Artifacts, Harbour Drive, s 345-949-2442. This shop specializes in rare coins and coin jewelry. It also has a large inventory of silver, antique scientific instruments, West Indian maps, and Halcyon Days enamel works. It’s fun to look around here and see their collection of shipwreck coins.
Bernard K. Passman’s Black Coral, Fort Street, s 345949-0123. Black coral in the form of fine jewelry, sculpture and even cutlery sets are offered in this gallery. Passman was commissioned to create a black coral horse and corgi for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip; his creations are considered works of art.
Cayman Camera, Ltd., South Church Street, George Town, s 345-949-8359. This store, just across the street from the submarine, has a good selection of fresh film and batteries and plenty of inexpensive underwater cameras (as well as
serious photographic gear from Nikon, Hasselblad, Olympus, Minolta, Pentax and others).
Cayman Islands National Museum, Harbour Drive, s 345949-8368. This shop is a good stop even if you don’t have time for a tour of the National Museum (there’s a separate entrance for the store). Housed in the old jail, part of an old coral stone wall is exposed, giving the shop an interesting feel. You can purchase postcards, souvenirs, maps, Caribbean books, and even Caymanite jewelry.
The Coach Factory Store, Anchorage Center, Cardinal Avenue off Harbour Drive, s 345-949-5395. Just steps from the cruise terminal, this duty-free shop sells Coach leather goods direct from the factory.
Colombian Emeralds International, Harbour Drive, George Town, s 800-6-NO-DUTY (666-3889),
www. colombianemeralds. com. This popular Caribbean boutique, with locations in Antigua, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Martin, the USVI and others, sells not only emeralds but other fine gemstones. All purchases include certified appraisals, 90-day insurance and full international guarantees.
Heritage Craft Souvenirs and Gift Market, Harbour Drive and Goring Avenue, s 345-945-6041. This shop specializes in Caribbean gifts and souvenirs including straw hats, local music, Caribbean coffees and teas, artwork, hammocks, wood carvings, and more. The shop is located opposite the National Museum, just steps from the Cruise Terminal. Hobbies and Books, Piccadilly Centre on Elgin Avenue, s 345-949-0707. This longtime Caymanian favorite hosts many author events. You’ll find a large array of Caymanian guidebooks, cookbooks, and other items of local interest here as well as bestsellers and popular works.
Jeweler’s Warehouse, Harbour Drive, s 345-949-6597. This store has good prices on a variety of fine jewelry, from earrings starting under $100 and small strands of pearls for under $35 to fine gemstones with four-digit price tags.
Kirk Freeport, Cardinal Avenue, s 345-949-7477. The Kirk Freeport name is a Cayman institution, well-known among those seeking duty-free gifts. The best known of the Kirk Freeport stores is Cardinal Avenue’s Kirk Jewellers, the exclusive Rolex distributor in the Cayman Islands. The shop also stocks Tag Heuer, Omega, Breitling, Tudor, Gucci, Bvlgari, Fendi, and other lines. Fine jewelry from designers
such as Bvlgari, Mikimoto, Soho, and Chaumet are popular purchases. Writing instruments and leather accessories from Cartier, Montblanc, Waterman, and A. T. Cross bring duty free prices. Other shops under the Kirk Freeport umbrella include the exclusive Cartier Boutique, which offers 18 karat jewelry, watches, leather goods, perfumes, and pens, and La Perfumerie I & II, featuring fragrances from around the globe including Chanel, Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Clinique, and more. Mini facials and makeovers are also available.
Savoy Jewellers, Queen’s Court, s 345-949-7454. A Caymanian favorite is Savoy Jewellers on West Bay Road in the Seven Mile Beach area. It sells an extensive collection of diamonds, Hermes watches, the St. Petersburg Collection of Faberge eggs, Erte sculptures, and other finery. All jewelry is 18K gold and transportation from island hotels is available upon request.
Sterncastle Treasures, 49 South Church Street, s 345949-4944. This small corner shop, just steps from the new Aqua World Duty Free Mall and right on the waterfront, is a must if you’re in search of shipwreck jewelry. The staff here is knowledgeable about all the pieces, which include gold doubloons set in exquisite gold settings. Even if you’re not in the mood to buy, stop in and have a look at the shipwreck exhibit, with display from a wreck in the Florida Keys. Underwater Photo Centre, South Church Street, s 345949-7415. More a lab and rental facility than a retail store, this shop has everything you’d need to start a hobby in underwater photography – including classes by renowned underwater photographer Cathy Church. The shop offers Nikonos repairs as well as rentals and E6 film processing.
Bloody Bay Wall:
Starting at a depth of just 25 feet, this site is nonetheless a favorite with divers of all skill levels and is considered one of the best dive sites in the Caribbean.
Named one of the top dive sites by the late Philipe Cousteau, the wall is thick with sponges and corals and is home to many formations – chimneys, canyons, coral arches. The wall is a spectacular sight, dropping into sheer blackness from the clear turquoise shallows just inches away.
Why was Bloody Bay given its name? According to a local legend, in the early 18th century, the Royal Navy ambushed pirates at this site when they tried to escape the island. As the name suggests, the pirates didn’t make it.
©2007 HUNTER PUBLISHING, INC
Nancy’s Cup of Tea: Located on the north side of the island off Big Channel, this dive site begins a depth of just 35 feet before plunging into deep waters. Decorated with multicolored sponges as well as gorgonians. Look for lots of marine life here.
Meadows: West of Nancy’s Cup of Tea, this shallow site is home to eagle rays, groupers, and more. Small caverns and overhangs make this spot special.
Marilyn’s Cut: Off Grape Tree Bay on the north side of the island, this crevice leads to a wall filled with sponges and gorgonians. This site is also home to a favorite resident: Ben, a Nassau grouper.
Randy’s Gazebo: Out from Jackson’s Point, Randy’s Gazebo is noted for its tunnels and swim-throughs. This wall dive includes a natural arch, which is a favorite with underwater photographers.
Jackson Reef: This site, located on the island’s north side, is shallow enough to be enjoyed by scuba divers and snorkelers, starting at just 18 feet below the sea’s surface.
COST OF DIVING ON LITTLE CAYMAN
(Prices quoted are in US$)
1- tank dive…………………………………………. $35-45
2- tank dive……………………………………….. $65-$75
3- tank dive……………………………………… $65-$100
Certification course………………………… $290-$500
Advanced course…………………………….. $200-$345
Nitrox course…………………………………… $200-$225
Resort course…………………………………….. $75-$200
The small town of Savannah, east of George Town on A2, is best known as the home of Pedro St. James, an 18th-century great house that became known as the “birthplace of Cayman democracy” (see page 183). The town is well worth a visit. Pedro St. James, called Pedro Castle by residents, has been beautifully restored and is of interest to history buffs as well as nature lovers thanks to its bluffside perch.
History buffs can take a self-guided tour of Bodden Town, the city that served as the original capital of the Cayman Islands. Bodden Town is home of several historic sites. The Queen Victoria Monument, a place where men met to discuss politics in the 20s and 30s, is located at Church Street (the main road) and Old Monument Road.
Turn onto Old Monument Road and continue north to Mijall Road; off Mijall Road stands a site called Slave Wall or Drummond’s Wall. No one knows just when this stone wall was constructed, but it is believed that an enslaved man named Drummond supervised the building of a portion of this wall.
Continuing east along Church Street to Cumber Crescent is Gun Square, where two 18th-century cannons once guarded the channel. Today those cannons point downward.
Farther east is Meagre Bay Pond, once a hunting ground and now a sanctuary for the many birds that make this pond their home.
The rich history of the Cayman Islands is sometimes overlooked by travelers enjoying the many shopping and watersports opportunities. Two historic tours are offered by Silver Thatch Excursions (see page 67 & 134 for contact information).
The Lighthouse at Breakers
The Eastern Experience takes travelers to East End on Grand Cayman. Participants view an old lighthouse and see the Wreck of the Ten Sails Monument, recalling the seafaring days of the Cayman Islands. The tour also stops at Old Prospect, site of the first fort, and Watler’s Cemetery. In Bodden Town, participants go on a walking tour to see early Caymanian architecture and then travel on to the blowholes at Breakers.
A second historic tour starts with a walking tour of West Bay, including a stop at Old Homestead to learn more about early Cayman life. Travelers then head to George Town for a walking tour of the capital city and a visit to the site of Fort George and Elmslie Memorial Church, built by a shipwright with a ceiling constructed to resemble a schooner’s hull. The grave markers in the adjacent cemetery resemble houses, a typical style on the islands. The tour continues on to Old Prospect and the Old Savannah Schoolhouse.
Most horseback riding on the island is along the powdery beaches, an excellent place for practiced riders to romp and gallop and for beginners to enjoy a slow walk on cushioned sand (a comfort to those who feel they may fall off). Both experienced horsemen and those new to the sport can enjoy beach and trail rides. Fees start at $65.
Honey Suckle Trail Rides. . s 345-947-7976 or
Pampered Ponies. s 345-945-2262 or 916-2540
fax 345-949-8813 Horseback in Paradise with Nicki. . s 345-9163530 or 945-5839
Sunset House Resort, 390 South Church Street, s 800-854-4767, 345-949-7111, fax 345-9497101, www. sunsethouse. com, $-$$. Located just south of George Town, Sunset House is a favorite with
divers. Just offshore lie both the reef and several shipwrecks, making this a virtual playground for those interested in underwater adventure. There’s nothing fancy about Sunset House – it’s designed for those whose vacation centers around the time spent in the water, not necessarily on land. The 59 guest rooms include standard accommodations overlooking the courtyard and deluxe rooms with ocean or garden views. Two suites are also available.
Divers and those who want to learn can utilize the full-service dive operation, which offers resort courses, certification courses, check-out dives, and advanced instruction. When you’re suited up and ready to go, it’s just a matter of stepping off the shore ladder and into the aqua-playground. For more distant dives, one of six custom boats will take you on two-tank dives around the island while Manta, a catamaran, takes experienced divers on all-day, three-tank dives. Facilities include a restaurant featuring local and continental cuisine, gift shop, oceanfront bar, freshwater swimming pool and hot tub, full-service dive shop, six dive boats, and the Sunset Underwater Photo Centre, which offers half-day to week-long photography courses.
The Sunset House sank a bronze mermaid in the waters just offshore; perfect for scuba divers learning buoyancy, for underwater photographers, and for snorkelers.
Seaview Hotel, South Church Street, 345-9450558, $. Since 1952, this small hotel has attracted divers and travelers looking for a central location. The hotel is home to the Sea – view restaurant, which is open for lunch and dinner daily. Rooms include air conditioning and private baths. You’ll find a dive center on site as well as a pool.
McCoy’s Diving and Fishing Lodge, s 866-978-5904 or 345-948-0104, www. mccoyslodge. com. ky. McCoy’s Lodge has guides on staff year-round and offers light tackle fishing and fly-fishing. Fishermen should bring their own fly-fishing equipment, but light tackle equipment is available. McCoy’s is also fully equipped for deep-sea fishing; ice, bait, and tackle are provided.
Southern Cross Club, s 800-899-2582 or 345-948-1099, www. southerncrossclub. com. Three vessels, 16 to 24 feet in length, take groups of two, three or four deep-sea fishing. Full – and half-day reef fishing also available.
Point of Sand:
This beach, luminescent with beautiful pink sand, is one of the island’s prettiest and most secluded. You may spend the entire day here and never see another person. On weekends, visitors from Cayman Brae often come over to enjoy the solitude. A covered picnic table invites you to enjoy a quiet lunch with the sound of the sea as background music. Turn right off the main road where you see a stop sign at the approaching road. The sand is packed for the first half of the drive, but do not attempt to take vehicles down to the beach; park at the wide section to avoid getting your vehicle stuck in the deep sand.
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, Frank Sound Road, s 345-947-9462, www. botanic-park. ky. Situated about 25 minutes from George Town, the Queen Elizabeth Botanic Park is a 65-acre area filled with native trees, plants, and wild orchids, as well as birds, reptiles, and butterflies. For more about the park’s Woodland Trail, see page 167.
The Visitors Centre, Heritage Garden and Garden of Flowering Plants are the newest additions to the gardens. The two – story Visitors Centre, built in traditional Caymanian architectural style, includes displays on natural history and botanical art, and small flower shows. Near the waterfall at the back of the center is a snack bar, which serves sandwiches, patties, ice cream and juices.
Visit the Heritage Garden for a look at Cayman history. A Caymanian house from the East End has been restored and filled with donated furniture. The three-room structure was originally a family home where nine children were raised; today the yard is filled with the plants and fruit trees that a Caymanian family would have raised earlier this century. A cistern collects valuable rainwater and a separate kitchen keeps the heat of the stove and fire danger separate from the house. Beside the home, cassava, sugarcane, plantains, bananas, and sweet potatoes are grown in small open pockets in the lowland forest. Fruit trees are grown in soil found among the ironshore, much as they would have generations ago. Medicinal plants commonly grown around a Caymanian house, such as aloe vera, are found here.
The Garden of Flowering Plants is the most traditional botanical garden area here, with two acres of floral gardens arranged by color. Pink, purple, orange, silver, and a whole rainbow of tones blossom with color and fragrance year – round. Overlooking the gardens and a small pond that features six-foot Victoria water lilies, a teahouse has been constructed. The gardens are open 9 am to 5:30 pm, daily. Admission is US$10.
Pedro St. James National Historic Site, Savannah, s 345947-3329, www. pedrostjames. ky. To reach the site, take Red Bay Road (A2) east from George Town to Savannah. Turn right on Pedro Castle Road; you’ll see the site on your right.
One of East End’s top attractions is also its oldest. Pedro St. James Restoration Site, an 18th-century great house, is called the “Birthplace of Democracy in the Cayman Islands.” Called Pedro Castle by local residents, the historic structure is situated in the community of Savannah, east of George Town.
The oldest known stone structure in the Cayman Islands, Pedro St. James was first built for William Eden, an early settler. In 1831, the house was the site of an historic meeting when residents decided that the five districts should have representation in the government. Four years later, a proclamation declaring the emancipation of all slaves was read at Pedro St. James and several other sites in the islands.
Pedro St. James
The restoration of the great house to its 1820s condition was a major undertaking, a US$7.5 million project. The site is at the center of a 7.65-acre landscaped park atop the 30- foot Great Pedro Bluff. For the past several years, historic research into the site has been conducted. Today, the three – story great house is home to a 49-seat theater as well as a cafe.
Pedro St. James, which underwent yet another $1.3 million renovation following Hurricane Ivan, is also home to a new monument remembering the massive storm. The monument consists of 12 rocks that washed ashore during the storm, representing the 12th day of September when the hurricane hit, as well as nine seats and four tables, signifying the ninth month of the year 2004. The tables and chairs are all made out of the wood of a 100-year-old Tamarind tree that fell during the storm.
Your visit begins in the theater with a 25-minute multimedia show explaining the significance of Pedro St. James. Shows begin on the hour and are must-sees; the high-tech presentation is a valuable lesson in Caymanian history. The special effects will hold children’s attention (although they might be a little scary for the very young).
After the multimedia show, you can take a self-guided look at the three-story home. For all its historic significance, the home has a sad history as well. At the foot of the exterior stairs, a young girl who lived in the home was struck and killed by lightning; the resulting fire burned much of the original structure. After the fire, the two families who resided at Pedro St. James thought the house was unlucky and they built homes near the ruins. These structures can still be seen along with an outdoor cookhouse.
You’ll find some hiking here as well. The Ironshore Trail is a wide trail that’s popular with many visitors. It’s lined with native plants, and provides a good view of the Great Pedro Bluff.
Many Caymanians refer to Pedro St. James as Pedro Castle. The name harks back to the 1950s when a private investor tried to transform the site into a touristaccommodation.
Pirates Cave, Shamrock Drive, Bodden Town, 345-9473122. A less scenic and more touristy stop (but nonetheless fun) is at the Pirate Cave in Bodden Town. Reputed to have been used by pirates to hide their treasure and supposedly linked by tunnels to similar caves in the reef, the cave is now open for self-guided tours. You’ll first view a blue iguana and Cayman parrot, as well as a traditional Cayman cottage, then head underground for a look at the cave. Across the street, alleged pirate graves, carved by slaves from rock in the shape of small houses, make an interesting site. Open daily 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is CI$5 for adults, CI$4 for children under age 12.
Sprays from a blohole can reach 30 ft
Blowholes. On the main road between Frank Sound and East End, east of the turnoff for Frank Sound Road, lies this roadside attraction.
Park and walk down to the rugged coral rocks that have been carved by the rough waves into caverns.
As waves hit the rocks, water spews into the air, creating one of the best photo opportunities on the
island. You’ll access the blowholes from a free parking area just off the main road; follow the wooden stairs down to sea level. Don’t stand too close to the edge of these formations! The water shoots strongest when the waves are large (and the calmest days have no action at all), with sprays reaching 20 to 30 feet in the air. Wear good shoes for this excursion; the ironshore is sharp and footing isn’t solid.
Wreck of the Ten Sails Monument, Gun Bay in East End. The history of the Wreck of the Ten Sails is recalled at this monument opened by Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to the island in 1994. Cayman’s most famous shipwreck wasn’t actually one wreck, but 10. The Wreck of the Ten Sails occurred on February 8, 1794 when a fleet of 10 British ships, sailing from Jamaica, hit the reefs of Gun Bay. When the lead ship ran into trouble on the reefs, it put up its signal flags to warn the other ships. Here the story becomes somewhat of a mystery; it is unknown whether the ship hoisted the wrong flag or whether the flag was misread by the other ships but, tragically, the other vessels, one by one, wrecked on the reef. Residents rowed out to the reef and saved almost every sailor. Legend has it that, because of the heroic rescue by the residents, King George III gave the islands tax – free status. This part of the legend is untrue.