Throw out your conventional thinking about the Grand Cayman and prepare to become part water enthusiast, part beach bum and part adventurer, because these are the skills needed to properly delve into this tropical paradise.
You won’t spend all of your time shopping at high-end boutiques in Georgetown, sunning on the perfect white-sand Seven Mile Beach or sipping expensive cocktails at one of the myriad expensive resorts that line the west side of the island. Instead, you’ll be venturing from the western to eastern tips of this 22-mile-long Island in search of the best off-the-beaten-path experiences.
So many people think of Grand Cayman Island as a 10-hour stopover on a Caribbean cruise or a glitzy sunspot where the rich go to talk about their offshore bank accounts. But the Island has so much more to offer than these stereotypes could do justice to.
A land-based trip to Grand Cayman Island is the only real way to uncover the many hidden gems that most travelers don’t even realize are there.
Forget the top tourist sights – Stingray City, Georgetown and the Turtle Farm. They’ll still be there when your cruise ship docks and you need a 6-hour excursion to keep you occupied.
When you’re staying on the Island, there are so many other, better options for things to do, and you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy them as you leisurely drive the Island, starting in Hell and ending at Rum Bay. The journey will require a rental car, but the roads are good and there’s very little traffic, thanks to the fact that there are only around 52,000 inhabitants of the island.
Driving the Island
If you’ve ever wanted to send someone a postcard from Hell, now is your chance. There is a tiny post office in the tiny town of Hell, where the only attraction – aside from the fact that you’re in Hell – is a strange-looking limestone formation. It’s only worth a mention for its offbeat nature. I wouldn’t recommend setting your expectations too high.
Just a few miles south, you’ll come across a cemetery that lies between the road and the beach. It’s called Cemetary Beach and is one of the best snorkeling sites on the island and isn’t typically on the radar of the cruise folks so there’s always a free beach chair. The two coral reefs to explore are just a short swim from the beach.
The only thing we find worthy of stopping in Georgetown for is the Cayman Spirits Co. Distillery and the Cayman Islands Brewery, because no exploration of anywhere is authentic without sampling the local spirits. Learn about the process of making rum and have a taste of the local brew before heading back on the road.
A few miles out of town, heading east, you’ll come across a small area called Smith’s Cove, which could be seen as a unique swimming hole, a quick picnic stop, but not so much as a good place to snorkel. I’m sure the water is sometimes calmer, but whenever I’ve been there is little to no visibility. We go there just to spend a few moments enjoying the beauty, have a picnic and a quick dip in the cove. I wouldn’t walk the 1.5 miles there from Georgetown just to see it, but it’s a great stop along the drive from west to east.
The next stop is Bodden Town, which used to be the capital city of Grand Cayman. There’s not much to see, except an art shop, the historic Mission House and the Pirate Caves which is popular with the kids. This is also were a lot of the really expensive residences are located. If you’re looking for an upscale vacation rental, Bodden Town is where you want to be.
Driving along the road to the East End, you’ll come upon a pull out where you may see people standing out on the rocks. They’re gawking over the blow holes that were formed in the rock along the shore and sometimes aggressively spout water up to 20 feet in the air. If the sea is particularly choppy and there’s a strong wind, the blow holes are even more impressive and certainly worth pulling over to see. Nearby, you’ll likely come upon a roadside vendor selling refreshingly chilled coconut milk and tender coconut slices.
The drive along Bodden Town Road that takes you 20-or-so miles from west to east, is as eventful as you want to make it. There are dozens of secluded beaches to be found, you just have to watch out for the signs that lead through the thick trees and you’ll discover some truly hidden gems, and likely be the only person there.
There are a couple of sprawling east end resorts, like Morrit’s Tortuga Club & Resort, where you can stop for lunch and a little relaxation on the long stretches of beach that are much less crowded than the west side.
Your final destination, Rum Point is a refreshing escape from the crowded Seven Mile Beach. Depending on the day of the week, you may even be the only person there! The beaches are expansive and unspoilt, even with footprints, and the shade of the looming Casuarina trees gives a welcome respite from the heat. There’s some great snorkeling if you head a ways out from the shallow beach area.
You’ll be rewarded with sea turtles, small sharks, sting rays, lobsters and parrot fish. Pull up a hammock and spend the afternoon lazily enjoying what vacation is meant to be like.
You can see, there’s a lot more to the island of Grand Cayman than just the beautiful coastline of Seven Mile Beach or the fun little town of Georgetown. There’s so much to see that renting a car and driving the whole island is really the only way to go.
Have you been to Grand Cayman? What was your favorite part?
Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.