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Montego Bay: white-sand beaches backed by flower-splashed hillsides

With its white-sand beaches backed by flower-splashed hillsides, Montego Bay, or MoBay, has been a popular tourism destination since the late 1800s, when rich travelers from the U.S. and England began coming by sea to escape the winter cold.

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World-class destination: As airplanes came into vogue, upscale properties such as the former Half Moon Hotel–now a much-evolved Half Moon, A RockResort– started springing up. These clubby intimate properties, including Round Hill Hotel & Villas and the Tryall Club, Golf, Tennis and Beach Resort, have been joined by larger resorts such as the Holiday Inn Sunspree.

All-inclusive giant Sandals, which got its start here, as well as Iberostar, Secrets, Hilton, and Ritz Carlton all have luxury properties here. Plus, MoBay offers a wide array of non-resort accommodations, ranging from butler-serviced private villas to inexpensive guest houses.

Today, the modern Montego Bay’s Sangster International airport (MBJ), mega-cruise ship pier, Historic Falmouth, and brand new Montego Bay Convention Centre – along with its unsurpassed variety of unique adventures, experiences and accommodations make Montego Bay the tourism hub for Jamaica and one of the most fascinating destinations in the Caribbean.

The Hip Strip: Few visitors leave MoBay without exploring the shopping, dining and party center known as the Hip Strip. This seaside mile-long stretch of Gloucester Avenue is lively day and night and a playground for visiting celebrities..

Popular hangouts include Margaritaville where, a 120-foot chute drops patrons from the deck into the sea, and almost every night brings another theme party night. Another favorite, the Rum Jungle Café & Bar, is open 24 hours a day, serving up more than 100 types of rum and live music nightly.

A peek at the past: Montego Bay played an important role in Jamaica’s plantation past and liberation movement. Sam Sharpe Square, named for the national hero whose Christmas Rebellion of 1831 helped end slavery, has a statue of Sam Sharpe and a museum housed in The Cage, a 19th century jail for runaway slaves and drunks.

In the surrounding hills, several former plantation great houses are open to the public. The most famous, Rose Hall, is said to be haunted by the ghost of the infamous Annie Palmer, who reportedly murdered three husbands and many more slave lovers before she herself was slain.

The nature of MoBay: Just east of town, clients have the rare opportunity to experience Glistening Waters, a phosphorescent lagoon filled with bioluminescent microorganisms that light up when moved. Boat tours depart nightly from the Glistening Waters Marina and Restaurant.

Another rare natural find beckons on the Martha Brae, where clients can float down the scenic river on bamboo rafts. Also, at the Rocklands Bird Feeding Station in Anchovy, bird lovers can hand-feed hummingbirds, grassquits and dozens of other colorful species.

Popular family activities include Animal Farm, where kids can explore the natural habitat of exotic birds, ride a donkey, view farm animals and experience solar electricity in action.

Thrill seeking clients can go zip-lining through the jungle canopy, off-road exploring in an ATV, Jeep or mountain biking or splashing through the surf on horseback.

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