Kingston vs. Montego Bay

If you’re planning a vacation in Jamaica and trying to choose between Kingston and Montego Bay, the choice is pretty simple. Montego Bay is the most popular destination for tourists vacationing in Jamaica, while Kingston is the business center of the island.

Kingston vs. Montego Bay Quick Take

Montego Bay is best for tourists, but there are plenty of things to see in Kingston. We suggest staying in Montego Bay and doing a day trip to Kingston.

Kingston vs. Montego Bay: Beaches

Montego Bay Beaches

Montego Bay is one of the most popular spots in all of Jamaica, and one of the biggest draws is the beaches. Located on the north coast of the island, Montego Bay is the perfect blend of city bustle and the calming, natural beach scene. 

One of the best beaches in Montego Bay is Doctor’s Cave Beach, which has lovely white sand and clear turquoise waters. It is supposed to have healing properties thanks to a mineral spring (hence the name). You’ll find activities such as swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling, plus restaurants and bars nearby. Another less crowded option is Cornwall Beach next door, which offers the same scenery but fewer people.

Kingston Beaches

It may come as a surprise that Kingston has a handful of great beaches that are more than worth a visit. Not only is Kingston the capital and heartbeat of Jamaica, but it also has a few stretches of pristine shore. One of the best beaches is Lime Cay, a small island just off the coast of Kingston. This is the closest beach to Kingston and offers a nearly perfect 360-degree view.

Hellshire Beach is another great option. This beach is a popular spot with locals, and it’s easy to see why. There are virtually no hotels on it, so it keeps tourist traffic to a minimum. Plus, you can often find a festival or open-air concert. Just remember there is a paid section and a free section of the beach.

Kingston vs. Montego Bay: Cost

Even though Kingston and Montego Bay are both cities in Jamaica, there is a cost difference that needs to be considered. If you look at those daily costs, then Kingston comes in at a slightly lower price point.

On average, Kingston will cost about $109 per day, but Montego Bay costs around $203 per day. While it is a difference of less than $100 per day, that can add up over the length of your stay. 

Kingston vs. Montego Bay: Weather

Because Kingston and Montego Bay are both cities in Jamaica, both areas experience similar weather patterns. But you should still be aware of those weather patterns to pick the best time to visit either of these tropical cities.

Montego Bay and Kingston have warm temperatures all year, but the best time to visit is in the dry season, which runs from mid-December to mid-April. However, since this is also peak season, prices and crowds can be higher.

Jamaica’s rainy season is between May and November. This isn’t a bad time to visit if you don’t mind some occasional rain, but be aware that it is also hurricane season. While these are rare in Jamaica, they do still occur. August, September, and October are the months with the highest risk. If you’re visiting during this season, keep an eye on the weather and be sure to get travel insurance.

Kingston vs. Montego Bay: Resorts

In general, Montego Bay has the resorts vacationers are looking for, while Kingston has more standard hotels like the AC Hotel by Marriott. 

Some of the best resorts in Montego Bay are Sandals Royal Caribbean, Sandals Montego Bay, and Half Moon Resort. Each is located on an amazing beach with multiple restaurants, bars, pools, and activities to enjoy during your stay. 

Kingston vs. Montego Bay: Things to Do

Lounging on the beach is always a good choice when in Kingston or Montego Bay, but there are plenty of other amazing things to do. Whether you’re looking for a glimpse into the history and culture of Jamaica or a more adventurous experience like scuba diving, ziplining, or a safari tour, you’re sure to find more than a few things to keep you entertained.

Montego Bay Activities

Aside from the wonderful beaches in Montego Bay, there are also all sorts of things to do. You can snorkel right off the beach along thriving coral reefs that are just offshore. Or visit the Montego Bay Marine Park, which allows snorkeling and scuba diving in its protected waters that are home to a wide variety of marine life. You can also go swimming with horses!

If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, why not head out on one of Jamaica’s many jungle safari tours? These tours will take you deep into the heart of Jamaica’s lush rainforests, where you’ll get to see some of the island’s abundant wildlife. You might even spot a few crocodiles! You can also go ziplining through the rainforest. 

Montego Bay also offers plenty of shopping, historic and cultural sites, restaurants, bars, and nightlife options to explore.

A view out to Hope Royal Gardens and surrounding hills

Kingston Activities

Kingston is the cultural and historical heartbeat of Jamaica. There are dozens of historic sites and ways to immerse yourself in Jamaican culture. Here are just a few of the top activities in Kingston.

Get to know about one of the most iconic musicians in history, Bob Marley, who had his home in Jamaica.The Bob Marley Museum focuses on both Bob Marley’s life and his impact on the musical landscape, and features items like his guitar. 

A top historic site is the Devon House, home to the Caribbean’s first black millionaire. Not only is this 19th-century home full of rich history, it also houses park facilities, restaurants, and a few shops. You’ll be able to experience so much of Jamaica’s history and culture in a single stop.

The Blue Mountains are a fantastic option just outside of Kingston. Not only will you climb hundreds of feet in the air, you’ll be able to explore the lush tropical forest that blankets this mountain range. Plus, you’ll still be close enough to make that dinner reservation.

If you’re looking for a little green space in the center of town, you’ll definitely enjoy Emancipation Park. This lush park is surrounded by hotels and entertainment options, so no matter what you’re doing, you can take a break here. There are also lovely botanical gardens to visit.

The Jamaica National Gallery is a great way to explore the artistic evolution of Jamaica from the 1920s to the present. While there are many amazing Jamaican artists, Edna Manely’s sculptures are featured throughout the gallery.

Kingston vs. Montego Bay: Safety

When it comes to safety, Montego Bay is safer than Kingston. Since Montego Bay is a tourist area, the resorts invest in keeping everyone safe. When you hear about crime and violence in Jamaica, most of it is happening in Kingston. 

For this reason, you’ll want to be careful when visiting Kingston. It may be best to book a guided tour here. Either way, be sure to follow general safety guidelines. Don’t carry valuables or a lot of cash, pay attention to your surroundings, and stay in well-populated areas.

Overall, there has been a recent increase in violent crime in Jamaica which has caused the U.S. State Department to issue a level 3 “reconsider travel” warning for the country. However, violence rarely affects tourists and plenty of people visit here every year without issue.

For more details, check out our articles Is Montego Bay Safe? and Is Jamaica Safe?

Port Royal

The Verdict: Which is Better, Kingston vs. Montego Bay?

So, which is the better spot? Montego Bay offers the most quintessential tropical, Caribbean destination, while Kingston allows you to experience more of Jamaica’s history and culture.

Overall, we think you should go to Montego Bay and consider an excursion to Kingston. In this way, you get the best of both worlds.

What will you do? Let us know in the comments! And if you’d like help planning your trip, feel free to contact one of our trusted travel advisors!

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