Hands down, Stingray City is the Cayman Islands’ most popular attraction. (Photo: Alamy)
The Cayman Islands are, in essence, the very tops of underwater mountains that rise almost vertically from the ocean floor. Under the sea, the steep sides of these mountains — or “walls,” as they are called — are encrusted with colorful corals that in turn provide shelter and food to a rich diversity of marine life. Yet, this underwater oasis marks the beginning of Caymans’ many charms. Ample outdoor adventures abound, and land-based excursions should rank high on your list of island must-dos.
Diving in the Deep
The preferred way to explore the wonders of the deep is, for many, scuba diving. There are dozens of dive shops on the islands, including the Red Sail Sports outfit located at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort. It caters to both certified divers and beginners who want to do an introductory Discover Scuba dive.
Others may prefer to don a mask and snorkel, exploring from the surface. The Marriott’s Reef Ball Project, right in front of the resort, is an artificial reef designed to protect the beach and provide a habitat for marine life. It is ideal for beginners to get acquainted with the underwater realm.
For those who want to experience the ocean depths without even getting wet, local outfitter Atlantis Submarines run trips over the edge of the wall, both by day and by night.
Wet N’ Wild Water Sports
Above water, the array of water sports on offer is dizzying. Children love the banana boat rides, parasailing and Hobie Cat sailing, while adrenaline junkies can partake in Jet Ski safaris or go wakeboarding. Windy days are ideal for windsurfing and kitesurfing, while calm days call for a leisurely kayak along the coast or through the mangroves.
Stand-up paddleboarding is becoming increasingly popular. Easy to learn, the possibilities once you are up and paddling are endless — from simply exploring the coastline to paddleboard yoga and moonlit paddles.
No contest: Stingray City Sandbar is Cayman’s top attraction. Take a boat trip out to this waist-deep sandbar in the middle of the North Sound and within seconds, you’ll be surrounded by dozens of silk-soft, super-friendly stingrays that will even allow themselves to be held.
You may be lucky enough to see a turtle while out snorkeling or diving in Grand Cayman. If not, you’re guaranteed to get a real close up of these intriguing creatures at the Boatswain’s Beach Adventure Park & Turtle Farm. There, visitors will find touch tanks, a lagoon where they can swim with yearling turtles, as well as a swimming pool, predator tank and aviary.
If you prefer a more hands-on approach, take a stroll along the wilder side of Grand Cayman on horseback. A number of stables offer horseback riding, often along the deserted beach at Barker’s National Park. You and your steed can cool off at the end by riding right on in to the Caribbean Sea for a refreshing swim.
With colorful gardens, an orchid walk, a heritage garden and wetlands to explore, the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is a pleasant, shady place to while away a few hours among exuberant plant life and blue iguanas.
Just a few minutes walk from the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, Camana Bay is a beautifully designed development boasting tree-lined, pedestrian avenues, numerous restaurants, cafes and boutiques, shady courtyards, fountains and a marina. It’s a delightful place to wander around, and with 300 events held there each year, there is always something going on.