My tour of Grand Cayman beaches begins at the north-west tip of the island, in West End, and wanders down to the south coast, then along the road to East End before turning back north and west to the end of the road at Rum Point.
Barkers National Park
Barkers National Park: Has some beautiful beaches, unspoiled by crowds or fast food litter. There’s a price to pay, of course, and that’s the lack of amenities, apart from a few BBQ pits and picnic tables, you’re on your own here. You’ll need transport to get to Barkers but it’s worth it for the tranquility, even on many weekends.
The West End
Of all the Grand Cayman beaches, Seven Mile Beach is the big one. This is where it all happens. The sand is a fine, almost white powder, the water’s shallow, and there’s all the activities people want from a Caribbean vacation. Seven Mile Beach is where you find
parasailing, helicopter rides, jet-skis, tubing, and the usual fast food restaurants to satisfy picky kids (of all ages). Although it’s huge, Seven Mile Beach is mainly given over to resorts so for locals or those staying elsewhere it includes a number of public beaches, like ‘Public Beach’ off West Bay road, right next to Marriott Courtyard and Calico Jacks. It’s a busy beach with plenty of amenities, such as BBQ pits, cabanas, a playground for kids, and washrooms. Then there’s ‘Cemetery Beach’, which may not sound too inviting (I can’t imagine an Ad Agency coming up with the name) but it’s a great beach for snorkeling. It’s also a great beach, with trees for shade and picnic tables to make your stay more pleasant. It’s at the north end of seven mile beach, further away from the big hotels, but it has everything the more mature beachgoer needs; shade, picnic benches, and great snorkeling. Public access is also from West Bay Road.
Below George Town, off South Sound Road, are a number of small beaches, though the water is too weedy for comfortable swimming. Heading east along the south of the island, brings you to small sandy beaches at Breakers, Cottage, or even quieter spots like Half Moon Bay and White Sand Bay. At the aptly named village of Breakers, the beach is quiet but the sea isn’t. There’s no offshore reef to calm the waves here so even on sunny, pleasant days, they roll in all the way from the Atlantic and send spray flying onto the road.
Another place the waves sweep right onto the beach is a little farther east at Frank Sound, a rocky beach of bare, sharp ironshore. Not a traditional beach, in the sense of sunbathing or swimming, but it’s an interesting spot if you like rocky beaches and the creatures that go with them. Frank Sound also has the ‘world famous’ (world famous all over Grand Cayman, anyhow) blowholes. These are natural fissures in the ironshore that squirt water high into the air when the waves crash against the shore. This is a place to contemplate nature rather than work on your tan.
Grand Cayman’s East End beaches are the place for chillin’ — with the exception of the resort beaches where you have everything you want and more. East End Resorts, such as Morritts Grand or Tortuga and The Reef at Colliers Bay, have fine beaches and they’re surprisingly quiet and unpopulated. Resort people come in two types — beach folk and pool folk, and there are lots more pool folk — so even big resorts at the height of the season have idyllic beaches that don’t crowd you. Staying at Morritts gave us ample opportunity to walk and paddle along beautiful East End beaches that didn’t seem to have names but did have white sand, warm shallow water and nobody but us enjoying them. The tranquility at the East End of the island is amazing when you consider how small the island is and how many visitors it gets each year.
Continuing along the Queen’s Highway and North Side Road takes you past many more secluded, empty beaches where you can own the sand for the day. We never saw anyone on some of them. For us, it was like being Adam and Eve on vacation. Stay near Old Man Bay and you can have lunch or dinner at the excellent beachside BBQ there.
If you want more water sports, the end of the road brings you to two more Grand Cayman beaches, Rum Point and Cayman Kai. Rum Point is a public beach with golden sand, warm shallow water, trees to provide shade, a rocky point so safe even children can snorkel round safely, and an excellent, very reasonably priced, beach restaurant, the Wreck Bar. Of all the Grand Cayman beaches, we liked Rum Point best. We didn’t recognize it as a public beach the first time we saw it because it looked so much like a resort. Once we got over that we found it a great place to go. Boats or jet-skis can be rented from the Red Sail Sports shop on site, as well as trips on the catamaran and the glass-bottom boat.
Cayman Kai is a small public beach with a playground for the kids, BBQ pits and picnic tables. Like the busier Rum Point across the road, it’s popular with locals as well as visitors.
At Cayman Kai, we’ve come to the end of the tour. Only North Sound, the big bay that looks like a shark-bite, stands between us and our starting point at Barkers, which we can see from here because it’s always a clear day on Grand Cayman’s beaches.