From local-approved jerk chicken to where to party the night (or day) away, here’s what you need to know to plan the ultimate Montego Bay getaway.
It’s 12:09 and my flight is landing at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica. In minutes I’ll be drinking some of the best rum punch at the airport. I know what you’re thinking. The best rum punch is in the airport? As a rum punch connoisseur, I can confirm this is true. It comes with a hefty price tag of eighty dollars—but let me explain. The fee gives you arrival and departure access to Club Mobay VIP, where you will be greeted upon disembarking the plane by a dedicated representative, who will then escort and expedite you through the long lines of immigration and customs and then on to the VIP Lounge where the rum punch awaits. Trust me, you need this service if you want to navigate the airport quickly and efficiently, and you can even take some rum punch to go
Pier One is part restaurant, part bar, and part entertainment center. Located on a peninsula overlooking the bay, it’s a great place where you can eat, drink, and then party the night away. Pier One also hosts the largest all-white party in Montego Bay, where people don the most stylish white outfits in an effort to stand out from the crowd.
Every third week in July, over 100,000 people flock to Montego Bay to attend Sumfest, a week-long music festival featuring Jamaica’s biggest and best dancehall and reggae artists. Dancehall night is held on Friday, and draws the largest and youngest crowd and goes on until 6 or 7 in the morning. Saturday is reggae night and skews a little bit older with more traditional reggae music.
On the island, there is no shortage of jerk restaurants, but deciphering which one is the best can be tricky. The Pork Pit, Jerky’s, and Scotchie’s are all favorites frequented by locals which is always a good sign. My personal favorite is Jerky’s. If fat equals flavor, Jerky’s has the perfect fat to meat ratio. Juicy pork, with crispy bits of fat that has been smoked over pimento wood, imparts the perfect jerk flavor. For chicken lovers, the jerk chicken is just as good as the pork. While I find most white meat to be tasteless, somehow Jerky’s manages to deliver juicy, spiced chicken breasts. Napkins will definitely be needed.
If you are searching for the best seafood, you will need to take a trip to Pachie’s which is located on the outskirts of Montego Bay in Sandy Bay. Pachie’s is a no-frill open-air restaurant with a tin roof, but don’t let the ambiance keep you from eating the best seafood. The star dish is the lobster that’s been seasoned with ginger, scallion, and scotch bonnet, and is grilled to perfection. Lobster is unavailable during the closed season starting April 1 to June 30.
All the seafood at Pachie’s is caught that day, and customers can pick if they want it fried and topped with escovitch vegetables, jerked, or steam roasted. Service is slow but be sure to order a Red Stripe while listening to the waves crash a few feet away, while taking in the sea breeze.
Where to Stay
Want to be treated like royalty? Prince Harry is known to visit Round Hill Hotel and Villas. Nestled in the hillside of Montego Bay overlooking the Caribbean, Round Hill Hotel and Villas feature world-class dining, an exquisite spa, and luxurious villas with a staff waiting to indulge your every need.
The Tryall Club is a golfer’s paradise featuring 18-holes designed by renowned golf course designer Ralph Plummer. The course will take you through the hills of Tryall, and flows down to the sea. When finished you can retire to one of the eighty-four villas where your butler awaits with a chilled beverage to cool you down after a long day of golfing.
There are usually two types of vacationers. Those who want to relax, and those who want to party. If you are the latter, Breathless Montego Bay Resort & Spa is the place to be. From foam parties and day parties with a DJ spinning your favorite tunes, you will definitely party like a rock star!
State of Emergency
Currently Montego Bay is under a State of Emergency until October 28, which means tourists can expect checkpoints in certain areas from the military and police. Violence in the area is due to gangs and is primarily contained to areas that tourists would probably never go. Tourists wanting to explore Montego Bay should hire a driver to take them around. Drivers are the most knowledgeable about safe and unsafe places in Montego Bay and have been vetted by the resort. Touristy spots like the popular “hip strip” in Montego Bay are considered generally safe for visitors.
Do It for The Gram
If you didn’t take a picture, did it really happen? For the most Instagram-able photos, rafting on the Martha Brae River and Rose Hall are sure to get many likes. Rafting begins on a bamboo raft and lasts three miles. You’ll be able to take in the scenery of exotic birds, wildlife, and the beautiful trees such as the ackee fruit tree which is the official fruit of Jamaica. The river is usually 4 feet deep but can increase to 12 feet during the rainy season, and life jackets are provided for non-swimmers.
If love, murder, and mystery are your things, the Gregorian-style mansion Rose Hall will not disappoint. Rose Hall was once the residence of the White Witch of Rose Hall, Annee Palmer, who notoriously murdered several of her husbands and lovers. Tours are available starting at $25 and include a drink called “Witches Brew” to help calm the nerves while touring the rumored haunted home.
Chef Rhadia is a classically trained private chef and recipe developer in NYC and the Hamptons. She frequently appears on local television making quick recipes for families. Chef Rhadia is also the President of the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance.