Who doesn’t want a vacation in Jamaica? This stunning country has some of the best beaches in the world, it’s home to a rich vibrant culture, and of course great coffee too! For most people it doesn’t take much convincing to decide to go on vacation to Jamaica. However there is usually one problem…deciding whether to stay in Montego Bay or Negril!
There are so many places for tourists to spend their time here, and several resort destinations that claim to be the best. And honestly, at least for us when coming to Jamaica for the first time, it was a little confusing working out which one is really is the best choice.
For many, it’s the two most popular spots that are the hardest to choose from – Montego Bay and Negril. These pretty resort destinations have so much on offer, but as we’ve discovered, there are some important differences you need to know.
So sit back and relax as we pit Montego Bay vs Negril below. We look at which is better for beaches, resorts, nightlife, activities and more!
Montego Bay vs Negril: Which is better for your vacation?
Below we compare Montego Bay vs Negril, using our knowledge of both destinations to help you make the right vacation decision. Just see it as our good deed for the day!
Montego Bay or Negril: Which has the better beaches
Time at the beach might be one of the most important parts of your vacation in Jamaica, so it’s natural that you will want to go to the destination that has the best beaches.
We will be upfront from the beginning here – Negril definitely has better beaches than Montego Bay. In fact the beaches in Negril are widely considered to be the best in Jamaica!
Plus as an added bonus, the beaches are so large in Negril that there’s plenty of space for tourists and locals to spread out. This means that the beaches often feel a lot emptier than they are, and you can have your private sunbathing spot on the gorgeous soft white sand.
One of the best beaches on the island is Negril’s Seven Mile Beach. This is a popular spot as the long stretch of white sand here is your stereotypical Caribbean paradise. Expect clear blue water, great snorkeling, and one of the best sunsets in the region.
Just north of Negril you’ll find another of our favorites – Bloody Bay. The turquoise-hued calm water at this beach is a great place to swim, snorkel, paddle board and more.
All the resorts in Negril tend to be right on the beachfront too. So not only are there many rooms with seaside views, but there’s almost zero travel involved when it comes to getting from your hotel room to the beach!
A lot of the local restaurants and cocktail bars in Negril are located right on the beach as well. Cocktails under the Caribbean sun in a Jamaican paradise. Sign us up!
Montego Bay is first and foremost a city, and isn’t as targeted towards tourists. While that means Montego Bay has that ‘Jamaican’ vibe that’s such a draw for tourists, and is brimming with culture, it does mean you’ll find less tourist-orientated beachside bars and resorts here. However prices for eating out and drinks do tend to be cheaper.
The beaches in Montego Bay tend to be smaller and less scenic than the ones in Negril too. There’s definitely still some wonderful beach choices in Montego Bay for relaxing and swimming though. This region also has great shore-snorkeling spots where you can swim beside colorful reef fish and sting rays. A great underwater camera – such as this one – is a must.
Montego Bay or Negril: Which has the better nightlife
It’s easy to assume that Montego Bay would have the better nightlife considering it’s a bigger city than Negril. And although it does have a wide selection of nightlife options, a lot of the best bars, nightclubs and live music joints are quite far from the resorts where tourists usually stay.
The small fishing village turned resort town of Negril has a much more chilled out vibe, but probably has a more varied nightlife than Montego Bay. In Negril you have the option of big night clubs but also smaller and more cozy nightlife spots that are scattered along the beach. That gives you the option for both a laid-back beer on the beach, or a night of fun on the dancefloor!
In Negril the biggest nightclub is The Jungle, which is regarded by some as being the best nightclub in the Caribbean. It’s the perfect place to grab a drink and dance the night away to a wide a variety of music – from reggae to house! There’s a nice mix of locals and tourists here, so it’s a good place to make some Jamaican friends.
For something more relaxed, grab a drink at Canoe Beach Bar. This beachside bar has some of the bests sea views in Negril, as well as incredible freshly made food.
While Negril may be the better nightlife spot for tourists, Montego Bay – named MoBay by locals – is regarded by most Jamaicans as one of the best places to party on the island.
It’s a city where the the later it gets, the harder you party! Considering this is more of a local city than Negril, you can expect cheaper prices in Montego Bay than Negril, as well as more opportunities to meet locals.
One of our favorite nightlife spots in Montego Bay is Margaritaville. During the day there are all kinds of fun attractions and things to do here, but this is the place to be at night when it turns into a nightclub called Margaritaville After Dark! There you’ll have access to some of the region’s best DJs, multi-level dance floors, and a VIP lounge with reserved seating and bottle service if you want to party in style.
Montego Bay or Negril: Which has the better resorts
Although there are many 5-star resorts in both places, overall Montego Bay has more options than Negril. Which may make it the easier destination to find the perfect resort for you. The reason it has more is due to Montego Bay being a larger town.
If you’re looking for a child-friendly resort then it will probably be easier to find one in Montego Bay too. Negril has very few child-friendly resort options.
That isn’t to say that Negril doesn’t have great resorts. In fact, there is a family-friendly resort in Negril, Beaches, which has a waterpark that’s perfect for kids. There’s several superb adult-only resorts in Negril as well – Sandals is a good option. (Recommended: The Best Caribbean Islands for Couples).
What we have found is that Negril tends to have cheaper resort options, so may be the better choice for resorts if you’re traveling on a budget.
However in our opinion, the most stunning resort in Jamaica is Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay! This romantic adult-only resort has overwater bungalows that form a heart shape. It’s one of the most spectacular resorts we’ve ever seen.
Whichever resort you stay at, make sure it has Blue Mountain Coffee! This coffee is regarded by many as one of the best coffees in the world, and is the perfect way to start every day in Jamaica (we promise we’re not sponsored by Blue Mountain, their coffee is just very very good!).
Montego Bay or Negril: Which is easier to travel to
Montego Bay is the easier of the two locations to travel to, mainly because it has its own airport, and the fact most tourists must travel through Montego Bay if they’re on their way to Negril anyway.
The advantage of that, is it could take only ten minutes to get to the resort from the airport after your tiring long-haul flight.
However if you’re heading to Negril then you’ll need to go from the airport to Montego Bay and then on to Negril. Because of this, some people decide to stay in Montego Bay and simply make day trips to Negril to enjoy the beaches and laid back vibe there.
There’s one advantage to Negril being a little harder to reach. There’s no airport there, so no noisy aircraft ruining your relaxing day at the beach.
Winner: Montego Bay
Montego Bay or Negril: Which has the better attractions and activities
There are really great attractions and activities in both places – and many of them too! And in that sense it’s hard to go wrong with either Montego Bay or Negril when it comes to fun things to do.
Either way, you’re going to have lots to keep you occupied. However to help with your decision, here are some of the main activities you can do in either destination:
For a bit of action, Montego Bay contains Jamaica’s top river rafting spot! The river, Martha Brae, stops just short of Montego Bay and you can raft there if you board at Rafter’s Village. The experienced guides will lead you along the river and through the low hanging trees. It’s a really fun experience, and there will be many spots along the river where you can try steering or just go for a refreshing swim!
Whilst in Montego Bay you can also visit Rose Hall – if you’re brave enough! This mansion has a pretty interesting back story, and is believed to be haunted by the spirit of Annie Palmer – a woman who was said to be a practitioner of witchcraft and who murdered several husbands, including the owner of Rose Hall.
Johnny Cash actually based his song, The Ballad of Annie Palmer, around this myth. Even if you aren’t interested in ghost stories, this plantation mansion is historically valuable considering it’s so well-preserved despite being built in the 17th century.
Another famous part of Jamaica is the Rastafarianism movement which was borne out of the country in the 1930s. For visitors to the island, the Rastafari Indigenous Village near Montego Bay is an opportunity to connect first-hand with people practicing the religion, while also learning how to make traditional drums and cuisine. A must do activity!
One fairly cheap, but no less satisfying activity, around Negril is going to Barney’s Hummingbird Garden. At this garden you can not only enjoy all the beautiful tropical flowers but you will also come across many incredible hummingbirds enjoying them. And as an added bonus, you can bottle feed the hummingbirds with some sugar!
Rick’s Cafe is another spot you have to check out if you’re in Negril. This cafe was designing around the cliffs that surround it, so that people can eat there and then jump straight into the sea right after. Although you should keep in mind that it could be dangerous to dive that close to the rocks, so watching the daring locals may be a better option.
To sum up:
Of course with the wonderful beaches at Negril and Montego Bay, there’s plenty of beach and sea activities to do in both as well. Such as snorkeling, catamaran trips, scuba diving and jet skis!
However when it comes to activities, the larger Montego Bay probably wins due to the variety of adventure, culture, and beach activities and attractions on offer.
Winner: Montego Bay
Negril or Montego Bay: Which is the better choice for your holiday?
Whichever one you decide to choose in the end, you will have a great Jamaican vacation. However depending on your priorities, one may be better than the other.
If you want stunning white sand beaches and huge stretches of coastline, alongside a varied nightlife, beachside resorts and restaurants, then Negril may be the better choice than Montego Bay.
Montego Bay also has some beautiful beaches, and may be the better choice if you’re looking for a lively nightlife, opportunities to meet locals, and lots of excursion options and activities.