in Montego Bay. 

Of the two tourist towns, Montego Bay is more suited for short trips than Ocho Rios. The transfer time from the airport is considerably shorter and everything is in close proximity.

Also, while there are museums, beaches and other attractions to visit in Montego Bay, the resorts are designed so that you don’t have to leave until the end of your vacation unless you want to. 

Of the two towns, Montego Bay is better suited for family trips as well. There are more resorts and attractions in the second city that cater to the needs of kids than in Ocho Rios. 

Many hotels, for example, Sandals Resorts have a stay at 1 play at all policy. This means that as long as you are staying at one resort in the area you have access to all the hotels in the chain and since Montego Bay has more all-inclusive resorts, you have many more options to choose from.

If you are an avid golfer, Montego Bay is the obvious choice. Golf courses and golf resorts are readily available.

Ocho Rios

Montego Bay vs Ocho Rios | Ocho Rios Craft MarketMontego Bay vs Ocho Rios | Ocho Rios Craft Market

Ocho Rios is a town of adventure. It is best suited for active couples and young adults than it is for relaxing at the beach. While it does have the better beaches of the two towns, Ocho Rios simply is not the town you go to if you just want to relax by the beach or pool for your entire trip. There is just too much to see and do.

“Ochi” as we call it has much more naturally occurring attractions than Montego Bay, with sites  such as the Dunn’s River Falls, Green Grotto Caves, Ocho Rios Blue Hole and the list of attractions in Ocho Rios goes on.

Hotels in Ocho Rios are a little less crowded but that doesn’t mean the attractions will be. Ocho Rios has the busiest cruise port on the island.

Montego Bay vs Ocho Rios


Montego Bay vs Ocho Rios | Reno Casino and Bar - Ocho RiosMontego Bay vs Ocho Rios | Reno Casino and Bar - Ocho Rios

This is the point where people hardly ever agree as both towns have exciting. But the question is, which is better? The resorts themselves in Montego Bay often have nightclubs, but if you want to venture out into the town, the Hip Strip is bustling with activity just the same. The most popular is Pier 1, a restaurant by day and club by night.

There is also Rehab, Margaritaville, Taboo and other smaller clubs where you can enjoy mainly Dancehall and Hip Hop music until the morning if you want to. Coral Cliff is also a good spot for both families and adults travelling with children.

At Coral Cliff there is an arcade and restaurant that is perfect for families, and a casino and bar that is only open to adults. Blue Beat Ultra Lounge is an upscale Jazz and Blues bar and comedy club.

With Ocho Rios being the more “culturally accurate” of the two, you will be able to find a larger pool of nightlife surrounding Reggae music instead of popular music. Some clubs have designated nights for the 80s, 90s and early 2000s music instead of what’s on the radio all the time.

But, that can be found too, at clubs such as Noir Nightclub, Taboo Ocho Rios and Margaritaville Ocho Rios. As far as casinos and gaming go, there is the popular RENO Bar and Gaming as well as Club Jamaica Gaming Lounge.


Montego Bay vs Ocho Rios | Sugar Mill Restaurants Half Moon Resort - Montego BayMontego Bay vs Ocho Rios | Sugar Mill Restaurants Half Moon Resort - Montego Bay

In my opinion, Montego Bay has more restaurants, especially when it comes to fine dining and international cuisine. But, Ocho Rios being activity central, does a better job of day-time on-the-go foods and authentic Jamaican dishes. Vegan restaurants are also available as well.

Ocho Rios does have a desirable mix of rustic, local and fine dining options just the same. If you are into brunches and cafes at picturesque locations Montego Bay is the destination for you.


Montego Bay vs Ocho Rios | Duty Free Shopping - Montego BayMontego Bay vs Ocho Rios | Duty Free Shopping - Montego Bay

Both towns have craft markets which are just filled with uniquely crafted items to commemorate your trip. They also have duty-free shopping that sells luxury items and premium Jamaican alcohol and spices.

I will say Montego Bay has more places to shop than Ocho Rios does. In Montego Bay, there is the Hip Strip, The Shoppes at Rose Hall and Half Moon Shopping Centre. The main shopping centre in Ocho Rios is Island Village.

Which is closer to the airport?

Montego Bay is significantly closer to the airport than Ocho Rios is. While it can take 10 minutes from your hotel to the airport in Montego Bay, it will take at least 90 minutes to get to Ocho Rios. But don’t worry most resorts provide complimentary rides to and from the airport.

What do they both have?

Montego Bay vs Ocho Rios | Island Strains (Hip Strip) - Montego BayMontego Bay vs Ocho Rios | Island Strains (Hip Strip) - Montego Bay

Both resort towns have very active watersports and are at the same level when it comes to safety. Legal dispensaries are quite popular in Jamaica now too, Montego Bay has more weed dispensaries, but Ocho Rios does have popular ones such as Kaya Herb House and JACANNA.

Choosing where you vacation in Jamaica, can seem a little stressful at first, but it shouldn’t be. If you want a vacation filled with activity, great nightlife and excellent food then Ocho Rios is the option for you.

But, if you are a little more on the luxurious side and wish for days relaxing by the beach with or without the children, then Montego Bay is where you’d rather be. No matter what you decide, it’s a Jamaican vacation after all.

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References & Sources For Montego Bay Vs Ocho Rios

  1. Ocho Rios vs Montego Bay - Montego Bay Forum - Tripadvisor,
  2. Nightlife Debate: Montego Bay vs. Ocho Rios - Rental Escapes, 
  3. A Travel Price Comparison for Jamaica Ocho Rios vs. Montego Bay for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons,
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