Cayman Islands - A Caribbean Delight
By James Brooker
The Cayman Islands, located south of Cuba in the western Caribbean Sea, have long been a haven for scuba divers and those seeking an escape from their hectic everyday lives.
The three islands that make up the country are Grand Cayman (the largest of the three islands and home to the country's capital, George Town) Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, the latter two commonly referred to as the Sister Islands.
Although small, the Cayman Islands offer a wealth of attractions for visitors that go far beyond its beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Of course, if that is what you need, you will certainly not be disappointed and for many cruise ship visitors, a chance to spend a day on one of Grand Cayman's world famous beaches is a highlight of their trip.
A popular tourist destination Seven Mile Beach. It is a beautiful stretch of white sand that lines the west coast of grand Cayman. The usually calm and beautifully clear water is ideal for swimming and snorkeling and also very safe. Although the busiest stretch of beach on the island, even on the busiest days it is easy to find a quiet and uncrowded spot where you can feel completely at peace.
Seven Mile Beach is really "the Strip" on grand Cayman, housing all the major hotels and numerous condominium developments as well as many of the main shopping plazas, restaurants and bars. The area really has everything one could need but for those whose idea of a Caribbean Island is a little less modern and simply idyllic, heading east away from George Town will take you to a much less developed and far quieter environment, so different that you could almost believe you've gone to another island entirely.
For those who love to shop however, George Town and Seven Mile Beach are really where it all happens. Look out for the free local magazines that can be found outside many stores and places of business and in most hotel lobbies - these will give you some great ideas on what to do, where to eat, etc. They will also invariably help you locate things such as art galleries and other cultural hotspots.
(For more about Caribbean art please see our resource box at the foot of this article)
Of course, for those wanting to really get away from it all, the sister islands do offer a far more relaxed pace of life, and Little Cayman, with a population of only around 250 souls is the ultimate island paradise. Both islands can be reached via a short flight from Grand Cayman's airport that operate several times a day. If you are not interested in the glitz and glamour of Grand Cayman's jet set, both sister islands offer a very peaceful getaway.
Visitors to Grand Cayman invariably add a trip to the famous Stingray City and Sand Bar to their "to do list" Located in the North Sound the clear shallow waters are normally thronged with friendly stingrays. Boat tours take snorkelers and divers to swim with and feed the stingrays, and the rays themselves have become so used to this human contact that they can be touched and held - certain guidelines do apply. It really is a great chance to do something very unique and remains an unforgettable experience for many people.
At the north western end of the island in the district of West Bay you can find the famous Cayman Turtle Farm. Its name has changed a few times over the years, most recently Boatswains Beach although this is set to change again in the near future. A visit to the Turtle Farm is a great family activity where visitors can see and learn about the creatures and their importance to the islanders over the course of Cayman;s history. Wildlife lovers will enjoy the opportunity to hold a beautiful turtle for a memorable photo of their visit. The Cayman Islands were originally named Las Tortugas by Columbus when he first discovered the islands as there were literally so many turtles.
Nowadays, their numbers are much smaller and the Turtle Farm acts as both a conservation project, releasing many turtles into the wild each year, and also as a farm to supply turtle meat in a sustainable manner. Turtle is a staple of the traditional Caymanian diet and is still enjoyed by many people today.
Getting around the islands is best done in a rental car or scooter. Although only small, getting to and from different areas of the island it can be difficult without your own transport. Buses cover the major areas and are relatively cheap, and local taxis will take you anywhere, but at a price, and it is wise to find out the cost beforehand.
Other places to see include Pedro St. James Castle on the south coast in the district of Savannah and considered the birthplace of democracy inthe islands. Now a historic site it is a pleasant and interesting place to visit and to enjoy the peace of its luxuriant tropical gardens and the wonderful ocean breeze coming off the Caribbean.
The Queen Elizabeth Botanic Park is another favorite place for visitors and is home to a number of rare native Blue Iguanas and some of the worlds rarest orchids. You will also see a variety of bird life including the national bird of the Cayman Islands, the Cayman Parrot. The well marked mile long trail offers a wealth of photo opportunities and the gardens look their best in late May and early June.
For those who are staying over on Grand Cayman, a trip out to east End and then on to Northside and the famous Rum Point and Cayman Kai areas are a must do and you will discover a Grand Cayman much closer to the one of days gone by. Private beaches, delicious local food, local characters, and a pace of life that will wash away all your worries.
Arteccentrix Fine Art Services,, is an art consultancy, gallery and studio in the Cayman Islands. You can visit the online gallery of Caribbean Art at the company's website to learn more about art and culture in the islands.
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.