Montego Bay was the first destination of my Jamaica Mon trip. The fourth largest city by population, Montego Bay has developed to be the premier tourist destination of the island. Massive resorts and duty-free shops cater for tourists arriving by cruise ships or plane. It is very convenient and inexpensive to fly from the US with service to many airports including direct flights to New York.
At Sangster International airport (MBJ) I stepped off the plane to mark my arrival in country 185! I then rented a car for my journey across the island. My route was from Montego Bay to Kingston via Ocho Rios.
Let’s start with a decadent couple of days at Hotel Riu Montego Bay. This 5 star all-inclusive resort was a sample of what attracts vacationers to the island. Imagine free flow of alcohol, synchronized dance classes, sipping fresh coconuts on the beach and several options of fine-dining. Don’t miss the mouthwatering jerk chicken at lunch! The palm-dotted white sandy beaches of Jamaica seemed like something out of a movie. In fact they were (see Bond below).
Across the street was a shopping complex with plenty of souvenirs. This is where I got my tourist shirt. Walking over, one of the several people hanging around their cars approached to offer a famous Jamaican product, ganja. With a long drive ahead, I resisted the urge to try the local flavor.
There’s not too much besides the resorts in Montego Bay. Historically this was a port shipping primarily sugarcane and some original buildings can still be found.
My next stop was a hour and a half drive on a well paved road. Columbus Park is on the way and supposedly where the explorer first landed.
Though translated as “Eight Rivers” from Spanish, Ochos Rios doesn’t actually have so many rivers. It does have one of Jamaica’s’ most famous attractions, Dunn’s River Falls.
With thousands of visitors every year, I was expecting it to be really crowded. Fortunately my expectations were wrong! I loaded up on Deet-rich bug spray to which a local laughed “that’s not gonna stop them from biting!” Were the mosquitos that bad?
Entering the park, there is an entrance fee and then you are free to roam. There were tours that take you up the waterfall, but I preferred to climb it solo. The entire section took me about 30 minutes. Some rocks were deceivingly slippery, so watch out.
It was a fun experience, great for photo ops, plus I didn’t get bitten by a single mosquito!
Across the street is Dolphin Cove. This marine park give tourists the chance to swim and interact with dolphins. I didn’t partake. If I ever swim with dolphins, I want it to be in the wild.
Once a fishing village, Ocho Rios has a vibrant center with shops, bars, restaurants and nightclubs. I parked and took a stroll. Ocho Rios Bay Beach is quite picturesque and also connected to the marina where cruise ships dock. Watersports are readily available. The old clock tower is in the center of town and an easy to spot landmark. Note the historic churches along the road.
I asked some locals where they usually eat and was directed to Mother’s which is a fast-food joint serving patties. These local meat pies come with different fillings and were very tasty.
Bond, James Bond
Jamaica was a main filming location for the very first James Bond film, Dr. No. There were scene shot in Dunn’s River Falls, James Bond Beach, Kingston, and Port Royal. Ian Fleming actually lived in Jamaica in his villa “Goldeneye” where he wrote the Bond stories. The international airport is even named after him. Now his villa is a boutique hotel. When visiting Ocho Rios, drive a bit further east to see James Bond beach! I searched for this beach, but due to an incorrectly marked google pin, I couldn’t find it…
My next stop was Kingston.