The mythical land of the pirates of the Caribbean exists: it's the Cayman Islands, synonymous with dreamy beaches and wonderful seas. The small archipelago is made up of only three islands, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. The latter were spotted by Christopher Columbus on his last voyage in 1503: it was the famous explorer who named them Las Tortugas, the turtles, given the numerous specimens of these animals swimming around the islands. Uninhabited lands, the Cayman Islands were declared British soil in the second half of the 1600s but until 1730 they did not host a stable population, also because of the constant raids that made them unsafe.
Today only the legend of pirates remains: the Cayman Islands are a place where life flows quietly, sun-kissed by the Caribbean. The largest of the islands, Grand Cayman, is home to the capital George Town and is about 100 kilometres from Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. The characteristic that unites the three islands, and also makes them an unparalleled destination for tourists, are their diving sites: There are hundreds of them here, within the reach of more or less experienced divers. Some sites are as amazing like Bay Bloody Wall, the incredible vertical wall of Little Cayman. Snorkelers in Grand Cayman can also swim with stingrays in Stingray City or with turtles in the Cayman Turtle Centre, enter the spectacular artificial reef of the USS Kittiwake and then lie on the beach of Seven Mile Beach, considered the most beautiful of the Caribbean. The inland of the largest island is also full of natural attractions, including the Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park, the spectacular Crystal Caves and even hell, that is, the singular rock formation of Hell.
The best season for a visit to the Cayman Islands is winter, when even Costa cruises make a stop on these distant and enchanting lidos. The tropical but not too sultry climate and warm sea are perfect for guaranteeing a dream holiday.
What are the stages you can't miss on your holiday in the Cayman Islands? Discover them with us!
Places not to miss in the Cayman Islands
- George Town
- Seven Mile Beach
- Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park
- Stingray City
- Crystal Caves
- Cayman Turtle Centre
- USS Kittiwake
- Little Cayman
- Bloody Bay Wall
Although you are a long way from Buckingham Palace, remember that George Town is in English territory. This small town is the capital of the Caymans, in fact it is located on the main island, Grand Cayman. Do you know who was the first Englishman to come to Grand Cayman? The famous explore Sir Francis Drake, who found an island inhabited only by turtles and iguanas. Today, George Town is a lively town, welcoming the many tourists who arrive in this earthly paradise. Its position, on a strip of land lapped by the Caribbean Sea on one side and the lagoon on the other, only increases its charm. It is considered the most orderly city of the Caribbean! In its residential streets you can see some elegant "Gingerbread houses" in pastel tones, that is, wooden houses in the architectural style that established itself in Haiti in the late 1800s, with verandas, high ceilings or even turrets.
There are about 21,000 inhabitants of George Town, but in this Cayman Islands city you can find as many as 600 banks! There are so many that they have become a tourist attraction, to look for on the city streets. A great way to visit George Town is on board the Trolley Roger, (9), a tourist tram that takes you to the most popular areas of the city, and that will definitely please the children too. You can then enter refined neighbourhoods such as South Sound, and dream in front of its villas surrounded by tropical flowers and overlooking the turquoise sea.
Among the attractions of George Town we can most certainly mention the Cayman Maritime Treasure Museum, a museum that collects reconstructions of the times when the islands were the home of pirates (there is even a mechanical model of the pirate Blackbeard). The city is also perfect to do some shopping, in its duty free stores that sell all kinds of valuables, but also in local markets, where you can find original souvenirs created by local artisans. Don't miss the opportunity to taste one of the best-known specialities of the Caribbean: rum, which is also a tradition in George Town. You can enjoy it smooth, or try the typical "rum cake", that is an institution here.
Seven Mile Beach
Welcome to the Caribbean' most beautiful beach: Seven Mile Beach, one of the most famous beaches in the world and certainly the best known in Grand Cayman. Seven Mile Beach is popular with tourists, which is why you find it in the world rankings of the most beautiful beaches. What makes this corner of earthly paradise special is probably its simplicity: Seven Mile Beach is nothing more than a strip of fine white sand, about seven miles long, with green palm trees and tropical vegetation, and overlooking a sea that fades from turquoise, to blue, to dark blue. Easy to fall in love with such a lovely place!
Seven Mile Beach, California it's a public beach, a walk from the capital George Town. Just off the beach are hotels, restaurants and clubs where you can take a break from sunbathing and try local or international cuisine. But you'll hardly want to give up your place on Seven Mile Beach, which also has a shallow seabed where children can play safely. Do you want to travel the entire length of this dream beach? There's a segway tour you can go on during the Grand Cayman leg of your Costa cruise, to feel the sun on your skin and the smell of the sea. And of course there are also opportunities to go scuba diving, to discover the reef, or even by submarine. If you want a unique glance at this wonder of nature, think about a helicopter ride to fly over Seven Mile Beach!
Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park
Would you rather immerse yourself in nature than in the sea? In Grand Cayman you'll find the Royal Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park, opened by Her Majesty the Queen of England in 1994 and created to preserve the island's natural heritage. Walking in Grand Cayman's Royal Botanic Park you can see many species of tropical plants and flowers, with unforgettable colours and scents. The park is criss-crossed by trails, and also houses a Tea House, with panoramic views.
At the time of its creation, the Park was only crossed by the Woodland Trail, a path that crosses an ecosystem consisting of about 50% of the plant species native to the Cayman Islands. But over the years, many other attractions have been added, real "natural exhibitions" to admire, such as the Cayman Heritage Garden, the Floral Colour Garden and the Orchid Garden, in which you can also see three species of orchids that have been found only on these islands. Next to the Floral Colour Garden there is also a lake, on which you will see several waterfowl fly.
The Botanical Park is especially famous for its most original "guest": this is in fact the home of the charming blue iguanas, reptiles with incredible blue skin, which here are protected to help them repopulate the island. It is not uncommon to meet a blue iguana along the trails of the Park, while enjoying the sun of the Caribbean.
In Stingray City you will experience a unique emotion: that of swimming among the giant stingrays! From the harbour facing the great lagoon of Grand Cayman, called North Sound, you can in fact set off by boat on this adventure. Stingray City is located within a natural canal that passes through the reef. Here some sandbanks make the water shallow, even less than a metre, although you are far from the coast. And that's where every day so many giant stingrays gather, probably because once the fishermen who returned to the port stopped here to clean the fish and threw the leftovers in the water, which attracted the hungry stingrays.
Subsequently, these beautiful animals learnt to approach man without fear, knowing that they would get some delicious morsels! In fact, tourists can not only swim with the breeds but also feed them, giving them some fish with their bare hands. The waters of Stingray City are incredibly transparent, therefore, also ideal for those who are not diving experts. And the breeds, accustomed to interacting with man, are quiet and swim in small shoals around visitors, letting themselves be admired and caressed.
Where did the pirates of the Cayman Islands hide when they were not at sea? Entering the Crystal Caves on Grand Cayman you will discover one of the most incredible shelters of privateers! The caves are located in the tropical forest in the northern part of the island, and it seems that pirates once used them to protect themselves from storms and prying eyes... legend would have it that several treasures are buried here.
It took millions of years for these incredible underground caverns littered with glistening stalitits and stalagmites to form. Once this part of the island was underwater (we are told this by the fossils of marine animals and shells that were found inside them), but over the centuries, the sea level has dropped and thanks to the water erosion these incredible underground cavities began to form. Rainwater has shaped the face of the caves, which is constantly changing, drop by drop. The Crystal Caves have only recently become a Grand Cayman tourist attraction: the work to make them visitable by all began in the early 1990s, and took another twenty years to complete. Today you can see three of the most beautiful caves, including a "bat-cave" inhabited by bats!
Cayman Turtle Centre
More than 200,000 tourists come to the Cayman Turtle Centre in Grand Cayman to see up close one of the iconic animals of the Cayman Islands, the green turtle. And they are not disappointed, because this centre is unique in the world: born in the late 1960s as "Turtle Farm", over the years it has grown and collaborated in the defence of several species, some of them endangered, which have started to reproduce again in a protected environment.
At the Cayman Turtle Centre you can literally swim with turtles, in a snorkelling pool also populated by lots of tropical fish of all colours. In fact, turtles are not the only inhabitants of the centre: they live alongside iguanas, a crocodile and many tropical birds. At the Cayman Turtle Centre there is also a fun water park, although the most exciting experience you can have here is definitely holding a sweet turtle cub.
In the Eden of Grand Cayman you can even see hell! Hell, which means hell, is in fact one of the most well-known attractions of the largest of the Cayman Islands. It is an impressive expanse of black limestone formations, which is located inland on the northern part of Grand Cayman.
Despite the unreassuring appearance of the dark, porous rock spires, which you can admire from some viewing platforms, Hell has nothing evil about it. In fact, the people who run the shops near this attraction never miss the opportunity to make some "diabolical" themed jokes with visitors. Near the expanse of pinnacles a post office has even been opened. How come? Of course, to allow tourists to send real "Postcards from Hell"!
A snorkelling fan's paradise, Grand Cayman is home to a truly incredible diving site: the USS Kittiwake, an underwater rescue ship transformed into an artificial reef. Experienced divers can explore the interior of the wreck freely, entering its rooms and discovering how the sea is transforming it, while novice divers can simply swim around this underwater wonder.
The USS Kittiwake is located more than 20 metres in front of the last stretch of the famous Seven Mile Beach but is perfectly visible if you fly over the coast, thanks to the clear waters of the Caymans. The history of this ship is fascinating: launched in 1945, it remained in service until 1994. In 2008, it was acquired by the Government of the Cayman Islands, which gave it a very unique new life: on January 5, 2011 it was deliberately sunk off Seven Mile Beach, to make it an artificial reef. And since then it has been one of the must-see things if you come to Grand Cayman.
The smallest island in the Cayman Islands is called Little Cayman: a perfect name, if we think it is only 16 kilometres long. Viewed from above, it is a tiny green stripe bordered with white and surrounded by the blue of the Caribbean Sea. Little Cayman is crossed by one street, which runs all round the perimeter! Given its location and size, this island offers tourists the experience of getting away completely from everyday life: there is no nightlife and confusion in Little Cayman, the few inhabitants of the island are almost all gathered in the small Blossom Village. Its most loved beach is Point of Sand, on the northeast coast, a strip of sand from which you can also see the profile of the third island of the archipelago, Cayman Brac. Grand Cayman, on the other hand, is almost 100 kilometres away.
The island is home to some of the most beautiful diving sites in the Caymans and the world, with a reef so deep that it seems infinite and famous for its virtually vertical walls. And for those looking for a real Robinson Crusoe experience, a visit to Owen Island is a must: this uninhabited islet without any structure is an oasis of peace from times gone by. It is located in the lagoon southwest of Little Cayman, and is easily reached by kayak.
Bloody Bay Wall
Considered one of the most incredible experiences on the planet by the most experienced divers, Blood Bay Wall is located on the north coast of Little Cayman. To make this famous diving site special is its rare wall of virtually vertical coral reef, which drops to over 30 metres below sea level. Little Cayman reef is teeming with sea creatures of all kinds, from seahorses, turtles to sharks.
The most famous section of the Bloody Bay Wall is the Great Wall West, Florida: In 1999 an American photographer took and composed 1999 photos of this stretch of reef, realising a life-size reproduction of it. A project not only wonderful to see (the reef is illuminated practically as if in daylight, and this allows you to discover all the details!) but also very useful for those who study this unique ecosystem. At the moment the same photographer is carrying out a new service, which will allow scientists to assess how much and how Bloody Bay's Great Wall West has changed in recent years.
The Cayman Islands have always made all travellers in love with the sea dream, just like cruise goers. They make diving lovers happy, but also those who want a holiday to the rhythm of Caribbean, enjoying the majesty of nature on land and sea. And getting there by ship is even more spectacular: see the profile of Grand Cayman from your Costa ship it will be an emotion hard to forget!