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How to Explore Beyond the Beaches in the Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands is an idyllic destination for beach lovers. See a whole different side of it when you hike and bike, go rock climbing, play golf, and more.

Touring Barkers Bay in Barkers National Park by ATV

Touring Barkers Bay in Barkers National Park by ATV

Courtesy of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Surrounded by vibrant coral reefs, the Cayman Islands boasts some of the world’s most incredible scuba diving and snorkeling as well as legendary oceanfront spots like Seven Mile Beach and Rum Point. But there’s more to this Caribbean destination than sea, sand, and marine life. Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman offer seemingly endless outdoor adventures—including hiking, biking, spelunking, and golf—that don’t require donning a bathing suit, goggles, or fins.

Explore limestone caves and cliffs on Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman

Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Rock climbing the Cayman Brac Bluff

Courtesy of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

The Cayman Islands is made up of the peaks of an undersea mountain range called the Cayman Ridge, topped by large coral heads. Though mostly flat, the highest point of the three islands is The Bluff on the eastern side of Cayman Brac, where a limestone cliff reaches 140 feet high and hugs the coastline. (“Brac” is Gaelic for “bluff.”)

Rock Iguana Ltd. is Cayman’s first rock climbing and adventure tourism outfitter, launched by friends and family passionate about exploring and showcasing this otherworldly island. Get outfitted with ropes, harnesses, belays, and carabiners, then ascend and rappel different sections and heights of rugged limestone outcrops, depending on your skill level, all towering over the alluring azure water.

If spelunking is more your thing, embark on a walking tour through Cayman Crystal Caves at Old Man Bay on Grand Cayman. Once located under the sea, the caves were formed over millions of years through deposits of fossilized shells and marine life, water erosion, and changing sea levels. Rainwater filtered through caverns’ calcium-rich limestone ceilings created majestic stalactite and stalagmite columns. Hundreds of years ago, the caves served as hideouts and shelters for pirates. Some believed that treasures may still be buried within.

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The otherworldly Crystal Caves

Courtesy of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Hit Grand Cayman’s links—or pickleball courts

What’s more appealing than playing a round of golf among swaying palm trees with the backdrop of a picturesque sound? North Sound Golf Club on Grand Cayman is the only 18-hole course on the islands, designed in 1994 by Roy Case, who was inspired by traditional courses in Scotland. The par 71 course has a championship rating of 73.1 and five sets of tee boxes, the 11th hole has a dramatic ocean backdrop, and you might come across tropical birds and curious iguanas in between drives. In addition to a pro shop and open-air bar, you can work on your stroke by hitting balls into the water at their aqua driving range.

Also on Grand Cayman with views of the North Sound, The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Grand Cayman has a nine-hole, 36-par course designed by Greg Norman. The course, set among saltwater lagoons, features a pro shop, equipment rental, and private lessons.

For fans of pickleball (or for competitive couples, family, or friend groups who want to try it), the Cayman Islands offers you the chance to play in a tropical setting. At Pickleball Cayman, 12 shaded courts protect players from the Caribbean sunshine, while all 20 courts feature floodlights for taking advantage of the warm evenings long after the sun has set, and professional coaches are on hand to help you hone your game. The Roost is the perfect place to enjoy post-game sips and appetizers—royal palms, coconut palms, and ornamental greenery surround a lush lawn and garden.

Bike around the peaceful East End

Grand Cayman’s East End is quieter and more rustic than the western side of the island, making it the ideal spot to explore on two wheels. ECO Rides Cayman offers several different bike tours to discover the history, heritage, sights, and nature found on this tranquil slice of Grand Cayman. Venture to spots including the Colliers Wilderness Reserve, a 190-acre sanctuary for the endangered blue iguana, and the Wreck of the Ten Sails, a ten-ship convoy from Jamaica that wrecked on the reef in 1794. Or watch seawater gush out of caves at the Blowholes. Take a break to snap a pic by the heart-shaped plaque at Lovers Wall. It might just be the cutest photo spot on the islands.

Parks, trails, and nature preserves

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Immerse yourself in nature at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park

Courtesy of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Each of the islands is home to trails that reward trekkers with unparalleled natural views and the chance to spot indigenous flora and fauna. On Grand Cayman, the flat, two-mile Mastic Trail meanders through a protected mangrove forest filled with bananaquit birds, tree frogs, and hermit crabs. Nearby, the 65-acre Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park’s seven attractions include a floral garden laid out by color, an orchid boardwalk with four endemic species found nowhere else on earth, and a woodland trail that’s home to the center of the National Trust’s Blue Iguana Conservation program. For something more heart-pounding, try an ATV tour through Barkers National Park.

On Little Cayman, the Salt Rock Nature Trail is a three-mile path from Blossom Village to Salt Rock Dock, a deep-water harbor first used in the 1800s by sailing schooners. During an hour or two here, you’re sure to spot indigenous and migrant land birds, iguanas, butterflies, orchids, and bromeliads.

The 281-acre Parrot Preserve on Cayman Brac houses species including the namesake parrot, vitelline warbler, and red-legged thrush. Also on Cayman Brac, the Lighthouse Footpath is a 2.5-mile hike along coastal bluffs. After watching brown boobies and frigate birds along the way, you’ll eventually end up at the lighthouse—the tallest spot in the Cayman Islands.

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