Though it stretches for less than three kilometres, Montego Bay’s glittering Hip Strip is the focal point of many a Jamaican vacation. Dazzling beaches with protected offshore coral reef are located here, leading to development of the whole of Gloucester Avenue and stretching north into Kent Avenue. The Strip goes all out to cater to tourists’ every need, but its shiny commercialism does make it feel a bit unreal, as though visitors and Jamaican workers here are all playing out designated roles in a sort of open-air tropical theme park.
Though Gloucester Avenue runs parallel to the sea, the water is mainly obscured by buildings. The only place to fully appreciate the sweep of the bay is from the Strip’s only green space, around Walter Fletcher Beach, opposite the restaurants and bars at Miranda Ridge; it’s a favourite spot for football, and there are a few benches to take in the view.
Doctor’s Cave Beach
The magnificent Doctor’s Cave Beach is Montego Bay’s premium portion of gleaming white sand, located amid the parade of bars, cafés and tax-free in-bond shops at the northern end of Gloucester Avenue. The beach was put on the map in the late nineteenth century when Doctor Alexander McCatty founded the Sanatorium Caribbee, a private bathing club that’s still in existence. In the 1920s, English chiropractor Sir Herbert Baker was so impressed by the curative potential of the waters that he published an article extolling their efficacy. The beau monde flocked and MoBay’s tourist industry was born. The city’s very first resort hotel, the Casa Blanca (now closed) backs onto the western end of the beach. The rapidly deepening, crystal-clear waters really are the best in town and facilities are excellent, though it does get very crowded at weekends. Beach umbrellas, sun loungers or snorkelling equipment are available (at high cost), and there are beautiful corals offshore. The membership-only clubhouse (of interest to repeat visitors at an annual cost of US$250 per family) offers a games room, a gym and steam room, but the regular changing rooms are also well equipped. There are several snack counters, as well as a reasonable restaurant and bar.