Introducing Montego Bay
A bustling town with a turbulent history, a thriving port and a hopping ‘hip strip, ’ Montego Bay is Jamaica’s most charged city. While spring-breakers descend on MoBay each year for bouts of ritualized raucousness, being host to the island’s busiest airport and cruise-ship port assures the town a steady stream of visitors, many of whom pop down from North America for long weekends.
Most never make it off Gloucester Ave, which has attained the wince-inducing title of ‘hip strip.’ Most of the hotels, restaurants, bars and souvenir emporia line this parade, which runs parallel to the beach; everything is here – and a loose confederacy of hustlers patrols the strip ready to offer guidance (and other services) should you find it all overwhelming. Despite its gaudiness, the strip boasts some of the best eating options on the island.
Streetlife of another, more genuine, order courses through downtown. Centered on pedestrian Sam Sharpe Sq, the town fans out over a grid, its streets lilting to the beats pulsing from competing storefronts while pushcart peddlers lurch in and out of routes they alone know. Downtown features a selection of decaying Georgian buildings that hint at earlier prosperity and the excellent Museum of St James, which bears poignant testament to the city’s brutal slave history.
Montego Bay is also a major port city, based on the container-shipping trade at the Montego Freeport. The town spreads tentacles of light industry west as far as Reading, 6km away. An equal distance to the east, Ironshore marks the beginning of a series of swanky all-inclusive resorts.