The Tourism Attraction Board and 14 leading eastern-district businesses (from Ocean Frontiers dive shop to Kaibo Beach Bar) and attractions developed the “Discover the East” Adventure Card to encourage visitors (and locals) to experience the beauty, culture, and heritage of Grand Cayman’s eastern districts. The $16 card provides free admission to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and to Pedro St. James (normally $10 each), as well as gifts and discounts throughout Bodden Town, Cayman Kai, North Side, and the East End, from free desserts with dinner to $20 off diving.
Pedro St. James Castle.…Built in 1780, the greathouse is Cayman’s oldest stone structure and the only remaining late-18th-century residence on the island. In its capacity as courthouse and jail, it was the birthplace of Caymanian democracy, where in December 1831 the first elected parliament was organized and in 1835 the Slavery Abolition Act signed. The structure still has original or historically accurate replicas of sweeping verandahs, mahogany floors, rough-hewn wide-beam ceilings, outside louvers, stone and oxblood- or mustard-color lime-wash-painted walls, brass fixtures, and Georgian furnishings (from tea caddies to canopy beds to commodes). Paying obsessive attention to detail, the curators even fill glasses with faux wine. The mini-museum also includes a hodgepodge of displays from slave emancipation to old stamps. The buildings are surrounded by 8 acres of natural parks and woodlands. You can stroll through landscaping of native Caymanian flora and experience one of the most spectacular views on the island from atop the dramatic Great Pedro Bluff. First watch the impressive multimedia theater show, complete with smoking pots, misting rains, and two film screens where the story of Pedro’s Castle is presented on the hour. The poignant Hurricane Ivan Memorial outside uses text, images, and symbols to represent important aspects of that horrific 2004 natural disaster. | Pedro Castle Rd. | Savannah, Grand Cayman | 345/947–3329 | www.pedrostjames.ky | $10 | Daily 9–5.
Pirate’s Caves.…You enter the Pirate’s Caves through a surprisingly good curio shop (the owner is noted for jewelry fashioned from doubloons). Outside, ceramic “skulls” embedded into banyan trees and mini gravestones enhance the supposed spookiness. Younger kids should adore the playground and mini zoo with freshwater Brazilian stingrays, turtles, parrots, macaws, iguanas, agoutis (a large rodent), mountain goats, and farm animals like chickens, the pig Percy, and the horse Spirit. The caves themselves are pure yo-ho-hokum, tricked up with more faux “skeletons,” swords jutting from limestone formations, and other rusted artifacts of dubious authenticity (such as fake treasure chests), lanterns, and conch shells, as well as an authentic fossilized bone or two. Beware the steep descent (with only rope handrails). Very informative sheets on history and the native plants are provided, as well as good interpretive signage within the grounds. | South Shore Rd. | Bodden Town, Grand Cayman | 345/947–3122 | $8 | Daily 9–6.
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.…This 65-acre wilderness preserve showcases a wide range of indigenous and nonindigenous tropical vegetation, approximately 2,000 species in total. Splendid sections include numerous water features from limpid lily ponds to cascades; a Heritage Garden with a traditional cottage and “caboose” (outside kitchen) that includes crops that might have been planted on Cayman a century ago; and a Floral Colour Garden arranged by color, the walkway wandering through sections of pink, red, orange, yellow, white, blue, mauve, lavender, and purple. A 2-acre lake and adjacent wetlands includes three islets that provide a habitat and breeding ground for native birds just as showy as the floral displays: green herons, black-necked stilts, American coots, blue-winged teal, cattle egrets, and rare West Indian whistling ducks. The nearly mile-long Woodland Trail encompasses every Cayman ecosystem from wetland to cactus thicket, buttonwood swamp to lofty woodland with imposing mahogany trees. You’ll encounter birds, lizards, turtles, agoutis, and more, but the park’s star residents are the protected endemic blue iguanas, found only in Grand Cayman. The world’s most endangered iguana, they’re the focus of the National Trust’s Blue Iguana Recovery Program, a captive breeding and reintroduction facility. This section of the park is usually closed to the general public, though released “blue dragons” hang out in the vicinity. The Trust conducts 90-minute behind-the-scenes safaris Monday–Saturday at 11 am for $30. | 367 Botanic Rd. | East End, Grand Cayman | 345/947–9462 | www.botanic-park.ky | $10; ages 12 and under free with parent | Daily 9–5:30; last admission 1 hr before closing.