It is known for the glitz and glamour of its high end boutiques, coral sand beaches, and luxury yachts moored in the harbour but there is much more to Grand Cayman than meets the eye. There is a thriving expat community, so much wildlife, and the rustic feel of the more traditional east coast. Tourists travelling here are in for more than a simple beach break.
The island and its crystal clear waters are home to a wide array of wildlife, much of which is accustomed to the presence of humans. Sting Ray City for example is a sandbar where fishermen used to clean their catch, dumping the fish guts into the water, and so the sting rays now flock to the sound of a motor. Visitors can jump into the shallow water and feed and pat the sting rays.
At Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, one can see the blue iguanas found only on Grand Cayman Island. Tours are offered of the breeding facility which helped to bring the species from the brink of extinction with only 13 lizards to the 1000 lizards that live today. The tour is conducted by warden Alberto Estevanovich whose voice the lizards recognise and come running to see him. After seeing the blue iguanas, wander through the botanic gardens, marvelling at the collection of native and international flora.
The Turtle Centre is another popular spot but it houses more than just turtles, with a nine foot long crocodile, and a predator tank. Guests can snorkel in a salt water lagoon with a myriad of fish and sea turtles. The main highlight of the trip though is the turtles and guests can learn all about the ongoing conservation effort for these beautiful creatures. If you’d prefer to swim with wild turtles though, head to Spott’s Beach.
A must-do for all visitors to Grand Cayman is a bioluminescence experience. Boats and kayaks leave from Rum Point and head away from the light pollution so guests can experience the full magnificence of this experience. Watching the water glow all around you will be a major highlight of the trip.
Away from the cruise ship crowds and the mega yachts, the east coast of Grand Cayman is home to friendly villages, tiny coves, and deserted beaches. The buildings are wooden with shuttered windows, and hammocks on the veranda. Chickens and iguanas roam the street, tripping up locals and tourists alike. Radios play reggae, and even though the east coast has been connected with plumbing, old ladies still fetch water from the well.
The Mastic Trail is a popular walking trail which dates back to the 18th century when it was used by islanders to transport timber. The trail winds through the jungle with Cayman Parrots chattering overhead and a mixture of fig trees, and mastic trees shading the path.
In the East Coast it is not uncommon to be greeted by passers-by, or invited in for coffee. On Sundays the locals all don their Sunday best and worship at white washed church buildings. Life in the real Grand Cayman is reminiscent of stories told by parents and grandparents of a community feel and leaving cars unlocked.
Grand Cayman is not touted as a wellness destination, but with a plethora of outdoor sports offerings, and plenty of spas to choose from, it is a fantastic choice for a wellness holiday.
Most hotels on the island offer regular yoga sessions, with outdoor yoga becoming a staple on activity schedules of luxury resorts. Fitness is very important to the locals and expats on Grand Cayman and so there are plenty of companies offering outdoor fitness classes locally as well. From paddleboard yoga, to beach meditation, to kitesurfing, there is something for everyone.
If a spa treatment is more your idea of wellness, there are plenty of options available. All of the luxury hotels on the island have amazing spas with extensive lists of treatments but some of the best ones are the Ritz Carlton and the Marriott. All seven miles of Seven Mile Beach is packed with nail salons and day spas if you wanted to try out some more luxe-options. The Spa at Seafire is very popular amongst visitors of the island.
Speckled throughout the island are wellness cafes for those who wish to nourish their body as well as their mind and soul. Menus will include things like acai bowls, breakfast burritos, smoothies, buddha bowls, and salads. There is no shortage of options for vegans, vegetarians, and those on a gluten free diet.
Eating (and Drinking) Out
The local cuisine is focused around seafood with turtles being the national dish. Other popular meats are corned beef and jerk chicken. Some local specialties to try are cassava stretchers, rum cake, fish ‘n fritters, and rundown, a coconut milk stew with fish, pumpkin, onions, and peppers. Due to a large number of expats from a range of different countries, there are a lot of international restaurants available across the island.
Dining in Grand Cayman is an experience in itself, in more casual restaurants live music is playing and guests are seated around park benches as they enjoy the beach breeze. Visit Vivine’s Kitchen, and Peppers for great atmosphere and even better food.
There are of course a lot of upscale dining options around Georgetown and Seven Mile Beach. Kaibo offers a 6 course tasting menu and Morgan’s Seafood Restaurant is an ocean to table concept restaurant, meaning their menu is always changing based on the catch of their fishermen. With the large numbers of expats, bottomless brunches complete with prosecco are also a staple on the west coast.
In the 32 degree heat, the drinks of choice in Grand Cayman are rum punches served with lime and lots of ice or the mudslide, a strong but delicious frozen cocktail. These are served in beachside bars around the island along with standard bar offerings. Perch yourself in a hammock at one of the bars and while away the afternoon in the fresh sea breeze.