Visiting George Town - What to See and Do
(Grand Cayman Island Owen Roberts International Airport GCM, Cayman Islands)
George Town on Grand Cayman is the capital city of the British West Indies archipelago of the Cayman Islands. It is a popular stop-off for Caribbean cruise ship passengers looking to take advantage of the bargains offered in the city's central shopping district. For longer-stay holidaymakers, this tropical island offers year-round sunshine, gorgeous beaches, a variety of water sports attractions, a museum, art galleries, tours of Caribbean rum distilleries and vibrant nightlife along the waterfront.
Taxis or rental cars are the best way to get around, although the local bus service offers nine routes across the town and its surroundings. George Town's modest high-rises are centred around the harbour, with the outlying residential enclaves nestling in wooded areas backing the central district. Grand Cayman is the largest island in the archipelago and its inhabitants enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, due to its fame as an offshore tax haven.
Chilling out on the beaches and dancing the night away are favourite occupations here, with the island's tourism industry aimed mainly at wealthy visitors from the USA. Although over two million tourists arrive every year, George Town isn't crowded out with holidaymakers, as most arrivals are day trippers from the docking cruise ships.
Ten things you must do in George Town
- Seven Mile Beach is the best beach on the island, with its long crescent-shaped stretch of soft coral sand and clear azure waters. Most of Grand Cayman's luxury beach resorts and spa hotels are centred here, along with restaurants, laid-back beach bars and a kids' playground. Snorkelling is a favourite occupation, while the sunsets are glorious.
- For an up-close and personal encounter with shoals of friendly stingrays, Stingray City is the place to be. It is a narrow sandbar in the North Sound with a large population of the Atlantic Southern species, seen via snorkelling or scuba-diving (accompanied by a guide), or from a glass-bottomed boat. You can feed the stingrays, and locals insist they're not dangerous.
- Boatswain's Beach Turtle Farm in George Town is a must-see attraction for ecotourists, since the facility is active not only in conservation of the endangered green sea turtle, but in breeding the species for consumption by the islanders, thus saving the dwindling wild turtles from extinction. A butterfly garden, a restaurant and a nature trail are also offered.
- Viewing the spectacular underwater attractions of Grand Cayman via a submarine trip has to be the ultimate Caribbean holiday experience. The small subs hold from two to 48 passengers, and the colourful reefs with their watery inhabitants spread out for miles. Depths of between 1.5 metres / 5 feet and 18 metres / 60 feet are achieved, depending on the submarine, with the smallest offering the deepest dives.
- Eden Rock and the Devil's Grotto boast the finest scuba diving on the island, being located close to George Town. Barracuda, parrot fish, silversides and tarpon glide through the mazes of coral, and the dive is suitable for beginners, as well as intermediates. A good choice of rental equipment shops and dive schools are found in George Town.
- The Pedro St. James National Historic Site is one for the history buffs. Built in 1780 and badly damaged during a fire in 1970, it is now completely restored and gives visitors a chance to experience the life of the wealthy in the island's early days. Costumed guides show tourists around the 'Castle' as the great house is known to locals.
- Taking a cruise on an authentic replica of a 17th-century Spanish sailing ship, as used by the real-life pirates of the Caribbean, is the best way to explore the coastline of the island with its tiny bays and coves. A refreshing swimming break in the crystal-clear waters is included.
- The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park isn't just a beautiful place filled with examples of indigenous flora and fauna, it is also the home of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme. One of the most endangered species on the planet, these 1.8-meter / six-foot long blue reptiles are only found in a small area on Grand Cayman, and are being successfully bred in this programme.
- The waters around Rum Point are famous for their nighttime bioluminescence and are best seen on a guided kayaking trip. Once you are in the area, your paddles stir up millions of tiny plankton, creating a magical, luminous surface on the waves. The coastal mangroves are fascinating in the daytime, and guides take pleasure in explaining the unique ecosystems of the area.
- George Town has a huge selection of eateries serving traditional Caribbean culinary delights such as beef jerky, curried shrimp, oxtail and beans, spiked chicken and lots of fresh seafood options. The traditional drinks are Caribbean rum and the local Stingray beer, perfect accompaniments to the spicy food.