BEST TIME TO GO: December through July
FUN FACT: If you want black pepper in Jamaica, use that very phrase, because the word “pepper” gets you hot sauce
GETTING THERE: Delta flies from Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis and New York (JFK) to Montego Bay
ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport
CURRENCY: Jamaican dollar
MUST-TRY LOCAL FOOD: Jamaican patties—beef, chicken, or vegetarian—whichever you like, mon
BEST BUYS: The Gallery of West Indian Art in Montego Bay is, arguably, the greatest gallery in the Caribbean
INFORMATION PLEASE: Jamaica Tourist Board—visitjamaica.com
MoBay and its environs have plenty to offer, from duty-free shopping at City Centre to hand-made items at the Montego Craft Market, and from Rose Hall Great House, a historic sugar plantation, to the Rastafari cultural experience at Montego River Gardens. Montego Bay is also home to the Gallery of West Indian Art, an emporium that sells extraordinary works by artists from Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, and other countries. But even so, when most visitors land at MoBay’s airport, they head straight to their resorts.The neighborhood has quite a lot of them, especially all-inclusives—Iberostar, RIU, Secrets, Sandals, Holiday Inn Sunspree, and more—but that’s not the whole picture. Storied classics like Half Moon and The Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort Rose Hall, Jamaica, are also in the area. The world-famous White Witch Golf Course is part of the Ritz-Carlton, which also provides an array of luxury accommodations, other land and watersports, child-care services, and good taste—in and beyond the restaurants.
East of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios has even more resorts, including all-inclusives listed above, Couples, Beaches, and elegant boutique hotels like the Jamaica Inn and Goldeneye, an Island Outpost hideaway built around James Bond author Ian Fleming’s house. Coincidentally (or not?), it was in this part of Jamaica that Ursula Andress emerged from the sea in “Dr. No” and, you might say, changed the world.
Driving in the other direction from MoBay you come to Negril, with its all-inclusives and small, hip hideaways such as The Caves and Rockhouse Hotel. Given Negril’s geographical location, its restaurants and bars also offer the best sunsets on Jamaica. Cocktails, dinner, and some music at the Rockhouse Hotel, The Caves, or Norma’s on the Beach are all highly recommend.
Before leaving this island, though, don’t forget the world beyond its hotels and eateries. Jamaica is not just Dunn’s River Falls: Chukka Caribbean Adventures and other companies offer kayaking, river rafting, ziplining, and jeep safars through spectacular rainforest settings.