The 8 Best Things to Do in the Cayman Islands


If you’re looking for a beach vacation in paradise, there’s nothing more iconic than Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach. Adorning numerous lists of the best sandy beaches in the Caribbean—if not the world—this quintessential coastline is a destination in itself: 6.3 fully navigable miles (the name is the only thing that overstates it) of white sand and crystalline waters . It’s ideal for an epic walk on the beach, the ideal setting for yoga or water sports, or the perfect place to simply soak up the sun.

But Grand Cayman and its sister islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, offer much more than sun and sand. With a wide range of exciting experiences, each of the islands is invitingly accessible, making it easy to explore the numerous natural and cultural attractions they offer, including unique forest walks, art viewing opportunities and important historical sites, without leaving your beach sacrifice time.

Here we’ve rounded up some of the top things to see and do during your visit to the Cayman Islands.

1. Connect to the (literal) roots of the Caymans

Today, the Cayman Islands’ economy may be synonymous with offshore banking, but not so long ago their industry was linked to ropes braided by hand from native silver straw palms. At the height of the straw rope industry, the Cayman Islands exported 1.3 million threads of rope each year – nearly the flight distance from George Town, the capital of Grand Cayman, to New York. In fact, the silver thatched roofs of the Cayman Islands adorn the country’s flag and are their official national tree.

While you can find silver thatch palms all over the islands, an excellent place to see them — along with a wealth of other native flora and fauna — is along the Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman’s north side. The trail follows an agricultural footpath more than a hundred years old and meanders through the Mastic Reserve, the island’s largest (and still untouched) native forest.

Following the boundary between low-lying, semi-deciduous dry forest and mangrove wetlands, the trail is filled with massive mahogany trees, mature mango and citrus trees, towering royal palms, and seasonal blooms like the wild banana orchid – native to the Cayman Islands. National Flower – which blooms every June. Hiking the 2.4-mile route is also a bird watcher’s dream. You’ll see parrots, West Indian woodpeckers, and rare Caribbean pigeons, as well as snakes, lizards, butterflies, and other wildlife.

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The Mastic Trail is best accessed via a guided tour with the Cayman Islands National Trustwho restored the trail in the 1990s. More storytelling than training, the tour is led by Stuart Mailer, a botanist who led the restoration project. It offers a true – if often muddy – walk on the wild side of the island.

2. Immerse yourself in the local art scene

From vibrant island landscapes to lush underwater life, there’s no shortage of artistic inspiration in the Cayman Islands. What many visitors don’t realize, however, is that the nation has a rich visual arts scene, with many artists depicting the evolution of island life over the decades.

Let the opulent variety of styles, media and themes work their magic on you National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, an exhibition and gathering space dedicated to promoting local artists. From pioneers such as Gladwyn K. “Miss Lassie” Bush– a fourth-generation Caymanian who taught herself to paint at the age of 62 (her former home is now a listed building) – to contemporary graphic works wray banker (a founder of the Native Sons Artist Collective), the collection is dedicated to preserving the nation’s cultural heritage and identity through the visual arts.

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Cayman Crystal Caves encompass hundreds of caves.

Photo by Katie Thorpe/Shutterstock

3. Wander through an underground wonderland

Hidden in a forest that Cayman Crystal Caves are full of otherworldly rock formations created by the interaction of rainwater and Grand Cayman’s underlying limestone. Here you will find hundreds of subterranean caves full of massive stalagmite and stalactite crystals formed by limestone deposits left behind when acid rain dissolved the limestone over millions of years.

The Crystal Caves, believed to have once been a hideout for pirates, are now one of the islands unique attractions. On a 90-minute tour, you can wander through three caves, home to a wealth of photogenic rock formations, and make your way to the clear, green subterranean pool at the center, the cave system’s namesake.

4. Lose yourself in a colorful paradise for nature lovers

Populated by free-roaming blue iguanas (huge endangered lizards unique to Grand Cayman and named for their skin color), kaleidoscopic parrots, and 65 acres of gardens Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park is heaven on earth for nature lovers.

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With red giving way to pink, orange, yellow, etc., the dazzling color garden is hue-ordered and a feast for the eyes. The park consists of seven sections, including a historic garden with a model of an old-fashioned island house flanked by traditional plants and fruit trees that Caymanians have used for generations for food and shelter, and a boardwalk orchid garden with four native varieties among its many blooms , and a blue iguana habitat that serves as the headquarters of the island’s conservation program.

5. Take part in a nighttime light show

To enjoy the best after-dark light show in the Cayman Islands, look down, not up. While the starry skies of the Cayman Islands are certainly appealing on a clear night, a much rarer spectacle takes place beneath the sea in the calm waters off Rum Point on the north side of Grand Cayman.

Take a tour with Tom Watling from Cayman Kayaks, and it’s a short paddle to a tranquil cove teeming with bioluminescent marine life. As Watling explains how the perfect combination of factors—warm water, salinity, and plant matter—creates this unique phenomenon, paddlers can splash and flap their oars to illuminate the water with the white and blue flares of illumination emanating from microscopic ones Organisms created under the water will surface.

Tours are scheduled based on the lunar cycles and only take place on the darkest nights each month to have the best visibility. For those who want to see the lights minus the DIY transportation, Cayman Kayaks also offers a tour on an electric boat.

6. An early morning cruise around the sleepy side of Grand Cayman

In recent decades, Grand Cayman has become known for its dining scene and the many resorts that line Seven Mile Beach. But the island was once mostly sleepy fishing villages linked by scenic coastal roads. Take a ride back in time with an early morning bike ride Eco Rides Cayman.

Eco Rides was founded by Shane Edwards who wanted to combine his love of cycling with his passion for protecting Grand Cayman’s relatively unspoilt East End from development. There are no hotels or souvenir shops on this trail. Instead, spend about three hours pedaling past colorful cottages and waving to locals, stopping along the way to explore the site of the Cayman Islands’ most famous shipwreck—the wreck of the Ten Sail—photograph blowholes along the shoreline, sample local fruit, and see for yourself the secret caves on the Edwards family estate. Tours include bike and helmet rental and a homemade snack along the way.

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7. Dive down to a sunken mountain range

Surrounded by shallow coral reefs, the Cayman Islands offer some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean. One of the most impressive of these submarine experiences is Bloody Bay Wall, an underwater cliff off Little Cayman that begins a little over 20 feet below the waterline and plunges 6,000 feet.

The sheer drama of this huge cliff is an amazing swimming experience for advanced divers, with tropical fish, turtles, eels, stingrays and barracuda swimming among the corals that line the wall. But you don’t have to be a PADI-certified dive professional to enjoy it. In addition to around 24 dive sites, there are also six designated areas suitable for snorkelers.

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The Cayman Islands elected their first democratic government in Pedro St. James in 1831.

Photo by Joymsk140/Shutterstock

8. Pay homage to freedom and democracy at Grand Cayman’s oldest – and most important – house

Pedro St James— or Pedro’s Castle as the locals call it — is the oldest surviving stone structure in the Cayman Islands, but that doesn’t make it all that remarkable. Pedro (pronounced Pee-dro) St James is the most important historic site on the islands thanks to its role in establishing democracy.

It was here that this island nation elected its first democratic government in 1831. It was also at this point five years later that a delegate from the Governor of Jamaica issued a proclamation abolishing slavery in the British Empire, which was read from the stone steps of the Great House, built by enslaved people 50 years earlier. For the next 150 years the building was used as a courthouse, prison and parliament building – destroyed by hurricanes, fire and an earthquake – until the government bought the site in 1991 and the Great House restored other traditional buildings that dot the property.

Today, you can take a guided tour of this famous site, sample a round of Cayman Spirits rum, and enjoy a marinated conch and red snapper pasta lunch at the new Thatch and Barrel — an on-site restaurant opened by the team behind George, city favorite Cayman Cabana . It’s a flavorful way to experience an essential aspect of Caribbean history.





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