The 8 Best Things to Do in the Cayman Islands

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If you’re looking for a beach vacation in paradise, it doesn’t get much more iconic than Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach. Gracing many lists of the best stretches of sand in the Caribbean, if not the world, this quintessential coastline is a destination unto itself: 6.3 fully traversable miles (the name is the only thing that promises too much) of white sand and crystal clear waters. . It’s an epic beach walk, the perfect setting for yoga or water sports, or the perfect place to just soak up the sun.

But Grand Cayman and its sister islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, offer much more than sun and sand. With a wide range of exciting experiences, each of the islands is accessible, making it easy to access the many natural and cultural attractions they offer, including unique forest hikes, opportunities to see art and important historical sites, without sacrificing your beach. time.

We’ve rounded up some of the top things to see and do when visiting the Cayman Islands here.

1. Connect with (literal) Cayman roots

Today’s Cayman Islands economy may be synonymous with offshore banking, but not so long ago its industry was tied to ropes hand-woven from native silver palms. At the height of the thatch rope industry, the Cayman Islands exported 1.3 million fathoms of rope annually, nearly the flying distance between Grand Cayman’s capital, George Town, and New York. In fact, the Cayman Islands silver thatch adorns the country’s flag and is its official national tree.

Although you can find silver thatch palms all over the islands, a great place to view them, along with a wealth of other native flora and fauna, is along the Mastic Trail on the north side of Grand Cayman. Retracing an agricultural trail more than a century old, the trail winds through the Mastic Reserve, the largest (and still intact) ancient forest on the island.

Following the boundary between low-lying semi-deciduous dry forest and mangrove wetlands, the trail teems with massive mahogany, old mango and citrus trees, towering royal palms and seasonal flowers, such as the banana orchid wild – the Cayman Islands. national flower—blooming every June. Trekking the 2.4-mile route is also a birdwatcher’s dream. you’ll spot parrots, West Indian woodpeckers, and rare Caribbean doves, as well as snakes, lizards, butterflies, and other wildlife.

The best way to experience the Mastic Trail is via a guided tour with the Cayman Islands National Trust, who restored the trail in the 1990s. More of a storytelling session than a workout, the tour is led by Stuart Mailer, a botanist who helped lead the restoration project. It offers a real, if often muddy, walk on the wild side of the island.

2. Immerse yourself in the local art scene

From vibrant island landscapes to abundant underwater life, there is no shortage of artistic inspiration in the Cayman Islands. However, many visitors don’t realize that the nation has a rich visual arts scene, with many artists depicting the evolution of island life over the decades.

Admire the opulent variety of styles, media and subjects at Cayman Islands National Gallery, an exhibition and gathering space dedicated to promoting local artists. Pioneers such as Gladwyn K. “Miss Lassie” Bush— a fourth-generation Caymanian who taught herself to paint at age 62 (her former home is now a heritage site) — to contemporary graphic works by Wray Banker (founder of the Native Sons Artist Collective), the collection is dedicated to preserving the nation’s cultural heritage and identity through the visual arts.

The Cayman Crystal Caves encompass hundreds of caverns.

Photo by Katie Thorpe/Shutterstock

3. Walk through an underground wonderland

Hidden in a forest, the Cayman Crystal Caves are full of otherworldly rock formations forged by the interaction of rainwater and the foundational limestone of Grand Cayman. Here you will find hundreds of underground caverns full of massive crystals of stalagmites and stalactites created by calcium deposits left by acid rains that dissolved limestone over millions of years.

Considered a hideout for pirates, the Crystal Caves are now one of the islands unique attractions. On a 90-minute tour, you can wander through three caves that house an abundance of photogenic rock formations, heading to the light green underground pool at its center, from which the system takes its name of caves.

4. Lose yourself in a colorful paradise for nature lovers

Animated by free-roaming blue iguanas (huge endangered lizards found only on Grand Cayman and named for their skin tone), kaleidoscopic parrots and 65 acres of gardens, the Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park is heaven on earth for nature lovers.

With red giving way to pink giving way to orange, yellow and more, the dazzling Color Garden is organized by hue and is a visual delight. The park has seven sections, including a heritage garden with a model of an old-fashioned island house flanked by traditional plants and fruit trees that Caymanians have used for food and shelter for generations, a strolling orchid garden with four native varieties among its many flowers. , and a blue iguana habitat that serves as the headquarters of the island’s conservation program.

5. Watch a nighttime light show

For the best after-dark light show in the Cayman Islands, look down, not up. While on a clear night the starry skies of the Cayman Islands are certainly appealing, a much rarer sight takes place below the sea surface in the tranquil waters not far from Rum Point on the north side of Grand Cayman.

Join a tour with Tom Watling from Cayman Kayaks, and it’s a short paddle to a tranquil bay full of bioluminescent marine life. As Watling explains how the perfect combination of factors – warm water, salinity and plant matter – produce this unique phenomenon, paddlers can splash and bang their oars to light up the water with the white and blue flares of illumination produced by organisms. microscopic underwater. surface.

Tours are timed according to lunar cycles, only operating on the darkest nights of each month for best viewing. For those who want to enjoy the lights without the DIY transportation, Cayman Kayaks also offers an electric boat tour.

6. Cycle the sleepy side of Grand Cayman early in the morning

In recent decades, Grand Cayman has become known for its restaurant scene and the many resorts that line Seven Mile Beach. But once upon a time, the island was mostly made up of sleepy fishing villages linked by scenic coastal roads. You can step back in time to those bygone days on an early morning bike tour with Eco Rides Cayman.

Eco Rides was founded by Shane Edwards, who wanted to marry his love of cycling with his passion for protecting Grand Cayman’s relatively unspoiled East End from development. There are no hotels or souvenir shops around here. Instead, you’ll spend around three hours pedaling past colorful cottages and greeting locals, stopping along the way to explore the site of the Cayman Islands’ most famous shipwreck, the wreck of the Ten Sail, photograph blowholes along the shore, taste fruit and discover the secret caves of Edwards’ homestead. Tours include bike and helmet rentals and a homemade snack along the way.

7. Dive into a submerged mountain range

Surrounded by shallow coral reefs, the Cayman Islands offer some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean. One of the most impressive underwater experiences is Bloody Bay Wall, an underwater cliff off Little Cayman that starts just over 20 feet below the water’s surface and plunges to 6,000 feet.

The drama of this huge cliff makes for an amazing swim for advanced divers, with tropical fish, turtles, eels, stingrays and barracuda swimming among the corals that line the wall. But you don’t have to be a PADI-certified expert diver to enjoy it. In addition to some 24 dive sites, it also includes six designated areas that are suitable for snorkelers.

Cayman Islands-PedroStJames-Joymsk140-Shutterstock.jpg

The Cayman Islands elected their first democratic government in 1831 in Pedro St. James.

Photo by Joymsk140/Shutterstock

8. Pay homage to freedom and democracy at Grand Cayman’s oldest and most important house

Pedro St. James– or Pedro’s Castle, as the locals call it – is the oldest stone structure in the Cayman Islands, but that’s not what makes it so remarkable. Pedro (pronounced Pee-dro) St. James is the most important historic site on the islands thanks to its role in establishing democracy.

It was here in 1831 that this island nation elected its first democratic government. Also on this site, five years later, a delegate from the Governor of Jamaica issued a proclamation to abolish slavery in the British Empire, which was read on the stone stairs of the Great House built 50 years earlier. by slaves. For the next 150 years, the building was used as a courthouse, jail and parliamentary home – and was destroyed by hurricanes, fires and an earthquake along the way – until the government bought the site in 1991, restoring the Big House and other traditional buildings that dot the property.

Today you can take a guided tour of this famous site, sample a flight of Cayman Spirits rum and enjoy a lunch of marinated conch and red snapper pasta at the new Thatch and Barrel, an on-site restaurant launched by the team. behind George Cayman Cabana, the city favorite. It’s a tasty way to experience an essential aspect of Caribbean history.

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