A beach vacation generally means you’ll be spending a lot of time on, well, beaches, but a trip to the Cayman Islands provides an opportunity for so much more than lounging around with your toes in the sand and an umbrella-topped drink in your hands (not that there’s anything wrong with that). With lush green terrain and an incredible array of wildlife, Grand Cayman offers one of the last dry, subtropical forests in the Caribbean, and it’s the perfect place for a nice, long hike.
Grand Cayman Forests: Green, Unspoiled, and Breathtaking
The flora and fauna that make up the Cayman Islands’ forests are stunningly diverse. The star is undoubtedly the Silver Thatch Palm, the iconic palm with metallic leaves that covers the island and is also, unsurprisingly, the national tree. Then there are the mangrove trees, with roots that tangle up from the water and play home to a variety of wildlife, and the beautiful wild banana orchids, with yellow trumpeted petals and purple-tinged tips.
Up Close with Grand Cayman Wildlife
Some incredible animals call this forest home, too: the brightly colored Cayman Parrot is the national bird of the Cayman Islands, and there’s also the biggest colony of red-footed boobies – an aptly named seabird with bright red feet and a blue bill – in the Western Hemisphere. Add to that a slew of other birds, bats, turtles, butterflies, snakes, iguanas (including the Blue Iguana, a native species that’s also endangered), and rabbit-sized rodents, and it’s easy to see that Grand Cayman is a veritable cornucopia of wildlife that you simply don’t want to miss.
The Mastic Trail
The Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman brings all the best elements of outdoor life on the island together for one incredible hike. Meander along the 200-year-old path and the terrain morphs from forest to grassy expanses to rocky outcrops to the mangrove-covered swamps you’d probably expect from a tropical jungle. The soundtrack is captivating; all around you, birds are celebrating your arrival with chirps and bellows that are as exotic as the fruit-laden trees they’re perched upon. Take advantage of a guided tour or head out on your own and soak up the atmosphere at your own pace.
Beyond Grand Cayman
Venture beyond the shores of Grand Cayman and more beauty awaits. Head out to Little Cayman for the day, and you’ll find unspoiled coastline dotted with hidden beaches perfect for an afternoon siesta or leisurely picnic. Inland, hikers will discover wetlands, lagoons, and the Boob Pond Nature Reserve, absolute heaven for dedicated bird watchers. Thrill-seekers will love exploring the 140-ft bluff, or “Brac,” that gives Cayman Brac its name. Some 14 square miles of spectacular scenery awaits, and if you need to get just a little bit higher, you can hike to the bluff’s lighthouse and survey the watery expanse that way.
Whether you love the great outdoors or just want to get a peek at greenery that looks a little different than your backyard at home, hiking the Cayman Islands deserves a spot on your bucket list.