Doctor's Cave Beach, on Gloucester Avenue (tel. 876/952-2566; www.doctorscavebathingclub.com for the beach club), is arguably the loveliest stretch of sand bordering Montego Bay. Its gentle surf, golden sands, and fresh turquoise water make it an inviting place to swim, and there's always a beach-party atmosphere. Placid and popular with families, it's the best all-around beach in Montego Bay. Sometimes schools of tropical fish weave in and out of the waters, but usually the crowds of frolicking people scare them away. Since it's almost always packed, especially in winter, you have to get there early to stake out a beach blanket-size spot. Admission is US$5 for adults, US$2.50 for children 12 and under; it's open daily 8:30am to sunset. The beach club here has well-kept changing rooms, showers, restrooms, a food court, a bar, a cybercafe, and a sundries shop. Beach chairs and umbrellas can be rented daily.
Doctor's Cave Beach is part of the Montego Bay Marine Park, which was established to protect the wide variety of marine life among the coral reefs right offshore from the popular beaches. You can rent snorkel gear from the beach club at Doctors Cave Beach Hotel, or from the beach clubs at any of the local beaches.
Frankly, you may want to skip all these public beaches entirely and head instead for the Rose Hall Beach Club (tel. 876/953-2650 for the beach club), on the main road 18km (11 miles) east of Montego Bay. The club offers .8km (1/2 mile) of secluded white-sand beach with crystal-clear water, plus a restaurant, a bar, a covered pavilion, an open-air dance area, showers, restrooms, hammocks, changing rooms, beach volleyball courts, beach games, and a full watersports program. Admission is US$65 for adults, US$45 for children. Hours are daily from 9am to 5pm.
Seaworld Resorts, whose main office is at the Cariblue Hotel, Rose Hall Main Road (tel. 876/953-2180; www.diveseaworld.com), operates flying-bridge cruisers, with deck lines and outriggers, for fishing expeditions. A half-day fishing trip costs US$500 for up to four participants.
Diving, Snorkeling & Other Watersports
Some of the best dive sites in the area include Rose Hall Reef, a shallow reef teeming with marine life and underwater visibility of 7 to 14m (20 to 40 ft.). A large pillar of coral rising to the surface is called "Fairy Castle" by local divers. Nurse sharks often swim at this reef, and you can invariably see grunts, soldier fish, and red snapper. Named after the James Jones novel, Go to the Widowmaker, the ominously named Widowmakers Cave starts at 12m (40 ft.) with its entrance cave stretching for 24m (80 ft.). As you swim into its cavernous depth, you're greeted with barracuda, reef fish, and other denizens of the deep, along with such natural wonders as gorgonians, black coral, and sponges. At the aptly named Chub Reef, the site is teeming with Bermuda Chubs and other rainbow-hued marine life in 8m (24 ft.) of water. The coral caverns here are particularly stunning. Finally, the Point, whose wall drops to 60m (200 ft.), is for very experienced divers only. Expect strong currents and exotic black coral, deep-water gorgonians, sponges, and other marine life. Seaworld Resorts also operates scuba-diving excursions, plus sailing, windsurfing, and more. Its dives plunge to offshore coral reefs, among the most spectacular in the Caribbean. There are three certified dive guides, one dive boat, and all the necessary equipment for both inexperienced and already-certified divers. One-tank dives cost US$70; night dives are US$95.
North Coast Marine Sports (tel. 876/953-2211), located at the Half Moon resort, offers everything from scuba diving to Sunfish, snorkel gear, kayaks, and more. They can arrange for deep-sea fishing trips and snorkel cruises, too. A one-tank dive goes for US$60, a two-tank dive for US$90, plus US$20 for equipment rental.
You might also like to head across the channel to check out Coyaba Reef, Seaworld Reef, and Royal Reef, which are full of barjacks, blue and brown chromis, yellow-headed wrasses, and spotlight parrotfish. You must have a guide here, as the currents are strong and the wind picks up in the afternoon.
The White Witch of Rose Hall Golf Course, part of the Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall (tel. 876/518-0174), is one of the most spectacular courses in the Caribbean, set on 80 hectares (198 acres) of lush greenery in Jamaica's old plantation country. The course is named after Annie Palmer, the notorious "White Witch" and mistress of Rose Hall nearby. Ten minutes from the deluxe resort by wheels, the course was created by Robert von Hagge, who designed the course to wind up and down the mountains, with panoramic vistas of the sea visible from 16 of the 18 holes. Greens fees are US$99 to US$159 for hotel guests, US$179 for nonguests.
Cinnamon Hill Ocean Course, Rose Hall (tel. 876/953-2650), has a noted course with an unusual and challenging seaside and mountain layout. Its 8th hole skirts the water, then doglegs onto a promontory and a green thrusting 180m (590 ft.) into the sea. The back 9 are the most scenic and interesting, rising up steep slopes and falling into deep ravines on Mount Zion. The 90m-high (295-ft.) 13th tee offers a rare panoramic view of the sea and the roof of the hotel, and the 15th green is next to a 12m (39-ft.) waterfall, once featured in a James Bond movie. Amenities include a fully stocked pro shop, a clubhouse, and a professional staff. Guests pay US$119 to US$189 for 18 holes; nonguests US$129 to US$199. Cart rental and the use of a caddy are included in the greens fees.
The excellent course at the Tryall Club Jamaica (tel. 876/956-5660), 20km (12 miles) from Montego Bay, is so regal that it's often the site of major tournaments. For 18 holes, guests of Tryall are charged US$100 in winter, US$70 the rest of the year. Nonguests pay US$110 to US$145 year-round.
Half Moon, at Rose Hall (tel. 876/953-2211), features a championship course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., with manicured and diversely shaped greens. Half Moon hotel guests pay US$85 for 18 holes, including caddy and cart. Nonguests pay US$130 for 18 holes.
The Superclubs Ironshore Golf Club, Ironshore, St. James, Montego Bay (tel. 876/953-3681), is another well-known 18-hole, par-72 course. Privately owned, it's open to all golfers. Greens fees for 18 holes are US$65.
A good program is offered at the Rocky Point Riding Stables, at Half Moon, Rose Hall, Montego Bay (tel. 876/953-2286). Housed in the most beautiful barn and stables in Jamaica, the stables have around 30 horses and a helpful staff. A 90-minute beach or mountain ride costs US$80.
Mountain Valley Rafting, P.O. Box 23, Montego Bay (tel. 876/956-4920), gives somewhat tame and touristy excursions on the Great River, which depart from the Lethe Plantation, about 15km (10 miles) south of Montego Bay. For a little more adventure, skip that, and head over to Falmouth, 45km (28 miles) to the east, where you can raft on the Martha Brae. To reach the starting point from Falmouth, drive approximately 5km (3 miles) inland to Martha Brae's Rafters Village (tel. 876/952-0889). The rafts are similar to those on the Rio Grande, near Port Antonio; you sit on a raised dais on bamboo logs. The cost is US$60, with two riders allowed on a raft, plus a small child if accompanied by an adult (but use caution). The trips last 1 1/4 hours and operate daily from 9am to 4pm. It's not necessary to wear swimsuits. Along the way, you can stop and order cool drinks or beer along the banks of the river. There's a bar, a restaurant, and two souvenir shops in the village.
Swimming with the Dolphins
Montego Bay's Half Moon features daily sessions of swimming with the dolphins at its Dolphin Lagoon in a natural cove in the vicinity of Sunrise Beach. For US$155 per person, you get into the water with some of Flipper's cousins for a bottlenose kiss and a dorsal-fin ride. A trimmed-down close encounter with the dolphins -- called "Beach Encounter" -- costs US$89 per person. Before joining the program, a trainer gives a briefing about the "politically correct" ways to mingle with these friendly sea animals. For more information or to make reservations in advance, call tel. 800/626-0592. www.dolphinswimjamaica.com.
Half Moon, outside Montego Bay (tel. 876/953-2211), has the finest courts in the area. Its 13 state-of-the-art courts, seven of which are lit for night games, attract tennis players from around the world. Lessons cost US$35 per half-hour, US$35 to US$65 per hour. Residents play free, day or night. The pro shop, which accepts reservations for court times, is open daily from 7am to 9pm. If you want to play after those hours, you switch on the lights yourself. If you're not a hotel guest, you must purchase a day pass (US$40 per person) at the front desk; it allows access to the resort's courts, gym, sauna, Jacuzzi, pools, and beach facilities.
Tryall Club Jamaica, St. James (tel. 876/956-5660), offers nine hard-surface courts, three lit for night play. Day games are free for guests; nonguests pay $30 per hour. There's a US$20-per-hour charge to light the courts after dark. At least four on-site pros provide lessons for US$25 to US$45 per half-hour, or US$45 to US$65 per hour.
Rose Hall Resort & Country Club, Rose Hall (tel. 876/953-2650), outside Montego Bay, is an outstanding tennis resort, though not the equal of Half Moon or Tryall. The hotel offers four hard-surface courts, each lit for night play. The resident pro charges US$60 per hour for lessons, US$40 for 45 minutes, or US$35 for 30 minutes.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.