Montego Bay, the second largest city in Jamaica, is a popular location for a family Caribbean holiday. With history dating to the mid-17th century when it was a sugar port, “MoBay”, now a tourist destination, is home to many resorts — some located on former sugar cane plantation property. Vacationers come for the beaches, golf courses, a cruise line terminal, restaurants, shopping opportunities, and several cultural and historical attractions.
Visitors to Montego Bay fly into Sir Donald Sangster International Airport, the Caribbean’s largest, and a short distance to the area’s resorts. Frequent flights from the US, Europe and South America make travel to Sangster simple, and Club MoBay offers a great array of amenities. Upon arrival and before take-off, for a fee of $30/adult and $15/child, travelers can enjoy VIP Meet and Greet and assistance with your luggage, fast-track customs and immigration, and a comfortable lounge with WiFi, snacks and beverages while waiting for ground transportation. When leaving Jamaica, you can enjoy fast-track through security, a sunny, comfortable lounge with a kid’s play area, a shower, WiFi, electronic games, plus food and beverages.
For some history of the region, check out Greenwood Great House, a preserved example of a master’s home from the days of slavery at sugar plantations. The Barrett family (related to English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning) owned this home and used it for entertaining other plantation owners. You will see furnished rooms, Jamaican antiques and musical instruments. For an eerier visit, take a tour of Rose Hall Great House and Garden situated on a 6,600 acre plantation. You will be treated to the legend of Annee Palmer, the mistress of Rose Hall known locally as the White Witch, and perhaps see her ghost.
Water lovers will enjoy two local public beaches, Doctor’s Cove Beach and especially Walter Fletcher Beach, where there are calm waters perfect for children to play in. This is also home to the Aquasol Theme Park which offers chairs and umbrellas for rent, and activities such as volleyball, a children’s playground, water trampoline, kayaks, pedal boats and a glass bottom boat.
The local river, named after Martha Brae, offers lots of activities such as bamboo rafting. Contact River Bumpkin Farms Adventure Tours for kayaking and tubing tours of the river.
The Rockland Bird Sanctuary is a fun place to observe, engage with and feed hundreds of birds such as ground-doves, Jamaican mango hummingbirds, northern mockingbirds, shiny cowbirds and more.
If you are looking for souvenirs or gifts to bring home, you will meet nearly 200 vendors, licensed by the Jamaica Tourism Board, at the Old Fort Craft and Heritage Park and Market where they sell handicrafts, wood carvings, jewelry and more. The Gallery of West Indian Art features fine art by artists from Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti.
A bit of film trivia: Several scenes from the 1973 James Bond movie “Live and Let Die” starring Roger Moore in his first appearance as Bond, were filmed around Montego Bay.
Here are our suggestions for places to stay and play near MoBay:
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Graciously spread over 400 acres of Montego Bay beachfront, the classic Half Moon ranks tops in the Caribbean by Conde Nast Traveler readers. Now under the management of RockResorts, it maintains the highest luxury standards for guests of all ages.
With its quiet location on a two-mile-long, gold sand beach and several large and small private pools, there are endless possibilities for watersports including waterskiing, paddle boating, kayaking, sailing, parasailing, and rides on a glass-bottom boat, as well as a SASY (Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth) program for kids aged 5 to 10, and scuba education for older kids.
Tennis is played on one of the 13 lit tennis courts, or try squash, or croquet. Most of the villas, a bit far from the main lodge, come with bikes, also used for cycling around the property. There is golf on the Robert Trent Jones Sr. course, and even horseback riding. Fitness enthusiasts can take yoga, spinning and pilates classes. The popular Dolphin Lagoon with “swim” and “touch” programs for Half Moon guests only is a special feature that should be booked ahead.
Families will particularly enjoy Half Moon’s elegance and leisured pace, and have a large variety of lodging choices from guest rooms to truly deluxe suites and villas. Restaurants range from beachfront options to casual spots, fine dining restaurants, room service and private dining. Half Moon’s restaurants, shops and great facilities, including the Fern Tree Spa with Jamaican-inspired products and treatments (fees apply) make it a very appealing package for a classy family getaway.
The Anancy Children’s Village welcomes potty-trained children ages 3 to 12 daily from 9am-5pm. Half and full-days are available – visit the website for rates. Babies may be brought into the center by a private babysitter hired from the resort’s well-trained staff, or by the family nanny. The air-conditioned mini-playhouse is filled with craft supplies; a supervised outdoor play area with wading pool, sand box, and toddler-appropriate playground equipment is adjacent. Additionally, “Very Important Little Persons Services” include a welcome drink and gift. For a fee, little ones can enjoy a special turn down service with milk and cookies and a bedtime story.
The Hype Zone, open daily from 11am to 10pm is a 5,000-square-foot facility for teens ages 13 to 19. It features a games room, a cyber lounge, disco, movie theatre and spa area offering teen service such as mani-pedis, facials and massages.
Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Front Desk: 876/953-2485
Though the Holiday Inn brand may not jibe with your image of a tropical resort, at their Montego Bay property, families will find a great beachfront setting, a casual ambience, bountiful buffets, strains of reggae and an easy-going no problem staff.
Resort-wide games and shows center around the bustling, winding, lagoon-style pool where, it seems, most parents prefer to splash around with their kids rather than send them off to camp. However, there is a complimentary drop-in Kidspree Vacation Club from 9am to 9pm and you can easily get away from other peoples’ children at the long stretch of gold sand beach. Granny’s Nursery supervises children 6 months-3 years and the main facility accepts Adventurers (ages 4-7) and The Wonder Years (ages 8-12) where scheduled indoor activities include face painting, board games and movies. There is an indoor area with an adjacent fenced playground on the beach where kids climb and slide, build sand castles and enjoy water activities. The Teen Scene Game Room is where teens gather and play pool, basketball and more, plus Xbox games (for an extra fee). Evening babysitting is available.
Room categories include standard, superior and deluxe options. There are junior suites that accommodate parties of 5 and one-bedroom suites with whirlpool baths. In addition, Holiday Inn has recently introduced creatively decorated KidSuites with private spaces for kids and parents. The main area has a king size bed, TV and refrigerator. Kids get sleep and play areas with bunk beds, their own TV, and a play table or desk. In all accommodations, two children <12-years-old stay and eat for free. A guest Laundry Room is available to all and internet access is free throughout the resort.
Meals are served at a buffet and at four specialty restaurants. Activities include sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, tennis and more, and motorized watersports are available for an extra fee. For adults there is a Health and Fitness Center for exercise and the Sol Mer Spa (fees apply) for pampering, as well as a casino.
No kids? Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay welcomes singles and couples to the new RoseHall Club accommodations adjacent to the adult-only pool which features a swim-up bar and whirlpool. RoseHall Club guests receive a discount on spa services.
Over 60? Register for GoldenSpree at check-in and avail yourselves of dance classes, games, Jazzxercise, cocktail parties and more. Note that there are seven handicap-accessible rooms, the lagoon pool has wheelchair access, and there is a ramp down to the beach.
Online reviews give the staff gets high marks for professional, courteous and friendly service.
Iberostar’s Rose Hall Complex
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Guests at the stunning Iberostar Rose Hall complex located on Montego Bay have a menu of lodging choices from which to choose. Comprised of Iberostar Rose Hall Beach, Iberostar Rose Hall Suites and the Iberostar Grand Hotel Rose Hall, families have options based on the size and composition of their group as well as their budget. The Rose Hall properties offer all-inclusive vacations where all speciality restaurants are part of the package, and luxuries not often associated with large one-price-fits-all resorts. Iberostar surely understands the concept of “keeping the customers happy” as the brand overall reports that 30% of their business is from return customers.
For a honeymoon, babymoon, anniversary, parent’s getaway, or even a siblings getaway, Iberostar Grand Hotel Rose Hall, a AAA Four Diamond adults-only resort is the perfect choice. With concierge service and a butler to unpack, press, and pack your clothes as well as draw your rose-petal whirlpool bath, ocean-view rooms, 24-hour room service, pillow menu and fully-stocked minibar, luxurious accommodations are your home base. Five restaurants (the best food I’ve had at an all-inclusive – served by a gracious staff) and four bars, plus access to the facilities and restaurants at the two other properties, provide meals and drinks.
Look forward to endless activities and relaxation at four pools with a pool concierge, water and land activities including yoga and zumba classes, golf, wine-tasting, a gaming lounge, complimentary WiFi, nightly entertainment and an on-site Spa Sensations (fees apply) and you are bound to go home feeling pampered and, with lots of memories. Speaking of pampering, treat yourself to a signature Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee and Sugar Scrub and Hot Stone Massage – heavenly.
Providing excellent service is the mission for Iberostar properties, and their resorts in Jamaica certainly accomplish this. A luxury all-inclusive? Why not?
Families with children can choose either the Iberostar Rose Hall Beach (with spacious room accommodations) or Iberostar Rose Hall Suites, both of which have their own pools, bars and specialty restaurants with the same beach-front location as the Grand. Guests at both locations have access to the complimentary Kids Club, a supervised program for 4 to 12-year-olds from 10:15am to 5pm. Kids build sand castles, go on jungle walks, do arts’n’crafts, enjoy the water and an outdoor play area. Younger children can attend with a babysitter (available for hire) or a parent.
Both resorts offer access to the Spa Sensations, several bars (including a swim-up bar), a full array of land and water sports including windsurfing, evening entertainment, a casino, complimentary WiFi and room service.
Additionally, Iberostar Rose Hall Suites offers concierge service, and a lazy river and splash park.
Round Hill Hotel and Villas
John Pringle Drive
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Situated on Montego Bay, Round Hill Hotel and Villas is a classic in its own right that evolved from a cluster of private homes built by superstar entertainers (such as Oscar Hammerstein and Noel Coward) back in the 1950s. Now, celebrities such as Demi Moore and Paul McCartney take their families to relax at this world-class Jamaican resort.
In an haute timeshare concept, Round Hill manages 27 super-luxe two- to five-bedroom, freestanding villas and rents out individual suites when available. Each is unique, tended by its own housekeeper, gardener and cook. Many villas, all within a few minutes’ walk of the gold sand beach, have their own plunge pools as well. Additionally, there are spacious rooms in the Pineapple House, a two-story stucco hotel. Here, there are 36 oceanfront rooms and a grand suite featuring the influence of Round Hill homeowners Ralph and Ricky Lauren.
In its secluded cove near busy Montego Bay, Round Hill offers gracious service and a cozy atmosphere. A full range of watersports, an infinity pool, 5 tennis courts and easy access to golf and island sightseeing keeps guest busy. There is a Fitness Center and Yoga Pavilion, and the Spa at Round Hill (fees apply) offer the full gamut of activities, treatments and relaxation facilities for parents while the kids are busy with their peers.
The complimentary Pineapple Kids caters to the 3 to 6-year old set and the 7-Up Club focuses on 7-year-olds on up to active teens. Both are available from 9am to 5pm and activities and crafts projects are organized by the trained staff. After hours care is available for a modest fee from trained and CPR/First Aid certified nannies.
The gourmet menus range from a torch-lit beachside grill to Jamaican cuisine with dancing and music. All dishes are imaginatively presented using the freshest ingredients; the vegetables and herbs are grown on-site in the organic garden, and the kids menu gets high praise. Meals are also presented in the indoor restaurant or on the broad, beachview terrace, with early dinners available to younger children. Meal plans are available.
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