The Cayman Islands are an island group in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba. The outstanding coral reefs and outstandingly clear waters have made this island group a favorite destination of divers. Great beaches and fine restaurants and resorts make it an excellent tourist destination as well.
- - the capital
- Hell- Small island community that is known for its eerie, red rock formations around back of the store that markets wares playing up its namesake, such as Hell t-shirts, postcards from Hell, etc. All island tours stop here.
- Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman - a public beach which many of the islands hotels and resorts overlook.
- Pedro St. James national historic site in the eastern district of Savannah on Grand Cayman
- Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park off of Frank Sound Road on the North Side of Grand Cayman
- Rum Point on the North Side of Grand Cayman
- Boatswain's Beach - Home of the Cayman Turtle Farm on Grand Cayman
- Stingray City in the waters off Grand Cayman - A shallow dive that allows visitors to swim and pet hundreds of friendly stingrays, available since the mid 1980s.
The Cayman Islands were colonized from Jamaica by the British during the 18th and 19th centuries. Administered by Jamaica from 1863, they remained a British dependency after 1962 when the former became independent. Although tourism is a major part of the economy (see below) it is a relatively recent development. Prior to the 1960s, mosquitoes made the island unattractive to visitors. A major effort in this area (including the creation of a research unit) allowed the development of the tourism industry.
In addition to banking (the islands have no direct taxation, making them a popular tax haven), tourism is a mainstay, aimed at the luxury market and catering mainly to visitors from North America. Total tourist arrivals exceeded 2.19 million in 2006, although the vast majority of visitors arrive for single day cruise ship visits (1.93 million). About 90% of the islands' food and consumer goods must be imported. The Caymanians enjoy one of the highest outputs per capita and one of the highest standards of living in the world. The Cayman Islands are one of the richest islands not only in the Caribbean but in the world.
In 2004, hurricane Ivan damaged or destroyed 95% of the buildings on the island. The island has completely rebuilt, and new developments are held to very strict building requirements.
ClimateTropical marine. Warm, rainy summers (May to October) and cool, Great vacation spot, relatively dry winters (November to April).
In 2004 the Cayman Islands, and especially Grand Cayman, were hit hard by Hurricane Ivan.
LandscapeLow-lying limestone base surrounded by coral reefs. Its highest point is The Bluff on Cayman Brac, at 43 meters (141 ft).
Owen Roberts International AirportThis is the main airport. It is about a 70-minute flight from Miami, Florida. It is served by a number of international airlines, flying to destinations in the Caribbean, North America, Central America & Europe.
Charles Kirkconnell International AirportBesides domestic flights there are also flights to Miami Airport and Havana
By boatGeorge Town on Grand Cayman is a popular port for cruise ships.
By carCar rentals are readily available. You must be 21 years old to rent a car. Driving is on the left hand side of the road and seatbelt use is mandatory. Visitors must get a temporary driver's license from the police station or car rental agency. This is obtained by showing a valid drivers license from their home state, county or parish and paying a US$8 fee.
By moped or scooterMopeds and scooter rentals are available on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. Helmet use is required. Usual daily rate is US$25 for helmet and permit.
By planeDomestic flights arrive and depart from the airports mentioned under "get in" as well as the following
Edward Bodden AirfieldThis is a small grass strip located on the southwestern coast of Little Cayman. It naturally only sees domestic flightsCayman Airways is the flag carrier and operates many international and basically all domestic flights.
Beach access is guaranteed by the Cayman constitution, so walking along the beach is permitted everywhere (all beaches are public), although getting to the beach is only allowed in certain areas.
Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman is approximately of tourist hotels, with white sand beaches. It is a public beach and visitors can walk the entire stretch, no matter which hotel they are staying at.
On Seven Mile Beach, The Ritz has a walkway over the main road containing local artists' work. Finding it can be challenging, however, the staff are happy to point you in the right direction.
Pedro St. James national historic site is an attractive old house and grounds on the ocean. There is a multimedia show telling the history of the house, and an exhibit center with more Cayman historical displays.
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is a large botanical garden which includes color gardens with plants arranged by color, a large orchid garden, a gazebo on a lake, and many Iguanas, including the rare blue iguanas.
The Cayman Turtle Farm is a turtle farm where you can swim and pet turtles. A recent review of the farm indicated concerns for the animals, so this may be something some people want to research before visiting.
Stingray City in the waters off Grand Cayman is reached by several tour companies by boat. In the shallow water many stingrays gather, and you can interact with them. If you book on a sailing vessel, you then get to sail back to port. The stingrays have been gathering here since the mid 1980s when boaters would clean their fish near the port.
- The Cayman Turtle farm is a fun place for kids to learn about wildlife preservation
- Be sure to visit the Stingrays at the sandbars in the Cayman Islands. This is a popular tourist destination, and unlike swimming with dolphins in places such as Florida and the Bahamas, these stingrays are willfully living in the wild and can choose to leave at anytime. Several guided tours are available, in addition to packages that include this as well as snorkeling
- Several beautiful reefs are a fantastic place for beginner snorkelers. More experienced venturers can visit the two smaller Islands, which are world renowned for their waters and reefs
- On the East side of the Island lies the Queen's Botanical gardens, a beautiful place to get away from the crowds and beaches
- The Tortuga rum factory shows how rum and rum cakes are made, and also provides opportunities to purchase Tortuga Rum and Rum Cakes
- The Seven Mile Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and most of the beach is public.
The country's currency is the Caymanian dollar, denoted by the symbol "$" or "CI$" (ISO currency code: KYD). It is subdivided into 100 cents. Banknotes are issued in denominations of CI$1, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100, and coins are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, and 25 cents.
US currency is accepted everywhere. Be careful and always know if you're paying in CI or US. The basic conversion is US $1.25 to CI$1 ($1=CI $0.80).
CostsAlmost everything must be imported and is subject to a 20% import tax (sometimes higher depending on the product). Food and other items are relatively expensive.
ShoppingMost shopping is in George Town and Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman.
- Caymanite is the Cayman Islands' own semi-precious stone.
- Black Coral is often used in jewelry here.
- Rum cake from Tortuga Rum Company is very popular with visitors to Grand Cayman.
- There are many tourist shops where you can buy t-shirts, hats, postcards and other souvenirs. Don't buy any seashells though; beachcombing is much more fun, and cheaper too.
- Grand Cayman features duty free shopping, enabling visitors to buy many luxury items, duty free - including fine china, jewelry, electronics, and more shopping
While in Cayman ask your taxi driver for their favourite local jerk stand (a must try) and also ask them the tourist spot they suggest.
Typical drink prices in bars and clubs range from CI$4–7.
Liquor stores typically close at 6PM or 7PM, all though some are open until 9PM or 10PM. All liquor stores are closed on Sundays.
Visitors flying into the Cayman Islands are able to bring either 1 bottle of duty free spirits, 4 bottles of wine or champagne, or one 12-pack of beer per person 18 years of age or older. Exceeding this duty allowance will result in substantial taxation to the excess items.
You will of course want to check out some of the local drinking establishments.
Cayman is not known for all inclusive resorts, but there are two smaller Caribbean style properties that do offer this option.
The majority of hotels and resorts are in Grand Cayman, where the main hotel "strip" is Seven Mile Beach, home to several major chain hotels and numerous condominiums.
Off Seven Mile Beach are several dive resorts and, in the Eastern Districts, numerous private homes and villas, as well as several resorts and attractions for those preferring a more tranquil vacation.
Little Cayman focuses on dive vacations and has a unique charm, as well as some of the best diving anywhere.
Camping is illegal on all three islands at all times. There are no campsites on any of the islands.
- Hurricanes are possible from June through November.
- Despite being more liberal than other Caribbean islanders, Caymanians are still relatively conservative. Public displays of affection (both Gay and Straight) are not usually acceptable. Acceptance of homosexual tourists is relatively new and visitors should refrain from any sort of public displays of affection. In past years gay cruise ships have been barred from calling in the Cayman Islands, but recent policy is to remain non-discriminatory. Gay visitors can expect the same levels of hospitality and service as any other visitor, but should expect some hesitation from older Caymanians. Young Caymanians are very liberal and for the most part, won't care either way.
- The Cayman Islands is a "relatively low-crime area, especially compared to other vacation destinations in the Caribbean".
"However, that being said, crime is on the rise on Grand Cayman. Walking or riding a bicycle at night along dark roads (for example, along Courts Road) puts one at risk for assault and/or robbery. Pedestrians also need to worry about being hit by cars along soft shouldered roads. Drunk driving and hit-and-run accidents have been a problem. The police regularly conduct roadblocks to deter and detect drunk driving, making numerous arrests most weekends. DWI/DUI is a serious offense in Cayman.
The capital city of George Town is generally safe. Tourists should avoid certain areas (Rock Hole, Swamp, Jamaica Town/Windsor Park, Courts Road, and Eastern Avenue) and this shouldn't be a problem as these areas are all well out of the way for most activities. In addition, George Town is virtually deserted at night as there are few centrally located restaurants, bars, or nightclubs.
You need not be too concerned about miscellaneous belongings. While at the beach, no one will be stealing your lunch, towel or sneakers. Cayman thieves are not desperate individuals, and have no interest in normal personal effects or used snorkeling gear. Very likely the thieves are just local teens looking for items that they can sell to other local teens. Example: an average pair of sunglasses will not "grow legs"; but a flashy pair of Chanel knock-offs just might!
Women traveling alone should be especially careful at night, as sexual assaults do occasionally occur. Carry a cell phone capable of emergency calls to local 911. If you feel you are being followed or inappropriately watched, you should immediately call the police. The police are a very responsive and extremely professional organization. They will take your complaint seriously.
You can enjoy a relaxing and "incident-free" holiday if you take care to be aware of your surroundings and lock doors and windows when possible.
- Many locals won't eat barracuda because it is likely that it is poisonous. Be aware of that. Other reef fish (groupers, amberjack, red snappers, eel, sea bass, and Spanish mackerel) are not likely to cause ciguatera (fish-borne nerve poisoning).
- No natural fresh water resources; drinking water supplies are met by desalination plants and rainwater catchments.
- Make sure you have sunscreen on if you plan on walking around town. It is sunny all year.
Caymanians are very respectful. Greetings and pleasantries are common and expected, even to shopkeepers when entering their stores. Most islanders use titles of respect, such as Mr. and Miss, followed with the given or first name, when addressing other islanders.