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 set up super-secret offshore bank accounts, but the Island has so much more to offer than those stale stereotypes. A land-based trip to Grand Cayman Island is the only real way to uncover the many hidden gems that cruise passengers don’t have time to discover. So, forget the top tourist sites – Stingray City, Georgetown, the Turtle Farm. You won’t be spending all of your time shopping at high-end boutiques in Georgetown, sunning on the white-sands of Seven Mile Beach or sipping expensive cocktails at one of the myriad posh resorts that line the west side of the island.
Instead, gas up your rental car and embark on a road trip adventure from the western to the eastern tip of this 22-mile-long island in search of the charm that only this remote tropical paradise can offer. Prepare to become part water enthusiast, part beach bum and part adventurer, because those are the skills needed to properly delve into the tropical paradise that is Grand Cayman Island.
Ask anyone from the island and they’ll tell you the best way to discover Grand Cayman Island’s true charm is to take a leisurely drive around the Island, starting in Hell (yes, you read that right) and ending at Rum Bay. The journey will require you to rent car, but the roads are good and there’s very little traffic, thanks to the fact that there are only around 52,000 inhabitants on the island and tourists tend to congregated along Seven Mile Beach.
If you’ve ever wanted to see what Hell was like without being damned there for all eternity, now’s your chance – only it’s probably not what you were imagining. The only attraction in the tiny town of Hell is a small outcropping of black limestone next to a post office where you can send your friends a postcard. However, it’s worth a mention for its off-beat nature and geological significance.
Just a few miles south is where the tour really begins. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see a cemetery that lies between the road and the beach. The aptly named Cemetery Beach is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island and the good news is that it’s remote and rarely crowded. There’s are two spectacular coral reefs to explore in the clear, calm water just a short swim from the beach. You can expect to see plenty of colorful fish, sea turtles and other marine life in the crystal clear water.
In my opinion, no exploration of anywhere is truly complete without sampling the local spirits, so as you drive south from Cemetery Beach, make a quick stop in Georgetown at the Cayman Spirits Co. Distillery and the Cayman Islands Brewery to learn about the process of making rum and have a taste of the local brew before heading back out on the road. (Remember, just a taste – you’re driving!)
A few miles south of Georgetown is a picturesque little beach called Smith Cove. The water here is a mesmerizing shade of blue that swirls around in little pools, surrounded by large rock formations. There’s a nice sandy entry into the water for a swim, and on a clear and calm day you might even be able to do some snorkeling. It’s a great place to relax in the shade of a nearby tree and enjoy a picnic, or even to spend an evening watching the sunset.
The next place you’ll come to along the road is Bodden Town, the old capital of Grand Cayman. It’s a sleepy town, but there’s an art shop to peruse, along with the historic Mission House, where you can learn a bit of history about the area, and the Pirate Caves, where you can explore underground tunnels rumored to be where pirates buried their treasure (very popular with the kids, as you can imagine).
As you’re leaving town, you’ll pass by the palatial estates of the rich and famous and catch a glimpse at why people choose to live along this stretch of beach. You’ll want to pull over at every opportunity to admire the houses and gaze off into the distance as the waves crash against the pristine white sandy shores.
The drive continues along Bodden Town Road, which takes you about 20 miles from west to east. Somewhere along the way, you’ll come upon a spot where people have pulled over to the side you may see people standing out on the rocks. They’re gawking at the blow holes that were formed in the dramatic rock formations that dominate the shoreline and periodically 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 definitely worth pulling over to see. Plus, there’s always a roadside vendor nearby selling refreshingly chilled coconut milk and tender coconut slices.
All along the road there are dozens of secluded beaches to be found, you just have to watch out for signs that mention a beach by name, or proclaim a beach access point. You may have to trek a little ways through thick trees, but that’s how you’ll discover some truly hidden gems. You will likely be the only person who’s taken the time to stop and explore these off-the-beaten-path beaches.
As you reach the southeast corner of the Island, you’ll come upon a couple of sprawling resorts, like Morrit’s Tortuga Club & Resort, where you can stop for lunch and a little relaxation. The beaches at these resorts are a lot less crowded than on the west side.
Your final destination, Rum Point is a refreshing escape from the crowded Seven Mile Beach. The beaches are expansive and unspoilt and the shade of the looming Casuarina trees gives a welcome respite from the heat. There’s some great snorkeling if you head straight out from the shallow beach area. You’ll be rewarded with sea turtles, small sharks, sting rays, lobsters and parrot fish. And when you’re done frolicking in the water, you can retreat to the nearby restaurant bar for a cold drink and some fresh seafood.
This is where you pull up a hammock and spend the afternoon lazily enjoying what vacation is meant to be like.
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Have you been to Grand Cayman Island? Would you like to visit?
This guest post is written by Laura Lynch. Laura is the writer and creator of the travel blog, Savored Journeys. She caught the travel bug and has been traveling the world for over 20 years. She has an insatiable appetite for culinary travel and she tells of the food and wine adventures she and her husband Nick have had around the world on her blog. You can also follow Laura on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
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