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5 things first-timers should do in Grand Cayman, from snorkeling with stingrays to bioluminescent kayaking

5 things first-timers should do in Grand Cayman, from snorkeling with stingrays to bioluminescent kayaking

Snorkeling with stingrays, exploring shallow sandbars and long walks on an award-winning beach: Grand Cayman offers a plethora of adventures for visitors.

Grand Cayman island is the largest of the three Cayman Islands (Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are the other two). The island lies south of Cuba and boasts year-round warm weather. The popular, crescent-shaped Seven Mile Beach is a public beach, where you can engage in water sports or sunbathe.

Grand Cayman is a retreat for all types, whether you like water sports by day or barhopping in the capital of George Town at night, which makes it easy to see why the destination was among the TripAdvisor’s 25 Best Caribbean Island Getaways for 2019.

Here are five things every first-time visitor to Grand Cayman should experience. 

Walk the length of Seven Mile Beach

Ranked No. 8 on the Best Beaches in the World list by TripAdvisor’s 2019 Travelers’ Choice Awards and noted one of the Best Caribbean Beaches for 2019 by Forbes, Seven Mile Beach boasts a plethora of water sports such as paddleboarding, kayaking and parasailing. The beach is public and continuous, allowing visitors to walk from one end to the next uninterrupted. There are also several bars and restaurants that you can access directly from the beach.

Snorkel with stingrays

Stingray City is in Grand Cayman’s North Sound, a shallow area where tour operators offer encounters with stingray pups. The calm waters became popular for stingray congregations as fishermen historically cleaned their fish in this sandbar ⁠— free food! Knowledgeable guides have named a few of the common visitors and assist in holding the rays at the surface. You can also snorkel nearby to observe the marine life that populate the Caribbean sandbars.

Take a bioluminescent kayak tour

Offered during certain times of the month based on specific moon cycles, bioluminescent kayak tours leave from Rum Point Beach and head to the bioluminescent bay at night. Millions of glowing microorganisms create a light show as you paddle along. The chemical reactions inside the organisms emit an eerie glow.

Go scuba diving

There are dozens of tour operators and 365 well-documented dive sites in the Cayman Islands. You can explore those dive sites through the island’s official diving website, Dive 365. Depending on where divers go, they can spot miles of colorful coral reefs, tropical fish, sea turtles, stingrays, slugs, squids and other species. In addition to the plethora of marine life, Dive 365 notes nine shipwrecks scattered throughout the Cayman Islands, such as the Kittiwake submarine and the Captain Keith Tibbetts Soviet warship. 

Explore the botanical garden

At the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, the Heritage Garden has a replica of a historic Caymanian house along with a small, manicured garden. In the park, the diverse flora includes the wild banana orchid ⁠— the national flower of the island ⁠— and a silk floss tree that toppled during Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Animal lovers can see a habitat housing Grand Cayman’s rare blue iguana and other birds and rare wildlife species.