Dream Big in Grand Cayman

November 24, 2015 No Comments

Grand Cayman is surrounded by a coral reef, so cruise ships must anchor in Hog Sty Bay and guests are tendered to shore. There are three cruise terminals in George Town: North Terminal, South Terminal, and Royal Watler Cruise Terminal. All three are located in the heart of the capital’s main shopping district.

Taxis are available at the pier, but George Town is easily explored by foot. From the terminals, walk north along Harbour Drive, the city’s colorful waterfront promenade, and plunge into a sea of shops, luxury boutiques, and first-rate restaurants, all clustered within a few-block radius. Caymanians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean region. A hassle-free ambiance pervades, and there’s not a street vendor in sight.

It’s easy to see how the island got its “Brand Cayman” nickname. The Cayman Islands is the world’s fifth-largest financial center, with 40 of the top 50 banks holding licenses here. There’s no sales tax, and duty-free shopping is plentiful by the port, where savvy shoppers will find crystal, china, perfume, cosmetics, linens, and scores of fine jewelry and watches at terrific prices.

Front Street faces the Royal Water Cruise Terminal, which is where to find the tried-and-true classic retailers, Effy Jewelry and Milano Diamond Gallery. Inside the Flagship Building, even more shops await, including jewelry and fine watch shops.

The Cayman Craft Market is a great spot to pick up local souvenirs such as handmade wood carvings, Cayman birdhouses, crocheted items, hot sauces, rum cakes, and jams.

While most of Grand Cayman’s attractions are on or around the water, Historic George Town is full of quaint colonial buildings, and there are a handful of historically significant sites worth exploring. Town Clock, Heroes Square, and the Parliament Buildings are all located nearby the tender docks. The Elmslie Memorial Church, Town Hall, and the Cayman Islands Public Library all bear the structural signature of naval architect Rayal Bodden, who designed the roofs to resemble the hulls of inverted ships.

Facing Harbour Drive, the Cayman Islands National Museum operates in one of Cayman’s few remaining 19th-century buildings. Over time, the charming white structure overlooking Hog Sty Bay has served as a town jail, a parliamentary center, a hall for Sunday worship and civil dances, and the first formal courthouse of the Cayman Islands. The museum houses a collection of more than 4,000 artifacts ranging from tiny coins to a 14-foot-long catamaran. The museum opens every morning with the trumpet of a conch horn.

The exact origins of the nearby Fort George are unknown, but the remains can be explored at the corner of Harbour Drive and Fort Street. The British built the structure out of local coral rock and limestone as a defense against attacks by Spanish marauders. The base of the oval fort once measured 57 feet by 38 feet, with eight embrasures for cannons along the walls and a mahogany gate facing the landward side. Time took its toll on the fortification, but the remains are now protected by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands. The bronze sculpture on the site commemorates the island’s maritime heritage.

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Visit Cayman Turtle Centre, home to more than 11,000 green sea turtles. Swim with yearlings in the lagoon. Enjoy lunch at Schooners Bar and Grill, then continue to the town of Hell to see a unique rock formation said to be over 2 million years old.

Board the Atlantis submarine for a 40-minute underwater voyage where you’ll be enveloped in a rainbow of tropical fish at a depth of 100 feet. It’s a photo op like no other.

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