Cayman Islands: A Caribbean vacation with offbeat gems

stingray city cayman islands snorkeling Meet a resident of Stingray City, one of the few close encounter experiences of its kind in the world.
Credit: Sue Campbell

Go to any Caribbean island and enjoy white sand, blue waters, cold drinks and hot nightlife. But experience all that in the Cayman Islands and you won’t be fighting for a hammock on the beach with college kids on Spring Break. It’s the perfect tourist destination for the non-tourist, and the country is still small enough to hit all the main attractions of the three-island chain during your weeklong vacation, whether it’s adults only or with children.

Seven Mile Beach

Most of the main island’s resorts are on the western shore of Grand Cayman, nestled on Seven Mile Beach. Feel free to bring your pets or do some grilling on this 5.5-mile walkable shoreline. Just south of the beach is the capital city of George Town, where animal lovers must stop at Cayman Turtle Farm, a nature park working with green sea turtles. Reach into one of the center’s many pools to pick up one of the reptiles. Hold tight with one hand and use your other to massage its neck or head. For lunch, don’t miss conch fritters at Guy Harvey’s Restaurant & Bar and watch the massive cruise ships dock.

Get historical

Take a morning off from the beach to stop by Pedro St. James, a historically accurate three-story reconstruction of plantation owner William Eden’s 1780 home. A tour guide walks you through each room, sharing the history of the island and the site that overlooks a lush landscape, preserved mahogany trees and some of the island’s best ocean views from atop its limestone bluff. Chickens — whose ancestors are among the first animal settlers in the late 1800s — roam the gardens.

hell devil cayman islands satan Visit Hell on Earth on the Cayman Islands.
Credit: Christina Paciolla, Metro

Go to Hell!

One tourist trap on Grand Cayman that’s a must-do is a 15-minute stop at Hell. Ivan Farrington, known to the locals as Satan, will greet you with a “How the hell are ya?” while you shop for all the standard tourist kitsch emblazoned with “I’ve been to Hell and back.” Be sure to grab a postcard and stamp to drop in the mailbox outside the fiery red building so you can prove you visited Hell. And for a small donation, snap your pic and get a cheek kiss from the Prince of Darkness himself. Make sure you take photos of the black limestone formations that look like they came from Hell itself.

Stingray City

Say you swam with stingrays in Cayman Islands — something you can only do in a few parts of the world. You and your group take a speedboat out to shallow sandbars in the North Sound of Grand Cayman, where the water is crystal clear. Stingrays in their natural habitat — used to people swimming there and feeding them over the decades — glide through the water all around you, allowing you to feed them squid, hold them and even kiss them.

A truly incredible sight, the stingrays — some several feet in diameter — will swim through your legs and brush against your shoulders. Their undersides are slimy and smooth, while their tops are rough like sandpaper. You’ll have snorkeling gear so you can watch these gorgeous creatures swim underwater. Your boat and guides will then take you out for more snorkeling.

After your close encounter, Rum Point offers diving, wind-surfing, wave running and volleyball — or you can just relax in a hammock. Shopping and restaurants are also featured at the beach.

londoner cayman islands ivan farrington timeshare The Londoner is a more permanent way to experience the Cayman Islands.
Credit: Provided

The Londoner

The newest project from developer David Morritt, an English expat who fell in love with the Cayman Islands more than 25 years ago, is The Londoner, a new line of two- and three-bedroom luxury suites, all overlooking the ocean.

Morritt has really built up the island’s east end, calling it “a jewel in the crown.” The Londoner — and all of Morritt’s properties on that side of the island — is entirely timeshares or private ownership. The resorts work with Florida-based Interval International, who specialize in timeshares and exchanges, so you can trade for other vacations spots around the world.The Londoner and all Morritt properties can be booked through regular hotel reservations, as well as online hotel booking sites and through travel agents.

The resort has two restaurants, a spa, tennis courts and a shopping center. Water sports are popular — you can snorkel around the dock at the island’s only restaurant located on a pier — and the sea breeze blows year-round, cooling humid evenings.

If you need a break from the saltwater, the infinity pool offers beach views, and there are daily activities for the whole family. Cap it off with lobster night at David’s Deep Blue Restaurant. Make sure to order a key lime pie at the end of your meal. It’s some of the best you’ll ever have.

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