Beyond the Beach
6 things to do on Grand Cayman that don’t involve lazing about in the sun and sand.
You’ve lounged on the white sand of Seven Mile Beach, swam in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea and sailed on catamaran to Stingray City. What else is there to do on Grand Cayman? Here are six things that don’t require a swimsuit.
Grand Cayman is often referred to as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, and for good reason. From roadside barbecue stands to fine-dining restaurants, Grand Cayman offers an array of international and local cuisines.
Sam’s Quality Jerk & More (samsqualityjerk.ky) on Eastern Avenue in George Town serves up flavorful jerk chicken or pork, and heat seekers will want to ask for the jerk hot sauce. Don’t forget to try a “festival,” a somewhat sweet, fried flour dumpling, or local favorites like oxtail and beans, curried goat, and fried fish escovitch.
For fine dining, try the famously delicious tuna foie gras at Blue by Eric Ripert at The Ritz-Carlton (ritzcarlton.com) on Seven Mile Beach, the tasty and tender conch ceviche or cracked conch at The Cracked Conch in West Bay (crackedconch.com.ky) or the yellow fin tuna at Agua Restaurant & Lounge (agua.ky) in Camana Bay.
Those looking to sample some of the seasonal local fruits and vegetables can visit the weekly farmers market in Camana Bay on Wednesdays or the Market at the Cricket Grounds near the airport Monday through Saturday, with Saturday morning the best time to go. Visitors from mid-December through May will be lucky enough to sample the local tomatoes, which are grown in soil near the sea, lending them a delicious saltiness. From June to August, market vendors sell more than a dozen types of local mangoes that have distinctive flavors (Nam Doc, Julie and East Indian are three popular varieties).
To taste some of the local ingredients prepared in dishes, try dining at farm-to-table restaurants like Abacus in Camana Bay (abacus.ky), where a ceviche of local catch is paired with Scotch bonnets (a Caribbean chili pepper) and coconut milk.
Annual culinary events like the five-day Cayman Cookout — hosted by Eric Ripert and centered at The Ritz-Carton, Grand Cayman — attract internationally acclaimed celebrity chefs such as José Andrés, Emeril Lagasse and Andrew Zimmern to supplement the island’s everyday dining excellence.
Consume Some Culture
Grand Cayman has a unique culture owing to a population that hails from more than 110 countries. Many came to work for the island’s financial services or hospitality industries starting in the early 1960s, when Grand Cayman’s population was about 10,000 people. The immigrants brought with them their culture, including art, from elsewhere in the Caribbean, the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania.
The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands (nationalgallery.org.ky) features paintings and photographs by resident artists, including the late Caymanian visionary folk artist and painter Gladwyn “Miss Lassie” Bush. History buffs can visit the Pedro St. James National Historic Site, home of Pedro’s Castle, the oldest building on the islands.
In one of the bays at the Cayman Kai area of Grand Cayman, tiny marine plankton called dinoflagellates put on a nightly show when nudged. The slightest movement in the water by an object causes the harmless dinoflagellates to illuminate beautifully with a bright, bluish glow for several seconds. The phenomenon is best viewed a week before or after the new moon or on cloudy nights. Cayman Kayaks (caymankayaks.com) offers night tours by electric boat or kayak.
Long before Cayman Crystal Caves (caymancrystalcaves.com) opened in December 2015, the youth of North Side in Grand Cayman explored the caves that pirates purportedly used as hideouts hundreds of years ago. Tour guides take visitors through the professionally lit limestone caves filled with spectacular stalagmite and stalactite formations and an underground lake. The guides also point out native flora and fauna and tell humorous historical stories about the Cayman Islands, some of which are even true!
Take a Walk
The 65-acre Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park (botanic-park.ky) features a woodland trail where many of Grand Cayman’s flowers, trees and plants can be viewed, as well as endangered indigenous blue iguanas. You can spend anywhere from an hour to four hours at the park, where the lake provides a serene setting for an afternoon picnic. Depending on your capacity for adventure, you can hike along the Mastic Trail (nationaltrust.org.ky/mastic-trail-tour), a 2.3-mile trek through the undeveloped interior of Grand Cayman.
Horseback riding along the undeveloped and pristine Barker’s Beach is like stepping back in time. This is not your typical beach: Other than kite surfers, you’re unlikely to see anyone else as you ride along the shoreline with the incredible varied blue shades of the Caribbean Sea right next to you. Try Spirit of the West (seahorses.ky) for a variety of rides, including a “Moonlight Stroll” on nights with a full moon.
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