When people hear about The Grand Cayman, they usually make associations with tax heaven and offshore banking paradise. The overseas territory of the United Kingdom, however is much more than a dream destination for the companies and a popular incorporation site.
For what is worth, the islands are an idyllic travel destination and an excellent getaway with laid-back atmosphere, delightful Caribbean spirit, sun-kissed beaches, spectacular dive sites and gorgeous barrier reefs. Now they are also my boyfriend and mine dream that came true.
There are not many places on Earth that are a combination of island isolation and international atmosphere, wildlife animals and luxurious hotels, perfect relaxation and exhilarating adventures, not to mention the sapphire sea and the white sand beaches. This alluring Caribbean destination has it all and offers diverse options for holidaying that you will fall in love at.
Situated in the Caribbean Sea, the small group of three alluring, sun-drenched Cayman Islands is placed 90 miles south of Cuba. The exotic travel destination has one of the highest living standards on earth and aims at the luxury market and is welcoming visitors that come mainly from North America. A major one-day trip stop for the cruise ships, The Caribbean Islands are also a great place for long and lazy holidays, relaxing at the fine white sand beaches, diving at the coral reefs, enjoying fine dining and dancing all night with great rum punch in hand. So, whether you plan to stay in place or to hop from one resort to another as me and my boyfriend did, you will find plenty to explore.
The Cayman Islands feature an archipelago of three low-lying islands of limestone, namely Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, situated northwest of Jamaica and south of Cuba. The islands’ highest point is the Bluff on Cayman Brac which is 43 m high. They are part of the Greater Antilles and the Western Caribbean zone and a favorite playground for the wealthy travelers. Most of the tourists spend their time at the Grand Cayman which is the largest and most tourist-oriented island of the three as well as a home to numerous glossy attractions, facilities and all-inclusive hotels. Yet, if you are freewheeling travelers like us, check the other two islands as well, nicely nicknamed the Sister Islands by the locals, which are equally fascinating. These two islands are less developed, have their share of interesting sites and are among the best diving spots in the Caribbean region.
All Cayman Islands are perfect spots for diving and even if you are new to that, expect soon to become obsessed with the diving activities thanks to the breathtakingly beautiful coral reefs and the pristine azure waters around. The islands have fantastic beaches where you can swim with stingrays, dive amid rainbow fish or just relax and be pampered at the many delightful resorts until you truly get rid of all stress that you have accumulated.
Note that the locals are very respectful to one another and they always use formal titles before their first names. We also found out that the locals have a dress code and wearing swimsuits in fine only on the beach or when on a cruise ship.
We did our research before the trip, but did not realize that the prices in the Cayman Islands are quoted in US dollars and in Cayman Island dollars. We found that confusing. For example, the hotels quote their prices in US dollars, while the shops, the restaurants and the clubs quote their prices in Cayman Island dollars. The rate between the Cayman Islands dollar and the US dollar can fluctuate. I wish we had a little of both currencies with us and were more careful when checking which one is asked for.
The accepted tip in the restaurants is 15 %, mind that, but check your bill as the gratuity might be already added. The tip that the taxi drivers anticipate is between 10 -15 %. The hotel service rate is usually included.
In case you need medical help, you are safe – the islands have excellent medical facilities. Another useful thing that we wish we knew from the beginning is that the tap water is safe to drink.
The Cayman Islands are the perfect travel destination for family and couples, as they are very safe and comfortable. There are plenty of reasons to visit this part of the world, but our main ones were:
Right Time To Visit
The Cayman Islands have tropical climate, which guarantees you pleasant year-round temperatures. You will get warm and rainy summer days from May until October, and almost dry winters from November to April. Be aware of the hazardous tropical cyclones that usually form in the months from June to November since the islands are in the western part of the Caribbean shields.
The temperatures are most pleasant from December to April, but the prices are high at that time of the year and you should book a hotel room well in advance. The finest months to go on a holiday for me is in May, June (when we went) and July when the hotel rates are low and there is no danger of hurricanes. At that time of the year the waters are calm and clear, ideal for diving, snorkeling and fishing. Note that showers are possible but they are occasional and usually last for just a few hours at a time. The hottest days are in July and August.
On the Grand Cayman Island, outside the capital George Town, is positioned the main airport of the Cayman Islands – Owen Roberts International Airport. It is only one-hour flight from Miami in Florida and is served by a great number of international airline companies that fly to various destinations in Central and North America, in the Caribbean region and in Europe. We land at this airport and this is where we booked our rental car, which we used for the period of our stay.
Another convenient way to enter the islands is through the Charles Kirkconnell International Airport positioned at the western end of the Cayman Brac island. There is yet another small airfield that those heading to Little Cayman can use and that is the Edward Bodden Airfield, situated on the southwestern coast. Since George Town is very popular port for cruise ships, entering the Cayman Islands by boat is also a great option.
You should know that upon entry you should have a valid passport and a return ticket. In case you come from most of the European countries, US, Canada and the UK, you do not need visa as well.
Now that you are at the Caribbean Islands, find the best ways to get around. Know that all three islands have their own airports and serve regular flights, but the flights between the three islands can be expensive. Thus, in order to get to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, we used the services of the private boat operators which we planned and booked well in advance through the local marina.
Naturally, the car rental is the finest way to explore the three islands, especially if you want to explore the zones off the beaten path and the famous Seven Mile Beach like we wanted. There are many car rental companies (Hertz, Avis, etc.) that operate at the Owen Roberts International Airport on Grand Cayman, and others offering car hire services on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac islands. Remember that driving is on the left, as the Cayman Islands are part of the British overseas territory. While organizing your car hire, also make sure to get a GPS as you will need it for navigating the small country roads that cross the islands.
Traffic is light on the three Cayman Islands, yet it can get heavy in George Town and especially around Seven Mile Beach during the rush hour. The car hire driving on the Sister Islands is pleasant as the cars are not many. Good to know is that most car rentals offered are automatics, though rental cars with manual transmissions are available too. There is yet another choice that you can make and that is between right-hand and left-hand-drive cars.
Renting a bike is also popular on the Cayman Islands and that is what we did when we visited the smallest island – Little Cayman.
TIPS: Make sure to check out the good offers from our colleagues Leiebil – Leiebilpriser.no
Other option to get around is offered by the buses that operate the routes on Grand Cayman. Yet, note that they are usually used by the locals to go to work and will not stop if full. Yet, they do reach all parts of the island and make frequent stops. Another way to explore the area is by using a taxi, yet taxis are to be found only around the Seven Mile Beach area, the hotels and the airport.
The Cayman Islands have several major destinations that are worth visiting. These include the capital of the islands – George Town, the famous Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman Island, the 65 acres Botanic Park of Queen Elizabeth II (look for the rare wild banana orchid), as well as the Rum Point – both placed on the northern side of Grand Cayman, and the national historic site Pedro St. James placed in the eastern district of Savannah.
Travelers also enjoy the trips to Boatswain’s Beach where is to be found the Cayman Turtle Farm. Families usually bring their kids for interactive swims at Stingray City which is in the waters off the Grand Cayman. The couples on honeymoon prefer to hike through the Mastic Trail that is 200 years old.
While you are diving and snorkeling around the Cayman Islands do not touch the coral reefs. That is forbidden for preservation purposes and a hefty fine is applied that can reach 6 000 USD. So, no touching, right?
Another important thing to keep in mind is – be careful with the sun, especially during the first days of your stay. Always wear sunglasses, apply sunscreen and drink plenty of water. You should avoid getting sunburn as this will stop you from exploring and enjoying the islands (and there is plenty to be seen).
Not that there are various bugs that pester and bite at dusk, so apply insect repellent and bug spray before hitting the bars.
As one of the most popular Caribbean destinations for active holidaying, the Cayman Islands offer various options for diving and snorkeling, sailing and hiking, and also playing golf. On the biggest of the islands – Grand Cayman, we found more activities, yet the smaller islands of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac were ideal for relaxing and indulging in various adventures.
Lay on the beach
The Cayman Islands have many beaches, but the main attraction on Grand Cayman island is the Seven Mile Beach. We reached the place with the car rental we used, but the beach is also easily reached by the means of the public transport. The Seven Mile Beach is situated on the western shore of Grand Cayman Island and is a site of many resorts, public beach bars and hotels. Nearby are also located several historical sites including the 18th century Pedro St James Castle in Savannah, which we visited as well.
The Seven Mile Beach for me is powdery white sand, shady casuarina trees and great options for relaxation. We found it perfect the diving and snorkeling around the secluded Rum Point with its clear waters and rainbow-hued fish. Yet, our favorite beach remains the one at the southeastern end of Little Cayman island with its luminescent pink sand. Better visit the area on a week day and not during the weekend and you can get lucky enough to have the beach all to yourself. Sprawl in your hammock under a palm and sip your cocktail.
If you love topless sunbathing like I do, be very careful. The local laws prohibit all forms of public nudity, so wear a bath suit on the beach and appropriate clothes and shoes at the restaurants.
Top 5 Cayman Beaches :
- Seven Mile Beach
- Cayman Kai
- Rum Point
- Sandy Point
- Owen Island
Play Tourist for the Day
When you need a break from the sun or some culture, pay a visit to George Town. As a capital of the Cayman Islands, it is the place to go for a walking tour of the historical sites. Spend time at the Cayman Islands National Museum – the place is perfect to find more about the culture and the history of the country.
On our walking tour we also bought souvenirs. You can go with the famous Cayman Sea Salt and the Logwood products. If you want to save on that, buy or better search for seashells as we did. They are very popular mementos and your friends will be trilled. You can also buy the semi-precious stone Caymanite from here and the black coral. Make sure to try the rum cake, it is delicious!
Visit a Theme Park
I am not a big fan of the theme parks, but I really enjoyed the Ironshore landscape of Hell and so did my boyfriend. The marine theme park is really huge and is to be found near Boatswain’s Beach. Wе visited the Cayman Turtle Farm, which was quite impressive and we tried the hiking trail through the forest, which was exciting.
Check the Observation Tower
If you have time, visit the Observation Tower at Camana Bay, which is 75 feet tall and offers panoramic views in all directions to the North Sound, Seven Mile Beach and George Town. The entrance is free.
Stroll the Mastic Trail
We went for a stroll at the Mastic Trail site, which is located on the Grand Cayman island and has tall mahogany trees, mangrove swam, royal palms, blue-throated anole chamelon and extensive birdlife. Pretty impressive it was!
You can play golf at the two golf courses located on Grand Cayman – Britannia Golf Course with its 18 holes and North Sound club golf course opposite Seven Mile Beach.
Go Diving and Snorkeling
Scuba diving is possible on all three Cayman Islands (there are more than 200 scuba diving sites throughout the islands) and several snorkeling sites are available as well. If you want to try swimming with stingrays, visit the best site for that at Stingray City on the Grand Cayman island like we did. It is incredible there.
Yet whenever you are diving and snorkeling, always do that with care. The scuba diving sites on the Cayman Islands are good for all skill and experience levels, so don’t worry. We got proper training before our first attempt, so always insist on that. You should also never dive alone, especially if you are new to that activity like we were. Note that the strong currents are not good for that underwater adventure, so look at the weather conditions before you pay. Try to swim to the surface slowly, in order not to avoid decompression sickness.
Diving sites to consider:
Our favorite was The Maze with depth between 17-30 m, situated in the South Channel, close to the Wreck of the Ten Sails site. It resembles a underwater labyrinth of narrow and deep coral ravines, sponges and soft corals. We saw green turtles, Caribbean reef sharks, and spotted eagle rays.
We also tried the Eden Rock Dive Center, as it was advertised to us as the most popular dive site in the area thanks to the two reefs, Devil’s Grotto and Eden Rock. The site is amazing – the reefs are close to the shore and feature grottos and caves, a miniwall, and tunnels, colorful fish and sea fans.
If you are beginners at diving, try the Snapper Hole. It is a network of tunnels, chutes and caverns with a depth of 20 m and visibility of 24 m. You will see eagle rays and black-tip sharks. If you are a diver at an intermediate level, then try the dive site Julie’s Wall. This place has underwater visibility up to 30 m, black coral formations and rich marine life. The underwater photographers prefer the Tarpon Alley diving site, where they catch images of yellowtail snapper, stingrays, and barracuda, as well as many other water creatures.
Experts say that the best dive site in the Caribbean is located off Little Cayman between Spot Bay and Jackson Point. The dives here are both shallow and deep with plenty of small tropical fish around including horse-eye jacks, grouper, triggerfish, etc.
The most popular snorkeling sites to consider on the Cayman Islands are The Wreck of the Cali – ideal for beginners and abundant in marine life; The Devil’s Grotto site with tarpon; the Seven Mile Beach has numerous snorkeling sites but the best ones are near Westin and Marriott resorts, as well as the shallow dive sites at the Bloody Bay Wall.
We did a lot of diving and snorkeling, but one of our finest adventures was the visit to the Kittiwake shipwreck off the shores of Cayman Brac. This place is full of great sights and is suitable for both beginners and experienced divers! It has five decks with rare sponges, urchins, squirrelfish, Goliath groupers, etc.
The Cayman Islands are perfect for a blue-sky wedding, offering so many idyllic settings and authentic atmosphere. Whatever your taste and budget is, there is no limit to creativity here. The resorts at the Cayman Islands have the rule for one wedding a day, so that the bride and groom can enjoy a stress-free event. Choose the Cotton Tree, the Ritz-Carlton, the Caribbean Club or go for an underwater dive wedding. Then spend your honeymoon here.
You can find various accommodations on the Cayman Islands, yet be prepared that they are expensive even in the smaller islands. If you want to get the best possible prices, plan in advance and be careful with the travel period. My boyfriend booked a trip for the beginning of the summer and the hotel rates are almost 50 percent cheaper.
You can go for the less expensive hotels on Grand Cayman, but you can also choose from the luxury resorts. Most of the hotels are placed along the Seven Mile Beach, while the private villas and some more tranquil resorts are to be found in the Eastern Districts. The islands are not famous for offering all-inclusive stays, though two of the resorts offer that option. We decided to stay at one of the condominiums offered as they come with kitchen facilities and we could cook for ourselves sometimes. Note that camping is illegal at the Cayman Islands at all times and thus do not expect to find campsites around.
The Cayman Islands are a great travel destination for families with kids of all ages. Almost all hotels offer family rooms. Babysitting services and various programs with activities for children. The hotels are also open to same-sex couples, yet the locals are conservative and discretion is required.
If you are looking for a luxury state, choose from:
Those travelers that prefer the more secluded get away resorts, will be happy to stay at one of these places:
Those who are madly in love or on their honeymoon trip have three options for an extra romantic stay, all to be found at the Grand Cayman.
The dining scene on the Cayman Islands is quite diverse. You can catch your fish and prepare it in your serviced apartment or you can get into your car rental and treat your partner to a five-course meal in a posh restaurant (that you will pay a small fortune for) – that is up to you! The Cayman cuisine reflects the influence of many regions yet as local specialties are considered fish and turtle, as well as the tomato-based soup conch chowder.
The Cayman Islands feature more than 150 restaurants including five-star restaurants and more casual dining places. Yet, you should know that the cost of drinks and food in the Cayman Islands is high. In addition to the Caymanian seafood offered and the Caribbean cuisine that you can try here, you can also find various other cuisines including New World cuisine, Italian and Thai. In case you are visiting the Cayman Islands with the idea to propose or to have a super romantic trip, then you can even organize a dinner cruise on one of the luxury catamarans available. Note that the meal prices vary from 10 USD to more than 30 USD at the luxurious restaurants.
Sometimes finding budget food on the Cayman Islands can be challenging, yet there are still options offered by the casual eating places. If at a loss, ask a taxi driver or a local about the jerk stand they go to. This is exactly what we did and in this way we found the Rackams bar, which serves great food. The place is quite popular among the scuba divers and serves free chicken wings each Friday night, which is nice.
If you are looking for organic and gluten-free food (I am on that diet), you can find such food at the local supermarkets.
The drinks are quite expensive on the Cayman Islands and that is valid even if you buy them at the liquor stores. These liquor stores close at around 10 pm and do not work on Sundays too. In the bars, expect to pay around 5-9 USD. Look for bars with happy hour like Rackams Waterfront, for example.
If you are flying to the Cayman Islands, be smart enough to buy alcohol from the duty-free shop. You are entitled to a bottle of spirits, 12 packs of beer or 4 bottles of wine per person. Be careful not to take more than that, as you will have to pay taxes. Know that the legal drinking age at the Cayman Islands is 18 years.
There is so much to be done when you are at the Cayman Islands. You can hike through the woodlands, dive at the colorful reefs, go on scuba-diving or snorkeling excursions or you can just lay on one of the numerous white sand beaches enjoying a cocktail. Depending on your budget and taste you can make plenty of things while at the Cayman Islands. Below I will post my boyfriend and mine itinerary during our trip to the Cayman Islands.
Day 1: Fly to the Cayman Islands and land at the Owen Roberts International Airport on Grand Cayman. Then get a car rental that will suit your needs from the car rental companies that have offices right at the airport. Оnce you get to your accommodation, go for a walk at the center of the George Town and visit the Cayman Islands National Museum to get to know the history and culture of the country. In the evening, enjoy an elegant dinner at the Grand Old House to get to know the typical Caribbean atmosphere.
Day 2: Go swimming to the world’s best dive site as the Stingray City is called. It is ideal for beginners and experienced divers and snorkelers and is famous for swimming with stingrays. You will have fantastic experience – that is for sure. Note that there are many boat operators that you can use. Remember that the rays are interested in fish and not in you and your partner, so it is safe but anyway – do not touch their tails.
In the afternoon, after a great lunch at Blue Cilantro, book for a helicopter tour above Seven Mile Beach. The fly and the bird’s-eye view is worth every penny, do not doubt that!
Spend the evening at The Flavour Tour of Camana Bay to learn about the Caymanian ingredients that the locals use while cooking. This is the ultimate foodie experience with tasty plates and great wine. Try to show up early for the tour and ask to peruse the Farmer and Artisan Market.
Day 3: Go snorkeling at the Underwater Paradise and explore the shipwreck sites. Then spend the rest of your day enjoying the fine soft sand on the Seven Mile Beach – one of the most fabulous beach zones in the Western Hemisphere. You can try swimming and sunning, kayaking and windsurfing, parasailing and water -skiing, or you can just drink cocktails in the shade of casuarina trees. Leave your car rental and get a hire a bike for a three-hour guided bike tour. Absorb culture and history along the way, learn a lot about the Grand Cayman’s flora and fauna, etc. Dine at the Ristorante Pappagallo – they have attentive staff and serve yummy meals.
Day 4: Escape to Little Cayman island and spend the day at some of the finest scuba diving and snorkeling sites on the planet. Go to the Bloody Bay Wall to enjoy the rainbow-hued marine life, the pristine reefs and dramatic drop-offs, the shipwrecks, the wall dives. Eat fresh fish at the Pirate’s Point Resort and then make most of your time at the pearl-white-sand beaches. You can also boat over the Owen Island that is located less than 200 m off the shores of Little Cayman. Expect a blue lagoon and a white sand beach.
Day 5: Back at the Grand Cayman island, drive your car rental to the site of the Mastic Trail and go for a 2-mile hike through a subtropical forest to see many interesting plants and birds, as well as iguanas. Make sure to take several bottles of water with you. In the evening, take a water taxi and visit the Rum Point. The trip is pretty amazing. Spend the evening at the Jolly Roger – the only fully operational pirate ship for adult-fun after dark (there are family-friendly ventures as well). Enjoy the rum punch that flows like water on this special nightly sunset booze cruise.
Day 6: Go Deep in a submarine – sign for this adventure with Nautilus or with Atlantis Adventures. You will be able to explore one of the most fabulous marine habitats on earth. In the afternoon visit the Green Sea Turtle Farm, which is one of a kind. In the evening, climb at the Observation Tower at Camana Bay and enjoy the panoramic views from there towards Seven Mile Beach, North Sound, and George Town. Get a drink on the deck at the outdoor restaurant Solana and enjoy the bands playing.
Day 7: Head on a one-day trip to the Cayman Brac island and hire a car there to look around. Make sure to visit the Kittiwake shipwreck and dive there to enjoy the fantastic marine life. Then spend the rest of the day at Le Soleil d’Or and relax at the garden with its 300 fruit trees, herbs, and flowers. Try the mystery fruit and the meals they offer. This is one of the tastiest places I have been.
Day 8: Take part at the Flowers Sea Swim, where the participants vary in age from 8 to 80 years old and come from all parts of the world. This open water event has a cash prize and other random prizes like smartphones, airline tickets to prime destinations, etc. Know that all registration fees are donated to the cancer society organization at the Cayman Islands. In case you travel to the Cayman Islands at another period of the year, make sure it is around one of the other festivals organized here like Orlando Magic Basketball Camp, Lions and Legends, Miami Dolphins Football Camp, Cayman Cookout, or Pirates Week.
In the evening, treat yourself with frutti di mar pizza, topped with, shrimp, lobster scallops and mussels. You deserve it!
Day 9: Do some shopping at Camana Bay, which is a huge pedestrian friendly area with numerous shops, boutiques and restaurants. Have lunch at Lola for a memorable meal and then treat yourself with an ice-cream from Gelato & Co at the waterfront boardwalk. In the late afternoon, visit the Cayman Islands Brewery for some beer tasting.
Day 10: Have a hearty breakfast and head towards the Owen Roberts International Airport. Return your car rental and prepare for your flight home.