It’s no secret that when we travel together we don’t always like to do the same things. But, that’s the great thing about travel: Two polar opposites can travel to one destination and each have a terrific time. Grand Cayman, in the Cayman Islands, is one of those destinations.
Grand Cayman is the largest of the three sister islands that make up the Cayman Islands chain. You easily can get there by air on non-stop flights to Owen Roberts International Airport. Georgetown, Grand Cayman, also is a popular port for cruise ships and we recently visited while on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam.
These islands are under British rule, which means that English is the official language. The islands also have their own currency—the CI—though United States dollars are accepted at the rate of CI$.80. Here are our picks for the best way to explore the island.
Just for fun, go to Hell and buy a T-shirt to prove it. Hell is a small town that is a short drive from the cruise port and a number of popular hotels on Grand Cayman. It has a post office, a gift shop and little else. You can mail a post card and it will be post marked from Hell. That’s always good for a laugh with the family back home.
The Grand Cayman Turtle Farm is the only one of its kind in the world with more than 11,000 green sea turtles, from the wee little fellas (weighing in at a mere six ounces) to the mack daddy (who weighs more than 600 pounds). During a visit here, you will not only learn about turtles but also get up close and hold one for a great photo op and easy-to-take-home souvenir.
Viewing a shipwreck aboard a “semi-submarine” is great way to get the feel of being underwater without actually submerging. You sit in the hull of the air-conditioned, cruising underwater observatory that is just five feet below the surface. The large windows provide the perfect viewing platform to see an abundance of local marine life. If you’re lucky you’ll spot a sunken ship to boot!
Viewfinder Tip: The Cayman Islands follow British rules of the road, which means that locals drive on the left side of the road.
On the north side of Grand Cayman is Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. If you enjoy a casual stroll and an abundance of native fauna, this is the place for you. History buffs will love the turn-of-the-century Caymanian farmhouse with original furnishings. Also located at Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is the endemic and endangered Cayman Blue Iguana breeding facility, where you can take a tour behind the scenes. You won’t see these Iguanas anywhere else in the world.
One of the most beautiful (and least populated) beaches in the Caribbean is Seven Mile Beach. The beach is famous for its pure white sand and turquoise waters. This is the perfect spot for picnicking under a tree, taking in the sun, or participating in any number of water activities. Visitors can stay at any of approximately 3,000 hotel and condo rooms, most of which are on or adjacent to the beach itself.
Camana Bay is a beautifully landscaped planned community north of Seven Mile Beach. It’s pedestrian-friendly and has bike paths throughout. It also is home to the island’s only cinema, a weekly farmers market, a kid-friendly fountain, and an observation tower with 360 degree views.
Cayman Craft Market is a short walk from the center of Georgetown (near where the cruise ships dock). Here you will find local crafts made from materials such as leather, thatch, wood and shells. You also can find some traditional Caymanian food here. The Wharf Restaurant and Bar, located at the beginning of Seven Mile beach, offers a menu of fresh seafood such as soy-marinated tuna, grilled snapper and blackened mahi-mahi. The restaurant also sponsors salsa-dancing lessons on Tuesday nights. Every night, servers feed the restaurant’s resident Tarpons; you’ll find yourself captivated by these giant fish as they swim past your table beneath a see-through floor. I recommend you make a reservation and ask for table 401, which, without a doubt, has the best view.
How do you and your traveling partner like to experience destinations differently?