Cayman Meets Shaman: The Healing Powers of Your Island Escape
Let’s be honest: Merely touching down in the Cayman Islands gives you a wellness boost. Over the last several years, study after study has found that being in, on, under or near the water—hi, daily Caymanian life!—can have profound mental and physiological benefits.
But that baseline sense of well-being is just the beginning of what’s on offer here now: More and more, the islands’ resorts, restaurants and adventure outfitters are taking a mind-body-spirit approach, the result of which is an embarrassment of riches for the wellness-seeking traveler.
Cycling around—or in!—the water
One of the best ways to take in the raw beauty of Grand Cayman’s East End—think blowholes, caves and wilderness reserves—is with Eco Rides’ East End Bike Tours. You’ll learn about the history and the heritage of the district as you experience such iconic spots as the Lighthouse and the Wreck of the Ten Sails. Eco Rides offers six different itineraries that range from 14 to 18 miles long—and from easy to challenging—though you can also create your own custom outing.
If you’d rather cycle in the Caribbean than around it, rent a water bike—essentially a spin bike on pontoons with a propeller in place of wheels—from Red Sail Sports. You’ll squeeze in a surprisingly intense workout while checking out the local marine life from above. Also available are the slightly less strenuous Aqua-trikes. With three oversize wheels, wide paddles and flexible steering, they’re as great for kids as for adults, but still give you a cardio workout.
Anyone who’s taken the plunge knows how meditative scuba diving can be, but recently published studies show additional wellness benefits, from increased concentration and confidence to reduced stress, anxiety and blood pressure. And Cayman is an ideal place to experience all of the above because of the soothingly warm water, great visibility and near-absence of currents.
There are 365 named dive sites around the three islands, where you’ll find some 500 fish species, plus turtles, stingrays and an incredible variety of topography—from coral reefs and swim-throughs to walls and wrecks. Top operators on Grand Cayman’s East End—a dive world hot spot—include Tortuga Divers and, especially if you’ve got some experience, Ocean Frontiers. On the West End, divers of all experience levels (including zero) should check out Living the Dream or Cayman Turtle Divers.
Wall divers from around the world flock to Little Cayman Beach Resort for the intimate topside atmosphere but mostly for the marvels that await beneath the surface at the Bloody Bay Wall Marine Park. This vertical aquarium runs parallel to Little Cayman's shoreline and drops thousands of feet, putting a seemingly bottomless supply of awesomeness on view: forests of fan coral and tube sponges beloved by triggerfish, groupers, eels, rays and green sea turtles, among others.
If you’re happy to venture even farther afield, you’ll be richly rewarded at Cayman Brac Beach Resort, where you can dive the MV Captain Keith Tibbetts wreck. This 330-foot Russian frigate was renamed when it was sunk to become an artificial reef in 1996, and now plays host to stunning marine life.
There’s beautiful walking to be done on Grand Cayman, from the nature-rich trails of the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park to the ancient (think 2-million-year-old) woods and mangrove swamp along the Mastic Trail, where some of the island's rarest plant- and animal-life exists.
But avid hikers should head to Cayman Brac, where the Lighthouse Footpath walking trail (five miles round-trip) is one of the most memorable treks you’ll do anywhere. Making your way along the edge of the island’s signature bluff, you’ll be treated to stunning views and wildlife sightings. A special treat (particularly for birders): the nesting brown boobies and air-current-surfing frigates.
For wellness with a side of magic, take a kayak out for a nighttime spin through Grand Cayman’s bioluminescent “Bio Bay” near Rum Point, where millions of twinkling microorganisms create an ethereal, shape-shifting glow in the water. Cayman Kayaks and The Sweet Spot offer great guided tours, the former especially well-suited to beginners (who may need a tow), and the latter to anyone who can’t get enough bioluminescence (there’s a second stop to see Grand Cayman’s “disco shrimp”).
For an entirely different kind of magic, kayak from Little Cayman to the nearby—but totally castaway-feeling—Owen Island. Pack a picnic, wander the coastline, snorkel through coral gardens or just soak in the immersive silence of this uninhabited island.
You could argue that merely being in the Cayman Islands is so bliss-inducing, treatments would feel superfluous. But you need only step inside The Spa at Seafire Resort—all 8,500 square feet of it—to reconsider. Nodding to the surrounding natural beauty, the spa’s endless aquatic touches include a giant, open-air soaking tub and waterfall that take your zen to a whole new level, to say nothing of what happens during, say, an Ocean Calm Massage or Lime Blossom Body Polish.
Then there’s the holistic apothecary-like Botanika Union Spa at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, where the offerings feel equal parts indulgent and invigorating, as you’ll discover with the likes of the lemon verbena body treatment—or the white birch ointment massage.
If there’s a healthy eating challenge in the Cayman Islands, it’s the best kind possible: too much choice. From organic juice bars to tide-to-table dinners, every day is essentially a multi-course wellness feast here. Among the stops you won’t want to miss is the iconic Jessie’s Juice Bar & Cafe, whose mission is to serve clean, healthy food while supporting local farmers. Chocolate lovers should try the One Love Super Smoothie—really a twofer, given the raw cacao and cacao nibs—plus banana, maca and milk. Smoothie King also serves up delicious variations on the theme, which range from mangosteen to açai maté.
For its part, the farm-to-table Green House caters to all diets and preferences, from paleo and vegetarian to gluten-free, but if your own leanings allow, dig into the creamy blackened cashew coconut dip with flatbread with one of the house cold-pressed juices. Cayman Cabana also celebrates island farmers, fishermen and artisanal producers, but if you’d prefer to procure your own ingredients, check out the restaurant’s You Hook It, We Cook It program.
With its own boats and gardens, The Brasserie serves up sustainable and local delicacies, with coal-grilled fish being a particular crowd pleaser. Then there’s the almost all-vegetarian VIVO, where you can find veg versions of such island favorites as ceviche, tartar and calamari. Whatever you order, leave room for the avocado-chocolate mousse.
Vegans have got to check out the new Conscious Café. The first brick-and-mortar outpost for an already beloved plant-based food delivery service, this restaurant focuses as much on food ethics (local sourcing, fair trade, non-GMO, eco-friendliness and so on) as on fabulous dishes. Word to the wise: Whatever the locally grown soup of the day is, try it.
Yoga and Pilates
No need to abandon your practice on vacation. With classes ranging from power vinyasa and kundalini to restorative and meditative, Grand Cayman’s Bliss Yoga at Seven Mile Beach has something for everyone. Or, if you'd prefer the waters just off Seven Mile Beach, check out Vitamin Sea's Paddleboard Yoga offerings. Meanwhile, on the island’s west shore, Cayman Yoga Club mixes some house specialties—think "Vin Yin" and "Rinse + Restore"—into an already impressive class schedule.
If Pilates is your thing, check out Balance Cayman on Seven Mile Beach for private and semi-private sessions as well as more comprehensive fitness training, including TRX and Booty Barre.
Or perhaps you want an entire yoga-centric getaway—in which case you should consider the Bliss Yoga Retreat at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman (Sept. 20–22). But even if the retreat dates don't work for you, there's so much fabulous yoga on continuous offer in the Cayman Islands, you'll surely discover your ohm away from home here.