Cayman Islands holidaysThe sample prices are per person based on two people travelling!
CAYMAN ISLANDS HOLIDAYS
English is the Cayman Islands’ official language and most people speak it, including those involved with the tourist industry. The local accent is a combination of English, Scottish and southern American. Listen out for some of the colourful idioms. Along with Jamaican sounds, visitors may also detect Spanish.
The Cayman Islands dollar (KYD, CI$) is the official currency, although US dollars are routinely used. Local currency is historically worth more, so be careful not to get the rates mixed up. Shops tend to use local currency while hotels often prefer US dollars. Banks offer the best exchange rates, though ATMs are widely available and tender both currencies. Major credit cards are accepted throughout the Cayman Islands, as are travellers’ cheques in US dollars.
UK, EU, US, Canadian and Australian citizens can all visit visa-free for up to 30 days. This length of stay can be extended for six months. Passports should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of departure; immigration may check this along with return flight tickets.
Temperatures are quite uniform throughout the year, with the hottest days during the wet summers (June to September). Summer is considered low season, being hot and wet, and is sometimes prone to hurricanes (July to October). Consequently, hotel rates are cheaper at this time. Cayman Islands holidays are best had from December to April during the drier winter. Rainfall is only an inch per month on average, while the average temperature is 25°C (77°F).
Owen Roberts International Airport on Grand Cayman is the main gateway, receiving flights from the UK, the US and the rest of the region. The airport is located in the southwest of the island, well within reach of beaches and resorts. The other two islands in the chain also have airports, including Gerrard Smith International Airport on Cayman Brac and Edward Bodden Airfield on Little Cayman. The latter can only be reached domestically.
British Airways (BA) flies from London-Heathrow via Nassau, Bahamas, every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Flight time is 10 hours. BA also flies to Miami, from where numerous connections are made with Grand Cayman. Other main airlines include: Air Canada from Toronto, American Airlines from Miami, Continental from Houston and US Airways from Philadelphia. Local carrier Cayman Airways also serves the nation from several US and Caribbean cities. You can even fly direct to Cayman Brac from Miami with Cayman Airways.
Cayman Islands has two seasons-high and low-there’s no real shoulder season. Lower fares and lower hotel rates can often be had in summer (May to November), but it’s usually best to avoid July and August. Booking online is the best bet for cheap flights and hotels, while the Cayman Summer Splash package has cheap rates for kids.
The Caymans is a major cruise destination, with liners docking year round in the capital George Town (Grand Cayman) from Europe, the US and elsewhere in the Caribbean. Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Holland America and Celebrity Cruises all operate inclusive services. Visiting the other islands is possible by air or charter boat.
Most visitors on Cayman Islands holidays get between the three islands by air or charter boat. There is no regular ferry service. Other than taxis and scooters, getting about is by private minibus, although many visitors choose to hire a car as the roads are good and safe.
Cayman Airways connects Grand Cayman with Cayman Brac and Little Cayman several times a day. With the exception of a flight between Cayman Brac and Little Cayman with Cayman Airways Express, all flights call at Grand Cayman. Flight time to Cayman Brac is 40 minutes, while it takes 35 minutes to reach Little Cayman. Owing to the lack of a ferry service, prices for internal flights are expensive.
There are several minibus services on Grand Cayman that serve the main beaches and towns on the island. They run daily to around 23:00 and are cheap but slow. The Green or Yellow lines (1 and 2, respectively) run to West Bay (Seven Mile Beach) every 20 minutes and are the most useful for tourists. East End and North Side buses run less frequently. The main terminal is on Edward Street in George Town.
You can rent a car on all islands as they are all sizeable (even Little Cayman is over 10 miles across). Road conditions are excellent and all islands have coast-hugging routes; Cayman Brac and Little Cayman having complete loops. The roads are paved and it’s even easy to drive around George Town. Renters need to be 21 years and traffic drives on the left.
Grand Cayman is the main island and the biggest draw for Cayman Islands holidays, being home to the gorgeous Seven Mile Beach and the fun capital George Town. It features traditional buildings and cruise liners regularly pull in at the harbour here.
The town has striking landmarks such as Fort George, along with decent shopping, eating and museums, while beaches can be enjoyed island wide. Grand Cayman offers the best in entertainment.
Seven Mile Beach is the islands’ top beach and many visitors choose to stay here. It has clear, warm water, great sand and lots of luxury resorts, restaurants and bars.
Stingray City, where visitors get to pet stingrays in waist-deep water, is a major destination for all types. You can feed the rays-don’t worry, they don’t ’sting’! The Stingray Sandbar is near to George Town and Seven Mile Beach, while the east coast (or East End) has many nature areas and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.
Cayman Brac is the second-most visited island of the trio and the farthest afield. It is serene with quiet beaches and has some of the best snorkelling and walking of the region. There are plenty of resorts though nightly entertainment is low-key.
Little Cayman is near Cayman Brac and is the smallest, least developed of the Cayman Islands. It is surrounded by quiet beaches and has rich coral and marine life. Little Cayman is especially popular with couples looking for seclusion as well as with divers and naturalists. Just offshore is Owen Island, which is close enough to swim or kayak to.
Beaches are the main landmarks and Grand Cayman has many, including Seven Mile Beach. The largest island also has the pick of the attractions. George Town, the capital, has several worthy sights such Fort George, hailing from the late 1700s, and the National Museum on Harbour Drive.
Head out of town and you will come to Pedro St James Castle, a plantation house in Savannah district, while beyond this heritage site is the lush Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. A drive around this area will reveal the Salina and Blue Iguana reserves, while Rum Point offers sublime views and shallow, turquoise water.
Other Grand Cayman landmarks include the Turtle Farm and aptly-named Hell Rock formations at Boatswain’s Beach, West Bay, while at the top end of Seven Mile Beach is Cemetery Beach.
Cayman Brac has many caves in the west of the island. Visitors can walk through caverns here as well as dive in them. Skull Cave and Rebecca’s Cave are popular. The Bluff and Christopher Columbus Gardens are nearby, while the Cayman Brac Museum and the Parrot Reserve are near the island’s centre. If you have a car, be sure to see the lighthouse on the eastern tip
Little Cayman has the best dive sites, with Bloody Bay Wall one that all visiting divers must experience. Vertical walls and great visibility make for excellent diving, with a vast collection of fish and sponges to hand. For nice sand and views of Cayman Brac, visit Point of Sand Beach or the Booby Bird Nature Reserve for its colourful parrots.
West Bay Road at Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, has the best nightlife by a mile. There are some lively bars and nightclubs along here, as well as in George Town, including terrace bars, sports bars and a traditional Irish pub. Expect lots of reggae and commercial ’DJ’ music along with expensive alcohol.
Seven Mile Beach also has the pick of the nightclubs, including Next Level, the best known club here. The Attic, meanwhile, is good for beer, dancing and billiards.
You can also enjoy the theatre on Grand Cayman at Harquail Theatre, near West Bay Road, among others, as well as cinema at Camana Bay. Cayman Brac offers local cultural performances at the Aston Rutty Centre.
Most of the action on Cayman Brac is in the small town in the west where most of the hotels and restaurants are located. It can be fun on a weekend but the scene here is a lot quieter than on Grand Cayman. The Brac Reef Bar has live music, while the Coral Isle Club is the top disco.
Little Cayman, in comparison, is decidedly quiet, with the entertainment being resort-based. The Birds of Paradise Restaurant in the west is a popular choice.
Apart from the nightlife and theatre, dinner cruises are popular, in particular the ancient Jolly Roger party galleon that departs George Town. Festivals are also lively; the Cayfest (April) and the Cayman Jazz Fest (June) are fun events. Many visitors also opt to relax in a spa, with most big hotels having them, especially along Seven Mile Beach.
The Caymans are expensive for just about everything, but it’s not all five-star dining here as there are fast food burger places and jerky stands in among the silver service eateries of the top resorts. Standards of quality and service are overall high.
Traditional Caymanian cuisine is based around the sea and is very Jamaican. Local eats worth trying include conch chowder, stews, fried plantain, lobster and of course, jerk chicken and tacos. West Indian dishes and just about every other cuisine can be had, including British, American, Italian, German and Thai.
Rum is the national tipple and is tasty though surprisingly pricey, while Caybrew beer is served in all restaurants along with imported beers.
Eating is best done in George Town or along the main strip (West Bay Road) of Seven Mile Beach. There are some fabulous waterside eateries along the latter as well as overlooking the harbour in the capital, while all large hotels have good eating options.
Indeed, one of the best restaurants is Blue at the Ritz-Carlton, West Bay Road, which does delicious seafood on a prix fixe menu and has a big wine menu. Jerky stands are ubiquitous on all islands and it is best to go with your nose, or in the case of Grand Cayman, ask a taxi driver.
The easiest eating on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are in the towns in the west of both islands. On Little Cayman especially, the dining is mostly hotel based. There is a tipping culture in the Cayman Islands though many restaurants include a service charge.
Seven Mile Beach is the best known beach of the archipelago. Located on the western side to the north of George Town, it has miles of lovely white sand backed by eateries, bars and hotels. Quieter beaches dot the southern shore, while Cayman Brac is best known for its quiet beaches on the southwest coast. Brac Reef Beach Resort is well situated for accessing these beaches. The pink sand of Little Cayman’s Point of Sand (southeast) is the best choice on this small island.
The Caymans is a popular destination for weddings and newlyweds, with many hotels offering tailored services and special facilities for honeymooners. There are a number of churches and chapels in which to get wed, such as the Bride House or gazebos on the sand. All islands have secluded beaches, while walks along the Bluff on Cayman Brac or amid the tropical flowers of the Botanic Park of Grand Cayman are romantic. Sunset cruises go from both islands.
Snorkelling at Stingray City is perfect for kids as they get to pet friendly rays in their own environment, in calm, shallow waters. The Atlantis Submarine is another star family attraction, taking visitors under the waves to take in the marine beauty for an hour. The Cayman Turtle Farm is home to thousands of turtles, from babies to huge males. All of these draws can be enjoyed at Grand Cayman, the best island for families, though all islands have suitable beaches and cruises.
Diving is the number one activity, bar lounging on the beach. The waters are warm year round as well as calm, with great visibility and numerous marine species. There are dozens of dive operators and scores of reefs, caves and wrecks. Little Cayman’s Bloody Bay Wall is the best site, while Cayman Brac has a famous Russian warship. The East End of Grand Cayman has the best surf in late summer/autumn and the tank at Black Pearl is fun. For hiking, visit the Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman or the Bluff on Cayman Brac.