'Grand Cayman is not a Caribbean Island, but an island in the Caribbean'
‘Five days in the Cayman Islands – beaches and seafood – of course – but I found so much more!’
Destinology writer Catherine Howarth didn’t rest on her laurels when she was given less than a week to report back on one of the most exclusive destinations in the Caribbean.
‘In the hotels, I found staff on-hand to clean my sunglasses, serve me gelato and treat my sunburn. But it was the friendliness of the people, the unexpected depth of history and the amount of things to do, that really made Grand Cayman a holiday’
1. Horse Riding with Pampered Ponies - Beach & Swim at Barkers Beach
Ride along the beach, then bareback in the ocean. This is what movie-clips are made of.
- Location - Barkers Beach
- With – Pampered Ponies
- Price Guideline - Around $90 per adult and you can also book as a group.
- Length of activity - 2 hours
You’ll find well-behaved horses (apart from the occasional bum-biting of the horse in-front), 7 rescue dogs and great instruction – even for a total beginner like me. You’ll ride 15 minutes from the stables to Barkers Beach – through forest and clusters of wild chickens! (they are EVERYWHERE in Grand Cayman).
Saddles are removed and your trusty swimming steed will take you waist-height into the sea for a magical, surreal and totally unforgettable experience.
Tip – Get a GoPro! Or take your waterproof phone or camera. Dress for the water – you WILL get wet!
2. Bioluminescence Tour - Kayaking at Night
- Location - Rum Point Beach Club
- With - Cayman Kayaks
- Price guideline – $59 pp, contact for group rates
- How long does it last? - 1.5-2 hours
When the moon is at its lowest in the sky, and for only one month a year, organisms in the ocean will glow when they meet with oxygen. ‘Paddling through the night, the ocean still warm, I gently swished my hand and paddled in the water, causing the bioluminescence to twinkle. Swimming created even more of a stir and the bright lights seemed to surround you’. You’ll follow the flashlight of your guide who will tell you all about the phenomenon. He may even have you looking skywards for a tour of the constellations in the sky too, this is perfect here, as light pollution is minimal.
Tip - Wear appropriate clothing, remembering you will get a little bit wet, and there are no changing rooms!
3. Stingray City
- Location - Holiday Inn Beach Front
- With - Action Watersports/life jackets included
- Price guideline – $110 per rider
- Length of activity - 2 hours
What better mode of transport than jet skiing to get to the exciting Stingray City? As you approach the shallow waters of Stingray City, you’ll see throngs of rays eagerly waiting to be fed and petted, but don't worry, they are tame and very sociable. Squid is usually on the menu and they’ll take it gently from your hand, remember, a stingray’s mouth is on the underside of its body! You may also be able to swim in the shallow waters and even give them a gentle hug as they swim close by you.
Tip - If you’re not confident driving, ask your guide and he’ll buddy you up. Kissing a stingray is 7 years good luck!
4. Seaworld Observatory Glass Bottom Boat Tour - diving without getting wet!
- Location - Atlantis Submarine Dock, George Town
- With - Atlantis Submarines in a Glass Bottom Boat /Submarine tours also available
- Price guideline – Adult $44, Child $24
‘This boat’s bottom is HUGE!’ The entire hull of the vessel sits beneath the level of the water, giving you a fish-eye view of the ocean’s inhabitants. It is diving with air-con! Look out for turtles, shipwrecks, and even small sharks. There is a full commentary and pictures in the boat to help you put names to the marine-faces.
Tip - Have your camera ready as you might spot a turtle or shark and they move fast!
5. Dinner Catamaran to Rum Point Beach
- Location - Safehaven to Rum Point and back
- With - Red Sail Sports
- Price guideline – $47.50
- Length of activity - 17:30 - 21:45
Sailing on a catamaran from Safehaven Dock, you’ll reach Rum Point’s jetty after about an hour. There are drinks on board and, of course, toilets. ‘I left at 17.30 during October, which was the perfect time to see the stunning sunset. Once disembarked we feasted on mudslide cocktails, barbecue chicken, salads and delicious flatbread‘. As you return, remember to cast your eyes upwards and take in the stars.
Tip – Don’t forget your mosquito repellent, they can be busy little critters!
6. Pedro St James
- Location - Grand Cayman
- With - Pedro St James
- Price guideline – Guided $15 C.I, Self-guided $10 C.I. Children - $5 C.I
‘I was keen to take in some of the culture and history that the locals had been sharing.' This historic house with a tale, is set in 7 acres of land adjoining the sea. It has had a turbulent, thoroughly engaging past which is portrayed in video format in the theatre room. A history of the islands themselves is also included, making this a must-see attraction to get your educational bearings. The house suffered fire at one point, but was rebuilt to demonstrate its former stature. ‘Again, it was the people I met that painted the most vivid picture’
Tip - You might be lucky enough to try a fresh coconut in the gardens which are simply delicious! Keep your eye out!
7. Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Gardens
- Location - North Side, Grand Cayman
- With - Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Gardens
- Price guideline – Unguided -$10 C.I adults, $5 C.I children. Guided Tour (Tues & Thurs) $15 C.I adults, $5 C.I children
'You are able to wander at leisure in these gardens, or, like me, take a guided tour. I’d recommend this as there are so many fascinating insights that will otherwise elude you’. If taking the tour, your guide will point out the plants and their history, tell you which ones to smell, and even make you a flower bracelet. Your guide will also incorporate some Cayman Islands history and way of life. ‘A wander alone in a garden became a really special experience.'
Tip – Look out for the garden’s big blue Iguana, if found he’ll happily pose for pictures.
8. Crystal Caves Tour - Naturally Beautiful and Serene
- Location - Old Man Bay, Northside, Grand Cayman
- With - Crystal Caves Tours
- Price guideline – Adults $40, children $30
- Length of activity - 1 hour
If you want to see the stalactites and stalagmites with a creative eye, then this is the tour for you. Apparently, being dripped on is good luck (7 more years in the bag!) You’ll see the lake in the caves under different lights, each bringing a slightly different variation on the caves’ beauty and serenity. You’ll see bats clustered together waiting for night to come. With a little careful camera setting, you can get some fantastic pictures here.
Tip - ‘If, like us, you’ve overdone the sun a little, you’ll be thrilled to see the sun-lotion station at the entrance!'
Location - Hell Road, Grand Cayman
With - Alone or as part of a tour
Price guideline - Free
‘Hell’ refers to a wide-open space filled with groups of short black limestone. You can't actually walk on the formation, but there are two platforms you can stand on to look over the space and take photos. There is a gift shop next to Hell, and a post office to send mail to family and friends with the postmark "from Hell". It should be noted that it is especially popular with visitors from passing cruise ships.
Tip – Has to be worth a visit for the postmark alone
10. Seven-mile Beach.
- Location - West Grand Cayman
- With - Hotels at Seven-Mile Beach
- Price guideline – Much of it is private, belonging to the hotels along the beach and is accessible if you are a guest at one of the hotels
Not to split hairs, but it’s actually between 5 and 6 miles! Several luxury hotels can be found on this gorgeous soft, white sand, which is bordered by travel-brochure, clear turquoise water. ‘Along with friends, I watched the sunset whilst lazing by a firepit making smores (marshmallow sandwich-type things).’ This area has shops, cafes, restaurants and bars too if you want to discover more.
Tip - The sunsets are simply stunning on seven-mile beach, so make sure you stick around and have your camera ready!
Thanks to Richard Trasler & The Cayman Island Tourist Board.