When I first arrived in Grand Cayman I didn't think much of the island. There are no mountains, rivers, jungles, or waterfalls and upon first impression I just thought it was a big resort island. However, over the past 2+ years of living here, I have come to discover a more natural and wild side to Cayman that I was not expecting and would like to share with you some of my favourite places and activities on the island that are anything but tourist traps.
1. Stingray City
Probably the first thing everyone does when they come to Grand Cayman, and me being no exception, is go to Stingray City. You will see advertisements everywhere about tours to Stingray City Sandbar or, even better the original site in 12ft of water that you can scuba or freedive at. But being a popular activity for both tourists and locals alike you have to plan your visit wisely if you're like me and wish to avoid the crowds. Planning tip #1: check Port Authority's cruise ship schedule for a day where there are no ships in to cut down the crowd, especially if you want to go to the sandbar. Tip #2: make friends with a local, you're likely to meet someone that has a boat or has a friend with a boat that's going around the North Sound on a Sunday- go with them! Haven't met anyone with a boat? No worries, you can always rent a small boat or jet ski and go on your own if group tours aren't your thing. Tip #3: bring squid, because lets face it- these girls are only after one thing.
2. Starfish Point
So you've got a boat for the day and checked out Stingray City but the stingrays have given you too many "hickies" and you're ready to go. What next? Head to the calm shores of nearby Starfish Point to visit a more docile creature. You can pull your boat or jet ski up close enough to the beach and drop anchor to swim in and visit them. Best time of day to go is morning to about 1pm when they're sunning themselves close to shore. Just be sure to NOT take them out of the water for any amount of time- and don't be shy to inform anyone that does't realise that these are live creatures that don't breathe air.
3. Spotts Public Beach
Spotts is by far my favourite snorkelling spot in Grand Cayman. This is where all the Green Turtles come in to relax and safely feed behind the southern shore's barrier reef. If you were thinking of going to the Turtle Farm go here instead- this is free and the Turtles are in their wild and natural state which is a far superior encounter. You can also see things like Squid, Scorpion Fish, Flounder, and even Seahorses if you're lucky. Not only is the snorkelling amazing but so is the beach. There are picnic tables if you're spending some time there, palm trees for shade, and in the afternoon there is usually a guy selling fresh coconuts near the parking lot access.
4. Colliers Beach
A bit off the beaten path, on the east end of Grand Cayman, is my next favourite snorkelling spot- Colliers Beach. A quite beach with a long dock, public cabanas with benches, and outdoor showers. More importantly though is the marine life. If you are fit and up for a bit of a swim head out towards the barrier reef (being cautious of currents) to check out abundant fish, massive coral heads, Eels, Lobster, Crabs, and Eagle Rays. If you have your sights set on finding an Eagle Ray my tip is to look instead for a cloud of sand, once you see that calmly approach and let the Eagle Ray get used to your presence before getting too close.
5. Pedro's Castle Natural Pool
This site can be hit or miss as it is apparently fed both by the rain and tides. That being said, it's an easy hike if you have to proper shoes on so it's not too terribly disappointing if you get there and its all dried up. While the natural pool is not a tourist attraction with signs pointing you to a well tread path, Pedro's Castle is so you can easily google maps it and use their parking lot. Once parked you will have to employ your sense of adventure to walk down the road around Pedro's Castle and find a tiny foot path that dead ends into a fence and some iron shore, from there it's a 5 minute walk on jagged rocks to get to the pool.
Stay tuned for more sites to come...