Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Montego Bay Cruise Port Guide: Tips, Attractions, Beaches

Montego Bay resort. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Montego Bay resort. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

The Montego Bay cruise port is a western Caribbean cruise destination and the tourism capital of Jamaica.

The second largest city on the island is a hub for many visitors to Jamaica. Besides a cruise terminal, the city also has the Sangster International Airport.

It is the flight destination for anyone planning to stay in hotels or resorts for Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios, among other locations. Sangster is only 70 minutes by air from Miami, FL.

Cruise ships often come to Montego Bay from embarkation ports such as Tampa, New Orleans and Galveston and continue on to the likes of Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

Quick Travel Tips

  • Mystic Mountain and Dolphin Cove are two major attractions.
  • Beaches require transportation to reach them.
  • April and July are two of the best months for weather.

Where is Montego Bay?

Montego Bay is on the northwestern coast of Jamaica. The port is about 90 minutes west of the popular cruise port at Ocho Rios and 233 miles east of the Grand Cayman cruise port.

Cruise ships often include both Montego Bay and Grand Cayman as ports of call on the same western Caribbean cruise.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Walking Around Attractions

Montego Bay has a population of more than 80,000 people. So it’s surprising that it doesn’t have much in the way of a cruise terminal or developed tourist area by the cruise docks.

Nor does it have the same historical attractions and other points of interest within walking distance of the cruise port as some other Caribbean destinations.

Anyone who wants a taste of the Montego Bay history, culture and cuisine is better off paying for a guided shore excursion that takes them through the city. Otherwise, the best attractions are near the port rather than in it.

Shore Excursions

A city tour may include arts and crafts vendors and 18th century cannons in Old Fort Craft Park, the historic St. James Parish Church and John’s Hall Plantation. This four-hour tour has tickets starting at $75.

More adventurous cruise visitors will have shore excursions ranging from Jamaican bobsledding to bamboo rafting, ziplining, kayaking, waterfalls, beaches and dolphin swims.

Mystic Mountain is an entertainment complex 90 minutes east of the cruise port that offers “bobsledding”, zip lining and other activities in one package. Despite the distance, it is a common cruise shore excursion. Prices depend on the program, but $125 to $150 per person is common for this seven-hour tour.

Adventurous cruise visitors can raft and kayak on the mild Great River. They take excursion buses inland to the starting point, drift down river to the ocean and reach Great River Bay about seven miles south of the cruise port. These river tours cost about $70 per person. Prices vary somewhat depending on whether they involve a raft or kayak.

Like many Caribbean cruise destinations, Montego Bay has an attraction where visitors can swim and interact with dolphins. Dolphin Cove is 18 miles west of the cruise docks. Ticket prices vary by program, but $125 to $150 per person is about average.

Rose Hall Great House is a chance to visit the home of the “white witch of Rose House” and hear a few horror stories to chill the bones under a hot Jamaican sun. It is about 35 minutes northeast of the cruise port. Prices for this three-hour tour are about $60 per person with discounts for children. Prices vary with sailings and time of year.

The Georgian mansion is an 18th century plantation home that was refurbished in the 1960s. Decor and furnishings reflect the 18th century lifestyle. Tropical gardens add a bonus for visitors.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

Doctor's Cave Beach
Doctor’s Cave Beach. Credit: Depositphotos

Some of the better beaches are on resort properties.

The city has plenty of nearby beaches with at least nine of them within five miles of the cruise port. Dump-Up Beach and Events Park is right in the city and often crowded. Belvedere, Cornwall, Doctor’s Cave and Walter Fletcher beaches are a mile or less away from downtown.

Doctor’s Cave Beach is located on Montego Bay. This pretty beach has more to offer its visitors than fine white sand.

Doctor’s Cave beach is arguably one of the best locations on the island for exploring the world underneath the crystal clear water.

Aqua Sol Theme Park a few miles north of the cruise docks is mostly just a beach with an entrance fee rather than a park.

Otherwise, cruise line shore excursions to beaches often take passengers to resort beaches for the sake of a better overall experience.

Shopping / Restaurants

The closest shopping to the cruise docks is at Montego Freeport, which is a brief walk straight south.

Many-free shops are at the City Centre Shopping Mall, which is two and a half miles north of the docks. It is right by the Aqua Sol Theme Park and Dump Up Beach and Events Park.

Look for the nearby Old Fort Craft Park, which is a robust arts and crafts market. Shoppers at each place should be prepared for aggressive vendors.

Getting Around / Transportation

Some Caribbean cruise ports have great public transportation. Others do not. Montego Bay falls in the second category.

Taxi drivers in Montego Bay do not have the best reputation. Rates are metered. Be sure to ask for the rate before getting into the cab.

Perhaps the best option for getting around is with cruise excursion buses. Although a cruise excursion is sometimes more expensive than taking a taxi, it’s worth considering for Montego Bay visitors.

Weather / Best Times to Go

Any month is a good time for weather in Montego Bay except for a short rainy season in May and a heavier rainy season in August, September and October caused by the annual Caribbean hurricane season.

Rainfall averages one to three inches a month from January through April and again in July, according to the Meteorological Service of Jamaica. It’s at least four inches during the other months of the year and reaches a high point of nearly seven inches in October.

The average high temperature is 88 degrees Fahrenheit or about 31 Celsius during the summer months. The averages high stay in the low 80s Fahrenheit or upper 20s Celsius during the winter.

The best months to go for a combination of warm temperatures and low risk of rain are April and July. These recommendations are based on long-term weather patterns and may vary from year to year.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
November 22, 2023

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