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Deboarding directly onto the tarmac at Owen Roberts Airport on Grand Cayman is a welcome shock to the senses. The sky is a blindingly bright blue, the grass a Crayola-perfect green, the air humid and sweet. The jubilant sounds of live Caribbean music entice you off the plane. Cayman, a trio of islands less than 500 miles south of Miami, offer plenty of opportunities to be charmed but for your next trip, consider starting with this list—in no particular order—of the top 10 things to do in the Cayman Islands.

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Stingray City | PHOTO: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Stingray City | PHOTO: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

1. Stingray City

The series of sandbars known as Stingray City located two nautical miles off the north coast of Grand Cayman offers the chance to petand interact with wild stingrays while standing in crystal clear waist-deep water. (Tip: head into the water with fistful of squid and the rays will swarm.) Due to Stingray City’s popularity, a number of companies offer tours and charters to the destination.

Wreck Bar at Rum Point Bar | PHOTO: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Wreck Bar at Rum Point Bar | PHOTO: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

2. Wreck Bar & Grill at Rum Point Club

Believed to be the birthplace of the mudslide, the tranquil seaside bar of the Rum Point Club restaurant on Grand Cayman’s north side is truly a vision straight out of a Jimmy Buffet song.

Calico Jack's Bar & Grill, Grand Cayman | PHOTO: Calico Jack's

Calico Jack’s Bar & Grill, Grand Cayman | PHOTO: Calico Jack’s

3. Calico Jack’s

“Calico’s” is closest thing to a townie hangout you’ll find along Seven Mile Beach, the crescent of coral sand on Grand Cayman’s tourist-friendly western shore. If you happen to show up during one of the beachfront bar’s full-moon parties, you’re in for DJs and dancing. Other nights, U.S. and Canadian ex-pats at Calico Jack’s will drunkenly effuse about the many advantages of island life.

USS Kittiwake, Cayman Islands

USS Kittiwake, Cayman Islands

4. U.S.S. Kittiwake

Snorkelers or scuba divers can explore the wreck of the U.S.S. Kittiwake, a decommissioned submarine supply ship that the Cayman Islands government purchased and sunk five years ago to create an “artificial reef” off of Seven Mile Beach.

Bioluminescence Kayak Tour, Cayman Islands

Bioluminescence Kayak Tour | PHOTO: Don McDougall

5. Bioluminescent Bay

Snorkel or dive in one of the Cayman Islands’ so-called bio bays, which glow a blue-green due to the concentrated presence of the tiny plankton dinoflagellates that light up in a captivating way when moved through the water. Reach the bioluminescence by tour boat or kayak during nighttime hours.

Cayman Brac Cave

Cayman Brac Cave

6. Spelunking

Located a short plane ride less than 100 miles northeast of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac is a less occupied sister island that has become a destination for scuba divers who gravitate toward a Russian shipwreck off the island, as well as outdoor enthusiasts who hike the eponymous bluff (“brac”) that runs along the island’s coast. Among the rocky terrain worth surveying is a series of caves—spots where residents used to seek refuge during large storms—including one called “Bat Cave,” where a flashlight pointed skyward will reveal dozens of the flying mammals literally hanging out.

A Grand Cayman Parrot at Brac Cayman Parrot Reserve

A Grand Cayman Parrot at Brac Parrot Reserve

7. Brac Parrot Reserve

While Grand Cayman boasts a couple thousand parrots, Cayman Brac maintains a population of about 400 of a slightly more diminutive subspecies of the Cuban Parrot. Birders flock to the  280 acres of land protected by the Natural Trust to spy many other feathered species, including the red-legged thrush, the white-crowned pigeon, and many others.

Cayman Valhalla pirate ship in Hog Sty Bay, George Town, Cayman Islands

Cayman Valhalla pirate ship in Hog Sty Bay, George Town, Cayman Islands

8. Pirates Week Festival

Cayman’s national festival—occurring not just one week but throughout much of November—is chockablock with everything from fireworks displays and concerts to food markets and parades. Oh, and plenty of adults dressed in the garb of pirates for Pirates Week Festival, too. Buccaneers were one population to originally settle the Cayman Islands.

The National Trust's Mastic Trail

The National Trust’s Mastic Trail

9. Mastic Reserve

The breadth of Grand Cayman’s flora and fauna come into full view during a hike along the trails of the Mastic Reserve, more than 800 acres of which is currently cared for by the National Trust.

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park | PHOTO: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park | PHOTO: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

10. Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park

One of the main reasons to visit the Cayman Islands is its natural beauty. That’s perhaps on no more full display than at Grand Cayman’s Q.E. II Botanic Park, with its lush tropical gardens and blue iguana habitat, which is the center for the National Trust’s program to repopulate the endangered lizard.

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Tagged: Caribbean

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Jake Malooley

Jake Malooley

Jake Malooley

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3 thoughts on “Top 10 things to do in the Cayman Islands”

  1. Is there a recommended company for private boat charters in Grand Cayman? I am going there next week with my family and was thinking of using Sting Ray City Charters but I am open to any better suggestions?

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