Cayman Islands Holiday Planning Guide
Known to some as an offshore financial haven, for pleasure seekers the Cayman Islands remain one of the world's top vacation destinations, offering developed beaches and pristine reefs. Water-based activities remain among top things to do on the Cayman Islands, with dolphin spotting, swimming with stingrays, and scuba diving favored by visitors of all ages. With world-class accommodations and a low crime rate, the islands ensure an ideal setting for relaxing family vacations. A holiday on the Cayman Islands also provides a good chance to explore a cosmopolitan culinary scene, with a range of restaurants serving everything from Indian to Italian specialties.
Places to Visit on the Cayman Islands
Regions of the Cayman IslandsGrand Cayman
: The largest of the Cayman Islands may serve as a banking haven for the world's business elite, but it also attracts swarms of casual visitors who come to enjoy the sun, swim, snorkel, dive, and mingle with the friendly stingrays. Little Cayman
: Despite its small size and population, Little Cayman represents an excellent scuba diving and bird-watching destination, famous for its unspoiled wildlife habitat and heritage pirate-themed festival. Cayman Brac
: This historic pirate island-sanctuary offers classic Cayman Islands vacation ideas, including exploring limestone caves and sunken Soviet naval vessels, rock climbing, hiking, fishing, and observing sea turtles.
Cities on the Cayman IslandsGeorge Town
: Most Cayman Islands holidays start at this banking capital and major cruise ship port, with intriguing tours, parasailing, scuba diving, shopping, and clubbing. West Bay
: This town has gained popularity among tourists thanks to its pristine turquoise beaches, unusual black limestone formations, turtle conservation facility, and rich marine life. Bodden Town
: Resting on a natural harbor made of coral reefs, the former capital of the Cayman Islands is best known for the remains of walls and cannons used to defend pirate attacks, and a mission house that showcases the lifestyle of the islands' earliest inhabitants. North Side
: Embark on a fishing trip, explore a garden filled with animal sculptures, or just sit back and relax on the calm turquoise beaches in the North Side's rural coast.East End
: This village may be small, but it's perfectly suited for tourists, offering boat trips through the Caribbean, various water sports, exotic beaches, and a blue iguana sanctuary.
Things to Do on the Cayman Islands
Popular Cayman Islands Tourist AttractionsStingray City
: Go on a boat tour through the shallow sandbar to observe the rays up close; you can swim, feed, and interact with them, as well as with other exotic marine creatures.Seven Mile Beach
: Situated on the main island's west shore, this lively 8.3 km (5.2 mi) beach boasts crystal clear waters, coral sands, reefs, and a rich marine life, which you can explore on a snorkeling or scuba-diving tour. Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter
: Include this major conservation facility on your Cayman Islands itinerary to see how they breed, protect, and study the endangered green sea turtle.Rum Point
: This family-friendly beach shaded by casuarina trees provides some of the best food and drink on the island, as well as top Caribbean water-sport facilities. Hell
: Observe jagged black limestone formations from viewing platforms and visit a nearby hell-themed post office, where you can purchase souvenirs and send "postcards from hell."Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
: An outdoor non-profit garden dedicated to preserving natural and historic landmarks on the Cayman Islands, the park contains woodland trails, heritage agricultural plants, orchid exhibits, and a scenic lake covered in lily pads. Dolphin Discovery Grand Cayman
: No Cayman Islands trip would be complete without a swim with dolphins in this cozy ecological facility near a shallow lagoon.Kittiwake Shipwreck & Artificial Reef
: After serving for more than 50 years, this submarine rescue vessel was decommissioned, sunk, and turned into an artificial reef, which tourists can now explore during diving tours. Cemetery Beach and Reef
: This untouched beach with crystal clear waters lies far from hotel resorts; a haven for snorkelers and divers, it shelters abundant marine life and colorful corals. Cayman Spirits Co. Distillery
: Resting on the capital's waterfront, this award-winning distillery makes all of its spirits by hand, using local ingredients and West Indies distilling techniques.
Planning a Cayman Islands Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit on the Cayman Islands with Kids
Regardless of its small size, the Cayman Islands represent an exotic paradise where families can have a lot of fun. George Town
offers families plenty of Cayman Islands vacation ideas, from swimming and snorkeling in the warm waters, to discovering various tropical flowers and diverse marine life in a variety of entertaining attractions.
Nature-lovers should include West Bay
in their Cayman Islands itinerary, with opportunities to interact with indigenous wildlife and learn how to protect the fragile environment.
A trip to Bodden Town
, the former national capital, will immerse your kids in the islands' intriguing history--they'll learn about pirates and the islands' first inhabitants.
Things to Do on the Cayman Islands with Kids
Obviously, the beaches top most families' list of priorities on a Cayman Islands holiday. If you want to enjoy the warm waters and go on snorkeling adventures, take the kids to Seven Mile Beach
, or check out Rum Point
for a less-crowded ambience. If you tire of splashing in the water, building sand castles, and eating ice cream, you'll find plenty of kid-friendly attractions to augment your trip.
Instead of going for a swim alone, kids can partner up with a dolphin at Dolphin Discovery Grand Cayman
. Next, introduce them to the diverse marine life at Stingray City
, or check out Wowballs Caribbean
and watch them run across the water in a giant enclosed plastic ball.
The Cayman Islands also offer a handful of interesting museums. Kids can marvel at the various vintage cars, motorcycles, and boats at Cayman Motor Museum
, and explore the unique story behind each animal statue at Davinoff's Concrete Sculpture Garden
Tips for a Family Vacation on the Cayman Islands
Virtually every resort on the Cayman Islands caters to children's needs. If you forget to bring something with you, the islands are well-stocked with supplies, water sports gear is easy to rent, and entertainment for kids can be found at any corner. Many hotels also hold educational programs for children and babysitting services can be quickly arranged through the hotel concierge.
Children and adults alike need to follow the national dress code, so bring comfortable clothing for all in order to change from swimwear to casualwear prior to leaving the beach. Carry extra sunscreen and bring a hat, because frequent summer heat can easily cause sunburn, especially to kids with sensitive skin.
Luckily, due to island's small size, you won't have to waste too much time on public transportation, but renting a car will save you time, grant you more mobility, and make a tour of Cayman Islands even more enjoyable for your kids.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday on the Cayman Islands
Cuisine of the Cayman Islands
Traditional Cayman Islands cuisine is tied to Jamaican cuisine, but also exhibits British influences. This culinary combination, dubbed Continental Caribbean Cuisine, encompasses a variety of international dishes made with a distinct exotic twist.
Jamaican influence enriches classic British fare with spices like curry, chili, or jerk, as well as exotic fruits and vegetables, such as avocados, yellow squash, pineapples, mangoes, and sweet potatoes. Staples of traditional meals include plantain, cassava, coconut, rice, yams, and peas.
The Cayman Islands also import a good deal of food, so you won't have much of a problem finding moderately priced international dishes. Still, a Cayman Islands vacation gives you the chance to try out local specialities like fish, turtle, and conch: not only are they more affordable, but also available practically everywhere.
Shopping on the Cayman Islands
Many shoppers take advantage of the duty-free items during their Cayman Islands holiday, but you can also purchase a wide range of handcrafted goods and local produce, such as Caymanite jewelry, china, quilts, pepper jellies, and artisanal jams, for a bargain. George Town
is a hub for shopping centers, where you can find artwork, electronics, books, household accessories, and furniture. Hotel boutiques and shopping plazas also sell chic European fashion as well as local crafts and beverages. Head to Rockys Diamond Gallery
or Diamonds International
for luxurious jewelry. If you want to bring something unique back home with you, check out Pure Art Gallery & Gifts
Know Before You Go on a Trip to the Cayman Islands
Interesting Facts About the Cayman Islands
● The Cayman Islands' flag is made up of the Union Jack and the nation's coat-of-arms against a blue background.
● Christopher Columbus discovered the Cayman Islands in 1503, although they remained largely uninhabited until the middle of the 17th century.
● The word "Cayman" is a derived Caribbean word for crocodiles, or "camanas."
● The three islands are a British overseas territory with an appointed colonial governor.
● Cayman Islands' residents do not pay income tax.
● The Cayman Islands have more than 160 dive spots.
Things You Should NOT Do on the Cayman Islands
As a largely Christian country and a relatively conservative society, the Cayman Islands have lower tolerance for homosexuality, so same-sex couples will need to be discreet. The nation's law prohibits topless sunbathing, and venturing beyond beach areas requires you to change out of your swimwear. Dress etiquette is generally very important on the Cayman Islands, so be sure to dress appropriately while dining or visiting a church.
Smokers on holiday on the Cayman Islands will need to observe the public ban on smoking in public places, except in cigar bars. Possession of illegal drugs will result in prosecution by the local authorities.
Holidays & Festivals on the Cayman Islands
Although the Cayman Islands have a conservative reputation, a range of festivals gives you a glimpse of locals cutting loose.
The last Saturday of January is reserved for the famous Cayman Food and Wine Festival, where over 40 restaurants from all over the islands come to George Town to serve up their tastiest Caribbean dishes and hold cooking contests. Children's games, rum tastings, and live performances also feature in the celebrations. Little Cayman's
Mardi Gras festival, which begins on the last Saturday before Lent, draws participants from all islands to dance and celebrate, while musicians perform during a dinner and ball.
If your Cayman Islands trip falls in early March, try to attend the orchid show at Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
--a two-day festival showcasing complex floral arrangements and various orchid species. Other celebrations of arts and culture include a fête each April at Seven Mile Beach
, the Queen's birthday in the middle of June, and a pirate parade at the beginning of November.
Useful Cayman Islands Travel Tips
Common Greetings on the Cayman Islands
You will notice on your Cayman Islands holiday that British cultural influence is strong, so courtesy and etiquette prevail. Tourists are expected in most cases to say "please" and "thank you," and to acknowledge the efforts of service industry workers, such as hoteliers, restaurant staff, bellboys, and taxi drivers.
Greet seniors or figures of authority first, and with respect. Handshakes are the most common form of greeting, but you should always allow personal space while doing so. Hugging and kissing is reserved for families and close friends. Using formal titles like Mr. or Miss is expected.
Besides the English language, Jamaican patois is also commonly spoken on the Cayman Islands; you may here phrases such as "wha gwaan?" (what's going on?), "how yuh stay?" (how are you?), and "hail up" (hi or hello).
Climate of the Cayman Islands
The best time to go on a Cayman Islands vacation is between December and April, when temperatures are cooler and more tolerable than summer. Tropical summer months can reach highs of up to 33 C (91 F), though temperatures rarely dip below 21 C (70 F) throughout the year.
Consider avoiding the Atlantic hurricane season from June to November. During that period, floodings before, during, and after a storm can occur, due to the islands' low-lying terrain.
The rainy season from May and October usually brings short, intense showers, which last only for a few hours rather than few days. Trade winds help moderate the temperature, bringing refreshing wind during warm days, and warm wind at night.
Transportation on the Cayman Islands
Car rental companies operate in almost all urban areas, but you can also easily explore the Cayman Islands by renting scooters, mopeds, or bicycles (don't forget to rent protective helmets as well). You can obtain a temporary tourist driver's licence by presenting your own valid licence and paying a small fee. British governance means that Cayman Island citizens drive on the left side of the road. The seat belt law is strictly enforced and most vehicles have steering wheels on the right-hand side. All three islands have a well-developed network of roads.
Visitors may also use public buses or mini-vans, which cover a total of nine different routes on Grand Cayman. Taxis are not metered and the initial fare is based on the number of passengers.
Tipping on the Cayman Islands
Wherever you go to eat and drink on your Cayman Island vacation, tipping is expected, and the service industry staff relies on it to earn a decent living. Most restaurants and bars include a 15-percent gratuity to your bill, although that addition is not a legal requirement and you don't have to pay it if the service doesn't meet your expectations. Bear in mind that the service fee goes into a pool that the staff splits. If you want to reward the individual server, consider personally giving him/her something extra.
Since taxis operate based on fluctuating fares, you'll need to come to an agreement with the driver on the fee for the ride before setting off. That way you can estimate the tip--usually 10 to 15 percent of the total.
Tip porters $1 per bag, housekeeping $2-5 per day, while tour guides should receive $5-10 per person per day.