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
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.
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 hot spots.
(For more about Caribbean art please see our resource box at the foot of this article)
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 glamor 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.
places to see include Pedro St. James Castle on the south coast in the
district of Savannah and considered the birthplace of democracy in the
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.
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 North side 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.
Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.