You’ll never be bored on Grand Cayman, an island full of chic restaurants, high-end shopping, sophisticated nightlife, and ample attractions to fill a stay of almost any length. Renting one of Inspirato’s plush villas for a week? Here are five can’t-miss activities that cover Grand Cayman’s full range of history, culture, and natural beauty.
Play at Stingray City
A shallow sandbar in Grand Cayman’s North Sound is home to scores of southern stingrays, which over the years have become acclimated to being fed by people and now congregate regularly in the area. For visitors, a boat ride to Stingray City offers a unique and fun way to interact with these gentle creatures in their natural habitat, unlike animal “encounter” programs in manmade enclosures. You can join a scuba or snorkel tour to Stingray City or make your way out into the sound on your own via boat or jet-ski. If you go it alone, remember to bring some squid or fish to attract the stingrays, then jump right into the chest-high water and introduce yourself!
Stroll the Botanic Park
Grand Cayman’s Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is named after the monarch who presided over the opening of the gardens in 1994, and Her Majesty surely would be proud of the fact that this has become one of the island’s most popular and beloved attractions. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the North Side park includes several formal gardens as well as nature trails and a lake. For your $10 admission fee (no charge for kids 12 and under) you are free to wander the Floral Colour Gardens and Heritage Gardens (the latter devoted to native flowers and plants), then linger by a three-acre lake that’s a magnet for local waterfowl. A variety of orchid species are on display, including the Wild Banana Orchid, the national flower of the Cayman Islands. The park’s Woodland Trail is an easy introduction to Cayman’s forests, which include the native Cockspur Tree, mahogany, and Bull Thatch palms; you’ll also meet some blue iguanas and some of the island’s 56 butterfly species along the way.
Relax on Seven Mile Beach
You really haven’t experienced Grand Cayman if you’ve not spent at least half a day on Seven Mile Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and arguably Grand Cayman’s single biggest draw for international visitors. OK, so it’s really only 5.5 miles long, but that’s a mere quibble when you’re contemplating a seemingly endless expanse of white sand meeting the azure waters of the Caribbean. It’s the bustling heart of the island, with plenty of places to eat and drink when you need a break from all that sun and surf. Strap on a snorkel to seek out fish hiding in the offshore reef, or just stroll the length of Seven Mile Beach, a good workout not to mention a great opportunity for people-watching in one of the Caribbean’s most celebrated destinations.
Hike the Mastic Trail
Two million years in two miles: that’s the Mastic Trail, a unique nature walk where you’ll meander through a part of Grand Cayman that has lain undisturbed for eons and contains many plants and trees that are well over 200 years old. Located in Breakers, the trail — itself at least a century old — is easy enough to follow on your own, but you also can join one of the two- to three-hour tours offered by the Cayman Island National Trust. Highlights of the walk include reaching the island’s high point (a mere 60 feet above sea level) and possible encounters with songbirds like the Mangrove Cookoo, the Cayman Parrot, and the West Indian Woodpecker, which all find sanctuary in these ancient woodlands.
Explore Pedro St. James
By historic standards, Pedro St. James was a skyscraper — a plantation home built to an unheard-of three stories tall in 1780. Raised by slave labor and celebrated as the castle of the Caymans, Pedro St. James has had many uses over the century, including as a jail and home to the local government. Today, this national historic site is open for tours and is part of a multisensory examination of Caymanian history that includes a 3D theater and a cafe serving traditional island fares like turtle stew and cassava cake.