Cayman Islands National Museum
Harbor Drive, in George Town
Admission charged. free for children 6 and under.
Mon. to Fri. 9 - 5 ; Saturday 10 - 2 last admission is half an hour prior to closing.
is in a much-restored clapboard-sided antique building directly on the water. The veranda-fronted building served in prior years as the island's courthouse. The formal exhibits include a collection of Caymanian artifacts collected by Ira Thompson beginning in the 1930s. The museum includes a gift shop, theater, cafe, and more than 2,000 items portraying the natural, social, and cultural history of the Caymans.
Cayman Turtle Farm, Northwest Point
345/949-3893; daily 8: 30 - 5.
Admission charged. free for children 5 and under.
This is the only green sea-turtle farm of its kind in the world. Once a multitude of turtles swam in the surrounding waters of the islands, but today these creatures are few in number practically extinct elsewhere in the Caribbean, and the green sea turtle has been designated an endangered species . You cannot bring turtle products into the United States.
This government-run operation raises green turtles for purposes of increasing their population in the wild as well as to provide the local market with edible turtle meat. The facility constantly replenishes the local waters with hatchling and yearling turtles. Visitors are welcome to look at 100 circular concrete tanks in which the sea creatures can be observed in every stage of development. The hope is that one day their population in the sea will regain its former status. Turtles here range in size from 6 ounces to 600 pounds.
At a snack bar and restaurant, turtle dishes can be sampled.
At Batabano, on the North Sound, fishermen tie up with their catch, much to the delight of photographers. You can buy lobster in season, fresh fish, and conch. A large barrier reef protects the sound, which is surrounded on three sides by the island and is a mecca for diving and sports fishing.
South Sound Road, is lined with pines and, in places, old wooden Caymanian houses. Beyond the houses are many good spots for a picnic.
On the road again, you reach Bodden Town, once the largest settlement on the island. At Gun Square, two cannons once commanded the channel entrance through the reef. They are now stuck muzzle-first into the ground.
On the way to the East End, just before Old Isaac Village, sprays of water shoot up from the shore like geysers. These are called blowholes, and the force of the water rushing upward sounds like the roar of a lion.
A little farther on, an anchor sticks up from the ocean floor. As the story goes, this is a relic of the famous "Wreck of the Ten Sails" in 1788. A more modern wreck, the Ridgefield, can also be seen. This was a 7,500-ton Liberty ship from New England, which struck the reef in 1943.
Old Man Bay is reached by a road that opened in 1983.
From there you can travel along the north shore of the island to Rum Point, which has a lovely beach. Rum Point got its name from barrels of rum that once washed ashore here after a shipwreck. It is surrounded by towering causarina trees blowing in the trade winds. Most of these trees have hammocks hanging from their trunks, inviting you to enjoy the leisurely life. With its cays, reefs, mangroves, and shallows, Rum Point is a refuge that extends west and south for 7 miles. It divides the two "arms" of Grand Cayman. The sound's many spits of land and its plentiful lagoons are ideal for snorkeling, swimming, wading, and birding. It you get hungry, drop in to the Wreck Bar for a juicy hamburger. After visiting Rum Point, you can head back toward Old Man Village, where you can go south along a cross-island road through savannah country that will eventually lead you west to George Town.
In Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
The park is open daily from 7: 30am to 5: 30pm.
Admission charged. free for children 5 and under.
On 60 acres of rugged wooded land off Frank Sound Road, North Side, the park
offers visitors a 1 hour walk through wetland, swamp, dry thicket, mahogany trees, orchids, and bromeliads. The trail is eight-tenths of a mile long. Along it are seen chickatees, the freshwater turtles found only on the Caymans and in Cuba. Also seen in the area are the rare Grand Cayman parrot, the anole lizard, with its cobalt-blue throat pouch, and the even rarer endangered blue iguana. There are six rest stations with visitor information along the trail.
There is a visitor center with changing exhibitions, and a canteen for food and refreshments. The trail is located within the botanic park adjacent to the woodland trail and includes a heritage garden with a re-creation of a traditional Cayman home, garden, and farm; a floral garden with 1 1/2 acres of flowering plants; and a 2-acre lake with three islands, which is home to many native birds.
Pedro St. James National Historic Site
Savannah, Grand Cayman
This restored great house dates from 1780 when only 400 people lived on the island. It survived the island hurricanes, but was destroyed by fire in 1970. It has been authentically restored as the centerpiece of a new heritage park with a visitor center and an audio-visual theater with a laser light show.
Over the years the property was called a castle and then a fortress, and legends sprang up as to its history. Actually, there never was a Spanish-built castle, nor any proof that pirates ever came ashore at Pedro, much less built a fortress here. These were 20th century fabrications combining local folktales and the stories created by an American-born adventurer turned entrepreneur, Tom Hubbell, who owned the site from 1954 until his death in 1977. In the 1960's, Hubbell renovated the long-abandoned stone ruins, originally planning a small guest house and bar. He chiseled the date "1631" into the top of the building's entrance, added jagged crenellations along the top level and promoted it as a fortress once inhabited by Captain Morgan and other pirates.
Pedro St. James Grounds
The grounds have been landscaped as a magnificent natural tropical park with native trees and plants, as well as traditional medicinal and vegetable gardens representative of a small early 19th century West Indian plantation.
The Visitors' Center includes five-buildings in 19th century architectural style surrounding a landscaped courtyard. The main attraction is the 49-seat state of the art multimedia theater featuring a 20-minute video presentation on Pedro St. James and highlights of 200 years of Cayman history. Other facilities include a resource center, gift shop, and cafĂ©. Interpretative displays and signs throughout the great house and grounds allow self-guided tours but guides are also available.
Grand Cayman's Q. E. II Botanic Park
Visitors Center, Heritage Garden and Floral Garden
Located on Frank Sound Road in the district of North Side about a 45-minute drive from George Town
Daily at 9 - 5: 30. Visitors are advised to enter the park by 4: 30 p.m.
Admission charged. free for children under six.
Designed as a contemporary interpretation of Colonial Caribbean and Caymanian architecture, the reception center has wooden shuttered windows, wide verandah and brick courtyard with waterfall/fountain. The Center is painted in Caribbean colors of green and pale coral and features a central area offering park information as well as an area for permanent and changing exhibits.
The second floor has a classroom for lectures and meetings. Other facilities include a gift shop stocked with gardening, horticulture and tropical flora-themed books and souvenirs; a snack bar/cafĂ© set in a garden courtyard and a retail plant shop plants can only be sold to residents.
Nearby, the two-acre Heritage Garden recreates a Caymanian way of life known generations ago, long before this country came to enjoy the highest standard of living in the Caribbean. This attraction's main feature is the restored early 20th-century Rankin home, a traditional tiny three-room zinc-roofed Caymanian wooden cottage The restoration features a porch, cook room with caboose, cistern, natural well, native coral stone fences and pathways lined with conch shells. Some of the original fixtures remain inside.
Planning the Heritage Garden involved years of research on existing old gardens in the Cayman Islands. National Trust and Botanic Park staff first had to identified and located traditional plants and researched information about their planting style, providing the design for the surrounding two acres.
The Heritage Garden adds an important historic and educational feature to the Botanic Park, demonstrating how early Caymanian settlers lived under austere conditions, depending heavily on their land for survival. In addition the Garden will serve as a valuable propagation source of traditional plants and trees which are rapidly disappearing as new ornamental varieties are imported.
The Floral Garden is the Botanic Park's most ambitious project, a horticultural triumph on this very selectively fertile limestone island. Visitors stroll through a multicolored mosaic of hundreds of species of tropical and sub tropical plants spread over approximately 2.5 acres. Flowering plants and shrubs, succulents and cacti are arranged by color in nine distinct displays.
The centerpiece of the Floral Garden is an ornate white wooden gazebo atop a rise, overlooking ponds filled with water lilies and the nearby two-acre lake, a prime habitat for a variety of resident and migratory bird life. And a perfect wedding location! Visitors can relax in the shade of the gazebo and enjoy a view of a waterfall cascading off an elevated freshwater pond filled with water lilies. The pavilion also offers an excellent view of the lake.
Lake Becomes New Natural Attraction
Another important attraction is the two-acre lake located near the southern end of the Botanic Park, just beyond the Floral Garden. Completed in August 1996, the area was originally part of the adjacent swamp. Decades of accumulated muck was removed from the site leaving a two-acre brackish water lake approximately 3.5 feet deep. The area has three small islands with native vegetation in the center which provide an important habitat and breeding area for native birds that live near large bodies of water. The Lake has already become an active site for birdwatchers, attracting a fascinating range of bird life. Among species sighted have been Tricolored Herons, Common Moorhen, Green Herons, Black-necked Stilts, American Coots, Blue-winged Teal, Cattle Egrets and rare West Indian Whistling Ducks.
On the southern edge of the lake, visitors see native wetland vegetation mingled with Caribbean plants.
Seven Mile Beach. Grand Cayman's west coast is where you'll find the famous Seven Mile Beach and its expanses of powdery white sand. The beach is litter-free and sans peddlers, so you can relax in an unspoiled, hassle-free atmosphere. This is Grand Cayman's busiest vacation center. You'll also find headquarters for the island's aquatic activities here.
Smith's Cove. Off South Church Street and south of the Grand Old House, this is a popular local bathing spot on weekends.
East End. The best windsurfing is just off these beaches at Colliers, by Morritt's Tortuga Club.
Cayman Kai, Rum Point, And Water Cay. These isolated and unspoiled beaches are the favored hideaways for residents and visitors "in the know."
If you enjoy action fishing, Cayman waters have plenty to offer. Some 25 boats are available for charter, offering fishing options that include deep-sea, reef, bone, tarpon, light-tackle, and fly-fishing. Grand Cayman charter operators to contact are
Bayside Watersports 345/949-3200,
Burton's Tourist Information & Activity Services
Captain Crosby's Watersports
Grand Cayman-Britannia. This golf course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, is really three in one: a nine-hole, par-70 regulation course, an 18-hole, par-57 executive course, and a Cayman course played with a Cayman ball that goes about half the distance of a regulation ball. Greens fees run $40-$90, and golf carts are mandatory. Next to the Hyatt Regency, 345/949-8020.
Links At Safe Haven. Windier, and therefore more challenging, Cayman's first 18-hole championship golf course is set amid a virtual botanical garden of indigenous trees, plants, and flowering shrubs. The par-71, 6,605-yard course also has an aqua driving range the distance markers and balls float, a clubhouse, pro shop, and restaurant. Greens fees run to $60. Golf carts are mandatory. 345/949-5988.
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Pristine water, breathtaking coral formations, and plentiful and exotic marine life mark the Great Wall : a world-renowned dive site. Many top-notch dive operations offer a variety of services, instruction, and equipment. A must-see for adventurous souls is Stingray City, noted as the best 12-ft dive in the world. Trinity Caves and Orange Canyon are typical Grand Cayman dives. They are not too strenuous, are easily accessible, and are full of marine life.
The best shore-entry snorkeling spots are south of George Town, at Eden Rock and Parrot's Landing; north of town, at the reef just off the West Bay Cemetery on Grand Cayman's west coast; and in the reef-protected shallows of the island's north and south coasts.
Divers are required to be certified and possess a "C" card. Otherwise they can take a full certification course.
Among the dive operators are:
Aquanauts 45/945-1990 or 800/357-2212
Bob Soto's 345/949-2022 or 800/262-7686
Don Foster's 345/945-5132 or 800/833-4837
Eden Rock 345/949-7243
Parrot's Landing 345/949-7884 or 800/448-0428
Red Sail Sports 345/945-5965 or 800/255-6425
Sunset Divers 345/949-7111 or 800/854-4767
Turtle Reef Divers 345/949-1700