Among the three Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman is overwhelmingly the largest, the most visited, and offers the most variety of activities. Where the two smaller islands mainly cater to diving connoisseurs and nature enthusiasts, Grand Cayman welcomes a diverse crowd of people. The local absence of taxes and many of the controls other nations place on their banking systems makes Grand Cayman one of the world's largest offshore financial centers, attracting an international set easily identified by their cell-phones and suits. But by far the larger group is the tourists: Club-goers, beach bums and diving devotees all call the island their paradise. You'll find it easy to enter whichever atmosphere pleases you, whether it's hectic tourist hotspots or remote island hideaways. Choose to spend all your time on the beach and in the nightlife, or use every day to explore one of over 250 diving sites in the island's crystal-clear water.
Nearly everyone arriving, whether by plane at Owen Roberts International Airport or by cruise ship, will end up in the same locale: George Town. That name encompasses both a district, which includes the airport, and the actual capital city of the island. After checking into your accommodation, head to the city's waterfront shopping area. All the shopping here is duty-free, so take a little time to check out stores like Caymania Duty Free and De Sunglass Man & De Watch Man . More importantly, though, you can nosh on one of the island's famous rum cakes here, at Tortuga Duty-Free Liquors & Bakery .
Seven Mile Beach
Once you've taken the edge off your hunger, head northwards while staying on the waterfront. Soon you'll hit the coral sands of Seven Mile Beach , often called the “Best Beach in the Caribbean.” This is where the majority of the island's tourists end up, and you won't be able to dispute their taste once you see the white sand and turquoise waters. Dining and nightlife can both be found along the beach, mostly attached to large resorts like the Westin Casuarina and the Hyatt Regency . Some of the better restaurants that aren't part of a resort are the Copper Falls Steakhouse , the Reef Grill , and the whimsically named Chicken! Chicken! Caribbean Wood Roasted . Various nightclubs beckon during the evening hours, but one of the best places to kick back with a pint is the Lone Star Bar .
There's no need to walk all five and a half miles of the inaccurately-named beach right now, so once you're tired of it, catch a taxi northward to Boatswain's Beach and visit the Turtle Farm where, aside from some turtles ranging up to 600 pounds, you can also see crocodiles and native Cayman parrots. By crossing the isthmus, on the way avoiding the tourist-trap town of Hell (unless you really can't resist sending a postcard “from Hell”), you can reach the world-famous Stingray City . This “city” is one of the island's main draws and famous world-wide for the masses of tame stingrays who nuzzle up to divers and snorkelers in hopes of getting a bit of squid to eat. West Bay is also home to some of the best diving charters on the island, including the popular Quabo Dives .
You've seen much of what the western side of the island has to offer, now. But, you may ask, what about the much larger eastern section? With nearly deserted beaches, parks and bays, Grand Cayman's North Side and East End districts offer the island seclusion that many crave. Start heading that way, but don't let yourself skip over the former capital, Bodden Town. Historic buildings and graves in this sleepy town hearken back to the days of pirates and slaves on the island. ”Pedro Castle,” a large, lovingly restored historic home used as an early meeting place for democrats, commemorates the birth of the Cayman's modern government, and the subsequent change of the bad old times to the romantic past.
Head straight north away from Bodden Town to reach Rum Point , which has all the beauty of Seven Mile Beach with only a fraction of the human traffic. If you prefer beaches that have relatively few people on them, but still have places like The Wreck Bar nearby to eat at, this is one spot at which you may find yourself spending a lot of time. If you should decide to move on, the next spot in your line of attack is the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park , where you can see what Grand Cayman is like away from the beaches. Floral gardens, woodland walking trails and wildlife are all present in this beautiful park.
You've made your way across most of the island now, with only the eastern-most beaches left. If all you wanted in the first place was peace and quiet, maybe the place to stay would be one like Morritt's Grand Resort , where you can be pampered or just wander off for some intimate time with the sun and sea. Many people stay on the East End to dive, basing themselves at The Reef Resort or Compass Point Dive Resort . Be warned, there's none of Grand Cayman's vaunted duty-free stores here and even fairly few places to eat.
Around the Island
Speaking of diving, there's an entire sea away from the shores to explore, with some of the world's clearest water and best reefs, walls and wrecks waiting for you to discover them. Listing all of the excellent spots for diving or snorkeling around Grand Cayman would be a truly monumental task, but fortunately much of the island's best diving can be identified by the side it's on. The West Wall encompasses over 50 dive sites. The South Wall offers shallow diving in coral playgrounds – just be careful not to touch anything. The North Wall features spine-tingling drops that may induce panic, until you recall that you're floating, not falling. Finally, the East End contains many of the island's least-explored sites, a fact stemming more from its distance than relative interest to divers.
Whatever you're looking for in a Caribbean island, Grand Cayman has it on offer. So grab your beach towel, or dive tank, or club outfit, or even your cell phone and suit, and get ready to relax in a special sort of paradise.
The Grand Cayman dining scene is on par with that of any major city, what with a solid range of cuisines represented, and many establishments focused on balancing tradition and simplicity with innovation and freshness.
This district is the beating heart of Grand Cayman's culinary scene. It is here that you will find everything you need to keep your belly full and your spirits up. For perhaps one of the most adventurous dining experiences on the island, sign up for one of The Brasserie 's "Blindsided" dinners, regular prix fixe events at which each gourmet course is a surprise to the diners. This will definitely allow you to stretch your gastronomical limits. At the Grand Old House , located in an old plantation home just south of George Town proper, one dish in particular cannot be missed: the turtle steak. Chow down if you dare! Some consider Indian food to be a bit of an adventure as well, so if you're in the mood, head straight for Bayside Cafe , a local favorite. After so much adventure, you might be in need of a trusty, classic bistro-style eatery; Bacchus , with its hearty menu, full bar and strong wine list (as the name implies), is the place. They are open late every night of the week.
Seven Mile Beach
Tired of the hustle and bustle of "metropolitan" George Town? Time to hit the beach! Thankfully, you will find no shortage of killer dining options here. Just minutes away from George Town, Seven Mile Beach is five-and-a-half sandy miles of scintillating culinary possibilities. Hemingways , inside the Hyatt Regency, is an upscale affair, serving Caribbean-inflected Spanish-style tapas. At Aqua Beach Restaurant & Bar , the dining room is surrounded by exotic aquariums. Quite a view to accompany their expertly mixed cocktails and beautifully presented seafood specialties. If you'd care for music with your view, pop into The Wharf Restaurant for ocean views and live harp, along with yet another fine seafood-centric menu. Cafe Mediterraneo serves up quite a bit of seafood as well, but they also have a wide array of other options ranging from kebabs to pizzas. If pizza sounds good, you might be working on a bit of an Italian craving. If so, Edoardo's is just right. Choose from pastas, pizzas and a whole list of old-world entrees. Pizza is definitely the star of the show at Cimboco , which features a wood-burning oven that churns out crispy and delicious pizzas. For a snack as portable as a slice of pizza, but perhaps a bit more exotic, head for Al La Kebab , curer of many a late-night falafel craving. Note that they offer a number of sauce options not often seen elsewhere.
Need a meal more upscale than a slice or a kebab? Decker's has an extensive wine list and a cigar-loving clientele, as well as a menu whose influences range all over the globe but always remains rooted firmly in island tradition. Sure, beach life is great, but if you find yourself longing for a bit more George Town-style boundary pushing, sit down to a dinner of conch at Reef Grill , an award-winning SMB tradition. If you'd prefer to eschew adventure in favor of grilled simplicity, visit Copper Falls Steakhouse for a good ol' American-style dry-aged slab of beef. If slabs of beef are not your cup of tea, step inside Bamboo , a high-energy lounge full of young people and a terrific sushi bar. DJ's Cantina is full of energy as well. They serve up Mexican cuisine with fresh ingredients and a touch of modern whimsy. Clearly, Seven Mile Beach is home to solid representations of cuisines from the far reaches of the Earth, but you mustn't leave without a trip to Chicken! Chicken! Caribbean Wood Roasted for a taste of authentic local soul food (complete with homemade cornbread).
Located due north of Seven Mile Beach, West Bay is still somewhat centrally located - and still chock full of great grub from all around the world. Dine on deck at Calypso Grill for a lovely meal featuring exotic seafood preparations – all overlooking the water. Love island flair, but long for a little bit of Italian heartiness? Ristorante Pappagallo serves up Caribbean-influenced Italian food – old-world specialties with a helping of new-world freshness and attitude.
Northside & East End
The further you stray from George Town, the more your food options dwindle. However, lack of quantity does not indicate a lack of quality. Castro's Hideaway , located within the East End's Reef Resort , is an energetic bar and grill full of good times and party people. Choose from more fresh seafood, or opt for a range of other American-friendly pub-style favorites. A short trip up the coast, you'll find the Kaibo Yacht Club , a restaurant specializing in combining the flavors of New Orleans with the flavors of the Caribbean. After traveling the length of Grand Cayman's coastline, you might want to end your day with a session at The Wreck Bar , in the Northside's Rum Point district. While away the stresses and worries of a hectic road trip over a cold cocktail in this unadorned local watering hole.