Driving Tour 2: George Town to West Bay

Start: George Town.

Finish: Batabano.

Time: 2 1/2 hours.

Best Time: Daily between 10am and 4pm (traffic is less heavy during these hours).

Worst Time: When many cruise ships are docked (Seven Mile Beach roads are the most crowded at this time). You can ask when cruise ships are coming in at the tourist bureau.

This second driving tour is shorter than the previous one and takes you north of George Town to West Bay, one of the oldest and most colorful districts in the Caymans, inhabited for 2 centuries.

From the center of George Town, follow North Church Street north to the intersection with A1 coming up from the south. Hug left and continue on West Bay Road north, which will take you along:

1. Seven Mile Beach

This is the beach that put Grand Cayman on the tourist maps of the world. True, it doesn't really stretch for 7 miles (11km). Most locals claim it's only 5 1/2 miles (8.9km) long, but that's still a whole lot of beach.

More than likely, at least part of your Grand Cayman vacation will be spent swimming and sunning here, and enjoying the many fine restaurants that line the beach. The southern part of the sandy stretch is heavily developed, saturated with condos, villas, restaurants, hotels, apartment buildings, a number of shopping centers, and fast-food joints.

This is the most congested part of Grand Cayman and the speed limit here is only 40kmph (25 mph). Joggers, motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians clog the streets throughout the day and for most of the evening.

There are no specific attractions along the beach itself, so you can continue your drive without making stops.

West Bay Road (also called A1) eventually leads to North West Point Road. With Jackson's Pond on your right, you'll approach Cemetery Road and a fire station. At this junction, turn left along:

2. Boggy Sand Road

This scenic coastal road contains some of the most traditional historic Cayman houses and churches. Many visitors miss it if they drive along the main road, and this route is well worth exploring.

Vibrant tropical plants surround many of the old gingerbread-style fisherman's cottages, which date from the first 2 decades of the 20th century. You can stop at Grandma Julia's Beach if you'd like to go for a swim. The beach is raked by hand every morning.

At the end of Boggy Sand Road, you will connect once more to West Bay Road, which you can continue to follow by heading west and then north, bypassing such geographic landmarks as Dolphin Point and North West Point. North West Point Road will lead you by the:

3. Cayman Turtle Farm

This is one of the major sights on Grand Cayman. Established in 1968, it's the world's only commercial green-sea-turtle farm, where you can observe turtles in all stages of development.

Right next door to the turtle farm is:

4. The Tortuga Rum Cake Factory

Many of the rum cakes that visitors purchase as souvenirs in George Town stores are made on-site at this large bakery. You can watch the process of making rum cake through glass windows and sample some of the various flavors of rum before making your purchase. The factory charges no admission and receives guests Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm, and Saturday from 8am to 2:30pm.

If you'd like to stop for lunch nearby, drop in at the Cracked Conch, West Bay Road (tel. 345/945-5217), near the turtle farm. For a complete review of the restaurant,

After leaving the factory or the Cracked Conch, follow North West Point Road to the junction with Water Course Road, and head south. At the junction with Hell Road, continue east on Hell Road to:

5. Hell

Did we already mention that this is the biggest tourist trap in the Cayman Islands? Hell is said to be the setting for a few scenes in Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, but some biographers dispute this claim. It's a rugged outcropping of iron shore with a bleak lunar landscape that does indeed look like the charred remains of hellfire. Granted, the landscape is completely unique. Grab some souvenirs if you must, and then press on to the greater charms planned below.

Leave Hell by traveling east along Reverend Blackman Road until you reach the junction with Birch Tree Hill Road. Take Birch Tree Hill Road north until you reach the northern coastline at Spanish Bay. Continue east along this road (whose name changes from Birch Tree Hill Rd. to Conch Point Rd.), bypassing Spanish Bay Reef Hotel. At the end of the road you come to:

6. Villas Pappagallo

Here, you'll find a complex of private villas and Ristorante Pappagallo, a good choice for dinner, but closed at lunch. You can get out of your car and head toward Barkers, the site of a 5.6-hectare (14-acre) bird sanctuary, which the restaurant overlooks. This tidal lagoon is home to numerous migrant birds, including ducks and white egrets. You'll see more birds in winter than in summer.

For your final look at West Bay, double back along Conch Point Road, heading west. When you reach the junction with Mount Pleasant Road, take Mount Pleasant Road south to the junction with Batabano Road. Turn left on Batabano Road and take it east to the settlement at:

7. Batabano

At Morgan's Harbour Marina, on the North Sound in the little backwater of Batabano, fishermen tie up their catch of the day, much to the delight of photographers. You can often buy fresh lobster, fish, and conch here. A large barrier reef protects the sound on three sides, and is a mecca for diving and sport fishing.

To head back to George Town or Seven Mile Beach, drive west along Batabano Road until you come to the junction with Willie Farrington Drive. Take this drive south to the junction with North West Point Road and turn onto North West Point Road. This road will carry you south along Seven Mile Beach and eventually back into George Town.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.