Things to Do in Cayman Islands
With vibrant coral reefs, crystalline waters, and some of the largest southern rays in the Caribbean, it’s no wonder that Stingray City is one of the most visited attractions in the Cayman Islands. Dive into the warm Caribbean waters of the North Sound to swim and snorkel in an area known for its wild stingrays and learn more about the magnificent creatures and their conservation.
Take a drive to the northeastern tip of the bay on Grand Cayman to find an idyllic spot where a spit of sand stretches into the blue Caribbean, with shallow water all around that is a popular gathering place for pillow cushion sea stars. These plump starfish look like stuffed animals, though they are very much alive and grazing along the seafloor.
Bring your snorkel gear to find the starfish on the bottom, you can even touch them, but resist the urge to lift them out of the water. They are living marine creatures who need to be in the water to survive, and bringing them into the air can cause stress or damage to the animals if they’re kept out long enough. Aside from the starfish hunting, this area is a great place to swim and sunbathe away from the crowds on the beaches closer to town.
A stretch of white sand bordered by aqua Caribbean waters, Rum Point is a welcome departure from Grand Cayman’s busy Seven Mile Beach. The area is known for its laid-back vibe, with calm, shallow waters ideal for swimming and wading with small children.
The 3-story Pedro St. James is the oldest building on the Cayman Islands. The 18th-century stone and wood building known simply as “the castle” is now a living history museum that has been restored with exhibits that explore the history of English plantation farmer Pedro St. James, as well as the history of the Cayman Islands as a whole.
Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman is renowned for its beauty. Sparkling Caribbean blue waters, soft white sand, and cloudless blue skies create a postcard that comes to life. The public beach spans miles of developed oceanfront and makes the perfect spot to relax with your toes in the sand, the traditional Caribbean way.
Once you arrive in the paradise of the Cayman Islands, you can take a side trip to Hell, literally. There’s a swath of land in the West Bay area about the size of a football field that is stark, and sharp, limestone formations eroded from ironshore.
As the story goes, locals thought the landscape here must be what Hell looks like, and so that’s what they named it. Regardless, it’s a unique geographical feature that looks like stalagmites, but is actually worn away rock formed by salt and lime deposits. Locals have since taken advantage of the name to offer kitschy Hell- and Devil-themed souvenirs in the small on-site gift shop.
Who wouldn’t want to send a friend or family member a postcard from Hell?
If there were one drink associated with the Caribbean that drink would definitely be rum. Here at Cayman Spirits Co., not only is rum distilled with cane juice that’s locally grown on the island, but it’s aged in barrels that are placed 42 feet, or seven fathoms underwater. The result is their famous Seven Fathoms rum, which due to it being rocked by the waves as it slowly ages in the barrels, has become one of the most sought after spirits on any Caribbean island. While it started out in 2008 in a small, single room building, the distillery has grown from its humble beginnings to include a 5,000 square foot building that houses their tastings and tours. Learn the process behind distilling and see the massive tanks, and pour yourself samples of Seven Fathoms or their spiced and flavored rums. The company also distills vodka and moonshine, though it’s the rum that keep visitors strolling through the doors in search of not just the perfect drink—but the perfect gift to take home.
The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park offers a close-up look at the natural world of the Cayman Islands, including the plants and animals that live in the island’s wetlands and woodlands. Of special note is its blue iguana habitat. A woodland trail offers a 20-minute walk through mahogany woodlands with butterfly and orchid sightings.
The Cayman Islands' first-ever national park was created around the northern end of West Bay, in an area called Barker’s National Park. Here you can find a long stretch of undeveloped beach alongside mangrove forests, where you can go for a hike or join a horseback-riding excursion. You can also see the park as part of a West Bay bike tour.
Whether you’re hiking, biking or riding the trails in the park, keep an eye out for wildlife like the brown pelicans and green iguanas that make their homes here. However, don’t expect to find much in the way of facilities, as the park is simply a preserve without any ranger station or bathrooms to visit while you’re there. Luckily, it’s located just a few minutes from the town of West Bay.
Located in the historic area of Bodden Town—one of the first settlements in the Cayman Islands—the Underground Pirates Caves are home to tunnels and caverns where pirates are said to have hidden their treasure. Explore on a self-guided tour assisted by informative plaques posted along the way.
More Things to Do in Cayman Islands
Started back in 2007, Cayman Islands Brewery is the island’s best spot for sampling delicious craft beers. Choose from a pint of their flagship, Caybrew, or up the flavor with Ironshore Bock, or chocolaty 345 Stout. While it’s possible to simply visit the brewery and sample a casual pint, many visitors choose to partake in the short, but interesting brew tour, where you see the process of beer being brewed, fermented, bottled, and sold. All tours include free samples of their regular and seasonal beers, and the brewery is a favorite stop on the island’s distillery and brewery tours. Aside from providing the Caymans with beer, Cayman Islands Brewery is also renowned for their sustainable, philanthropic practices, with beer sold in recyclable bottles and proceeds devoted to conservation.
To learn about the history and culture of the Cayman Islands, make a stop at the Cayman Islands National Museum. The museum is housed in a historic building—the oldest public building in the islands—made from traditional wattle and daub architecture and that has been used as a jail, courthouse and post office over nearly 200 years.
Permanent exhibits include a natural history gallery that explains how the islands were formed along with depictions of the underwater life you can see while snorkeling or diving here. A cultural history gallery offers insight into the Cayman Islands during colonial times and the era’s main industries of turtling and fishing. A handful of changing galleries include a kid’s gallery with hand-on activities so children can learn while also having fun.
A popular spot for snorkelers and scuba divers in the reef-rich, near-shore waters of Grand Cayman is Cheeseburger Reef, which got its name not from anything under the waves, but rather for its proximity to a topside fast food restaurant. The coral reef here starts about 20 yards off the shore and is marked by a pair of orange mooring buoys. Scuba divers can spot stingrays and reef fish from the sandy seafloor, about 40 feet down, while exploring myriad tunnels and reef formations. And snorkelers have plenty to see as well, with coral heads within 10 feet of the surface and an abundance of snapper, butterflyfish and sea turtles cruising the water column. While here, divers and snorkels should also explore the shipwreck Cali, a freighter that sank near the reef in just 20 feet of water.
See a shipwreck that isn’t technically a wreck in the Cayman Islands thanks to the Kittiwake Shipwreck, which is a submarine rescue ship that was sunk on purpose. The Kittiwake submarine was at one point part of the U.S. Navy’s fleet and served as a navy ship until 1994. In 2011, it was sunk to the bottom of the ocean off of Grand Cayman island to create an artificial reef.
The USS Kittiwake once carried divers on rescue missions and now scuba divers can explore its rooms during an open water dive while visiting Grand Cayman, including the mess hall and living quarters. In the head of the ship, the mirrors of the bathroom are still intact, giving divers a unique chance to see themselves as they dive. The ship has many exit points, making this an ideal dive for certified divers who haven’t done a wreck dive before. The Kittiwake Shipwreck rests just 15 feet below the surfers so snorkelers are also able to see the wreck from above. While there are some fish that make this unique artificial reef their home, sea life is not prevalent and makes the main draw the ship itself.
Even a seasoned sailor will tell you that subs are a special experience. Watching the depth sounder as it slowly ticks higher, gazing out a porthole at the ocean floor, and the weird realization there are fish above your head—even though your hair isn’t wet. It’s all part of the submarine experience with Atlantis Submarines in the Cayman Islands.
When navigating the depths on this high-tech sub, journey to parts of the blue Caribbean that even scuba divers won’t experience. Float past shipwrecks that are perfectly preserved on the lonely ocean floor, and watch as rays, eels, or turtles go drifting right past the window. There is no change in pressure—so you won’t pop your ears—and children love the feeling of an aquarium while viewing marine life in the wild. After climbing back from 100 feet down—where the inky blue depths swallow bright colors such as reds, oranges, and yellows—it’s as if you’ve journeyed to another world and returned above water unscathed. Or, if 100 feet sounds a little too deep, there are semi-sub experiences that visit the shallows and rarely exceed 5 feet.
At the northern end of Grand Cayman’s popular Seven Mile Beach, West Bay is a laid-back residential area of the island that offers a great escape from the upscale hustle of George Town. The town is home to Barker’s National Park, the first national park established in the Cayman Islands, where you can hike, horseback ride and birdwatch.
On the opposite side of the peninsula, the Cayman Turtle Farm is a great family destination, where you can swim in a lagoon with sea turtles and see a nine-foot saltwater crocodile. Along the West Bay waterfront, you can visit Dolphin Cove to arrange a dolphin encounter or a trip to Stingray City, and no visit to West Bay is complete without a stop in Hell, a stretch of stark-looking ironshore with a gift shop where you can buy postcards “From Hell.”
If you’re a car enthusiast, don’t miss the chance to peruse the collection at the Cayman Motor Museum in West Bay. Built by Norwegian businessman Andreas Ugland, the museum is an incredible collection of about 80 rare and classic cars and motorcycles.
Some of the most notable vehicles on display include the Batmobile created for the 1960s TV series, and classics like the 1955 Ford Thunderbird and the 1939 Mercedes 230s, all meticulously restored. The Cayman Island are intimately tied with the United Kingdom, and so the Daimler DK400 that served as Queen Elizabeth II’s first limousine gets special placement in the museum, while fans of luxury cars can fawn over a dozen classic Ferraris and a Rolls Royce once owned by Elton John.
The museum also exhibits artifacts, artwork and photos that offer a look at the Cayman Islands’ cultural history.
Explore the incredible underwater world of Grand Cayman without ever getting wet aboard the Seaworld Observatory Glass Bottom Boat. This specially designed boat was built for Atlantis Submarines to offer passengers an up-close look at the reefs and shipwrecks around the island.
Much more than just a glass-bottom boat, the Seaworld Observatory has an underwater viewing area 5 feet below the waterline, where you can grab a seat in the air-conditioned cabin and enjoy the beauty of the ocean through panoramic windows. The boat visits a variety of locations, including shipwrecks like the Cali, a steel schooner that wrecked here in 1944, and the Balboa, a 375-foot freighter that sunk in a 1932 hurricane.
After decades underwater, these shipwrecks have become vibrant reefs, encrusted with corals and populated by colorful tropical fish. Seaworld Observatory also cruises Cheeseburger Reef, where you can watch a scuba diver jump in the water to hand feed fish in front of the viewing windows.
Craggy Cayman Brac is known for its limestone bluff running along its length. Once a haunt of pirates, these days the island attracts wreck divers, hikers and wildlife-watchers.
While you’re here there are caves to explore, world-class diving spots to snorkel, and hiking trails to follow while birdwatching.
Take home a local souvenir carved from Caymanite, a semi-precious gemstone in shades of copper and red.
Charming George Town is the Caymans Islands’ capital, situated on Grand Cayman in the British West Indies. As well as being a major offshore banking hub, George Town is a popular port for cruise ships, thanks to its laid-back and colorful Caribbean vibe—and the some of the Cayman Islands’ most glorious beaches.
Set right on the sands of Seven Mile Beach, the Royal Palms Beach Club is a white sand oasis of luxury, comfort, and beauty. Beneath the shade of a rustling palm, spread out on a lounge chair beneath an umbrella and listen to the lap of the waves, before slinking off to the swimming pool for a drink at the swim up bar. Groove to the tunes of the poolside DJ, and mingle with guests from nearby resorts, condos, and visiting cruise ships. There’s a full-service restaurant just steps from the beach, as well as rentals on everything from snorkeling gear to paddleboards and jet skis. Bake in the Grand Cayman sun all day and soak up the tropical rays, or stick around to watch the sunset that often sets the sky ablaze on this western-facing coast.
Take one look at the Grand Cayman Cruise Port, and you’ll see why it’s among the most popular in the Caribbean. Pristine white sand beaches, picturesque oceanside villages, and a plethora of sports and activities make this island—the largest of the Caymans—a convenient, all-round, and (admittedly, at times) very crowded Caribbean favorite.
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