If you are looking for a tropical paradise with all-year-round good weather, stunning beaches and delicious rum punch, you cannot go far wrong with the Cayman Islands. Made up of three islands – Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman – the Cayman Islands are the ultimate in Caribbean travel. But a vacation here is not all about sitting in the sun all day drinking cocktails. There are a whole host of amazing things to see and do here that a holiday to the Cayman Islands can be just as much action-packed and fun as it can be relaxing and rejuvenating. Here is the ultimate travel guide to things to do in the Cayman Islands.
Of course, the beaches are the main things to do in the Cayman Islands. With their soft, white sand and sparkling turquoise sea, you would find it difficult to come across such perfect beaches anywhere else in the world. The great thing about the beaches in the Cayman Islands is that all of them – including the ones next to luxurious hotels and resorts – are for public use. While a lot of the beaches have full amenities such as benches, picnic areas and freshwater showers, others are more basic.
Seven Mile Beach
Regularly awarded accolades in lists for best beaches, Seven Mile Beach is the most popular of the beaches in the Cayman Islands and also the most developed. Because of its amazing location, Seven Mile Beach is home to some of the most luxurious properties in the whole of the Cayman Islands. As you stroll along the expansive waterfront, you will come across a multitude of beach bars and restaurants to suit every palate, as well as a variety of shops if you fancy some retail therapy. There are also many different activities to take part in, such as snorkelling, scuba diving, parasailing and swimming.
Seven Mile Beach is well located for other attractions on Grand Cayman. It is not far from the capital city of George Town, plus you will also find the Cayman Turtle Centre and the limestone formations of Hell close by.
One of the more lively beaches in the Cayman Islands, Rum Point is situated on the north coast of Grand Cayman and attracts locals and tourists alike. It is a particularly popular spot for those interested in beach and water sports, including snorkelling, diving and sunset sails, but it is also a fantastic place to just hang out and enjoy the tasty rum punches, said to be the best on the islands. You should also check out the Wreck Bar while you are at Rum Point; known to be one of the most famous beach bars in the Cayman Islands, it was here that the cocktail Frozen Mudslide was invented.
Located near Rum Point is another beach, Starfish Point, so-called because of the abundance of colourful starfish that live in the waters surrounding the beach. It is definitely worth calling here when you visit Rum Point.
If you prefer your beaches a little bit quieter, Smith Cove, also on Grand Cayman, is a good choice. Although the beach sometimes gets a little bit crowded when the cruise ships dock at the nearby port, Smith Cove generally gets fewer visitors, meaning a more peaceful visit. Despite it being smaller than the other beaches, it still has all the amenities you would expect to find at a developed beach, and it is also a great place for snorkelling.
Other beaches you should definitely check out when you are in the Cayman Islands include: Owen Island, which offers a low-key desert island experience; Sandy Point, a beach which manages to combine splendid isolation with not being completely cut off from civilisation; and Cayman Kai, a beach incredibly similar to Seven Mile Beach but without the tourist hordes.
Diving and Snorkelling
While Australia may be more famous for its barrier reef, you may be pleased to know that the Cayman Islands have their very own as well which is just as outstanding, making diving and snorkelling one of the best things to do in the Cayman Islands. If you already have your PADI certificate, there are plenty of opportunities for off-shore diving. If you are not certified but fancy having a go then many of the dive companies on the Cayman Islands offer beginner fun dives where you can try this exciting activity out.
Just like with diving, there are lots of snorkelling sites to enjoy. If you do not have your own mask, snorkel tube and fins, you can either rent some from one of the many dive shops on the islands or if you join a tour you will be provided with the equipment. Recommended sites for snorkelling include Stingray City, Seven Mile Beach, Turtle Reef and Lighthouse Point, although there are snorkelling spots all over the islands.
Kittiwake Shipwreck and Artificial Reef
One of the most famous shipwrecks in the whole of the Caribbean, the ex-USS Kittiwake was a US Navy submarine which served for nearly 50 years – known primarily for its recovery of the black box from the Challenger Space Shuttle – before being scuttled off Seven Mile Beach. Due to its fairly shallow depths, it is one of the most popular things to do in the Cayman Islands for divers, snorkellers and free-divers.
The Kittiwake is considered to be a perfect dive for beginners as it only goes 55 feet below sea level plus it also has great accessibility, but there is also plenty here to keep even the most advanced of divers interested. If you are driving down to the Kittiwake, you can explore its five decks which are overflowing with rare sponges, goliath groupers, squirrelfish and urchins.
If you want to experience the underwater world of the Cayman Islands but also want to stay dry, a submarine tour would be the perfect option for you. Taking place on a specially designed vessel with a spacious air-conditioned cabin and maintained at sea level pressure, these submarine tours will take you on a tour of the Grand Cayman’s Underwater Marine Park to depths of 100 feet. You will be able to admire magnificent coral canyons and schools of colourful fish during what is considered to be one of the most unique things to do in the Cayman Islands.
Swimming with dolphins is the ultimate dream for many travellers around the globe and if you are one of them, the Cayman Islands is the best place for you to make your dream come true.
Dolphin Discovery offers a swimming with dolphins programme where you will be able to interact with these wonderful creatures and participate in activities such as belly rides and foot pushes, as well as learn lots of interesting information about the dolphins and other marine animals, such as how they are cared for and their reproduction and nursing programmes.
Often considered to be the most popular of things to do in the Cayman Islands, Stingray City gives visitors the unique experience of holding a stingray! Located in the shallow waters of the North Sound of Great Cayman, it is believed that the stingrays began congregating in the area to feast upon the fish guts and squid which fishermen threw overboard while gutting and cleaning them; eventually, the stingrays associated the sound of a boat engine with food.
Nowadays, lots of stingrays still frequent the sandbars and there are a number of tour companies who offer tours to Stingray City which range from three to five hours. The water here is only three feet in depth so you can easily walk among them in the shallows. You can also swim, feed and take lots of fantastic photos of the stingrays, making this one of the most memorable things to do in the Cayman Islands.
Cayman Turtle Centre
The ocean is not the only place where you will find amazing wildlife in the Cayman Islands. Located in the West Bay Area is the Cayman Turtle Centre, the Cayman Islands’ biggest land-based attraction. The centre’s main draw are the green sea turtles which are bred here; you can see them in the Green’s Breeding Pond where the mature ones are placed to start reproducing and marvel at their gracefulness despite their huge size. There are also turtle touch tanks where you can pick up and hold the yearling turtles, observe them swimming and playing, and even get in the touch tank wading pools for the photo of a lifetime. In Turtle Lagoon it is possible to snorkel and swim among the yearlings and also admire the coral and the islands where peacocks and iguanas live.
As well as the turtles, you can see a whole host of other animals at the Cayman Turtle Centre. Popular with visitors is Smiley, an 11-foot American saltwater crocodile who is particularly cool to see at feeding time. Predator Reef gives you the chance to come face-to-face with nurse sharks, barracuda, tarpon and a hawksbill turtle, the Caribbean free-flight aviary is filled with all kinds of exotic birds such as the Cayman parrot and scarlet ibis, and the butterfly garden is a great place to see the wide variety of butterflies here at the centre, from large and colourful to tiny and monochrome.
Other highlights of the Cayman Turtle Centre include: Cayman Street, a gravel street with examples of traditional Cayman architecture; Breakers Lagoon, the largest swimming pool in the Cayman Islands with two waterfalls and an underwater view of the predator tank; and the Blue Hole Nature Trail, where you can enjoy the stunning nature that the Cayman Islands have to offer. You can visit this unusual place taking the Grand Cayman Island Private Tour with the experienced local tour guide that shows you all the island with its hidden gems.
Hiking is not one of the most prevalent of things to do in the Cayman Islands, but there is one trail which is worth a half day’s trip. The Mastic Trail, named after the yellow and black mastic trees in the area, is based on a traditional footpath which had fallen into disuse before being restored and reopened as a four-kilometre walking track that passes through a reserve filled with flora and fauna indigenous to the islands. The area is particularly well-known for its variety of birdlife; here you can see Cuban amazons, white-crowned pigeons, thick-billed vireos, Yucatan vireos and Caribbean Elaenia among many others.
Cayman Crystal Caves
One of the newest things to do in the Cayman Islands, the Cayman Crystal Caves offer visitors the chance to explore underground caves which were once under the sea. This is evident from the amount of sea animal and shell fossils which can be found here. Formed over millions of years, you will get to see lots of stalactite and stalagmite crystal formations, created by single drops of water over the passage of time.
Surrounding the caves is lush, green tropical vegetation; on a guided tour you will make your way through this jungle after heading into three of the crystal caves, where you will explore the open-ceiling cave, the roots cave and the lake cave. The area is a great place to see some of the wonderful plant and animal life Grand Cayman has to offer, such as strangler balsam trees, air plants, bats and parrots.
Cayman Islands National Museum
Housed in the Old Courts building in George Town dating back to the 1830s, the Cayman Islands National Museum is dedicated to preserving the historical and cultural heritage of the islands. Inside you will find over 9,000 items, including coins, cannonballs, canoes and other objects connected with the island’s history. A particularly cool thing to check out is the three-dimensional map detailing the underwater geological formations that surround the Cayman Islands.
Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Park
Starting life as a simple woodland trail, the Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Park has expanded considerably since its opening in 1994 and is now considered to be one of the best things to do in the Cayman Islands. While there is plenty to discover and explore in the gardens, visitors are usually drawn to what are considered the three main attractions. These are the Floral Colour Garden, the Heritage Garden and the Visitor’s Centre. The Floral Colour Garden was designed specifically to be an informal garden where visitors could enjoy the numerous flowers arranged by colour, starting with pink and moving through red, orange, yellow, white, blue, purple and lavender, while also strolling through different wooded landscapes of native trees. The Heritage Garden is where visitors can see plants which have played an important role in the history of the Cayman Islands and includes grounds, where root crops and vegetables would be grown, and a medicinal garden, where a variety of herbs and plants are cultivated which Caymanians used to treat different ailments.
The park is also famous for its blue iguana habitat. Only two decades ago, these wonderful creatures were facing extinction, but since the National Trust of the Cayman Islands began its reproduction programme the numbers have grown significantly, although the blue iguana remains on the endangered list. They can frequently be found roaming the grounds and are an absolute delight to watch if you get a chance to spot them.
Other highlights of the Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Park include: the Xerophytic Garden, where you can see many examples of cacti and low-maintenance plants; the lake, which serves as a habitat for a variety of species of aquatic birds; and the orchid boardwalk, which features ten of the 28 orchid species found in the Cayman Islands. If it is a tranquil, peaceful outing you are looking for, the Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Park is the place to go.
Among the many unique things to do in the Cayman Islands is a visit to Hell, a geological wonder. Estimated to be around 10 to 15 million years old, Hell is a collection of short, rugged black limestone formations roughly the size of half a football field. While you cannot walk on the formations, there are plenty of viewpoints and viewing platforms so you can take in the unusual view. There are many stories as to how the formations got their name, mostly revolving around the belief that they resemble what Hell actually looks like.
A memorable way to share a visit to Hell is to send a postcard from Hell Post Office; your postcard will be stamped with a postmark bearing the attraction’s name, meaning you can prove that you have been to Hell and back! You can visit Hell booking the West of Cayman Island Private Tour.
Pedro St. James Castle
There are not too many original, historical buildings in the Cayman Islands, so a visit to Pedro St. James Castle is a real treat. Located just a 20-minute drive away from the capital of George Town, Pedro St. James gives visitors an insight into the islands’ past. Built during the 18th century, Pedro St. James was the home of plantation owner William Eden and shows off the splendour of this industry, with its three-level design, wide verandas and extensive grounds. It is also considered to be the birthplace of democracy in the Cayman Islands as it served as the meeting point for their first elected parliament in 1831. It was also here that the Slavery Abolition Act was read out in 1835.
Although the building you see today is actually a reconstruction after the original was left to ruin during most of the 20th century. Today you can stroll through the building and admire the period furniture and other artefacts on display, as well as visit the state-of-the-art multimedia centre where you can watch a video detailing the fascinating history of the islands over the past 200 years.
With So Many Things to Do in The Cayman Islands, You Could Spend Months Here
The list of things to do in the Cayman Islands is endless; you could spend weeks here and still find something interesting and fun to do. Whether you are looking to take part in exciting water sports, learn more about the history and heritage of the islands, or explore the natural wonders they have to offer, you can be sure to have the trip of a lifetime when you visit the Cayman Islands.