Montego Bay is known for its duty free shopping and cruise line terminal at its Free Port on a beautiful peninsula jutting into the bay. Its sheltered Doctor's Cave Beach with clear turquoise waters is one of the most famous beaches on the island. The bay is surrounded by picturesque low mountains.
Montego Bay is fourth in population to Kingston, Portmore and Spanish Town with about 120,000 people and lies in the Parish of St. James on the northwest coast of the island. Air Jamaica and several American and British airlines run their Caribbean hub in "MoBay" (Sangster International Airport) connecting the island with the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and recently Canada with flights to Toronto and Edmonton. The southern U.S. cities of Houston, Atlanta, Tampa, and Miami are reached by nonstop flights in less than three hours. Other locations like New York City, Boston, and Chicago are reached in under four hours.
The name "Montego Bay" is believed to have originated as a corruption of the Spanish word manteca ("lard"), allegedly because during the Spanish period it was the port where lard, leather, and beef were exported. Jamaica was a colony of Spain from 1511 until 1655 when Oliver Cromwell's Caribbean expedition, the Western Design, drove the Spanish from the island. Christopher Columbus, when he first visited the island in 1494, named the bay Golfo de Buen Tiempo ('Fair Weather Gulf').
During the epoch of slavery, from the mid-17th century until 1834, and well into the 20th century, the town functioned primarily as a sugar port. The island's last major slave revolt, the Christmas Rebellion or Baptist War (1831–1832) took place in the area around Montego Bay; the leader of the revolt, Samuel Sharpe, was hanged there in 1832. In 1975, Sharpe was proclaimed a national hero of Jamaica, and the main square of the town was renamed in his honour.
In 1980, Montego Bay was proclaimed a city by act of parliament, but this has not meant that it has acquired any form of autonomy as it continues to be an integral part of St. James parish.
Today, the city is known for its large regional hospital (Cornwall Regional Hospital), port facilities, second homes for numerous upper class Jamaicans from Kingston as well as Americans and Europeans, fine restaurants, and shopping opportunities. The coastland near Montego Bay is occupied by numerous tourist resorts, some newly built, some occupying the grounds of old sugar cane plantations with some of the original buildings and mill-works still standing. The most famous of these are the White Witch's Rose Hall and Tryall, both of which now feature world-class golf courses.
The city was the subject of the namesake song by Bobby Bloom in 1970, later covered by Jon Stevens ten years later, and was revived by Amazulu to became a minor hit in the U.S. in September 1986.
Montego Bay Photo Gallery
See You in Montego Bay