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Cayman Islands Attractions
Cayman Islands Attractions
Seven Mile Beach - This is the fabled beach that put Grand Cayman on the tourist maps of the world. True, it doesn't really stretch for 7 miles. Most locals claim it's only 5 1/2 miles long, but that's still a whole lot of beach.
Hell - "Hell" is a tiny village in a desolate area, lying just under a kilometer (about half a mile) from the sea. Covering about a quarter hectare (half acre) of jagged limestone in West Bay, near the island's most northwesterly point, Grand Cayman's earliest settlers (who wisely avoided this area) labeled this inhospitable location as "hellish" . . . ergo, Hell. A jagged lunar landscape of somber-toned gray rock, it evokes a treacherous coral formation -- the kind that could easily tear open the hull of the sturdiest watercraft -- that happens to be above the surface of the water. Except for birds, most animals tend to avoid the place.
The big "attraction" here is a little post office where you can get your cards and letters postmarked from Hell.
Cayman Turtle Farm - This is one of the major sights on Grand Cayman. Established in 1968, it's the world's only commercial green-sea-turtle farm, where you can observe turtles in all stages of development.
Batabano - At Morgan's Harbour Marina, on the North Sound in the little backwater of Batabano, fishermen tie up with their catch of the day, much to the delight of photographers. You can often buy fresh lobster, fish, and conch here. A large barrier reef protects the sound, which is surrounded on three sides and is a mecca for diving and sport fishing.
Stingray Brewery - At what is one of the only home breweries in the Cayman Islands, visitors are introduced to the trio of beers made here. Each of these beers is sold at bars, hotels, and restaurants throughout the Caymans. Both Durty (3% alcohol) and Dark (6%) are sold on draft only. The most popular beer is the bottled Premium (4%). You can take a free tour of the brewery, with samples of beer distributed at the end. Brewing days are Monday and Thursday, and bottling takes place on Wednesday.
Village of Prospect - There is little to see in this village, but it is interesting to note that you're passing through what is thought to be the site of the first settlement in Grand Cayman. Settlers established a fort and an outpost here some time in the latter half of the 1700s, which was "ancient history" in terms of the Caymans. You can see a little monument marking the site of Prospect Fort, the oldest fort on the island. Of interest to most visitors is the good sandy beach lying just around the point at Prospect. Both divers and snorkelers are drawn to the beach and sea here.
Gov. Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary - This bird sanctuary is open all day and is particularly interesting to visit from April to June, when it is at its most beautiful and shelters the most birds. At various times of the year, more than 60 species - both land and water birds - inhabit the sanctuary. It is a birder's delight. At least a quarter of the native birds of the Caymans can be seen here, and many of them use the freshwater pool at the center of the .8-hectare (2-acre) refuge. Birds can be viewed from an observation platform and from the walkways that lace the sanctuary. Admission is free.
Bodden Town - This is more of a village than a town, where single-story homes with corrugated-iron roofs and wooden verandas evoke British colonial architecture. Once called "South Side," Bodden Town was the first capital of Grand Cayman. Because it doesn't have the commercial interest of George Town or the touristed frenzy of Seven Mile Beach, Bodden Town still retains some of its traditional aura. Bodden Town is named for Gov. William Bodden, who was chief magistrate (which is virtually the same as a governor) of the island from 1776 to 1823. Because he did much to improve the life of the islanders, Governor Bodden is known today as "the Grand Old Man of Grand Cayman."
Frank Sound - The sands and waters here are idyllic for beachcombing, swimming, or even bonefishing.
Rum Point - This area has a good beach. Rum Point got its name from the barrels of rum that once washed ashore here after a shipwreck. Today it is dreamy and quaint, surrounded by towering casuarina trees blowing in the trade winds. Most of these trees have hammocks suspended from their trunks, and you can hop into one and leisurely enjoy the surroundings. Featuring 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. If you get hungry, drop in to the Wreck Bar for a juicy burger.
Content provided by Frommer's Unlimited© 2012, Whatsonwhen Limited and Wiley Publishing, Inc.
Cayman Islands Activities
Almost-guaranteed sunshine, one of the world's most beautiful beaches, and the Caribbean's best scuba diving and snorkeling have permanently anchored Grand Cayman on the tourist map. Along with swimmers and beach buffs, scuba divers are attracted to the Cayman Islands in droves and from around the world. More than 200 named and explored dive sites are in the Cayman Islands.
Even if you're not a scuba diver or snorkeler, you'll find many other attractions on the water, including fishing, boating, kayaking, water-skiing, and windsurfing. If you're a landlubber, there's always hiking, golfing, and horseback riding. But most landlubbers never seem to leave Seven Mile Beach.
One of the finest beaches in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach boasts sparkling white sands rimmed with Australian pines and palms. (Technically, the beach is named West Bay Beach, but everybody calls it Seven Mile Beach.) This haven of white, white sands stretches all the way from George Town to Long Point. It tends to be crowded near the big resorts, but the beach is so big that you can always find some room to spread out your towel.
Because the beach is on the more tranquil side of Grand Cayman, the water is generally placid and inviting with no great tide, making it ideal for families, even those with small children. A sandy bottom slopes gently to deep water. The water is great for snorkelers and swimmers of most ages and abilities, and it's so clear that you can easily see what's swimming around below you.
Along the stretch of the beach, from one end to the other, there are hotels and condos, many with beachside bars that you can visit. All sorts of watersports concessions can be found along this beach, including places that rent snorkel gear, boats, windsurfers, wave runners, paddlecats, and aqua trikes (these two latter are floating pedal toys).
Grand Cayman also has a number of minor beaches, although they pale in comparison to Seven Mile Beach. Visit these if you want to escape the crowds. Beaches on the east and north coasts of Grand Cayman are good - filled with white sand and protected by an offshore barrier reef, so waters are generally tranquil.
In total contrast to the glitz and glitter of Seven Mile Beach, an attractive little beach lies on the west side of George Town. Smith Cove Public Beach is located between Coconut Harbour and Cayman Coves. The sandy strip is small but top-notch. It's a good spot for snorkeling and makes a nice venue for a picnic, as trees shade the picnic tables. Changing facilities and bathrooms are available here.
On North Sound along the northern coast, Rum Point lies 40km (25 miles) north of George Town and offers one of the best beaches in Grand Cayman, though it is also one of the most remotely located. You can reach the beach by taking the Rum Pointer ferry. Calm, clear waters make this tree-shaded beach an excellent spot for swimming. Snorkeling is also good here, with rainbow-hued fish and swaying sea fans composing the majority of the underwater life.
One of our favorite beaches is on the north coast, bordering the Cayman Kai Beach Resort, directly to the southwest of Rum Point. This beach is a Caribbean cliché of charm, with palm trees and beautiful sands. You can snorkel along the reef to Rum Point.
Snorkeling and Diving
Coral reefs and coral formations encircle all three islands and are filled with loads of marine life, which scuba divers and snorkelers are forbidden to disturb. It's easy to dive close to shore, so boats aren't necessary, although plenty of diving boats are available.
Your Temporary Caymanian Pet: A Stingray - The offshore waters of Grand Cayman are home to one of the most unusual (and ephemeral) underwater attractions in the world, Stingray City. Set in the sun-flooded, 4m-deep (12-ft.) waters of North Sound, about 3.2km (2 miles) east of the island's northwestern tip, the site originated in the mid-1980s when local fishermen cleaned their catch and dumped the offal overboard. They quickly noticed scores of stingrays (which usually eat marine crabs) feeding on the debris, a phenomenon that quickly attracted local divers and marine zoologists. Today between 30 and 50 relatively tame stingrays hover in the waters around the site for daily handouts of squid from increasing hordes of snorkelers and divers.
Wreck of the Ten Sails - On February 8, 1794, Captain William Martin was steering a lead ship, HMS Convert, when it hit a reef. The captain fired a cannon to signal a fleet of other merchant vessels about the treacherous reefs that lay ahead. The captains of the other ships mistook the signal for a warning of an impending pirate attack. One vessel after another in the convoy of 58 merchants ships, most of them square-rigged sailing vessels bound for Europe, met the same fate as the Convert in the rough, pitch-black seas. In all, 10 ships were wrecked that disastrous night. By some miracle, villagers of the East End of Grand Cayman managed to save all 400 or so sailors and officers wrecked that night, bringing them ashore in canoes.
Four of the ships were eventually salvaged, and the other vessels sank to the bottom of the sea. The cannons from the wrecked ships were eventually salvaged and sent to England as scrap. In the little community of Gun Bay in the East End, a monument can be seen commemorating that tragic maritime event. Queen Elizabeth II dedicated the statue on her visit to Grand Cayman in 1994. A local legend - untrue - maintains that King George II gave the Caymanians tax-free status because of their heroic rescue. If you'd like to explore this shipwreck site, it is often included in the diving programs offered by Ocean Frontiers.
The best course on the island, the Britannia Golf Club, next to the Hyatt Regency on West Bay Road (tel. 345/949-8020), was designed by Jack Nicklaus and incorporates three different courses in one: a 9-hole championship layout, an 18-hole executive setup, and a Cayman course.
Constantly windswept, the Links at Safehaven (tel. 345/949-5988) is a par-71, 6,011m (6,605-yd.) course designed by Roy Case set in what is tantamount to a botanical garden. On-site are a clubhouse, pro shop, and restaurant. Greens fees are CI$104 (US$130) per person for 18 holes, with mandatory golf carts included. The golf course lies across Seven Mile Beach Road, opposite from the Westin Casuarina.
Many of the big resorts have their own tennis courts available to guests. However, if yours does not, you can go to the Cayman Islands Tennis Club (tel. 345/949-9464), open daily from 8 to 11am and 2 to 9pm.
Grouper and snapper are the most common catches for those who bottom-fish along the reef. Deeper waters turn up barracuda and bonito. Sport fishermen from all over the world come to the Caymans with hopes of hooking one of the big ones: tuna, wahoo, or marlin.
Avid windsurfers rate the 6.4km (4 miles) of reef-protected shallows off East End as the best location for windsurfing. Prevailing winds there are 24kmph to 40kmph (15-25 mph) from November through March, with 6- to 10-knot southeasterly breezes in summer months.
Content provided by Frommer's Unlimited© 2012, Whatsonwhen Limited and Wiley Publishing, Inc.