Despite its small size, there are plenty of things to do in Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman islands.. The Cayman Islands are an idyllic cluster of low lying islands with never-ending horizons and perfect sunsets. Grand Cayman is completely flat and has no rivers, but plenty of coral, which means the water is a crystal clear paradise.
The infrastructure works so well that you could almost be in the US rather than in the Caribbean and there’s a successful mosquito eradication programme which means the levels of mozzies are nowhere near that of other Caribbean islands. This 100 mile, British Overseas Territory sits northeast of Costa Rica, north of Panama and northwest of Jamaica, and with a population of just 60,000 it’s more of a town than a country. Everyone knows everyone and it doesn’t take long to consider it explored.
There are some charming waterfront restaurants, but the closest you’ll get to rustic in Cayman is eating ribs in a Jamaican themed restaurant. Offshore finance is big business here and the standard of living for many Caymanians and expats is high… as is the cost of living. Cayman certainly isn’t aimed at the budget traveller, but what it does, it does well.
Here are my favourite ways to enjoy Grand Cayman:
- Stay at The Ritz Carlton
Initially I was going to suggest the Marriot because I enjoy chowing down on the most expensive breakfast buffet in Cayman. But I think it’s all the little things at the RC that contribute to making it the best place to stay. The beach is a tranquil haven of white sands and blue waters where your cocktail will be delivered straight to your lounger.
Eating here is a foodie’s dream; for dinner be wowed by the New York seafood master Eric Ripert or tuck into the best sushi on the island at Taikun. Sunday Brunch here is the place to be seen – and there’s even unlimited champagne! If you need to work off all the extra calories, then there’s an excellent gym, tennis courts and a golf course too. If you’re all sunned out, head to the sauna, jacuzzi and steam room for some R&R- available free for guests. OK, so the daily resort fee is double that of most of the other hotels, but if you’re only here for a few days suck it up – it’s worth it.
2. Sip a Pina Colada on Seven Mile Beach
Seven Mile Beach is understandably world famous for the beautiful white sand, crystal clear waters and fantastic sunsets. It’s a haven for water sports enthusiasts and sun worshippers. Popular with locals and tourists (and pet lovers – it’s a pet friendly beach so Fido is welcome) it’s located on the western shore of Grand Cayman and it’s possible to walk (or run) the entire length. Although I’ve heard it is actually less than seven miles. Go figure. The sunset draws the crowds each evening and watching it is always a special sight to behold. Even as the novelty pirate ship sails into the vista. So bring your camera and order a cocktail.
3. Visit Caymana Bay
Sometimes, it’s nice to shake the sand out of your hair, put on something other than a bikini and make a break for civilisation. Located only a short walk (or cycle) from Seven Mile Beach is the calm Oasis of Camana Bay. You’ll find a small selection of shops selling everything from designer clothes to diamonds; over a dozen restaurants, several wine bars and numerous cafés serving gourmet coffees and organic juices.
The place really comes alive after dark on the weekend and is a popular place for a spot of cool alfresco dining. Try the gelato at Gelato and Co. If you’re totally bored of beach life, you’ll also find a cinema, bookshops and a weekly Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market. Or if you’re feeling energised climb the steps to the top of the 75-foot Observation Tower (there’s an elevator if you’ve eaten too much gelato).
4. Get your snorkel groove on
The waters at Seven Mile Beach are so crystal clear and warm it’s like getting into the bath tub. Snorkelling is a great way to explore the colorful reefs right from the beach. Head to the artificial reefs by the Marriott and Westin hotels as they make for interesting underwater exploration.
To the north, Cemetery Reef and its public beach are great places for a snorkel. I’ve seen shoals of parrotfish, Yellowtail Snapper and be careful where you set your flippers down … Sea Urchins rule on the reef.
5. Eat, drink and be merry
The food scene in Grand Cayman is an important one and the bar is set high. Highlights include the incredible ceviches at Agua, the perfect steaks at Copperfalls and the spiced wonders created at Blue Cilantro. There’s really something for every taste. If you’ve visited Cayman before, you’ve no doubt enjoyed fantastic Italian food at Ragazzi (Buckingham Square). The head chef at nearby Luca is the former head chef from Ragazzi. For me, Luca is the place to enjoy some seafood by the sea. The vibe is sleek and cool with mouthwateringly good food to match. Try the fettuccine with Lobster & Shrimp, and the wine list is impressive too. It’s easy to see why they were awarded the ‘Best of Excellence’ Award by the Wine Spectator. If BBQ ribs are more your style, then head to Peppers, for some laid-back Jamaican goodness.