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Tips for planning a Montego Bay family vacation

Stumped on where to go for your annual end-of-summer vacation? Instead of sticking to the same old beach, theme park or to Grandma’s house again, check out one of Jamaica’s most popular cities, Montego Bay. This beautiful city, the fourth largest in the country, has something for everyone, including pristine beaches, historical houses, golfing and water sports, luxurious resorts and a ton of kid and family-friendly activities.

Montego Bay

Unlike Ocho Rios, which is more of a quiet, tourist destination, Montego Bay is a bustling hub of Jamaica that many locals call home. If you’re in the mood for a relaxing beach vacation that still offers the amenities and attractions of a larger city, Montego Bay, or MoBay to the locals, is the perfect spot for your next family getaway. Check out these best places to play and stay while in MoBay.

Where to stay

The Renowned Roundhill Resort

The renowned Round Hill Hotel

Round Hill Hotel

If you’re looking for a hotel that is not only family friendly but luxurious, this is your place. Voted one of top 10 best resorts in the Caribbean by Travel and Leisure, this Ralph Lauren designed and furnished hotel is sophisticated yet still homey. Round Hill has 36 oceanfront suites and 27 private villas for rent, almost all overlook the beautiful bay. When you’re not lounging on the beach, the property has multiple tennis courts, a full-service spa and salon, a brand new double edge infinity pool, endless water sports, including scuba diving and snorkeling, a water trampoline, a library and a cottage fully equipped with video games and toys for kids, named the Pineapple House. In addition, the hotel serves daily meals on their waterfront veranda and also has Friday night entertainment, including fire eaters and dancers! Rooms start at $299 per night in the off season (April to December) and $629 per night during prime season (December to April).

Half Moon

This luxury hotel is a popular place to stay for families, couples and even celebrities. Half Moon is a gorgeous 400 acre hotel that is nestled on two miles of private beach on Montego Bay’s crescent coast. Half Moon has 197 guest rooms, from an ocean-view room to a private whitewashed cottage on the beach. The resort has a full 18-hole golf course, fully functioning spa (Fern Tree spa), a dolphin cove where kids can swim with dolphins and even an equestrian center so you can ride along the beach on horseback. Plus, there are 54 swimming pools (most of which are attached to private villas and guest rooms), six restaurants and eight bars to keep you full and occupied while you stay. Rooms begin at $449 per night in the off season and $709 per night during prime season.

Riu Montego Bay

If you’d prefer an all-inclusive resort, check out Riu Montego Bay. Like its sister property in Ocho Rios, this resort is family friendly and affordable while still offering a ton of great activities for the whole family and fine dining. This 681-room hotel is located on the northeast side of the island and has regular ocean and nonocean-view rooms as well as private villas and suites. The resort has a large swimming pool and a children’s pool, as well as a relaxing spa (the Renova Spa), hot tubs, children’s playground and mini club, day and nighttime entertainment, water sports like snorkeling and catamaran cruises, two tennis courts and more than five restaurants and bars, including a swim-up tiki bar! Rates begin at $398 in the off season and $698 per night in prime season.

Where to play

YS Falls

YS Falls. Photo credit: Onsite Jamaica

Montego Bay is full of great places to see, especially for families. One of the hottest attractions is a visit to the Doctor’s Cave beach. This beach is one of the most famous beaches in Jamaica and one that is open to the public as well as to members of the Doctor’s Cave Bathing Club. Tourists and families can rent snorkel and scuba gear here as well.

Another attraction that families flock to is the Island Route’s Swamp Safari in Montego Bay. The safari takes you to Jamaica’s untainted South Coast and takes you to two popular spots, Black River and YS Falls. The Black River is a unique waterway that boasts a whole incredible ecosystem of exotic birds, animals and vegetation. After the safari, you head out to see the spectacular beauty of YS Falls. Tours start at $115 for adults and $95 for kids.

If you’re not too tuckered out from a day at the beach, head over to the Glistening Waters restaurant and marina. The reason it’s called glistening waters is when disturbed, the microorganisms in the water glow, which creates an eerie, yet beautiful light. Tours are offered every night at sunset.

If you’re a history buff, check out Rose Hall, which is said to be haunted by the late Annie Palmer, who is known for slaying her husbands and lovers. You can also check out the Greenwood Great House, which was owned by the famous Barrett family. It’s now open for tours by the owners and features hundreds of antiques, some dating back to the early 16th century.

Plus, if you get bored, you can head to Ocho Rios, which is about an hour and a half away from Montego Bay for more attractions, like the Dunn’s River Falls! As they always say in Jamaica, once you go, you know!

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