Must-See Activities and Attractions
In addition to spending days at the beach enjoying all of the various water sports, not to mention the sunshine, Grand Cayman offers several family-friendly attractions that are well worth experiencing, whether you're visiting this island for a day or spending a week.
The following sections describe the top ten must-see attractions and family-friendly activities in the Cayman Islands.
Explore the Cayman Turtle Farm
The Cayman Turtle Farm is the only attraction of its kind in the world. You can see over 16,000 endangered green sea turtles being raised in their natural habitat. Some of these turtles weigh only a few ounces, while others have grown to weigh over 600 pounds.
Guests are invited to explore this attraction at their own pace. Plan on spending at least thirty minutes exploring this farm and the many tanks which house the turtles. Hours of operation are from 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. daily. Admission is $6 per adult and $3 per child.
The farm is located about eight miles outside of Georgetown in the West Bay area. For more information, call 345-949-3894, or go online to www.turtle.ky. This is both an entertaining and educational attraction.
Atlantis Submarine Ride
Prepare to take a unique and exotic submarine adventure as you dive 800 to 1,000 feet toward the ocean floor. You'll see incredible ocean life, coral reefs, and several sunken ships through the submarine's portals. Alternatively, you can experience the Seaworld Explorer (operated by Atlantis Adventures), a unique semi-submarine, which offers a less expensive, one-hour tour allowing passengers to get a glimpse under the sea.
The undersea journey in the Atlantis submarine is surprisingly smooth, although if you're claustrophobic, being enclosed within the submarine may not hold much appeal. Also, there are no restrooms available on the actual submarine, so plan accordingly.
Either the Atlantis submarine ride or the Seaworld Explorer ride provides a memorable and exciting experience for people over the age of four. Depending on the depth and length of the dive adventure, the cost is between $32 and $450 per adult, with discounts offered for kids.
This is a much more elaborate and longer submarine ride experience than what Atlantis Adventures offers on other Caribbean islands. Advance reservations are definitely required and can be made online at www.atlantisadventures.com. This is an extremely popular attraction, and it books up quickly. For more information, call 345-949-7700.
Visit Stingray City
This underwater zoo is home to thousands of stingrays. These big flat sea creatures are generally very friendly and can be touched and fed by visitors. Guests are invited to scuba dive, snorkel, swim or take a glass-bottomed boat ride through the shallow water areas where the stingrays live, then interact with these wondrous sea creatures in their natural habitat.
No matter how you decide to interact with the stingrays, you'll need to take a short boat trip to the area right off the coast of Grand Cayman where these animals can be found. This is one of the most unique water-based attractions you'll find anywhere in the Caribbean. It's also one of the most popular attractions in the Cayman Islands.
Take a Glass-Bottomed Boat Ride
Between the coral reefs and exotic sea life that live just off the coast of the Cayman Islands, there's a lot for people to see and experience. For people who aren't certified scuba divers and who don't enjoy snorkeling, one of the best ways to see this sea life is to take a glass-bottomed boat ride.
As the name suggests, passengers ride in a 100-foot motorized boat whose bottom (hull) has been replaced by glass viewing portals. This lets passengers look down into the depths of the sea without getting wet.
Glass bottom boat tours are available throughout the islands from several tour operators. They're generally inexpensive (under $30 per person) and last anywhere from one to three hours. Contact your hotel's concierge or your cruise line's land excursion desk for details about how to sign up for one of these memorable tours.
Visit Cardinal D's Park
Located about five miles from Georgetown, this unique zoo will be of interest primarily to kids. Here, visitors can see over sixty species of
exotic birds, iguanas, turtles, ducks, emus, miniature ponies, and an assortment of other animals native to the Cayman Islands. There's also a petting zoo area. For more information, call 345-949-8855. The zoo is open seven days a week. Hours of operation vary by season. Plan on spending between one and three hours visiting this zoo.
The Stingray Bowling Center is a relatively new, ten-lane bowling center offering traditional bowling, glow-in-the-dark bowling, and disco bowling, all with computerized scoring. Instruction is available. Call 011-345-945-4444 for information. This bowling alley is open every day and is suitable for people of all ages. A snack shop is available on the premises. Bowling balls and shoes can be rented.
Sail Aboard the Jolly Roger
Climb aboard a replica seventeenth-century Spanish galleon and prepare to experience life as a pirate. Afternoon sailings are of particular interest to kids and teens, who will be able to fire the ship's cannons and participate in other activities while aboard this eighty-foot-long vessel.
The crew members take on the roles of authentic pirates, guiding passengers through their high-seas adventure. During your journey, the ship will make a stop that enables passengers to go snorkeling or swimming. Advance reservations are recommended. The cruise itself lasts about two hours.
The cost is $35 per adult and $25 per child for an afternoon cruise. Evening and dinner cruises are also available, although the evening sailings are more adult oriented. Transportation from your hotel can be arranged for a small additional fee. For information, contact Jolly Rogers Cruises at 345- 945-SAIL, www.jollyrogercayman.com.
Visit Grand Cayman's Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
Of interest more to adults and older children, the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is open daily, from 9:00 A.M. until 6:00 P.M. This sixty-five-acre park offers thousands of tropical plants and trees, a handful of walking trails, and an iguana breeding and reintroduction facility (which younger people will enjoy).
More than forty acres of this park remain in their natural state. In the visitor's center, you can view exhibits, purchase souvenirs at the gift shop, enjoy a snack at the café, or participate in an introduction and orientation program. The Floral Color Garden features almost three acres of flowers in a rainbow of vibrant colors. The lake area is a wonderful spot for bird-watching.
Admission is $6 for adults and $3.50 for children (ages six to twelve). Guided tours are offered throughout the day. For more information, call 345-947-3558 or go online to www.botanic-park.ky.
Hike the Mastic Trail
The Mastic Reserve and Trail is an area of natural dry forest that is fully protected by the National Trust and is the largest contiguous area of untouched dry, subtropical forest on Grand Cayman. Here, you'll find a wide variety of local plants and wildlife. The Mastic Trail offers a two-mile hiking expedition that's unique and beautiful. Guided walks are offered and take between two and three hours to complete. Comfortable walking/hiking shoes and proper attire is an absolute must. This is a great way to experience the outdoors and is an alternative to the many water-based activities available on Grand Cayman.
As you explore the Mastic Trail, you'll encounter several unique habitats, including the Black Mangrove Wetland, stands of royal palms and silver thatch palms, abandoned agricultural land, and extensive ancient dry forest. As you're hiking, you'll be able to see rare trees, such as cedar and mahogany, plus many mastic trees, which inspired this region's name.
If you visit this area in June, you'll see the wild banana orchid (the national flower of the Cayman Islands) as you walk along the trails. Throughout the year, you'll see an abundance of birds that inhabit the forest areas. One bird that makes its home in this region is the native Cayman parrot, although you'll also see West Indian woodpeckers and perhaps the Caribbean dove, only seen in undisturbed areas.
In terms of other wildlife, expect to encounter butterflies, lizards, snakes (nonpoisonous), frogs, large hermit crabs, and the carton nests of termites as you hike.
For more information about the Mastic Trail, visit the National Trust's Web site at www.nationaltrust.org.ky. To take a guided walking tour, call 345-945-6588 for reservations. This hike is not suitable for people under the age of six or anyone who isn't physically fit.
Duty-Free Shopping At Its Best
Located in the heart of Georgetown, you'll find an abundance of upscale duty-free shops selling fine jewelry, diamonds, designer watches, perfumes, tobacco products, liquor, china, crystal, designer clothes, and other items at discounted prices. If you're a smart shopper, you can often shave between 30 and 50 percent off of suggested retail prices in the United States. Americans are given a duty-free allowance of $800 per person. (See page 33 for more information on duty-free shopping.)
In addition to the large selection of duty-free shops, where negotiating your best price is the way to get the best deals, you'll find many locally owned shops selling souvenirs, artwork, and a nice selection of handcrafted gift items. For a directory of duty-free stores in the Cayman Islands, go online to www.dutyfreecayman.com.