Montego Bay is the second largest city in Jamaica and is the gateway to tourist activity on the north coast. The city sits in a bay with mountains rising in the background. It is a hub of shopping and dining, and the beaches are lined with all-inclusive resorts. In Montego Bay, be sure to check out the following highlights:
- Rose Hall Great House - Visit the legendary home of the infamous Annie Palmer. The "White Witch" of Jamaica. She is reported to have killed several unlucky husbands and brutalized her slaves until she herself was murdered. People swear they see her suffering ghost roaming the property. Beautifully restored and worth the visit.
- Greenwood Great House - Considered one of the finest and best restored of the former plantation homes. The house belonged to the Barrett family of which Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a descendent. The house is filled with antiques, paintings, rare books, and furniture from the 1800s.
Heading east from Montego Bay, take some time to visit these recommended stops:
- Falmouth: 18th century port town, this is worth a quick walking tour to see the historical buildings. The Good Hope Great House is located nearby.
- Discovery Bay: Site of Columbus' landing in 1494, this is where you will find Columbus Park which is an open-air museum containing a wide range of historical artifacts and information on the area.
- Runaway Bay: Is now a growing tourist area. This is the spot that the Spanish "ran away" to Cuba when the British invaded the island.
This is the cruise capital of Jamaica. The bay is sheltered by lush garden-like mountains and protected by reefs. Ocho Rios hums with markets, shops, restaurants, and discos. Watersports and natural wonders are the attraction here.
- Dunns River Falls:This 600-foot waterfall drops down to the beach. One of the most photographed and visited waterfalls in the world. Can be extremely crowded as people climb up through a series of "staircase" waterfalls.
Heading east from Ocho Rios, the drive from Ocho Rios to Port Antonio has some of the most spectacular scenery the north coast has to offer. Pass through small port towns such as Orcabessa, whose 19th century buildings are restored to their original look and feel. There are several "kodak moments" with breathtaking views of the coastline, bays and hills. The roads are narrow and windy, so be careful when driving on your own through this area.
Once the river port destination for the banana boats, this village was a favorite of movie stars and the cradle of modern Jamaican tourism. The twin bays look like a hollywood movie set and were the birthplace of bamboo rafting. Port Antonio is the mecca of the island's deep-sea fishing and a gateway to the nearby John Crow and Blue Mountain ranges. Port Antonio features the following worthwhile sightseeing spots:
- Erroll Flynn: The story goes that he pulled his yacht into Kingston for repairs. While waiting, he drove a rented motorbike 62 miles over the mountains and into Port Antonio. The movie star instantly fell in love with the place and purchased Navy Island and became completely absorbed into the local community. He is still talked about today and his estate still owns the nearby Comfort Island Castle Plantation.
- Goldeneye: The beachfront estate of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond novels.
- Somerset Falls: The rainforest feeds the river that is forced down a gorge making this an awesome waterfall to see and play in. You can swim in the rock pools as you enjoy snacks sold at the concession stand.
Many tourists bypass the largest English-speaking city in the Caribbean due to the bad publicity and crime associated with it. It is the cradle of Jamaican culture, however and contains many historical sites and botanical gardens. The first English capital city -- Port Royal -- was built just across from Kingston in the 1600s and was later destroyed by an earthquake and tidal wave. Spanish Town, just outside of Kingston was the site of the Spanish settlement before the English ran them off.
Located at 2,000 feet in elevation, the city has one of the best climates on the island. The English built the city to escape the "hot tropics" of the coastline. It is a charming town and is a great homebase for birdwatching, caving, or to branch out and explore the mountainous regions or the south coast.
The "newest" resort destination on the west coast was discovered in the 1700s by rowdy pirates. The 1960s and 1970s saw the sleepy little town invaded by hippies from North America. Today, people are being drawn in even greater numbers to its famed seven-mile-long sandy beach and its spectacular sunsets. Fun and sun are the main attractions here, and there are few other attractions. The Negril Lighthouse, built in 1894, offers a panoramic view of the area after a climb of 100 stairs.
As you head back to Montego Bay to catch your return flight, you will pass through the remains of several Great Houses and plantation estates.
Treasure Beach is one of the many unspoiled and beautiful beaches on the southern coast of Jamaica. At the southeast end of the beach a sheer cliff rises 1,000 feet above the sea. Hikers enjoy going up the rocky road and then scaling the cliff near the lighthouse. The view is spectacular and belies a rather tragic story that gave the cliff its name. The story goes that in the 17th century two young slaves fell in love and asked the slavemaster permission to marry. Not only was the permission denied but the "master" stated that he was going to separate them permanently by selling the young girl off to another plantation. Unable to bear the thought of being separated for life they jumped from the cliffpoint to be joined forever in death.