The Montego Bay region boasts a superb selection of hotels, ranging from very expensive world-class resorts to notable bargains. There's also a broad scale and diverse selection of all-inclusive resorts, which are all reviewed together for easy comparison at the end of this section. Most of the big full-service resorts are frequently included in package tours. Booking a package will make the rates much more reasonable.
Each type of property attracts a different crowd. The deluxe properties such as Round Hill, Tryall, and Half Moon are for veterans of Caribbean travel. Many guests at these resorts are repeat visitors, and in some cases have visited them 20 or more times; if you're not a member of this club, however, you might feel a bit out of place.
The all-inclusive resorts tend to attract young, starry-eyed couples and honeymooners on their first trips to Jamaica. These places tend to be a little noisy, decadent, and no-holds-barred as a result.
Finally, the smaller resort properties listed here as moderately or inexpensively priced tend to attract middle-age couples (as opposed to the young crowd at Sandals-type places). Guests at these smaller properties tend to be more experienced travelers, often Europeans, and are independent-minded enough to view the hotel mostly as a place to bunk down at night.
Making Reservations -- If you arrive without a reservation (not recommended in Jamaica), begin your search for a room as early in the day as possible. If you arrive late at night without a reservation, you may have to take what you can get -- often in a price range much higher than you'd like to pay.
Montego Bay has become a year-round destination, and summers aren't as tranquil as they once were. Nonetheless, hotels still have lower occupancy from mid-April to mid-December. Off-season discounts, which can be substantial, are granted at resorts during slow times.
All-inclusive resorts charge one price for a lengthy stay (usually a week), folding accommodations and dining into one package. Once you've paid up, you can forget about watching the dinner bill or getting dinged for every little tour, hike, or boat ride you take on the property.
Note that when you book into one, you either take your meals on-site or buy a dine-around plan that enables you to patronize the eateries at other, similar resorts. Either way, though, you're likely to find most of the food rather mediocre. In no case will it compare to the fare served at sophisticated restaurants in such major U.S. cities as New York or Boston.
Of course, those big-city restaurants don't open onto a beach -- and the weather here's much better in wintertime. So there are advantages to these Mo Bay resorts, but just remember: Creative cuisine is not one of them.
Honeymooning at Half Moon
Although the couples-only Sandals properties offer honeymoon packages, our advice is to skip those and opt for either a wedding or a honeymoon (perhaps both) at Half Moon. We consider its romance packages the best in the Caribbean.
The resort offers three different wedding packages and one honeymoon package. Couples planning to celebrate both even get a special bonus if they book at least 25 rooms for attending family and friends: Half Moon gives the bride and groom a complimentary ceremony and 7 nights' free accommodations, a savings of up to US$8,500.
You can also order services a la carte. The Standard Wedding Plan includes a marriage officer, a bottle of champagne, a bouquet of flowers for the bride and a boutonniere for the groom, a wedding cake, a professional video, a roll of 36 pictures and negatives, and -- if needed -- a best man and maid of honor to act as witnesses, all at a total cost of around US$900. The Royal Wedding Plan includes all of the above, plus a US$50 gift voucher redeemable at selected shops in the Half Moon Shopping Village, a bottle of Half Moon rum, two Half Moon watches, and the services of a calypso band for 15 minutes. That package costs US$1,500. For more information, call tel. 800/339-9728 in the U.S. or 876/953-2953, or log on to www.halfmoonweddings.com.
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.