Last weekend I escaped the cold of Chicago and flew down to the Grand Cayman. The primary reason for my trip was to attend the Taste of Cayman, but I discovered so much more do to on the small island. Let me tell you what to do in Grand Cayman.
Grand Cayman is the ideal place for people who want a warm weather vacation without flying too far. The island is small enough that you can see and do everything and still get in a good amount of beach time in a week long visit. Divers may want to extend their stay since Grand Cayman is a popular destination for scuba divers.
There are three very compelling reasons why you may want to visit Grand Cayman. The island didn’t suffer any damage during this last hurricane season, although many other Caribbean islands were not so lucky. And also unlike other nearby destinations, Grand Cayman is zika-free. Lastly, direct flights are available from several major U.S. cities, and the direct Cayman Airways flight from Chicago is only 4 hours. The Cayman Airways flight from Miami is just 90 minutes. Just make sure you pack your passport, Grand Cayman is a British territory so you will need it.
Once you arrive on the island, you can opt to lounge on the white sand beaches, or you can take advantage of a wide variety of activities.
I stayed at two bedroom rental condo at Plantana, a group of condos right along 7 Mile Beach with a private beach and a pool. An added bonus was that a public bus stop is just across the street and a handful of bars and restaurants are within 10 minutes walking distance. It is also nice to have the option to cook if you are staying for a longer period of time. Since I was next to the beach, enjoying the sun and taking a dip in the warm water was my first order of business when I arrived.
I devoted the next two days to seeing a good amount of attractions in Grand Cayman. One of the most quirky attractions on Grand Cayman is Hell. Hell is a small section of the island comprised of a rock formation, and of course, a Post Office (it is Hell after all). You can see Hell in just 10 minutes, it’s small, and it is an easy stop on the way to the Cayman Turtle Centre.
I was especially excited to see the sea turtles at the Cayman Turtle Centre. I got to see massive sea turtles up close. The centre is also home to an 11 foot long salt water crocodile, a variety of predators who live in a separate tank, and exotic Caribbean birds. You can also opt for an experience where you can swim with the turtles.
The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Garden is about an hours drive from 7 Mile Beach and it is a perfect activity for a day that isn’t quite beach weather.
You can walk the whole park in just over an hour. Along the way you can learn about native plants and probably see some iguanas.
A highlight of the botanic garden is the traditional Cayman style home with a separate kitchen.
You can still find many of these homes on the island, although the separate kitchen is now a thing of the past.
Crystal Caves is a short drive from the botanic garden. Crystal Caves is an attraction that opened in April 2016. During the 90 minute tour we got to tour three massive caves.
It was more impressive than I had expected, one cave even had a small lake. Crystal Caves has plans to open up more caves – there are over 100 on the site, and to add an ATV tour in the future.
Pedro St. James the oldest building in the Cayman Islands. It was originally built in 1780, as the home of plantation owner William Eden. In 1831, Pedro St. James was where the Cayman’s first parliament would meet. The Slavery Abolition Act was announced to Caymanians when it was read from the steps to Pedro St. James.
The tour of Pedro St. James was a great way to learn about the island’s history, and amazingly, our tour guide was William Eden’s 7th great-grandson. The building was almost completely destroyed after a lightening strike caused a fire, and it was left in ruins for years until it was completely restored in 1996.
Boat tours to stingray city are one of the island’s most famous attractions. Hope for calm seas and low winds, those small boats won’t go out when the wings are high or the seas are rough. It was too windy during my brief trip to the island, but I hear these tours are amazing. The stingrays are very tame and swim around visitors standing on the sandbar.
In just three days in Grand Cayman I was able to relax on the beach, go to Hell, see the turtles at the Cayman Turtle Centre, visit Pedro St. James, wander through the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Garden, explore Crystal Caves, and eat my way through the Taste of Cayman event. I would have loved to stay for longer than three days, but at the same time, I don’t think that Grand Cayman is too far to travel for a long weekend – the direct 4 hour flights make the trip so easy. Have you ever been?
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