Bob Marley, dreadlocks, sandy beaches, and turquoise water – that’s probably what first comes to mind when you think of Jamaica. It’s always been a popular tourist destination, and there’s a good reason for it.
Jamaica is often compared to the Bahamas, and it is a place that is probably on everyone’s bucket list – I know it’s always been on mine! If you’ve finally found the time to go there, it might be hard to figure out where exactly you should stay.
Well, the two most popular spots in Jamaica (apart from Kingston) are Montego Bay and Negril. Both of them have gorgeous sandy beaches and clear turquoise sea, and incredible drinks, of course. But so does the rest of Jamaica! However, there are a few things that are very different between these two towns, and I’ll do my best to give you a basic idea of what you can expect where.
So, check out what these places have to offer, and then you’ll easily decide where to book your stay!
Negril is a small resort town, and it’s famous for its beaches and turquoise water. There aren’t too many things to do there (like there are in Montego Bay), but it is the perfect spot for anyone looking to just relax. There is a huge public beach, as well as a few private beaches that are very quiet and away from all the noise.
Bottom line – if your ideal vacation includes just lying in the sun and swimming in the clear sea, then this is the place for you. You will definitely be relaxed after a few days in Negril, and you will dream about coming back!
Overall, the resorts in Negril are more affordable than those in Montego Bay. You could book a room for two in a hotel for as low as $45! So, if you are on a budget but are desperate to visit Jamaica, then you should consider booking a place in Negril. In my experience, if you are traveling with a group of friends, affordable accommodation is one of your top priorities.
Naturally, there are some expensive, 5-star resorts here as well, and if you want to have a luxurious vacation, you can also do that in Negril. You should also know that there are fewer child-friendly resorts in Negril than they are in Montego Bay. I guess that is because Negril is much smaller than Montego Bay, and there are fewer resorts and hotels there overall.
But, it is still a gorgeous town, and I’ll also talk about some very cool things that you can do there!
So this is going to be a downside – there are no direct flights to Negril. Yes, there is a small aerodrome but it is served by TimAir, the domestic charter company. This is more like an “air taxi” service, where you can charter flights to Montego Bay or Kingston and other local airports.
You can get to Negril by landing at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay and then catching a (n air) taxi there. If you were hoping to get there directly, I am sorry to disappoint you. But, don’t let this stop you from visiting the town – it is definitely worth the small hassle. And hey, have you ever flown in an air taxi? How cool would that be!
A stunning sand beach with nearly translucent seawater – sounds like paradise, right? And what is even better is that there are plenty of hotels and resorts that are located practically on the beach itself, so you could spend your entire vacation there! That’s a big plus for me, as I am one of those people who don’t enjoy walking (or God forbid driving) miles just to get to the beach.
There are plenty of restaurants and cocktail bars on this beach as well, and you wouldn’t have to worry about anything else. Get out there in the morning, rent a chair and an umbrella and you are set for the day. You can also get to meet a few local artists who have shops on the beach, and pick up a few souvenirs for your friends and family.
On the other hand, you also may encounter locals that are walking around the beach and selling stuff, so keep that in mind. If you don’t like crowds and loud noises, then maybe consider getting a hotel in a different part of Negril.
It’s a public beach, so renting a chair won’t be necessary – you can just lie in the sand. However, the umbrellas will provide you with shelter in the sun, which will be very useful if you plan to spend the entire day there. Anyway, it’s a gorgeous beach with some beautiful views and great photo-ops. But, is it reason enough to Choose Negril over Montego Bay? We’ll see about that.
This is a must if you find yourself in (or near) Negril, and are looking for something fun and exciting to do. You can visit the Mayfield Falls by booking a tour, or just grabbing a private taxi that will get you there. If you choose the latter option, definitely get a guide when you get there – they are very experienced and they will make your adventure much better.
Why do you need a guide to check out some waterfalls? Well, there is a lot of water walking once you get there, and a professional will help ensure that the experience is just exciting, and not nerve-wracking. Also, since there is a lot of walking through water, remember to bring some waterproof hiking shoes – ones that will protect your feet from all the rocks and underwater debris.
This is a private beach, and you should definitely go there if you want to stay away from all the noise and crowd that you will encounter in other parts of Negril. And the entrance to the beach costs a mere $5 – definitely worth it if you ask me.
You can rent a chair, but you don’t have to. There are plenty of trees there that can also shelter you from the sun if you prefer to just lie in the sand. And this is also a great snorkeling spot, just be aware that there are a lot of rocks at the bottom of the sea. If you want to just swim around, definitely bring your water shoes.
If you get hungry or thirsty, there is a great restaurant on the beach. And there are some raving reviews about their lobster, so try it out if you love seafood. Overall, this is a lovely, peaceful place in Negril and it is perfect for you if you are just looking to chill around. If you want to party, then this probably isn’t the right place for you.
In general, Montego Bay is a much larger town than Negril. So, it’s only natural that there are much more things that you can do there. This includes historic landmarks, shops, but also many different activities, from horseback riding to rafting and tubing.
If your idea of a vacation includes moving around and doing adventurous activities like jet skiing, paragliding, and off-road tours, then Montego Bay is where you should go. There are so many different things you could do there that you won’t ever be bored, as well as some pretty stunning beaches for when you want to take a break and just relax in the sun.
One advantage Montego Bay has over Negril is its own airport – the Sangster International Airport. That means that you can fly directly there, and avoid any layovers or changes of mode of transport.
So, if you aren’t a fan of flying, then you should probably book a hotel in Montego Bay. It will be much less stressful for you if you can arrive directly at your destination. However, if you are flying from Europe, chances are that you are going to have to stop somewhere, as there aren’t a lot of airlines that have direct flights to Montego Bay. And it’s a 20+ hour flight, so be sure to bring a book!
Since Montego Bay is a larger place than Negril, it makes sense that it also has more resorts and hotels. But, most of those are luxurious and expensive, which is great if you love to go all out on your vacation. There are plenty of all-inclusive resorts you can stay at with private beaches, pools, and whatnot.
On the other hand, Montego Bay is also overall more expensive than Negril, which is something to keep in mind. Cheaper resorts are less frequent than in Negril, but you could still find a room for $40-50.
There’s one more thing – in Montego Bay, there are more hotels that are suited for babies and small children. I mean, yes there are also some in Negril, but here you have a wider choice. So, if you are traveling with your newborn baby, I would definitely suggest staying here instead of Negril.
If you are in the mood for a little scare, then don’t miss this tour. It’s a great way to learn something about the history of Rose Hall and its previous owners, but it is more of a haunted house experience. You will hear some ghost stories and get a few jumps scares, so if you like those types of experiences, definitely visit this house.
You can choose between a day tour and a night tour – but go for the night one if you really want to be scared. The tour doesn’t last too long – about an hour – and it’s a great way to spend an evening. On the other hand, if you are traveling with kids you might want to skip this one. What is thrilling and fun for adults could be traumatizing for your little ones, and definitely keep that in mind.
When you get tired of all of those exciting activities, you’ll want to just relax on a beach. Go to this one – it’s a private beach, so it’s very peaceful and quiet, and you will definitely be able to enjoy yourself. The entrance is about $6, which is not expensive at all.
There are showers on the beach, as well as a toilet, in addition to a bar, restaurant, and a Starbucks. So, you can spend an entire day here without having to go away for anything else! Restaurant workers will literally bring you cocktails to your spot on the beach – what more could you ask for.
The Doctor’s Cave Beach is a beautiful sand beach, with tons of chairs and umbrellas for rent and lovely, clear water. But beware – it can get crowded during the peak of the season, but that is true for the entire Montego Bay. If you really don’t like to be around a lot of people, I suggest you think about staying in Negril.
For all of you that love to take photographs, this place is a must. You can see some amazing flowers, trees, animals and even rocks painted like animals! There are tons of photo-ops here, and you will also have a stunning view of the hills surrounding Montego Bay.
When you want to take a rest, there are plenty of hammocks you could lie in, as well as a restaurant for when you get hungry. Apart from the garden, there is also a gallery here where you can check out and purchase paintings by local artists.
There’s also a romantic aspect to the Ras Nantago Gallery And Garden – it is a popular wedding spot. If you were looking for a romantic and private place for you and your better half, this could be just the one for you! Definitely check it out and see for yourself.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.