One look at Grand Cayman Island and you can see why it’s among the most popular cruise ports in the Caribbean. Its pristine white sand beaches, picturesque ocean side villages, and plethora of sports and activities, Grand Cayman may well be the archetype of what all of those Caribbean cruise stereotypes are based off.
How to Get to Georgetown Grand Cayman harbor has a tender wharf, and ships must remain at sea for the duration of their stop. Passengers must board smaller ships to shuttle them to the island and back. However, once on land you will find yourself immediately in the heart of Georgetown’s shopping area.
No, it's not a theme park; Stingray City is a world-famous natural wonder offering intrepid wildlife-lovers the chance to dive with stingrays. Touching and feeding stingrays underwater is a unique experience, combined with diving and snorkeling coral reefs surrounded by tropical fish.
Stingray City is a series of shallow sandbars off the north coast of Grand Cayman, between Morgan Harbor and Rum Point in North Sound. The water here is only around 3 feet (1 meter) deep, giving you the unique opportunity to interact with the stingrays. This is one of the highlights of visiting the Cayman Islands, so don't miss it!
A tranquil alternative to the resorts of Seven Mile Beach, Rum Point is a lovely getaway on Grand Cayman’s north shore. The lifestyle here is laid-back, focusing on swimming in the calm blue sea, swinging gently in a hammock and sampling the fine island food. The water lapping the white-sand beach here is famously shallow and calm, making it ideal for families. Head offshore, and the snorkeling here is fine too.
If you’re feeling more active, sailing, diving and waterskiing are also available.
Pedro St. James Historic Site is a living heritage museum, re-creating life on Grand Cayman in the 18th century. An impressive three-story building of stone and wood, Pedro St. James was built by an English plantation farmer in the late 18th century. Known locally as ‘the castle,' today the restored house is furnished with period details and surrounded by landscaped grounds. A visit to the great house includes a multi-sensory 3D presentation outlining the history of Pedro St. James and the Cayman Islands.
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?
Grand Cayman’s resort central is Seven Mile Beach, dubbed one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches.
The Caymans’ most developed stretch of sand is lined with luxury resorts and up-market condominiums, white coral sand and palm trees. There are artificial reefs offshore for snorkelling.
It’s a public beach, so don’t feel shy about strolling past those resorts. Some of the resort restaurants are open to the public, and there are beach bars for a seafront drink or two.
The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1994. Since its opening, the park’s central woodland trail has been joined by a lake and wetlands, tropical flower gardens and an iguana habitat. The Heritage Garden is pretty enough to live in, with a pink traditional cottage, fruit trees and sand garden.
The park’s highlight remains the woodland trail, a 20 minute stroll from wetlands to cactus and mahogany woodlands. Orchids and butterflies can also be spotted in the park.
The Caymans’ major town is charming George Town on the main island, Grand Cayman. It’s a major offshore banking hub and popular port for cruise ships, thanks to its laid-back and colorful Caribbean vibe and glorious beaches.
Resorts line Seven Mile Beach, attracting families, honeymooners and, especially, divers.
The year-round warm water and great visibility combine with exciting wreck dives to create one of the top diving locations on the planet. Divers from around the world come here to dive the famous Stingray City dive site.
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 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.
Explore the incredible underwater world of Grand Cayman without ever getting wet aboard the Seaworld Observatory. 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.
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.