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The holidays are a big deal on the Cayman Islands full of Christmas bus tours, big family gatherings, delicious meals, and a lot of fun. Caymanians spend months preparing for Christmas (and sometimes even months preparing dishes for the big day—Christmas Cake we’re looking at you). It’s truly a magical time of year, but if you aren’t able to celebrate in Grand Cayman, don’t worry—we’ve gathered up some traditional Caymanian recipes that will give you a little taste of Cayman while at home.

Main Course

Cayman Style Beef

One of the best ways to bring Cayman to your Christmas dinner is with Cayman Style Beef. This tradition holds a special place in Cayman culture, reminding us of a time beef and other foods weren’t easily accessible on island. Each family had their own recipe, adding different ingredients that fit their tastes. Even today, the beef takes all day to cook.

Making Cayman Style Beef takes patience, so if you’re up for the challenge, follow this recipe and don’t be afraid to add your own ingredients too!

Cayman Fish Rundown

Traditionally, Caymanians had little choice but to get most of their food from the sea. A popular dish was fish rundown. Rundown, a thick stew or sauce, has been popular on the island for a very long time but is most commonly referred to in tradition as Fish Stew or Fish Dinner. This simple yet hearty meal could be made in large batches and, again, could have a variety of ingredients based on available fish and preferred spices. Typically, the meal includes the gravy or sauce, fish, and starchy dumplings.

If you’re wanting to celebrate the holidays with a truly beachy flavor, try Fish Rundown for your Caymanian Christmas meal.

Photo of Fish Rundown courtesy of National Trust.

Photo of Fish Rundown courtesy of National Trust. 

Sides

Rice and Peas

Don’t let the name scare you away. Caymanian “rice and peas” are actually just a special twist on black beans and rice. Made with coconut milk, this side dish has a taste of the Caribbean you won’t find in other versions of rice and beans. It makes the perfect side for your holiday supper.

Cayman Style Potato Salad

Just like in the states, potato salad is a staple at Cayman events. Potato salad is served at Easter, casual weekend get-togethers, and, of course, Christmas. Cayman potato salad is similar to potato salad made in the states, but a distinct difference on the ingredient list are beets which add unique flavor and color.


Dessert

Macaroni Pudding

I know what you’re thinking: “macaroni for dessert?” It sounds crazy, but Macaroni Pudding is one of Cayman’s most popular desserts. Much like bread pudding, this pudding meal combines a delicious combination of sweet spices, raisins, and, yes, elbow macaroni. Trust us when we say it tastes great!

Christmas Cake

Christmas cake reportedly originated in England and eventually made its way to the Cayman Islands where it has remained a popular holiday staple. Comparable to a fruit cake, this dessert includes a variety of fruits, spices, and, of course, rum. Christmas cake can take anywhere from 48 hours to a year to prepare and is very customizable. Every family has a different way of making their Christmas Cake and the tradition is taken seriously. We found this basic recipe for you to follow and modify as you wish.

Photo courtesy of National Trust.

If you're interested in learning more about Caymanian style cooking, check out one of the National Trust's Traditional Cooking classes next time you're on island.

Caymanians love the holidays, and love sharing these traditions with others. By incorporating some of these traditional dishes into your holiday celebration, you can have a little bit of the islands in your own home.

If this taste of Cayman wanting more, then call Lisa or Josephine in our office at 345-945-4354 to book your stay with us in Cayman or you can book right now online.


Thank you to the National Trust for allowing us to use their photos in this article. If you're interested in learning more about the National Trust and their Traditional Cooking Classes, visit their website.

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Central George Town is home to an abundance of fun shops, delicious restaurants, and breathtaking ocean views, but did you know George Town is also home to some unique and interesting historic sites? Next time you’re in town on a mission to shop ‘til you drop, take some time to see these amazing historic places!

Mr. Arthur’s Home and Print Shop

At 186 North Church Street, you’ll find a small home and print shop that now operates as a general store. This small, white shiplap shop could be missed if you don’t know what you’re looking for. The shop offers a glimpse at Grand Cayman’s historical architecture and is the perfect place to stop if you need some snacks and drinks while walking through town.

Built in the late 1800s, the store was originally Mr. Arthur’s Home and Print Shop, owned by Arthur Bodden and his family. Known for his spotless white shirt, cap and pipe, Arthur was the first wireless operator and weather specialist on Grand Cayman. The print shop across from his home operated for more than 50 years printing Cayman Islands Government stationary.


Fort George

If you've ever noticed the wooden hut on a tall pole in George Town, you might have wondered where it came from. It’s a unique sight to see while strolling the shops on Harbour Drive, but this small site has a lot of tales to tell.

The hut is actually what remains of Fort George. Fort George was built sometime around the 1790s as a means to protect the island. It’s not clear whether Fort George ever successfully warded off an attack, but it was manned by local militias for many years. Eventually, the site was mostly abandoned and the sand-bottomed fort became a play area for children at the neighboring school. During World War II, a lookout hut was added to a silk cotton tree and was used by watchmen to monitor for German U-boats that commonly patrolled the Caribbean. It was abandoned after the war.

When a developer began to demolish the dilapidated Fort George in 1972, locals dedicated to protecting Grand Cayman’s history protested by standing in front of the remaining structure and eventually saved it.

Now a National Trust protected site, a replica of the lookout house was constructed using pieces of the original that had crumbled over years with no upkeep; it is now one of the more prominent features of a stroll through town, and one passersby ask many questions about.

When you visit, you’ll want to check out the three-panel mural painted by local artist John Broad that depicts three events that represent the strong history of both Fort George and Grand Cayman: an attack by Spanish marauders, a U-boat bombing, and an Easter Regatta.



George Town Step Well

Perhaps one of the easiest sites to miss and most unique in downtown George Town is the George Town Step Well.

When you’re picking out a souvenir cap at Outlet Embroidery Shop in Bayshore Mall, make sure you look at your feet. Viewable through a pane of glass, the George Town Step Well is believed to be one of four freshwater wells recorded in Grand Cayman in the 1700s. The well likely served as the main water source for residents of Hog Sty Bay and ships that docked at the port. The well was discovered by developers in 2003 and was excavated by local archeologists who found remnants of 18th-century pottery, glass, and other treasures. You can even see some of these artifacts outside the shop. The Grand Cayman Water Authority also found the water at the bottom of the well was perfectly good to drink today!


Take a Walk Through Time

If you’re interested in learning more about the history and cultural background of Grand Cayman, these unique sites are must-sees, even if they’re hard to spot at first. Next time you’re wandering through George Town, make sure you take some time to take a trip back in time at these amazing sites.

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Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, located on the island’s north side, combines two of our very favorite things about Cayman—incredible natural beauty and rich history! John Lawrus is the General Manager of Botanic Park, and we recently had the honor of taking a tour of this incredible park with him.

John shared with us that Botanic Park, owned jointly by the Cayman Islands Government and The National Trust, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The park was opened by its namesake, Queen Elizabeth herself, in 1994. (John had the honor of meeting the Queen at the 2008 Chelsea Flower Show, where the park took home a Silver Medal!) When it first opened, the only completed attraction was the Woodland Trail.  Since then, the park has grown by leaps and bounds, encompassing 65 acres in total and boasting beautiful features like the Floral Colour Garden, the fascinating Heritage Garden, and award-winning orchids, plus it's home to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program through the National Trust. You can even spot some blues roaming throughout the park!

Originally from Canada, John moved to Cayman around 18 years ago to work in Botanic Park. He’s always had a passion for plants since childhood. Though he initially studied finance in school, the pull towards working with nature proved stronger than the pull towards numbers. He went back to school, attending the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture, which is one of the most highly regarded educational tracks in the horticulture field. The coursework was intense, and John said that the students even had room inspections! But he knew the program provided unparalleled job opportunities in the field, so it was all worth it. After graduating, John worked at the UBC Botanical Garden in Vancouver before seeing a job opening in Cayman. From there, he's worked his way up from Garden Supervisor to Deputy General Manager to his current position as General Manager today.

John’s passion for preservation and his enthusiasm for the calming power of nature is contagious. As a bit of an “indoor girl” myself, I’m not usually drawn to learning about plant life on my own. But hearing John talk about the origin of certain trees, flowers, and uses for medicinal plants made me realize I've been missing out. I really enjoyed learning about which herbs can be used in teas to help with various ailments. John also told us the story of a particular tree that was knocked over by hurricane winds. The tree was able to withstand the damage and has continued growing, just in a new direction.

My personal favorite part of the park was the Heritage Garden, which pays homage to native plants that have played a huge role in Cayman’s history. (It's also the winner of the Silver Medal from the 2008 Chelsea Flower Show in London!) In addition to highlighting important species like the Silver Thatch Palm, it also includes fruit trees, a medicinal garden, plus an original Caymanian house, owned by the Rankine family circa 1900. John told us that eight members of the Rankine family lived in the cozy iron-wood home—it's a little hard to imagine today! Instead of having a lawn with grass, the home was surrounded by a sand yard, which has been replicated down to the white conch shells lining the pathway to the front door. There’s even a “caboose” kitchen, which is separate from the main house.

Silver Thatch Palm lines the roof of the Heritage House, which is decorated to match how it would have looked in the early 1900s.

As we walked through the park, John shared his favorite aspects of his job—getting to spend time in nature and the ability to provide a beautiful place for others to come and enjoy. He loves being able to work in a place that provides peace and relaxation for others. John says he especially loves the diversity of plant life in the park— beautifully landscaped areas located next to spots with a more “rugged” feel where the plants grow a little more freely.

Enjoy a stroll in the shade on the Woodland Trail. 

John is also incredibly proud of the work being done on the new Children’s Garden within the park. With much-appreciated support from all the Rotary Clubs across the island, construction on phase one began in December 2018, and the Garden Grow Zone was just recently completed. Once it’s finished, the Children's Garden will include awesome features like a sensory garden, splash pad, maze, observation tower, and more. As a father to a young daughter, John said he was very excited to help provide a place where kids can be kids—to play in the dirt, get a little sweaty, and just enjoy spending time outside. He said the design for the park kept children of all personalities in mind—from those who prefer to run around and crawl through tunnels to those who would rather take in their surroundings a little more quietly from a comfy seat. (If you're interested in keeping up with the Children's Park, follow Botanic Park on Facebook for more info!).

When he isn't taking care of the park, John enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He likes to relax by going fishing or spending any time around water (which, as we know, Cayman offers the best of all water-related activities!) He also lives on the north side of the island, and gave us a few hints on the best place to grab a bite in the area—he recommends Over the Edge Cafe and Kurt's Corner in Old Man Bay, which is "the truest pub on the island." He recommends even more highly that you get your lunch to-go and come eat it in the park.

A blue happily takes in some sun.

Next time you're on island, we can't recommend a visit to Botanic Park enough. John even says, it's "the most peaceful place on island," especially to take a walk, and who are we to argue with him? So pack yourself a picnic and come take it all in. And if you see John, be sure to ask him to show you his favorite plant in the park!

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We can all agree that Cayman is a beautiful island with so much history and such amazing sights and wildlife. The National Trust for the Cayman Islands was established to make sure none of that is lost. Founded in 1987, its mission is, "To preserve natural environments and places of historic significance for present and future generations of the Cayman Islands." We are so glad that they have upheld these values for over 30 years and continue their mission through education, conservation programs, and hosting events across the island.

Nadia Hardie is the Executive Director of the National Trust. We had the opportunity to sit down with Nadia to learn more about the amazing work of the National Trust. (And you can check out more about her personal story here!)

The National Trust is a non-profit organization comprised of over 800 members. Its members have access to all Trust activities, discounts at National Trust properties in many different countries, and other amazing perks and benefits. We were surprised at how affordable membership to the Trust is—it would be well worth the investment for both Cayman visitors and residents. We could write a whole book about the different programs and benefits provided by the National Trust, but we will highlight just a few here.

Animal Conservation Programs

In our conversation with Nadia, we learned that there are many programs that work to protect wildlife across Cayman. The Trust now maintains over 3,000 acres of protected areas to ensure that these plants and animals have an environment in which they can thrive.

It is obvious that she is passionate about the Trust’s mission. She was excited to tell us about some of the animals that the Trust works to protect. The Trust has identified certain animals that require more than just maintaining their natural environment. For animals like the Blue Iguana and several species of bats, the Trust engages in conservation programs.

The Resurgence of the Blue Iguana

Nadia explained to us the work that the Trust is doing on behalf of the Blue Iguanas (blues), a species endemic to Cayman. In the 1980s, Blue Iguanas were on the verge of extinction and had all but disappeared from the island. Nadia informed us that at one point, there were as few as 30 blues in existence. This sparked the National Trust to establish the Blue Iguana Recovery Program. (You can read our interview with Nick Ebanks, Operations Manager of the Recovery program, here.)

The program was founded in 1990 and has made significant progress towards the preservation of Blue Iguanas. As of 2018, there were 1,000 blues in the wild population! Not only does the Trust assist with the breeding process and reintroducing the animals into the wild, it also works with researchers to monitor the population. It is the hope of the Trust that one day this program will not be necessary and Blue Iguanas will be able to breed and support themselves.

Protecting the Bats

Bats are also protected in Cayman since they serve many crucial functions on island. There is a lot of misinformation about bats and, as a result, they have been killed and their habitats have been destroyed. The National Trust recognizes the importance of these creatures and helps to maintain the population. Nadia even told us about a “Bats and Bonfires” event where they have a bonfire, fire dancers, food, and presentations on bat conservation.

Along with providing education about bats, the Trust also puts up bat houses across the island and does bat removals from households (as long as it isn’t pup season). Nadia stated that during pup season (June-October), they are unable to do any removals because it would put young bats at risk of abandonment by their parents. Who knew there was so much to know about bats?

Fun with Cultural Education

We were excited to find out about the different types of National Trust events that are great for families and people of all ages. Some of these events include Breakfast with Iguanas, Bats and Bonfires, craft workshops, family fun days, and various wildlife and historical tours. They also host a “Little Explorers” morning every Wednesday morning with art projects and fun activities for the kids! The Trust does an amazing job of providing cultural education in a fun and engaging environment.

One of our favorite initiatives by the Trust is the Explorer Passport to Grand Cayman, which helps visitors and residents discover some amazing sites across the island. The Explorer Passport comes with a map, stickers, and pages with fun facts and information on different locations on island. This is a great opportunity to learn about Cayman culture and have fun while doing it. The Explorer Passports are available at the Nature Store in Dart Family Park for only $10! We are so excited about this that we even wrote a whole blog post about it!

Get Involved

Looking for ways to give back while in Cayman? The National Trust has many different volunteer opportunities for both residents and visitors of Cayman. If you and your family would want to coordinate a volunteer opportunity to give back, the Trust has plenty of opportunities for you to lend a hand—Nadia and the Trust would be excited to have you!

If you would like to coordinate a volunteer opportunity for your group or family, you can contact her at director@nationaltrust.org.ky or the Community Development Manager, Karie Bounds at community@nationaltrust.org.ky.

Membership to the Trust comes with many local perks and even offers discounts and admission into National Trust properties in participating countries across the World. The membership fees allow the Trust to manage and maintain nine different environmental reserves. The Trust also offers corporate sponsorships and partnerships to aid in cultural, educational, conservation and environmental initiatives.

For more information on programs, membership and upcoming events, visit the National Trust for the Cayman Islands website.

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Nadia Hardie is a natural leader, and I don't just say that because she is the leader of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands. She is indeed the Executive Director, but when I first met her last fall at the National Trust, I was enamored by both her professionalism and charismatic personality. Nadia is definitely the kind of person I'd want to follow! 

She's a self proclaimed "Cayman Coconut," with a fascinating cultural background like so many others in Cayman. Although a world traveler practically from birth, Cayman has earned the beloved title of "home" for Nadia. She was born in Trinidad to a Welsh father and Austrian mother. She spent a brief time in the Bahamas as a baby, but lived most of her first eleven years in Switzerland. Then the family returned to the Caribbean, making Cayman their home in 1985—wow, can you imagine a lifetime of travel in just your first decade of life? And that was just the start for Nadia. After her family moved to Cayman she was back and forth between the Caribbean and London, where she attended boarding school and university.

Nadia remembers her summer holidays in Cayman with fondness. She grew up in a Cayman of about 20,000 people, where everyone knew everyone and it was safe to hitch a ride home from anyone driving by. She spent her summers walking from her house on South Church Street to the Holiday Inn on Seven Mile Beach. Without smartphones and social media to plan meetups, the beach at the Holiday Inn served as the local meetup and place socialize. "You knew if you went there everybody would be there."

After university Nadia spent a little over a decade working in London, and of course visiting her family in Cayman when she could. She felt a special yearning to return home to be with her family, so she took some time to backpack around the world and then settled back at home in Cayman in 2002. 

Nadia has a wide range of experience working in both of the major industries in Cayman: tourism and finance. She spent 10 years working in sales at different hotels across the island and another 6 years working for businesses like Deloitte in financial services. When asked about her current role at the National Trust, she says it's a dream come true. She gets to use the skills she's acquired in business over the years to help protect historic and environmental places of significance in the Cayman Islands. Taking care of her homeland is a mission that is near and dear to her heart. It's easy to see how much she loves this place when you talk to her about the work of the Trust.

In Nadia's own words, "Cayman is a lovely place to grow up," and now she and her husband, Damon, have the gift of raising their two girls, Sasha and Mia, here. Damon, originally from New Zealand, came to Georgetown to visit a friend and celebrate the new millennium in December of 1999 and never went back home. He got a job offer and phoned home that he was staying in the Caribbean. Shortly after, he and Nadia met and the rest is history.

When she's not working to protect Cayman, Nadia loves spending time with her family. They're an active family that love boating and the sports life. Nadia herself was a huge football (soccer) player and a "massive field hockey person." Now she laughs that her sport is driving her kids around from sport to sport. One daughter is a squash champion and the other is an excellent football player. "I encourage them to be as active as possible," Nadia adds. The family loves taking holiday vacations to New Zealand during their winter to ski and to the North Carolina mountains for a different landscape experience. She adds, "When we live here why would we go on a summer holiday? We have the best beaches right here."

We talk some more and Nadia tells me all about the work of The National Trust (perhaps enough for an entire blog post—hint hint—one that might be coming soon to a blog near you soon). ;) She also tells me about her furry love, Maisy, a Shih Tzu who's like her 3rd child and an absolute sweetheart. She starts to recommend local restaurants I should try: Vivine's on the East End, Singh's Roti in Georgetown, Champion House II (where you might meet Shelly), Vivo for the vegan hearted, and Alfresco's to dine on the beach. She leaves me with a book recommendation as well, for Don't Stop the Carnival. She says it's a hilarious comedy about escaping a mid-life crisis in the Caribbean. Maybe just the book to read next time you're on the beach! (Catch these tips to make that reading experience even better.)

Stay tuned for more from Nadia and The National Trust for the Cayman Islands as we share a post about all the great work the Trust is doing next month.
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The blue iguana is a beautiful and important animal native to the Cayman Islands. The blue iguanas, or blues, were once faced with extinction, but are now on their way back to a stable, healthy population. We were lucky enough to get some insights into how the blue iguanas are being revitalized from Nick Ebanks. Nick is the Operations Manager of the Blue Iguana Recovery, which is an initiative of The National Trust for the Cayman Islands. The recovery itself is located on the grounds of Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park on the north side of the island, about a 45 minute drive from the condos.

The Blue Iguana Recovery Program was founded in 1990 as an effort to save the critically endangered species, whose population was down to only 30. The facility cares for and monitors blue iguanas, aids in the breeding process, strategically releases ready iguanas into the wild, and works with research institutions to help ensure genetic diversity within the wild population. In July 2018, the program hit a huge milestone when the wild population reached 1,000 blues. Though the program has successfully saved the blue iguanas from extinction, the work isn’t over. The ultimate goal is for the blues to be able to naturally breed and support themselves in the wild, thus eliminating the need for the program altogether. Nick says, “If we lose our jobs—perfect. That’s the goal.”


The very photogenic Peter

As Nick showed us around the rescue, I asked him a few questions about himself. Nick is a native Caymanian from West Bay. Though he didn’t always expect to be a conservationist, he’s grown to deeply appreciate and respect all forms of living creatures. After a period of time working with bats, he began volunteering at the iguana rescue around four years ago. After getting plenty of on-the-job experience, he worked all the way up to his operations manager position today. When asked what he likes most about his job, he said he really enjoys spending time outdoors, and working with great, like-minded people who are all very dedicated to taking care of the iguanas. He said conservation is very fulfilling and meaningful work, plus it’s an added bonus to be free from the restrictions that come along with an office job.

As we looked around, one of Nick’s coworkers, warden Alberto, joined us. Alberto showed us the “main attraction” blue iguana, Peter. Peter was born in 2003 to wild parents, but he liked to hang around Botanic Park so much that he basically adopted the staff himself! The program recruited Peter as an educational animal since he is so friendly—he enjoys being picked up by Alberto to be shown to visitors and isn’t bothered at all by attention. As I soon learned, Alberto himself is also a bit of a park star. He has a huge heart for the iguanas and is a beloved tour guide, so I’d highly recommend you request him if you stop by!


Alberto and Nick 

In addition to meeting a few of these sweet iguanas, the best thing about the tour was learning all about the animals from Nick. The iguanas blue color can change due to their environment, the sun, their food, and mood. It’s also a great indicator of overall health, so the staff monitors each iguana's color every day. One of the neatest things I saw while visiting was a small territorial spat between two roaming iguanas, Shreddy and Orro. Nick explained that Orro tread a little too closely on Shreddy’s territory, then pointed out how Orro took up a submissive posture and her color turned more light blue as a show of, “Hey, I know you’re top iguana, it’s all good here.” It was very cool to see up close!

As you might have guessed, Nick’s passion for animals and the Cayman wilderness extends beyond just his day job. At home he is fostering a dog named Vinny. He also tries to spend as much time as possible outdoors, doing everything from climbing, exploring, and observing native birds and insects to getting in a game of ultimate frisbee. “I like to keep it nice and simple—busy and simple,” he says. Once he reaches the goal of the blue iguanas being able to sustain themselves in the wild, he'd like to work with revitalizing native bird populations.


A beautiful blue enjoying basking in the sun in Botanic Park

I highly recommend you come visit the blues yourself the next time you’re on island and say hi to Nick, Alberto, and Peter. You can catch one of two daily tours given, Monday through Saturday, or you can schedule a private tour. Then you should see if you can spot some of the roaming blues in Botanic Park! Check out their website for more information about tour times.

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I was so excited when I first heard about the "Explorer Passport" created by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands.  I've been visiting Cayman for about 5 years, and was surprised to discover that I'd been to less than half of the places included in the passport. There are some points of interest that I hadn't even heard of which goes to show there is always something new to discover on this island.

The passport is an awesome activity booklet that the National Trust created to promote the cultural, historical and natural wonders of the island. It has 39 points of interest inside and comes with a poster-map and stickers to place on each location as you visit them.

The booklet describes the significance of each attraction and has extra tips for things to do, try or look for at each place. You'll find yourself eager to go to each spot so you can proudly put another sticker on your map. Kids will love the stickers and fun activities, and adults—you will love developing a deep sense of connection to the island as you learn more about what makes it so special; and who are we kidding, you will love the stickers, too!

The fun doesn't stop with the stickers and the map either. There are extra tips in the booklet which are presented as 3 things to check off at every place. The tips give even more reason to visit each attraction and made me want to revisit most of the places I had already been so I could experience something I missed the first time. For instance, one of the points of interest is Boggy Sand Road; the book explains that the street is lined with historic homes and the extra tips ask if you've seen:

  • Gingerbread fretwork (each district was known for its unique style)
  • Zinc roofs and expansive verandas
  • Traditional sand yards trimmed with conch shells

Although I've been to this sweet street before, I didn't know to look for these things that are culturally significant to the island. It made me want to go back and check off each item and read more about the traditional architecture in Cayman. 

The map even includes some culturally important places that few locals know about. While I was taking pictures of Miss Lassie's House, another place in the passport, a jogger approached on what seemed like her daily route. She saw me taking photos of the house and then saw the house. She stopped, pulled out her phone and took a couple of snapshots of the place saying she had never noticed it before. It's amazing what you miss when you're not looking for something.

There's so much joy in the "hunt," and taking your passport along on an island road-trip makes for easy exploring. A lot of the attractions are free and you can drive up to several of them anytime (even on Sundays when many island shops and attractions are closed).

So grab the passport and hit the road for some adventure. I suggest taking the day as it comes. Just pick a place on the map and go! Since some of the attractions are "off the beaten path" you'll discover a lot of things along the way, too. For instance, my husband and I found Dart Park by The National Trust—one of the stops on the map. At Dart Park you'll find super cool trees, an iron-shore full of fossils and little hermit crabs. It wasn't on the map, but we wouldn't have discovered it if we hadn't pulled in to see the Trust. We also happened upon a stretch of highway that followed the southern coastline just past Miss Lassie's House. Somehow in the five years I'd been frequenting Cayman we always bypassed that stretch of coastal highway and it was really pretty. I was so glad we found it.

Some of my favorite spots on the map have been Spotts Beach (for the sea turtles!), Crystal Caves and Heritage Beach. Honestly, I've enjoyed visiting them all, but I don't want to spoil any more of the fun for you.

Pick up your very own "Explorer Passport" at the National Trust and start discovering Cayman like never before. The packet only costs $10 KYD, and you'll have a blast checking off each location. Enjoy, and let us know when you've checked off all 39!

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There are so many things to do in Grand Cayman that it's easy to miss these gems that are just off the beaten path. Next time you're in Cayman and you're looking for something different to do, visit some of these hidden places patiently awaiting your arrival.


  1. Nature Path at Wreck of the Ten Sail

You may have heard of the Wreck of the Ten Sail Memorial, but few people talk about the gorgeous nature that surrounds it including a path that winds through palm trees, plumeria plants and more. It's worth a leisurely stroll!


   
spotify island playlist
  2. The Bird Sanctuary

The Governor Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary is tucked in it's own little corner of the Spotts Newlands area right off of Shamrock Road. The sanctuary includes a small pond with a dock and bench for wildlife viewing. The pond is full of turtles that will swim up to you when you step onto the dock, too. 

     
book
  3. Smith's Cove

Smith's Cove, a local favorite, provides the perfect place to wade in the water, and the beach area is surrounded by trees that provide plenty of shade to read a book, unpack a picnic or simply reflect. Katrina McTaggart even called it a magical place for refuge.

     
coffee mug on beach hut table
  4. Lover's Wall

Grab your sweetie and take a drive to Lover's Wall in the East End on Sea View Road. You'll find it right before you get to The Blowholes. Pull off the road to walk around the quiet coast and of course snap an Instagram-worthy pic with your special someone in front of the sign.

     

  5. The Mangroves

The mangroves serve an important ecological purpose in Cayman. You'll need to go by kayak to explore them as quarters can get tight! Lucky for you we wrote a post all about kayaking through them here. It's a mix of nature, education and fun.  

     

  6. Heritage Beach

This beach is a great picnic spot, and one frequented by East Enders looking for a quiet family lunch or peaceful break. The beach is owned and protected by the National Trust as one of the few remaining natural stretches of beach land in Cayman. 

     
underwater photo of girls with sand dollars
  7. Library Beach

This teeny beach on the East End is one that any self-described book lover has to visit for at least a fun photo opp. Don't forget a book and your shushing pose! An introvert's dream beach!

 

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Get to know Grand Cayman better by treating yourself to a day of Cayman History. We've rounded up five fascinating, historical attractions (some well known and some not) that you can see in a single day trip. Check them out below!

Pedro St. James Castle

Pedro St. James CastlePedro St. James Castle is a Cayman "Great House," and a great place to see what life was like in old Cayman. The house was originally built in the late 1700's and has been lovingly restored to its original 18th Century glory with period furniture and historical displays throughout its three stories.

The house was built by a wealthy Englishman using Jamaican slave labor, and at the time there were only about 500 people living on the island. Most of the houses around the property were little "wattle and daub" single level homes. Imagine the attention this "castle" must have garnered!

Pedro St. James is perched upon a beautiful beachfront area of South Sound. History buffs and novices alike will adore this site for both its beautiful views and grand stories. Self-guided and guided tours are available with fees ranging from CI$5 to CI$15.

Nurse Leila's House

Nurse Leila's House was purchased by the National Trust in 2006 due as much to Leila's historical contributions to the island as the structure's historical significance itself.

midwives houseThe beloved Nurse Leila was a Caymanian nurse, midwife, columnist and church activist. As midwife, Nurse Leila delivered over 1000 Cayman babies in West Bay, many of which were born in this house and still live on the island today.

The house itself is one of a few "wattle and daub" houses left on the island and the only one of its kind owned by the National Trust. It's currently undergoing a full restoration, but you can drive by and check it out on West Church Street just past the four way stop in West Bay. There's a sign with additional details at the front of the property. This one is a quick feel-good stop!

Mission House

The Mission House is a traditional, two-story Cayman home located in the heart of Bodden Town. The house was built in the 1700's and became popularly known as the Mission House during the 1800's, due to the missionaries, teachers and families that lived there and helped establish the local Presbyterian school and ministry in Bodden Town. Guided tours are available by appointment only, so make sure to call 749-1123 or email mission@nationaltrust.org.ky to schedule your tour ahead of time. Entry fees are CI$8 for adults or CI$4 for children with groups of 4 or more.

Historic Step Well

If you stumbled upon this site unknowingly, you might not think much of it. Its story is what makes it so interesting. This historic well is believed to be one of four wells documented on a British surveyor's map from the early 1700's where ships would stop to stock up on fresh water. What's most interesting about this site, though, is that it was completely lost until 2003 when it was discovered on the site of a development project. The property owner decided to partner with the Cayman Islands National Museum to preserve this treasure by building around it.

So now, the step well is located in the middle of a shop in the Bayshore Mall in Georgetown (located on S Church Street). You can walk into the shop and find the well beneath a glass encasement. You can safely walk on the glass cover and peer down into the well. What's even better is that the water in the well has been rated good enough to drink still today!

Fort George

Fort George, nestled in the capital city of Georgetown, dates back as far as the 1700's and has been used as recently as WWII. The fort was originally built to fend off potential Spanish attacks from the shores of nearby Cuba. A lookout house assembled of original doors and windows plus other historical salvage material from the island sits in a cotton tree at the fort. The lookout house was built to resemble one that locals used at the fort to watch for German submarines during WWII. Fort George can be found at the corner of Harbour Drive and Fort Street and is free to visit.

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The Cayman Islands has 17 unique bird sub-species that are endemic to the islands. Meaning these birds can only be found in the Cayman Islands and no where else in the world! While there are no endemic bird species in the Cayman Islands anymore, the islands were once home to the endemic Cayman Islands Thrush species which became extinct by the 1940's.

BananaquitOut of the 17 endemic sub-species however, thirteen live on Grand Cayman island, while four others also live on the Sister Islands. Below you'll find the list of 17 sub-species and which island(s) they reside on in parentheses.

Endemic Sub-Species of Birds Living in the Cayman Islands

  1. Caribbean Dove: collaris (Grand Cayman)
  2. Cuban Parrot: caymanensis (Grand Cayman)*
  3. Cuban Parrot: hesterna (Cayman Brac)
  4. West Indian Woodpecker: caymanensis (Grand Cayman)
  5. Northern Flicker: gundlachi (Grand Cayman)
  6. Carribbean Elaenia: caymanensis (Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac)
  7. Loggerhead Kingbird: caymanensis (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac)
  8. Red-legged Thrush: coryi (Cayman Brac)
  9. Thick-billed Vireo: alleni (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac)
  10. Yucatan Vireo: caymanensis (Grand Cayman)
  11. Bananaquit: sharpei (Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac)
  12. Vitelline Warbler: vitellina (Grand Cayman)**
  13. Vitelline Warbler: crawfordi (Little Cayman, Cayman Brac)**
  14. Western Spindalis: salvini (Grand Cayman)
  15. Cuban Bullfinch: taylori (Grand Cayman)
  16. Greater Antillean Grackle: caymanensis (Grand Cayman)
  17. Greater Antillean Grackle: bangsi (Little Cayman)

* Commonly known as the Grand Cayman Parrot, this parrot is the official national bird of the Cayman Islands.

** The majority of the world's population of all Vitelline Warblers live on the Cayman Islands with only a few others living on the Swan Islands off of Honduras. 

In addition to these unique sub-species, there are over 200 species of birds on the Cayman Islands which has made the islands a popular destination for birding. There are several reserves that are ideal for bird watching, too. Pick out one of the spots below and take a turn at watching the wide array of birds here.

Great Spots for Watching Birds in Grand Cayman

  • Governor Gore’s Bird Sanctuary in Spotts Newlands area
  • Mastic Reserve
  • Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
  • Salina Reserve in the East End
  • Central Mangrove Wetland
  • Barkers National Park in West Bay
  • Meagre Bay Pond near Bodden Town
  • Colliers Bay Pond north of East End


Resources used in this blog post:

A birds-eye view of bird watching, Compass Cayman Article
Cayman Islands, Fatbirder Webpage
A Photographic Guide to the Birds of the Cayman Islands, Page 272
Animal Sanctuaries, DOE Webpage
National Trust Website
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