Sitting quietly unassuming about 100 miles south of Cuba is a small but culturally rich group of islands known as the Caymans. Named after the Caribbean’s deepest underwater trench, these three small peaks proudly announce themselves: Cayman Brac, Little Cayman, and the largest and most visited, Grand Cayman. The term “Grand” should be taken in context, as the island is only 75 square miles, but it has a natural beauty and rich heritage that invoke wonder and deep reflection deserving of its status. Its residents are a diverse group consisting of island natives and varying expats from around the world, culminating in a complex heritage with an all-embracing and friendly attitude. Everyone is welcome and most visitors leave with a unique and memorable experience and a definite desire to return.
Seven Mile Beach on the west coast of the island is one of the most beautiful and pristine public beaches in the Caribbean, a place that offers solitude and tranquility together with an abundance of amenities via a number of well-managed hotels and properties that do an excellent job of preserving the beach’s attractiveness. The fine white sands are soft and clean, and the sea is a breathtaking aquamarine color with all the clarity of a rare diamond. Its temperature is cooling, not cold, and perfect in the evening for those who would brave a calming night soak. It offers an unobstructed view of some of the most dramatic sunsets on the planet, as the sun appears to make a final pause before sinking beneath the horizon for another day. Whether it’s calmness or a source of inspiration, your time spent on the beach will leave a lasting effect.
If a beautiful sunset does not fulfill your planetary wonder, then a 40-minute drive to the opposite side of the island offers yet another orbital showcase. For approximately three days of every month, the full moon rises above a dark horizon in such dramatic fashion that you may actually get a sense of the Earth’s rotation. What better way to enhance such a spectacle than to sit at a beachside table sipping on fine wine or a cocktail and enjoying the local cuisine?
Tukka Restaurant is one of the most unique and interesting restaurants on the island and offers a front row seat to the lunar spectacle. With a menu aptly described as native fusion, Owner and Chef Ron Hargreves offers his patrons a fare that combines the oceanic delicacies with the rugged meaty choices of the Australian Outback. Born “Down Under” and now citizen of Grand Cayman, Ron’s style of fare which includes Crocodile with Conch fritters and Kangaroo Filet is a true reflection of his rich cultural heritage and perhaps just a little of his zany personality. In his ingenuity he has turned an environmental issue (the invasion of the Lion Fish into the local waters) into a fine white fish delicacy, helping to keep the delicate balance of the marine eco system.
As with most of the Caribbean region, the Caymans present an abundance of rich and remarkable marine life that can be explored via numerous scuba diving services around the island. Steep vertical drop-offs, plunging depths and cloudless visibility keep the waters around the islands consistently in the top five destinations in the world to dive.
For those who are less inclined to strap on the tanks and submerge yourself into the deep blue sea, the Island offers a unique and exciting experience that allows you to get up close and personal with some of the local underwater inhabitants. Sting Ray Sandbar is one of the most popular destinations in Cayman. A shallow oasis in a sheltered bay just a few miles offshore that is home to an abundance of friendly inquisitive and somewhat plucky creatures that give the sandbar its name. It can be a little daunting at first to enter the waist-high crystal clear water and see dark shadows gracefully make their way towards you and even a little scary when they gently brush against you or perhaps give a little nudge just to make their presence felt, but these sting rays are docile creatures and human interaction has been part of their environment for many years now. They allow themselves to be stroked, held and occasionally kissed in return for a steady provision of their favorite foods.
There is also the option of a more eco-focused tour through the mangroves and swamps of the islands. This excursion gives a better understanding and appreciation of the delicate balance that keeps these waters so magical and enchanting. A little more dedicated to education than relaxation, but it’s a small price to pay for the paradise we enjoy.
Staying on the water you can take the quickest route to Rum Point, a small, secluded locality that embraces barefoot and shirtless. Famous for their Mudslides and beach BBQ, Rum Point is a small refuge where both locals and visitors find harmony. An abundance of hammocks secured under the shadows of palm trees allows for long lazy days gently swinging in the cool breeze. Only steps away are the cool shallow waters that invite the occasional rinse. A soft volume of island music in the background makes this the ultimate outdoor sanctuary.
All of the aquatic tours can be booked individually through several vendors. But if you are looking for something a little more private and bespoke, Red Sail offers you their newest addition to the fleet, the Red Escape, a Sea Ray 300 Sundeck. This vessel is reserved for smaller private groups and can be rented for the whole day. The schedule and itinerary is entirely up to you so it gives you the freedom to check out all the aquatic wonders at your own leisurely pace.
Grand Cayman depends heavily on the shipping import trade to bring most of the islanders their modern comforts, but there are a few domestic products that are exported and should definitely be relished while visiting. Most things in life that are special or have a fine quality or cause pause for a moment of appreciation arise from a great enthusiasm, pure passion and genuine love from the people who are responsible for its creation. Seven Fathoms Rum is a local Cayman spirit that fully embodies all of these wonderful traits. The distillery produces its fine spirit in a similar manner to most other Rums from the Caribbean, alcohol created from sugar cane or molasses, but their maturation process or time spent in barrels is truly unique. All of their rum casks spend several years under the Caribbean Sea being gently rocked back and forth by the underwater currents. The agitation and interaction with the oak creates a fantastic drink. The distillery is truly worth a visit because you actually meet the guys behind the product and get a sense of how passionate they are about what they are doing. It is this passion and enthusiasm that is the backbone of their fine elixir.
Georgetown is the “bustling” center and capital of the island populated by many stores that offer fine jewelry, designer jewelry and watches. The absence of duty tax on these items makes it the perfect place to find some excellent bargains on these luxuries. There is also the opportunity to view some fine art from the Guy Harvey Gallery where many of his famous paintings of marine wild life and sports fish can be purchased. When you need some respite from shopping Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville offers a place to partake in some refreshing island cocktails and enjoy his world famous Cheeseburger in Paradise. If that’s not refreshing enough, then perhaps a ride down the Green Monster waterslide on the rooftop pool will do the trick.
Grand Cayman offers everything the traveler needs. An abundance of activities, all of the essential amenities and yet, unlike many island destinations, there is not a sense of excessive commercialism. Of course if the purpose of your visit is to do nothing but soak up the carefree attitude of a tropical paradise, you won’t be disappointed. The only real negative aspect of visiting Grand Cayman is that you do have to leave at some point.