Grand Cayman’s Eco Adventures

Discover these unexpected eco-adventures on one of the Caribbean's most popular islands


Vacationers flock to the beaches of Grand Cayman for sun and sand. Move inland a bit, however, and you’ll discover a quieter, greener side of this island. Here are a few ideas to get you headed back to nature.

Exhibit One

You don’t have to go trekking to catch a glimpse of Grand Cayman’s wilder side. Overlooking Georgetown Harbor, the island’s oldest public building now houses the Cayman Island’s National Museum. Along with cultural exhibits, there’s a gallery devoted to the island’s flora and fauna. If this exhibit whets your appetite for green spaces, take a short drive to the coastal village of Bodden Town and the historic Mission House. After touring the home, spend some time wandering the wooded grounds and adjacent wetlands, which are a protected wildlife habitat.

Grand Cayman Bodden Town Pedro St James House, eco adventures

The great house at the historic seven-acre Pedro St. James estate has been meticulously restored and furnished with period antiques to provide a glimpse of island life in the 18th Century. Photo: iStock

Smell the Flowers

For a civilized yet authentic take on Grand Cayman’s biodiversity, plan an outing to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park. A 40-minute drive from Georgetown, it’s located in the island’s greener North Side District, and on the site of a natural wetland. Meticulously tended floral gardens and orchid displays will delight the botanically inclined, but the real treat for naturalists is the Woodland Trail, which winds through the 40-acre grounds, giving access to a small lake that is a haven for waterfowl. More than half of Cayman’s native fauna can be found along this walk, and the park is also a haven for the indigenous blue iguana, which has rebounded from the brink of extinction.

Grand Cayman Blue Iguana

Once plentiful in the Caribbean, the blue iguana is now an endangered species. This one has found refuge on the grounds of Grand Cayman’s Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. Photo: Colin D. Young/iStock

Take a Hike

Named for the namesake trees that shade portions of the route, the two-mile Mastic Trail carries hikers through old growth forest, and ecosystems ranging from mangrove wetlands to palm groves, banana orchards, dry woodlands and former agricultural lands. Wooden walks span marshy areas, and the only climbing involved will be the imperceptible ascent to Grand Cayman’s highest point—which towers all of 60 feet above sea level. The walk will be rich in the scents of wild jasmine and the sounds of birds. The trail is open to all, and guided tours are offered through the National Trust for the Cayman Islands.

Grand Cayman Mastic Trail

Grand Cayman’s Mastic Trail enters a nature preserve containing the island’s largest contiguous area of old growth dry forest. The 2.3-mile route is open to the public. Photo: Burrard Lucas/iStock

For the Birds

Avid bird watchers have identified more than 240 feathered species that either call Grand Cayman home, or make a stopover during annual migrations. You don’t have to be a die-hard ornithologist to appreciate the sea birds that swoop and dive along the harbor waterfront and patrol the beaches, but a trip to wetlands such as Collier’s Pond or Barkers National Park will reveal a whole different population of waders and fliers. An easy side trip from Seven Mile Beach is the Governor Gore Bird Sanctuary in the town of Savannah, where a boardwalk leads to a small pond that’s home to egrets and herons, while the surrounding woodlands shelter a variety of warblers, kingfishers, thrushes and more.

Grand Cayman Scarlet Ibis

A scarlet ibis searches for snacks in the wetlands of Grand Cayman’s Barkers National Park. More than 240 species of land and sea birds can be found on the island. Photo: Scott Griessel/iStock

Cruise, Paddle or Splash

Grand Cayman’s North Sound is an expansive area of mangroves and sea grass flats that provides a fertile nursery for marine life. You can discover this natural corner of the island aboard a stable pontoon boat, or get a closer look by joining a paddling tour. Kayak trips follow calm-water channels, and are suitable for the moderately active. For a total immersion into the shallows, several tour companies also offer guided snorkel adventures. In addition to finding fish lurking in the shadowy mangrove roots, there’s a chance of discovering seahorses camouflaged in colorful sponges and octopus hiding in the grasses. Tours depart from marinas in the Seven Mile Beach area.

Grand Cayman Kayaking

The mangrove-shrouded shoreline of Grand Cayman’s North Sound is butted by miles of shaded channels for kayakers to explore, and provides a protected nursery for many species of fish. Photo: iStock

Night Lights

Grand Cayman’s North Sound is one of only a handful of places in the world where water conditions nurture concentrations of tiny single-cell organisms known as dinoflagellates. At night, these diminutive creatures glow like underwater fireflies when disturbed by the flick of a fish’s tail or the stroke of a paddle. On evenings when there is little or no moonlight, guides lead boat and kayak tours into this phosphorescent soup. The more adventurous can even immerse themselves for a night snorkel adventure; creating glowing eddies with every fin stroke.

Grand Cayman Bioluminescence Kayak Tour

At night, the waters of Grand Cayman’s North Sound come alive with bioluminescent organisms. Paddle strokes excite tiny glowing animals, creating eerie glowing trails in the water. Photo: iStock