DIY Cruise Excursion: Grand Cayman in One Day
Updated: Apr 13
In January of 2019, I made it on my first cruise ever! This one was stopping in Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico. I had already been to Cozumel once before and loved it, but I had never been to Grand Cayman, so I was so excited to check it out! I looked at several of the tours offered by the cruise line, and most of them revolved around swimming with stingrays. Now I’m a very adventurous person, but one thing that truly terrifies me is swimming with things in the water, especially stingrays. That being said, I definitely wasn’t super interested in the tours offered, and just decided that while we were there, we would make up a DIY tour of Grand Cayman.
On the tender, headed to Grand Cayman!
Our ship anchored at 7:30 am, and we had to be back on the ship by 3 pm, so once we took the tender to the island, we had about six and a half hours to explore. Now that’s not a ton of time, but it was definitely enough to see the sights we wanted to and to get a little taste of Grand Cayman. My first impressions of Grand Cayman were really good! The water was such a rich blue, and it was a beautiful day – sunny, but not too hot! Now I’ve only been to a couple of places in the Caribbean, but Grand Cayman definitely stood out to me as a bit different. When we got off the ship, there were your typical people trying to sell you tours, but they weren’t pushy about it at all, and when you said “No, thank you,” they just responded with “Have a good day!” and didn’t keep pushing you. It was just very different than most touristy places I’ve been to! It was definitely just a very laid-back island with none of the rushing or hustle and bustle.
After getting some money out of the ATM, we took the local bus to our first stop at the Cayman Turtle Center, which I had read some mixed reviews about online, but given my love for turtles, I knew I had to check it out for myself. Having been, I would be hesitant to recommend this to anyone else going to Grand Cayman. They have a big pool with a bunch of juvenile/adult sea turtles, but I just felt like it was a very small pool for that many turtles, especially as turtles are migratory creatures. I don’t know all of their practices, so I’m sure they’ve put research into the conservation of turtles, but I would just rather see turtles in the wild. Seeing the babies was definitely fun though, and there was a mama hen with little chicks, which were so small! I’m glad that I went and was able to see for myself what it was like. It also only took us about a half-hour to see everything so to me that wasn’t worth the $18 price tag.
After we were done at the turtle center, we took the local bus again to Seven Mile Beach. We just asked the driver to drop us off at the beach and given that it’s a long beach, I think he just picked somewhere near the middle. We walked for a little bit down the beach to find a spot that we wanted. As we walked I was so shocked by how empty the beach was, especially for being one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. There were only a couple of other people on the beach, and not many in the water at all. Allison and I had brought our snorkel gear, so we snorkeled around in the VERY clear water for a bit while Jill and Brenden hung out on the beach. I just love being on the beach, no matter where it is. Some of my best conversations with friends have taken place on beaches and floating around in the water. We definitely could have hung out there all day, but we still had to get lunch and do some shopping before we had to be back on the ship, so we hopped on our last bus of the day and headed back into Georgetown.
Maybe we just went to the wrong place, but we definitely had a little trouble finding somewhere to eat lunch. We passed a lot of shops, but not many restaurants. After a quick search on TripAdvisor, I found the Caribbean Kitchen, which is actually the restaurant to the Cayman Islands National Museums (side note: we didn’t get the chance to check out the museum, but I would definitely visit if I find myself back in Grand Cayman). The food was typical local Caribbean food, and it was reasonably priced, plus we got to eat outside in the sun! I tried the fried plantains and the jerk chicken, which was more than enough food for me. After lunch, we got gelato and did some souvenir shopping before it was sadly time to head back to our ship. We got a great little taster of the island, and I would definitely hop on a cruise that stopped in Grand Cayman again.
Unless you really want some of the local currency (like I did), you really don’t need to get Caymanian dollars to spend here. Everywhere has prices listed in both USD and KYD, and most places expect you, as a tourist, to pay in USD anyway. That being said, bring some USD from home, or you can get them out of the ATM while you’re there. Most places will also take credit cards.
Try out taking the local bus instead of a taxi. They’re more like minibusses that hold around 12-15 people and are super clean. It’s also a fun way to feel a little less like a tourist. They’ll take you to all the main sights you would want to see for about $2USD/$2.50KYD. The only downfall is if you are somewhere a little out of the way, you might have to wait for a little bit to catch a bus back to George Town.
Head to the beach earlier rather than later. I have a feeling that’s why the beach was so empty for us when we were there around 10:30 am because most of the tours that stop there plan their stop for right before taking passengers back to the ship. I’m imagining it would be much more crowded in the afternoon.