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Travel Guide: Cayman Islands

Featured hotels in Cayman Islands »

The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman

Price (US$):
$899 - $1499 / night

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Location. The Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman is located on the beach in Seven Mile Beach, close to Governors Square, Galleria Plaza, and Camana Bay,… more »

Grandview Condominiums

Price (US$):
$550 - $551 / night

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The Grandview is a secluded Beachfront property removed from the hustle and bustle but close enough if you want. Towels are provided in your rooms… more »

Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort

Price (US$):
$523 - $638 / night

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Location. Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort is located on the beach in Seven Mile Beach, close to Camana Bay, Seven Mile Beach, Galleria Plaza,… more »

AVALON CONDOMINIUMS

YEAR BUILT 1995ADDITIONAL PROPERTY DESCRIPTION THE AVALON CONDOMINIUMS OFFERS LUXURIOUSLY APPOINTED GRAND CAYMAN BEACH SUITES ON THE BROADEST AND… more »

The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa

Price (US$):
$429 - $614 / night

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Location. The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa is located on the beach in Seven Mile Beach, close to Governors Square, North… more »

About  •  Understand  •  Regions  •  Cities  •  Other Destinations  •  Get In  •  Get Around  •  Talk  •  Buy  •  Eat  •  Drink  •  Sleep  •  Work  •  Stay Safe  •  Stay Healthy  •  Respect  •  More »

About

The Cayman Islands are an island group in the Caribbean Sea, ninety miles 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.

Understand

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.

In addition to banking (the islands have no direct taxation, making them a popular incorporation site), 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.

Climate

Tropical 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.

Landscape

Low-lying limestone base surrounded by coral reefs. Highest point: The Bluff on Cayman Brac, at 43 meters (141 ft).

Regions

  • Grand Cayman - The largest island and home to most of the population and tourist facilities.

The other two islands are called the Sister Islands by locals and are also tourist destinations. They are:

  • Little Cayman
  • Cayman Brac

Cities

  • George Town - the capital

Other Destinations

  • Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman
  • 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

Get In

Visitors from any of the countries listed below do NOT require a visa to enter the Cayman Islands.

•Principality of Andorra •Antigua and Barbuda •Argentine Republic •Commonwealth of Australia •Republic of Austria •Commonwealth of The Bahamas •Kingdom of Bahrain •Barbados •Kingdom of Belgium •Belize •Republic of Botswana •Federative Republic of Brazil •Negara Brunei Darussalam •Republic of Bulgaria •Canada •Republic of Chile •Republic of Cyprus •Czech Republic •Kingdom of Denmark (including Associated Territories) •Commonwealth of Dominica •Republic of Ecuador •Republic of Estonia •Republic of the Fiji Islands •Republic of Finland •French Republic (including Overseas Collectivites and Communities) •Federal Republic of Germany •Hellenic Republic (Greece) •Grenada •Co-operative Republic of Guyana •Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China •Republic of Hungary •Republic of Iceland •Republic of Ireland •State of Israel •Italian Republic •Japan •Republic of Kenya •Republic of Kiribati •State of Kuwait •Republic of Latvia •Kingdom of Lesotho •Principality of Liechtenstein •Republic of Lithuania •Grand Duchy of Luxembourg •Republic of Malawi •Malaysia •Republic of Maldives •Republic of Malta •Republic of Mauritius •United Mexican States •Principality of Monaco •Republic of Mozambique •Republic of Namibia •Republic of Nauru •Kingdom of the Netherlands (including Associated Territories) •New Zealand (including Associated States and Overseas Territories) •Kingdom of Norway (including Associated Territories) •Sultanate of Oman •Republic of Panama •Independent State of Papua New Guinea •Republic of Peru •Republic of Poland •Portuguese Republic •Romania •Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis •Saint Lucia •Saint Vincent and the Grenadines •Independent State of Samoa •Most Serene Republic of San Marino •Republic of Seychelles •Republic of Singapore •Slovak Republic •Republic of Slovenia •Solomon Islands •Republic of South Africa •Kingdom of Spain •Kingdom of Swaziland •Kingdom of Sweden •Swiss Confederation •United Republic of Tanzania •Kingdom of Tonga •Republic of Trinidad and Tobago •Tuvalu •United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (including Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories) •United States of America (including Associated Territories) •Republic of Vanuatu •Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela •Republic of Zambia

By plane

  • Owen Roberts International Airport (GCM) is near George Town on Grand Cayman and is the main airport. It is about a 65 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.
    • Aerocaribbean provides Caribbean Services to Havana
    • Air Canada provides North American service to Toronto
    • American Airlines provides North American service to Miami
    • British Airways provides Caribbean Service to Nassau, The Bahamas and European Service to London (Heathrow)
    • Cayman Airways provides domestic service to Cayman Brac & Little Cayman, Caribbean Service to Havana, Kingston, and Montego Bay, year round North American service to Miami, Tampa Bay, Washington, New York (JFK) and seasonal North American service to Chicago & Orlando.
    • Continental Airlines provides North American service to Houston & Newark
    • Delta Airlines provides North American service to Atlanta.
    • Islena Airlines / Atlantic Airlines provide a Central American service to the cities of La Ceiba, Roatan, Tegucigalpa, and San Pedro Sula in Honduras
    • Spirit Airlines provides North American service to Fort Lauderdale.
    • US Airways provides North American service to Charlotte,Boston, and Philadelphia.
  • Gerrard-Smith International Airport (CYB) is located at the western end of Cayman Brac.
  • Edward Bodden Airfield (LYB) is a small grass strip located on the southwestern coast of Little Cayman.
  • Providing air service between the three islands' airports is:
    • Cayman Airways, Phone: 345-949-2311, .
  • Owen Roberts Airport has plenty of taxi availability. Neither of the smaller islands have airport taxi services, however hotels pick travelers up.
  • There's no ferry service from Grand Cayman to either of the sister islands, but private boat operators will shuttle you between Cayman Brac and Little Cayman for about US$20 (20 minutes).

By boat

George Town on Grand Cayman is a popular port for cruise ships.

Get Around

  • Car 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$8.00 fee.
  • Mopeds 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.
  • Providing air service between the three islands' airports is:
    • Cayman Airways, Phone: 345-949-2311, .

Talk

English is the official language and is spoken by virtually everyone. Native Caymanians have a pleasant and unique accent with many charming turns of phrase. For example, in Cayman rumours are not heard "through the grapevine", instead they're heard "along the marl road". Locals pronounce Cayman as Kay-MAN, and not KAY-min.

Buy

Most 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 much more. Don't buy any seashells though; beachcombing is much more fun, and cheaper too.

Costs

  • Almost everything must be imported and is subject to a 20% import tax (some time higher depending on the product), food and other items are relatively expensive. *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).

Eat

Many influences can be seen in Cayman cuisine. Local specialties such as fish, turtle and conch are delicious and may be less expensive as they don't need to be imported. With more than 150 restaurants, unwinding with a good meal in the Cayman Islands can include chic five-star dining as well as a more casual venue under the stars, or even a themed event. From traditional Caymanian seafood to Caribbean and Thai to Italian and New World cuisine, discerning diners are sure to find something to fit their taste. Other exciting options include dinner cruises on luxury catamarans and even an authentic tall ship. Meal prices may range from $10 to over $30 per person at the high-end restaurants.

While you are in Cayman ask your taxi driver their suggestion on restaurants. Ask for their favorite local Jerk Stand (MUST TRY) and also ask them what tourist spot they suggest.

Drink

Alcohol is very expensive on the islands, even from the liquor stores. You can expect to pay approximately twice as much in the liquor stores as you would at stores in the United States, however it is still the cheapest way to purchase alcohol.

Typical drink prices in bars and clubs range from $4-$7 CI ($5-$8.75 US).

Liquor stores close at 7PM, and 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 1 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.

Sleep

Accommodations are ample but tend to be relatively expensive, even on the two smaller islands. There are several luxury resorts with all amenities, as well as other less expensive options. In addition, the cost of food and drink is high in Cayman, but many visitors stay in condominiums with kitchen facilities and take advantage of the first class supermarkets and cook and barbeque on the beach.

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.

  • Aqua Bay Club Ocean Front Condos on Seven Mile Beach, West Bay Rd., Seven Mile Beach, ☎ Toll Free: 1 800 825-8703 (abc@candw.ky, fax: 345 945-5681), [14]. A Grand Cayman condo destination located alongside world famous Seven Mile Beach. 21 oceanfront apartments. $275-$625.
  • Grand Cayman Beach Suites Hotel (Grand Cayman Resort Hotel), Grand Cayman Islands, West Indies Seven Mile Beach, KY1-1101, ☎ +1 345 949 1234, [15]. The Grand Cayman Beach Suites (formerly Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman) is the island's finest all suite beach resort. Experience the sparking white sands of Seven Mile Beach and all that our beautiful and exotic Grand Cayman resort has to offer. (19°20'9.51N,81°22'51.64W)
  • The Reef Resort

    1 Queens Highway, East End, Colliers Bay, Grand Cayman, ☎ Toll Free: 1 (888) 232.0541 (reservations@thereef.com). A Grand Cayman all beachfront luxury resort located on an exquisite quiet side of the island. This boutique resort is perfect for its watersports, diving, world class snorkelling, pool facilities and its private patio views. $230-$645.

  • Sunshine Suites Resort Grand Cayman
  • Marriott Beach Resort Grand Cayman
  • Comfort Seven Mile Beach Suites Grand Cayman

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.

  • Shangri-La B&B, #1 Sticky Toffee Lane (Off Batabano Rd, 1 min from SMB), ☎ 345-526-1170, [20]. checkin: 2pm; checkout: 11am. Beautifully decorated new B&B situated on a peaceful lake in West Bay just a few minutes drive from Seven Mile Beach. Pool, Jacuzzi & lush gardens with home cooked breakfast & personalized service. $119 US.

Work

Grand Cayman has growing offshore banking and tourism sectors. Tourism represents about 60% of the economy. About 30% of residents are expatriates working on "work permits" and unemployment is very low.

Stay Safe

  • 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/Hit and Run accidents have been a problem. The RCIPS regularly conducts roadblocks to deter and detect drunk driving, making numerous arrests most weekends. DWI/DUI is a serious offense in Cayman.

Burglary is also an escalating problem, with over 300 reported in the first 9 months of 2009/ lap tops and small hi-tech devices are key targets.

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.

One need not be overly 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!

Special note to women: Women traveling alone should be especially careful at night, as sexual assaults do 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 RCIPS is a very responsive, and extremely professional organization. They will take your complaint seriously.

Grand Cayman is no longer a Camelot . But not to worry. You can enjoy a relaxing and "incident-free" holiday if you take care to be aware of your surroundings and lock doors when possible.

(This update on crime was originally added under the discussion section.)

Stay Healthy

  • 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 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.

Respect

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.