This week I’m pleased to offer a series of guest posts by P. Andrew Och, a very talented journalist and photographer. Och and I have freelanced together numerous times. Enjoy his tales and insights from his recent trip to Grand Cayman Island. All articles and photos are by P. Andrew Och, unless otherwise noted.
Wherever you travel, popular sites and locations are popular for a reason. Whatever the attraction — whether it be a beautiful view, tasty meal, unusual land formation or activity — they have been tried and tested and proven to be worth your time and effort to get there. However, there’s always another angle to visiting new places, and that’s the local’s angle. So, here are top 10 things the guidebooks won’t tell you about Grand Cayman Island that you might be sorry if you miss!
10. MASTIC TRAIL Grand Cayman is 79 Feet above sea level at its highest elevation. People do not flock to this Caribbean paradise to hike and go mountain climbing. HOWEVER, if you are in the mood for a nice mellow four mile round trip hike, this is where you want to go. Located on the north side of the island this slow incline trail is full of birds, Cayman rabbits and other wildlife. If you park on the main road and walk onto the trail, you can add another two miles to your hike.
9. THE SHOE TREE Ever since Hurricane Ivan, people have been writing their names and dates on shoes, flip flops, swim fins and sandals and tacking them to this tree on the east side of the island. It’s easy to find right on the main road west of Bodden Town.
8. ANCHORSTucked in at the Cayman Islands Yacht Club is a little convenience store called Anchors. This is the only package store that sells carry-out alcohol on Sundays. So, if you find yourself high and dry on a Sunday during your stay, head to Amchors for a six pack of local beer or bottle of wine.
7. CEMETERY BEACH This is a nice beach, and fairly well known. But what most folks don’t know about is the awesome snorkeling reef that is a short swim out. Schools of tangs, eels, parrotfish, sea turtles, rays and an occasional nurse Shark will swim by. It’s an interesting walk past of the many historical cemeteries on the island.
6. THE PIRATE’S DEN PD’s to the locals, this sports bar has some of the best sandwiches and wings on the island. It’s in a little strip mall across from Seven Mile Beach, and you’ll miss it if you blink when driving by. Enjoy flat screen TV’s, a full bar and pool tables. Buffalo shrimp is one menu item that should NOT be overlooked.
5. THE FARMERS & ARTISANS MARKET AT CAMANA BAY Every Wednesday from 12:00-7:00 p.m. at Camana Bay local farmers and artists set up booths in a beautiful open air courtyard environment to show and sell their wares. Everything from fresh produce to local arts and crafts is easily accessible and sold by the hands that grew and crafted the items. There is even an “open canvas” art exhibition that invites anyone to sit and paint the beautiful view of the Camana Bay beach and harbor. While relatively new and mostly attended by locals, this event is open to tourists as well and is a perfect place to pick up unique souvenirs like Caymanite jewelry and sculptures. (I should also add that SECRET #2 can be purchased here.)
4. SHOPPING CART PICK-UP This may seem strange, but will prove extremely helpful if you are staying in a house, condo or anywhere with a kitchen and plan on doing you own grocery shopping. The two major grocery stores — Foster’s Food and Fain & Kirk — offer a cart pick-up service all over the island. So, you load up your groceries and truck them off to wherever you’re staying and leave the cart out at the curb. The best part of this convenience is walking around at night before the pick up and seeing shopping carts all over the place.
3. BLACK PEARL SKATE PARK That’s right, Grand Cayman has a skate park! It was opened and christened by the one and only Tony Hawk back in 2007. So, tell your kids to pack their boards because this park is huge and will keep them shredding all day long.
2. CAYMAN PEPPER PATCH This local artisan pepper jelly is prepared in small batches and can only be purchased on Grand Cayman Island. It is 100% Cayman made and they do not ship or export this stuff, so stock up while you’re there. I cleared out a whole jar, with goat cheese on cracked pepper water crackers. The accompanying brochure comes with many suggestions and recipes, but I can’t imagine anything that this stuff won’t make taste better.
1. DIVING WITH THE SILVERSIDES Every year the dwarf herrings come to the Cayman Islands around early summer and stay through the beginning of fall. The only way I can describe it is like being underwater in a swarm of a million bees that aren’t going to sting you… AND IT’S COOL! You may have seen the footage of documentaries where giant masses of fish all move in unison, almost like a dance. This is seriously one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, and the dive shop to take you is Ambassador Divers. They know the waters, the reefs and the fish better than anyone on the island, and will make sure you get the full silverside experience.
If unique experiences with a local flair are what it takes to make your vacation a memorable experience, any one of these best-kept secrets of Grand Cayman Island should fit the bill to a fun and successful adventure. Check them all off your list or maybe these will lead to other adventures not mentioned here. Whatever the case have a blast and safe travels always!