Dotted with fabulous hotels, top-tier restaurants, and exquisitely beautiful beaches, Grand Cayman is a magnificent place to unwind and recharge—but the Cayman Islands have even more in store for nature fans and history lovers seeking off-the-beaten-path excursions and quiet time in paradise. Take an island-hopping trip that also encompasses Grand Cayman’s Sister Islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, to get the full glory of this Caribbean destination. A trip to either is as simple as boarding a quick puddle-jumper flight from Grand Cayman via Cayman Airways Express or Cayman Airways.
Unspoiled Nature and Fascinating Heritage Sites on Cayman Brac
Cayman Brac is a true nature enthusiast’s paradise. For those who love the life aquatic, in addition to world-class scuba diving, you’ll also find kayaking, deep sea fishing, and plenty of eye-popping snorkeling. (Take your pick at the stunning Brac Reef Beach, located at the Cayman Brac Beach Reef Resort.) On dry land, enjoy breathtaking views during cliff walks on the 153-foot limestone bluff thrusting vertically from the ocean floor. Hiking is first-rate here. The Lighthouse Footpath trail runs two-and-a-half miles along the bluff’s edge, and its rewards come in the form of endless sea views filled with brown boobies and soaring frigate birds, held aloft from the gusts of wind rising from the bluff face.
Marvel at the plentiful caves throughout the island that have given generations of locals shelter during storms. Bring a flashlight or brandish a headlamp to see the dazzling formations inside Nani’s Cave. Or take in the natural light that floods through various openings at the Bat Cave, where you might just find resident black fruit bats sleeping upside down in the darker corners.
There’s an abundance of wildlife to see on the island. Birdwatchers, you’re in luck: Cayman Brac is home to some 200 species of birds, including the endangered Cayman Brac parrot, with a population of only 350. (Keep your eyes peeled for them on the north coast.) In the protected woodland reserve on the bluff, see if you can spot the indigenous vitelline warbler and red-legged thrush. The wetland ponds harbor a wide selection of herons and shorebirds, including the rare West Indian whistling-duck.
When you’re ready to take a break from the sun and sand, explore the customs and history of the Cayman Islands at Cayman Brac Museum, which houses artifacts dating back thousands of years among its exhibits and displays on turtling, ship building, and home life. Over at Cayman Brac Heritage House in North East Bay you’ll find a modern version of a historic Caymanian home, and a living example of Caymanian heritage. Check its calendar for community cultural events and programs, and artistic and historic exhibits. With its wealth of native and imported trees and flora, the acre-plus grounds alone are worth a visit.
Also worth a visit is the family-run NIM (Native Island Made) Things on Spot Bay Road, a colorful craft and jewelry emporium (made from local materials like thatch and Caymanian conch shells) set inside a little yellow house that’s run by the award-winning artisan Tenson Scott. Come for the unique finds and stay a while to hear his charming stories.
Where to Stay
There are many guesthouses, villas, and condos for rent on the island, or check into a top-rated farmhouse like Le Soleil d’Or or the newly renovated Cayman Brac Beach Resort. Carib Sands Beach Resort combines the conveniences of a beachfront villa with the services of a vacation resort, for a more stylish stay.
Where to Eat
Get your fix of the justly fabled Cayman jerk at Barry’s Golden Jerk, in operation for a quarter of a century. Seafood devotees, head to Captain’s Table Restaurant for freshly caught local fish and conch, and other daily specials. For a casual and spirited hang, cool off with a frozen cocktail or mojito alongside wood-fired oven pizzas at the newly remodeled Barracudas Bar and Restaurant, where you can also relax with a game of dominos, darts, or shuffleboard.
Big Thrills Abound on Little Cayman
Just ten miles long and one mile wide, the smallest island in the archipelago also holds some of the biggest wows. Little Cayman, famed for its legendary dive sites such as Bloody Bay and Jackson’s Bight (both on the island’s north side), attracts divers from all over the world. Bloody Bay Wall Marine Park runs parallel to the shoreline, dropping from 15 feet below the surface down to some 5,000 or more feet, and its fan coral and tube sponges harbor a wide array of eels, rays, green sea turtles, and more.
But even if you’re not a scuba diver, there are all sorts of delights here. Hop on a bike or scooter to cruise up and down the shore and savor the serene landscape. Be sure to stop by the Booby Pond Nature Reserve, where the bustle of the birds may be the loudest commotion on the entire island.
Grab a kayak and paddle out to the green, paisley-shaped Owen Island for a spectacular secluded swim or snorkel. Pack a lunch and water, as there are no concession stands or any human development whatsoever—in fact, there are no permanent structures or residents here. Bask in the sweet solitude, fully immersed in nature, an experience you’ll treasure forever.
Or try a bone fishing or deep sea fishing tour with Little C Tours, who also host swimming and snorkeling excursions to the many sandbars in South Hole Sound, where you’ll find calming waters in every shade of blue. Try a “Sunday Funday” BBQ on the boat or the beach and dig into Caymanian and Caribbean local fare and beverages.
Where to Stay
Situated along 900 feet of white coral sand beach, Southern Cross Club faces South Hole Sound and Owen Island. The 14 beachfront bungalows boast stellar ocean views and tremendous charm. If all-inclusive is your preference, check in to the 11-room Pirates Point Resort, which lives up to its slogan, “Island Home Away From Home.”
Where to Eat
Caymanian delights abound at Cook Food Caboose, where you’ll find local favorites like curry goat or shrimp and Little Cayman-style beef, along with a side of breadfruit, cassava or green banana, and the Sunset Oceanview Bar BBQ & Restaurant – McCoy’s, known for their sunset ocean views as much as their Saturday night BBQ chicken and ribs, served with Caymanian rice and peas and local homemade heavy cake.