Montego Bay is Jamaica’s second-largest city and its undisputed party town. If you want to experience some of the best music and nightlife Jamaica has to offer, Montego Bay is the place to head. But that’s not to say you have to be a fully signed-up member of the 24/7 party brigade to get a kick out of the place. With its miles of silky white-sand beaches and its proximity to some of the most stunning scenery in Jamaica, the city has as much to offer nature lovers as it does anyone else. From majestic rain forests to scenic waterfalls, spectacular mountain peaks to snaking rivers, Jamaica’s landscape is packed with treasures. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, pull on your hiking boots and get ready to hit the trails with our traveler’s guide to hiking in Montego Bay.
Rocklands Bird Sanctuary
In fairness, most people don’t make the trek to Rocklands Bird Sanctuary for the hiking opportunities. As home to some of Jamaica’s most exotic and beautiful species of birds, the sanctuary is a twitcher’s dream. It was founded in the early 1900s when the original ‘bird trainer’ fell in love with the remote hills of the area and moved in. On her daily strolls, she became entranced by the many bird species that populated the area. After five years of feeding and admiring the birds, they eventually started following her home. Legend has it that on the day of her death, every bird left. People thought that they’d gone for good, but on the day of her burial, they started to return. Today, the sanctuary is a lovely place to hang out and admire the flocks of birds that still call it home. On your arrival, you’ll be handed a bottle of sweetened water and a seat. Wait five minutes, and you’ll soon be surrounded by dozens of rainbow-colored birds. Once you’ve finished admiring the birds, you’ll find scores of hiking paths littering the surrounding hills. Some of them are challenging, some of them are fun, and all of them are worthwhile.
Trip Advisor reviewers have ranked Mayfield Falls as one of the best attractions in Jamaica. If you’re a keen hiker, you’re almost guaranteed to feel the same. The falls are set around 20 minutes from Montego Bay and accessed via the Mayfield River (or “the Washing Machine,” as you might hear it being referred to by locals). As part of the trek involves traversing the river itself, make sure to dress appropriately. The climb to the falls is steep but worth the effort. Once you’ve reached the end, you be greeted with lush tropical scenery, 21 natural ponds, numerous varieties of birds, butterflies, and wildlife, and, of course, two very majestic waterfalls to splash around in. If you’re on a tight schedule, aim to dedicate around 45 minutes to the hike. If you’ve got plenty of time to play with, you won’t regret spending a few hours exploring the surroundings.
Blue Mountain Peak Trail
Before we go into too much information about Blue Mountain Peak Trail, a word of warning. If your idea of exercise usually extends to walking from the sofa to the refrigerator and back again, this trail might test your limits of endurance to breaking point. Jamaica’s highest peak might be beautiful and all kinds of wonderful, but if you haven’t pulled on a pair of gym sneakers since the 1990s, you’re going to have a hard time feeling the love. If you do decide to brave it, you’re in for a treat. The 14-mile hike winds through some of the island’s most dazzling scenery – if there’s one thing you’ll need to remember just as much as a bottle of water and sunscreen, it’s a camera.
Recommended by mobaycarrental.com as one of the 5 best places to hike in Jamaica, Mount Zion is exactly what you need when the noise and the crowds of Montego Bay are starting to become a headache. Less of a traditional hike than a walk with benefits, the 4.8-mile trail take you up into Mount Zion Village, a small, authentic rural community that boasts a historic church from the 1800s, a primary school that serves all the nearby hill communities, and a very decent rum store. Stock up on your supplies and enjoy an ice-cold Red Stripe beer before turning around and making the return trip to the city via pastures, farms, and orchids. At a leisurely pace, the hike should take you around 2 hours to complete.
If you’re searching for the kind of fun, easy hike that won’t leave you a sweaty mess, Catherine’s Peak could be the answer to your prayers. As summitpost.org writes, the peak, which is situated in the Blue and John Crow national park, is a local landmark that’s so famous, it’s even lent its name to a brand of spring water that’s bottled at a nearby plant. Just under a mile long, the hike consists of a concrete path that leads you to a lookout point with sublime panoramas of the underlying tropical jungle. Unfortunately, the views aren’t always guaranteed: visit on a misty day, and the only thing you’re likely to see is clouds. Visit on a clear day, on the other hand, and you’ll be talking about it for years. The trailhead starts at Newcastle Base and takes around 40 minutes to complete. As the path is known to get treacherously slippery at times, be sure to wear appropriate hiking boots. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the area is often used by the military for training: if they’re around on the day of your visit, you may be denied entry.
Cockpit Country Trails
According to Trip Savvy, inexperienced hikers shouldn’t try to tackle Cockpit Country Trails alone. Fortunately, you’ll have no problem finding a local guide willing to offer their expertise. Despite boasting some of the most challenging hikes in the country, the trails are also some of the most rewarding. Getting to the top of the steep hills might require strong calf muscles and a will of steel, but the views from the summit are more than worth the effort. On the way up, keep your eyes peeled for the dozens of tropical bird species that populate the area.