Barker’s National Park on Grand Cayman: Day Trip for Expats Looking for a Stay-cation

by Anne Evans

Our most recent “Day-long Stay-cation” in Paradise on Grand Cayman was not quite what we expected.  Our visit to Barker’s National Park was an eye-opening experience. We experienced what it is currently — and what it could become!

Our former home was in St. George, Utah which is in the southwest (high desert) corner of Utah. It was a 5-minute drive from our home to Snow Canyon State Park — of which we had Red Cliff views from our home.

This State Park is a “hidden gem” providing access to astounding trails where we frequently enjoyed pristine hiking adventures in search of Gila Monsters.

Fast Forward . . .

It is still the height of Hurricane Season on Grand Cayman, however we have yet to have a major storm. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous! So yesterday, off we drove to Barker’s National Park on Grand Cayman.

Barker’s National Park is located at the most northeastern part of West End on Grand Cayman. This is one of the least developed areas of Grand Cayman. West_Bay_Grand_Cayman_Map_by_Explore_Cayman_1400.jpg (1400×1031) (explorecayman.com)

We envisioned an afternoon of hiking on foot through foliage and beach walks. Indeed, it turned out to be quite different.

The Cayman Islands Department of Agriculture website pertaining to Barker’s National Park, if you read it carefully, indicates that: 1) It is not yet actually a “National Park,” and 2) explains why it should become a “National Park.” However, it evades discussion as to why this has yet to happen. From my online research and personal observation while visiting the area, this has not happened because of the following that I found posted anonymously on line:

“An official with the Department of Environment responded to an email I sent with this information: Thanks for writing us. We’re glad you find Barkers as majestic and suitable for being a National Park site as we do. Unfortunately, despite its name, Barkers is not actually a National Park. This is why there are no management, amenities or facilities as you might reasonably expect in an actual National Park. It was dedicated as a National Park after public and landowner consultation with the intention by the Government of purchasing the land for that purpose and the concept still has strong community support. However most of the land is now in private corporate ownership who do not have quite the same vision, or interest in the land being purchased for a National Park. So the project has been stalled as you discovered. Until such time as the owners of the land in Barkers (or other key nature tourism locations) are willing to sell (and the Government can agree a fair price with them) we unfortunately remain at this undesirable impasse with a lack of public management of private areas of public recreation and national aesthetic and environmental importance.”

And indeed, what Rick and I experienced as we explored Barker’s National Park was not what we would have anticipated as a “maintained” National Park. Most of our time was spent in the car bouncing along somewhat paved, sometimes flooded roadways. We discovered endless small, secluded sand beaches showcasing AMAZING pristine emerald green and turquoise blue waters – not evident who they were owned by.

Many indicated that they were privately owned and with signage requesting, “please do not litter.” No signage stating, “No trespassing.” However, no evidence of Department of Environment care of these areas (e.g., no trash cans; litter everywhere).

Such a dichotomy. Pristine natural beauty . . . abused by inconsiderate humanity. It breaks my heart.

During Rick’s and my outing that day, we stopped at one beach. As I picked up trash, I saw a not-so-surprising sight. It was roughly a half dozen riders on horseback – likely tourists –having the best time ever!

There are opportunities to ride horseback on the beaches and in the water on horseback. There are 2 businesses that I am aware of that operate in the area of Barker’s Beach:

Pampered Ponies

Cayman Horse Riding

Although I am more interested in resuming my dressage lessons at a more serious riding academy located centrally on Grand Cayman, it was an absolute delight to observe these tourists enjoy a “joy ride” along the beaches of Barker’s National Park Beaches.

So, to sum up our experiences that day when Rick and I made our initial venture to Barker’s National Park, here’s what to expect:

  • Undiscovered secluded beaches
  • Trash
  • The potential for amazing horseback riding experiences
  • Unpaved roads & swamps

IF you g0:

  • Be prepared to take away any trash that you bring in. There are no trash cans.
  • Be “Cayman Kind” and take some time to collect additional litter, take it away and dispose of it appropriately

On-going issues:

  • “Should Barker’s become an  official “National Park”? – oh yes, please!

Issues — how can the government afford to purchase this incredible land in need of protection . . .

If ai cannot solve a problem by baking a cookie, I cannot deal with it

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