Montego Bay has two distinct faces: there’s the smooth tourist countenance that grins contentedly from the pages of a thousand glossy Caribbean brochures; and there’s MoBay proper, a pretty gritty city, second only to Kingston in terms of status and chaos. Most of the big all-inclusive resorts are located well outside the urban core in the fancy suburb of Ironshore. Stay in the city, however, and you’re faced with an entirely different proposition – a riot of cacophonous car horns and bustling humanity that offers an unscripted and uncensored slice of Jamaican life, warts and all.
The Hip Strip (aka Gloucester Ave), with its midrange hotels and ubiquitous souvenir shops flogging Bob Marley T-shirts, acts as a kind of decompression chamber between MoBay’s two halves. You won’t find many hipsters here, but in among the hustlers and smoky jerk restaurants there’s a detectable Jamaican rhythm to the action on the street.