by Rebecca Underwood BA Hons
For those considering an escape, Grand Cayman, a British Crown Colony and the largest of the Cayman Islands, is located 480 miles south of Miami. The island offers 76 square miles of serene, tranquil beauty, glittering turquoise Caribbean waves lapping over pristine, white, soft sandy beaches and a fascinating rich blend of history and culture.
Discovered by Columbus on his final voyage to the New World in 1503 and visited by Sir Francis Drake eighty years later, the Cayman Islands became a popular port for English, French, Dutch and Spanish vessels seeking to stock up on food and water. The islands came under British control in 1655 when Jamaica was captured from the Spanish by Oliver Cromwell’s army. Today the islands have the highest GDP figures in the region and rank as the world’s second largest captive insurance domicile and the fifth largest international banking centre as well as the benefits of a thriving tourism industry.
The quaint and sedate capital, George Town, is crammed with charming pastel coloured shops offering wide selections of shell jewels and trinkets, local handicrafts made of thatch and wood, beautiful Cayman style bird houses and an assortment of Caribbean style sculptures. For those who love to browse, a stroll around the craft market located beside the sea in a lush garden setting is just the place to spend an afternoon.
Other places of much interest are the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park featuring 65 acres of preserved woodland and a stunning heritage garden with the national flower, the banana orchid, on display. Guests are welcome to wander around an original farm house, lovingly restored and surrounded by swathes of tropical fragrant flowers. Nestling beside a beautiful lake is a simply charming selection of colour themed gardens with scents of jasmine and frangipani hanging in the air.
For those of us who love wildlife, the lake attracts several native aquatic birds with the West Indian whistling duck, brown booby, least tern, white tailed tropic bird, red footed booby, the stripe headed tanager and the West Indian woodpecker drawing admirers from far and wide.
A trip to the turtle farm at Boatswain Beach is another popular site and features a marine park with over 11,000 green sea turtles ranging from six ounces to six hundred pounds in weight. This venue offers the opportunity to wander around a free flight bird aviary, to swim in deep lagoons along with the marine life and to interact at the ‘touch pool’ with star fish, urchins and crabs, a wonderful experience for children and adults alike.
The Cayman Islands National Museum located within the restored 19th century Old Courts Building, which was once a prison, a church and then a court house, overlooks the beautiful Hog Sty Bay and presents an extensive range of exhibits. The collection includes rare documents, a fascinating selection of coins and handmade boats, which provide an insight into the Cayman’s sea faring history.
For those with a taste for luxury and a yearning to be pampered, the Ritz Carlton is the place to stay. Located on a stunning archipelago of three islands and in a prime position on the soft, coral, sands of Seven Mile Beach, the property offers first class amenities and the highest levels of comfort and service. Accommodation options include ocean front guest rooms measuring 480 square feet and include a private terrace furnished with a table and chairs, and the marble bathroom features twin vanities, a luxurious soaking tub and a separate shower.
For an elegant dining experience consider visiting the only AAA Five Diamond restaurant Blue, located within the hotel. The extensive seafood menu will create a dilemma as to which dish to choose. I recommend that you sample the sautéed Cobia with avocado cream, sunflower sprout salad with lime sauce, accompanied by a glass or two of Dom Perignon.
For a casual dining experience consider visiting Cimboco, a bustling Caribbean cafe which features an open kitchen with a fire burning oven and serves the most delicious Caribbean dishes in a laid back atmosphere. This is just the place to unwind before taking an afternoon snooze on the nearest sun lounger.
For a casual cocktail or two in the evening try Coconut Joe’s bar also on Seven Mile Beach. You will find it is the perfect spot to watch people strolling along the shore as soft gentle reggae music ensures that you have surely adapted to Caribbean life.
For jazz lovers, Grand Cayman presents ‘Jazz on the Green’ an outdoor event held in George Town during the spring. The festival of cool contemporary jazz with a Caribbean influence attracts fans from afar.
Treat yourself to a Grand Cayman experience, you are sure to fall in love with this delightful island.
Images supplied with the kind permission of the Cayman Island’s Department of Tourism.