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Montego Bay

As home of the north-shore airport and a busy cruise pier west of town, Jamaica’s second-largest city is the first taste most visitors have of the island. Travelers from around the world come and go year-round, drawn to the bustling community’s all-inclusive resorts and great beaches. Montego Bay’s relative proximity to resort towns like Ocho Rios and Negril also make the town a popular choice. Adventures and one-of-a-kind experiences, not to mention interesting colonial sights, await in surrounding areas.

POINTS OF INTEREST

DOCTOR’S CAVE BATHING CLUB

Located along Montego Bay’s touristy Hip Strip, this famous beach first gained notoriety for waters said to have healing powers. It’s a popular beach with a perpetual spring-break feel. The clubhouse has changing rooms, showers, a gift shop, and restaurant. You can rent beach chairs, pool floats, and umbrellas. Its location within the Montego Bay Marine Park—with protected coral reefs and plenty of marine life—makes it good for snorkeling and glass-bottom boat rides. Chairs, umbrellas, and pool floats are available to rent for $6 per item for the day. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (fee); showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; snorkeling; sunset; swimming.

WALTER FLETCHER BEACH

Although not as pretty as Doctor’s Cave Beach, this strand is home to Aquasol Theme Park, which offers a large beach (with lifeguards and security personnel) and for an additional cost, glass-bottom boats, snorkeling, go-kart racing, a skating rink at night, and a bar and restaurant. Near the center of town, the beach has unusually fine swimming; the calm waters make it good for children. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; snorkeling; sunset; swimming.

MARTHA BRAE RIVER

This gentle waterway about 25 miles (40 km) southeast of Montego Bay takes its name from an Arawak woman who killed herself because she refused to reveal the whereabouts of a local gold mine. According to legend, she agreed to take her Spanish inquisitors there and, on reaching the river, used magic to change its course, drowning herself and the greedy Spaniards with her. Her duppy (ghost) is said to guard the mine’s entrance. Rafting on this river is a very popular activity—many operators are on hand to take you for a glide downstream.

ROSE HALL

In the 1700s it may well have been one of the greatest great houses in the West Indies. Today it’s popular less for its architecture than for the legend surrounding its second mistress, Annie Palmer. As the story goes, she was born in 1802 in England, but when she was 10, her family moved to Haiti. Soon after, her parents died of yellow fever. Adopted by a Haitian voodoo priestess, Annie became skilled in the practice of witchcraft. She moved to Jamaica, married, and became mistress of Rose Hall, an enormous plantation spanning 6,600 acres with more than 2,000 slaves. You can take a spooky nighttime tour of the property—recommended if you’re up for a scare—and then have a drink at the White Witch pub, in the great house’s cellar. The house is 15 miles (24 km) east of Montego Bay.

GREENWOOD GREAT HOUSE

Unlike Rose Hall, this historic great house has no spooky legend to titillate, but it’s much better than Rose Hall at evoking life on a sugar plantation. The Barrett family, from whom the English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning descended, once owned all the land from Rose Hall to Falmouth; on their vast holdings, they built this and several other great houses. (The poet’s father, Edward Moulton Barrett, “the Tyrant of Wimpole Street,” was born at nearby Cinnamon Hill, later the estate of country singer Johnny Cash.) Highlights of Greenwood include oil paintings of the Barretts, china made for the family by Wedgwood, a library filled with rare books from as early as 1697, fine antique furniture, and a collection of exotic musical instruments. There’s a pub on-site as well. It’s 15 miles (24 km) east of Montego Bay.