Popular Grand Cayman Shore Excursions
Stingray City: The top attraction on the island is Stingray City, a sandbar off North Sound where a population of rays once congregated to eat the leftover bits that fishermen threw overboard and now hang out to be fed squid by tourists. Visitors have the unusual opportunity to hop in the shallow water with the habituated creatures, feel their velvety skin and pose for photos. Guides accompany you.
Scuba diving and snorkeling: Cayman Wall is a world-renowned dive site and, arguably, one of the Cayman Islands' main attractions. Snorkelers flock to Devil's Grotto, south of Eden Rock, and can check out the wreck of a 1940s schooner called the Cali just steps from the port. The shipwreck is also the most popular spot to "snuba" (a hybrid of snorkeling and scuba-diving, with air coming through long hoses connected to tanks at the surface, rather than tanks strapped to your back). Snorkeling right off the beach at some spots (near the Marriott at Seven Mile Beach, for example) is super easy and accessible. The island abounds with dive and snorkeling trip operators, such as Ocean Frontiers (800-348-6096) and Divers Down (345-945-1611).
Cayman Turtle Farm: The Cayman Turtle Farm is home to more than 11,000 turtles. It's a unique breeding ground and research center for five species of green sea turtles. Learn about conservation efforts, see hatchlings feed and perhaps be lucky enough to participate in baby turtle releases. The surrounding park has nature trails and bird- and shark-viewing opportunities. (786 Northwest Point Road, West Bay; open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 345-949-3894.)
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park: Located in the North Side district, Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park consists of 65 acres of everything from nature walks and natural wetlands to colorful floral gardens. (Frank Sound Road, North Side; 345-947-9462; open daily, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
Pedro St. James "Castle": Considered the birthplace of democracy in the Cayman Islands, in 1831, residents met here to elect the Cayman's first legislative assembly. The great house itself, circa 1780, is the island's oldest stone structure. It has lovely grounds that are ideal for strolling. Check out the panoramic view from Great Pedro Bluff. (Pedro Castle Road, Savannah; 345-947-3329; open daily from 8:30 a.m.)
Governors Square: A shopping mall at Governors Square features a collection of single-story shops, laid out courtyard-style. A substantial department store is stocked with designer clothes, housewares and a cafe specializing in homemade smoothies and other healthy fare. (23 Lime Tree Bay Avenue, West Bay; open 24 hours a day)
A visit to Hell: The town of Hell is centered on a field of crusty, black, razor-sharp rocks that look like the surface of, well, hell. It's admittedly a tourist trap with nothing to do but buy a few souvenirs and mail a postcard that's postmarked, "Hell."
Best Beach Overall: Often named one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, Seven Mile Beach offers everything from beachfront bars to rows of umbrella-shaded lounge chairs and water sports. Among the placid and clear waters, you can find fine snorkel spots right off the beach -- the artificial reef in front of the Marriott is a particularly good one. Stretching 5.5 miles (not seven), the beach is public, so you can walk the length of it.
Best Secluded Beach: Most cruise passengers head to the beaches on the western part of the island. For seclusion, head northeast of George Town to Cayman Kai, Rum Point or Smith Cove. The drive will take 30 to 40 minutes, but the exclusion is worth it. There are beachside amenities available, including restaurants, beach resorts and water sports.
Best Beach for Water Sports: The best windsurfing is found off East End, near Morritt's Tortuga Club. Cemetery Beach, off West Bay Road (just north of Seven Mile), offers excellent snorkeling and a reef that's close to shore -- as well as good shade.
Best Beach/Shopping Combo: Governors Beach is a stone's throw from Governors Square Mall, making it an ideal destination for people who want to chill out on a beach but get anxious about sparing enough time to shop, too.