AD | Affiliate Links
Glistening in the sun 150 miles South of Cuba, an hour’s flight south of the United States is the island paradise known as the Cayman Islands. Small in size perhaps, the three islands take up a tiny dot in the Caribbean – the total area of the three is roughly 100 square miles – the Caymans – Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, are quite impressive nonetheless.
Things To Do In Grand Cayman
With an average year-round tropical temperature of 82 degrees, Grand Cayman is a gem not to be missed. As a British crown colony, it comes with a certain familiarity for Americans and Europeans that may be lacking in other tropical regions. Grand Cayman rises from the sea to its highest elevation of 60 feet. It is approximately 22 miles long and 8 miles at the widest point. And it’s most extraordinary feature is the North Sound, a 35 square mile, shallow lagoon, protected by spectacular reefs.
No wonder its main siren song is to divers, snorkelers and those fascinated by things below the surface. But the crystal clear waters allow the less adventuresome to see some of the treasures without breathing equipment. And for landlubbers, there is a world-renowned beach, historical sites, a rum cake factory, and gardens galore.
Did I already mention paradise?
The capital of Grand Cayman, Georgetown, can be seen in one afternoon. Here, you can explore the island’s main museum, the Cayman Islands National Museum. It resides in a restored building fronted by a large veranda that makes you wish for a mint julep. The exhibits include numerous displays of the history of the Caymans, cultural as well as natural. The town also has a nice variety of shops and restaurants and a clock tower memorial to King George V. Check out the post office, now the oldest government building in the Caymans.
Before leaving Georgetown, be sure to stop at the Tortuga Rum Company and try their rum cakes. Arghhhh, matey, they’re the best.
Seven Mile Beach
Just north of Georgetown lies West Bay Beach – known to most as Seven Mile Beach – one of the finest beaches in the world. Not actually seven miles long (it’s really only 5.5 miles), it boasts pristine white beaches edged by palm trees and Australian pines. This beach is so big that there is always room to lay on your beach towel with no peddlers allowed to bother you.
On this side of Grand Cayman, the tide is gentle and the water inviting. The sandy bottom eases out to deeper water – and the water is so clear that everything swimming in it is visible. This beach is ideal for families. Along Seven Mile Beach can be found hotels galore, beachside bars that make you look for a young Tom Cruise, and every type of gear rental, from snorkelling to boats, to parasailing.
If you’re into diving, Grand Cayman has it all. You can dive with the famous turtles and even feed and pet the velvety, bat-like stingrays. Beginners and experts alike can find amazing coral reefs, underwater monoliths, and even mysterious shipwrecks. And if you’re not certified to dive, you can get certified while on vacation.
Beneath the sparkling waters of Grand Cayman lies one of the most unusual attractions in the world: Stingray City. The site, about 2 miles from the island’s northwest tip, began as a spot for fishermen to clean their fish. The stingrays gathered to scarf up the offal that washed overboard. Soon, local divers began investigating the stingray community. Now there are up to 50 stingrays, accustomed to human contact, which hover in wait for the snorkelers and divers to feed them squid and ballyhoo fish, allowing the humans to stroke their satiny skin. There is some controversy over the feeding of fish, even stingrays, with conservationists fearing disruption of the natural world below by human intervention.
For the truly adventurous diver, there are over 140 shipwrecks in the waters of the Cayman Islands. Some date back 500 years. Because of the reef structure below the surface, the Caymans have been particularly troublesome for ships to navigate over the centuries. Privateers and pirates alike were victimized by the underwater maze, leaving their bounty at the bottom of the sea for us to discover and explore. Perhaps a gold doubloon waits to be found in these waters. Probably not, since the Caymanians made their living for many years with salvage, but one can dream.
Submarine dive on the Atlantis
For those who want to see the treasures beneath the sea, but aren’t into breathing from tubes or tanks, why not try a submarine dive on the Atlantis. No Disneyland ride this. No, Atlantis is an 80-ton submersible that can hold 48 people. See the tropical fish in all their splendour and the fabulous coral gardens without getting wet. There are even Atlantis voyages after dark.
Pedro St. James National Historic Site
For history buffs, there’s the Pedro St. James National Historic Site. The great house dates from 1780. It was destroyed by fire in 1970 but has now been rebuilt. This huge old house was called the Castle by Caymanians. Its main claim to fame is that, here, the first legislative assembly was elected. The guides, in 18th-century dress, will show you around. There’s an extensive visitor centre, gift shop and cafes.
In Bodden Town, which was once the largest town on the island, you can see the cannons which commanded the channel through the reef. Or visit Old Homestead – known also as the pink house – the most photographed house in the islands – to experience classic island architecture.
The sun is setting and all you want to do is watch in seclusion – maybe in a hammock swinging gently on the trade winds. No better place for that than Rum Point. After shipwrecks, the barrels of rum would wash ashore. Hence the name, Rum Point. Rum Point is a six-mile stretch west and south that invites you to leisure. Stunningly beautiful water, few people, a yummy rum drink in your hand. Paradise IN paradise.
Go To Hell!
Finally, before heading home, you may just want to go to Hell! Hell, a jagged piece of rock at the north end of West Bay Beach. You can even have your postcards stamped Hell, Grand Cayman which helps you convince your friends that Grand Cayman is just okay. Course, you won’t tell them that you’ve already booked your trip back, will you?