Cayman Islands

Capital George Town
Currency Cayman Islands Dollar (KYD)
Population 55,456 (2010 census)
Country code +1 345
Time zone UTC -5

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.

Regions

Cayman Islands regions - Color-coded map
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.
Little Cayman
Cayman Brac

Cities

Other destinations

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. 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.

Climate

A traditional Caymanian home in the East End

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).

Get in

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

•Andorra •Antigua and Barbuda •Argentina •Australia •Austria •Bahamas •Bahrain •Barbados •Belgium •Belize •Botswana •Brazil •Brunei •Bulgaria •Canada •Chile •Cyprus •Czech Republic •Denmark (including Associated Territories) •Dominica •Ecuador •Estonia •Fiji •Finland •France (including Overseas Collectivites and Communities) •Germany •Greece •Grenada •Guyana •Hong Kong •Hungary •Iceland •Ireland •Israel •Italy •Japan •Kenya •Kiribati •Kuwait •Latvia •Lesotho •Liechtenstein •Lithuania •Luxembourg •Malawi •Malaysia •Maldives •Malta •Mauritius •Mexico •Monaco •Mozambique •Namibia •Nauru •Netherlands (including Associated Territories) •New Zealand (including Associated States and Overseas Territories) •Norway (including Associated Territories) •Oman •Panama •Papua New Guinea •Peru •Poland •Portugal •Romania •Saint Christopher and Nevis •Saint Lucia •Saint Vincent and the Grenadines •Samoa •San Marino •Seychelles •Singapore •Slovakia •Slovenia •Solomon Islands •South Africa •Spain •Swaziland •Sweden •Switzerland •Tanzania •Tonga •Trinidad and Tobago •Tuvalu •United Kingdom (including Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories) •United States of America •Vanuatu •Venezuela •Zambia

By plane

By boat

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

Get around

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.

See

The main attraction in Cayman is the water. Snorkeling and diving draw many visitors each year. However, there are several attractions on land worth visiting. Most attractions can be reached by bus, however, a car is significantly more convenient.

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 five miles 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.

Do

Several activities are available for children and adults alike:

Buy

Most shopping is in George Town and Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman.

Costs

Eat

The culinary influences of many regions are reflected in Cayman cuisine. Local specialties such as fish, turtle and conch are delicious and often 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 range from $10 to well over $30 per person at high-end restaurants.

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.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

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 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 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.

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.

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

"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.

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 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 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 and windows when possible.

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

Stay healthy

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.

Connect

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, December 21, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.