We got back from the Cayman Islands a few days ago, and the shades of blue that dominated Grand Cayman won’t escape my mind – I’m pretty ok with that, to be honest.
What to do in the Cayman Islands is focused on Grand Cayman in this post; there are two other islands that make up the British overseas territory (although it feels much more American), Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. I only visited Grand Cayman, the most popular of the three, and although I’d have loved to see the other two, time and money had other ideas – as is ever the case.
So when you visit Grand Cayman, what is there to do? What sets it apart from other Caribbean islands? I’m a newbie in travelling the Caribbean islands, so I’m learning as I go about how they differ or whether they’re all just clear blue sea and laid back vibes (I like to think they all have their own personality).
Here’s what to do in the Cayman Islands…
This is one of the two top things that would tantalisingly appear on my Pinterest when I was researching the Cayman Islands when we were considering it as our slightly last minute trip idea.
On a sandbank off the coast of Grand Cayman is Stingray City, an area where tours arrive by the boatload every day to feed a community of stingrays in super clear water. It’s perfect for getting up close and personal to these beautifully graceful creatures which behave a little like an excited dog when food comes out – they tackle you and jump on your back… it’s a very interesting experience.
The reason I say ‘interesting’ rather than simply just ‘fun’ isn’t just because of the ray’s hilarious behaviour: it’s also because I still haven’t quite worked out how I feel about the whole thing, which I’ll soon do a post about.
Seven Mile Beach
You’ve probably guessed that this is number two on the Pinterest hot list. Seven Mile Beach is the main place people stay when on Grand Cayman – the stretch of beach (it’s actually pushing 6.3 miles rather than 7. Liars!) is home to many resorts, from your luxury Ritz Carlton, to your Marriott, to your Comfort Suites Inn.
Now, I usually get sceptical of resort beaches. I imagine crowded swarms of loud, sunburnt tourists. Of course, there’s some of that. Can barely get away from it. But I actually really loved Seven Mile Beach. The north end, where we were, is really not that crowded, the sand is beautiful and the water is incredibly blue and clear. It’s ideal for snorkelling and swimming – I even had a shoal of fish swim around me in circles while I was swimming… it was so strange but chucked a smile on my face, one of those moments where you can’t help but just laugh
at with life.
Now we come to a much more secluded place, but still popular. Rum Point is on the North Side of Grand Cayman (George Town is on the South and Seven Mile Beach is adjacent to it), accessible mainly by boat (usually on a tour) or car – an hour away from Georgetown. You may be thinking, “Rum Point, what a typically Caribbean name!” and you’d be right: it was named after the rum barrels found washed ashore (I’m looking at you, Captain Jack Sparrow).
The main draw here isn’t so much the beach – although it is still lovely, but small – but the atmosphere that goes with it thanks to Wreck Bar and Rum Point Restaurant. You can wile away the day here with one of Wreck Bar’s famous mudslides in a hammock or on a colourful picnic bench or snorkel with the rays and fish, or arrive in the evening and dine at Rum Point Restaurant after watching the sunset. Essentially, this is a place for pure joy and relaxation.
This is how we did Rum Point: we took a tour with Acquarius that included Stingray City, snorkelling the Coral Garden and Starfish Point. At the latter, we bid the boat goodbye and walked to Rum Point, about a 25 minute walk away, past Kaibo (a well-rated restaurant) and plenty of fancy, pastel-coloured houses we dreamed about living in.
We basically just chilled here for the rest of the day until we took part in Red Sail Sport’s night-time catamaran back to Safehaven, closer to George Town and Seven Mile Beach: it’s $5 for a return trip, as long as you eat at Rum Point Restaurant – a fair deal to me! Obviously we didn’t take the catamaran to Rum Point, but we felt it was still worth it as we also got to spend some time reading and sunbathing with our mudslides, experiencing the area during the day, too.
I really enjoyed Smith Cove, partly because it was our first proper beach visit during our stay and partly because its rugged beauty was something that really appealed to me: it had soft sand ideal for laying in the sun, but also had plenty of trees for natural shade. These crooked trees were easy to hang your things over and also cast shadows still with glimpses of sun poking through, leading a path down to the water. It was like a tropical forest in Narnia.
There were also chickens, which are actually around everywhere on Grand Cayman, right from the moment you step out of the airport. I read a Trip Advisor review that complained about the poultry, but I really didn’t mind – they didn’t disturb me and they add a little something extra to look at on the beach.
Smith Cove is most easily accessible by car, but we walked the whole way from Seven Mile Beach, which took about an hour (half an hour to George Town, and then the other half to Smith Cove). If you do this as well, bring plenty of water and sun tan lotion – keep hydrating and applying!
Eat and drink!
Oh, the food. Cuisine is a great part of Grand Cayman – I suppose as a tax haven, those business people don’t want to compromise on their top notch food.
There is a lot to mention when it comes to food on Grand Cayman, so I’m going to do a blog post on that on its own for specifics. Just know that here, you must try conch fritters (balls of the conch snail meat fried in batter with seasonings and drink plenty of cocktails. Beer has recently become more of a thing in the Cayman Islands, including Caybrew, White Tip Lager (better with slice of lime in it) and Iron Shore Bock – all from the same brewery.
Dive and snorkel
The waters are so perfect for snorkelling and with an abundance of colourful fish, rays and corals. Again in my life, I have missed out on seeing and swimming with a turtle (one day!) but I was really pleased with our snorkelling adventures in the Cayman Islands.
Snorkel Seven Mile Beach, Coral Garden (usually part of a tour with Stingray City), Smith Cove and there’s also a place called Cemetery Beach and Reef (yup, by a cemetery) but we didn’t manage to go there. I’ve heard rumours of turtles there and Smith Cove, though, in case you have the same dream as me.
The Cayman Islands are also known to have some of the best diving in the world. There are shipwrecks, grottos, amazing reefs and wildlife from hammerhead sharks to lion fish. I had my first diving experience ever which didn’t have the grandeur of these things I mentioned (I was pretty nervous and wanted to take things easy) but we still saw some cool things, like coral and a variety of fish, including huge tarpons (4-8 ft long fish).
I mentioned this as pretty close to Rum Point. It is, as you may have guessed, a beach which has starfish in its shallow waters.
I’ll be honest: it’s not that amazing. Maybe I went on a murkier day, so I won’t say it’s rubbish. If you’ve never seen starfish up close before then it’s a great trip, but there are better places: during my Central America solo trip, I was blown away by Starfish Beach in Bocas del Toro, Panama (although here, they don’t let you pick them up at all… probably a good thing!).
One thing I always like to point out when it comes to starfish is how to hold them: PLEASE DO NOT lift them out of the water – they’re under water for a reason! That’s how they live! Sure, pick them up (gently) but keep the bottom of them in the water, and carefully place them back where you found them. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t like to be transported to a random place with no say in the matter.
Let it be known, this is absolutely not the kind of thing I’d usually recommend when travelling. I usually like nature, adventures and sites and experiences that’ll blow you away, and this is pretty much none of those things.
Camana Bay is a really new project on Grand Cayman; it’s essentially a kind of miniature town next to a dock (where I was enthusiastically told you can dock your boat for free… oh good! Somewhere to finally place my hoards of boats!) and with some flats, shops, loads of restaurants, a cinema, a daycare unit and more. It looks very modern and is obviously very pricey and upmarket (a bit of a trend with Grand Cayman as it is a tax haven) but it actually is quite fascinating. I begrudgingly found myself liking it because of its lovely food and cocktails and it just looks nice.
So, basically, come here for food, cocktails and just admire the vision that has obviously been carefully implemented. It’s obviously made to be the stylish aspect of the Caribbean. As long as you take this place how it is, you’ll get along with it just fine.