Cayman Islands Tourist Guide & Info
The Caymans have one of the highest living standards in the world. This is mostly due to their position as a major financial centre and their tourism industry. The islands attract over one million visitors every year. The Caymans offers white beaches, bountiful sunshine and classy, yet expensive, accommodation and restaurants. The outstanding coral reefs and incredibly clear waters have made this island group a favourite destination for divers.
The largest island, Grand Cayman is just 13km wide and 35km long. Grand Cayman receives the most visitors, with the Seven Mile Beach as the main attraction. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are quieter but as spectacular.
Origin & Culture
Caymanian cuisine's two main ingredients come from the bountiful sea: turtle and conch. They are best enjoyed in chowder soups, stews, steak, fritters, or simply marinated in lime juice. With such proximity to Jamaica, the cooking influences are also quite present, especially in the jerk seasoning that ignites fish, chicken, and other meats. This dish if most commonly served with rice and beans. Other Caymanian favourites include breadfruit, cassava, ackee fruit, fish tea (a broth-like soup), johnny cake, meat patties, pumpkin soup, and saltfish.
Desserts also have the fair share of glory here. One worth trying is the traditional Heavy Cake. But the favourite would be the Rum cake, particularly from two makers: the Tortuga Rum cake or the Blackbeard's Rum Company Rum. Chocolate lover must go to the Icoa Chocolates store, which offers completely natural hand-filled chocolates. All the fillings are made from scratch using fresh local produce like Key limes, passion fruit, coconut, rum, pineapple and spices. Local libations consist of the local Stingray beer and the island's rum companies.
Christianity is pervasive here and religion is taken quite seriously. Cayman Islands ports are even closed to cruise ships on Sundays and other religious holidays.
The terrain consists mostly of a flat limestone base surrounded by coral reefs. The highest point is The Bluff, on Cayman Brac, which rises to 42m above sea level. The Cayman Islands are flanked to the south by the 6,000m deep Cayman Trench, the deepest part of the Caribbean Sea.
The Cayman Islands, at first named Las Tortugas after the numerous sea turtles found there, were first sighted by Christopher Columbus on May 10, 1503. The first recorded English visitor to the islands was Sir Francis Drake, who landed there in 1586 and named them the Cayman Islands after the native Taino term for crocodile.
The first permanent inhabitants of the Cayman Islands settled around the 1700. The settlers were made up of pirates, refugees from the Spanish Inquisition, shipwrecked sailors, and slaves. The majority of Caymanians are of African and British descent, with considerable interracial mixing. The islands, along with nearby Jamaica, were captured and ceded to England in 1670 under the Treaty of Madrid. They were governed as a single colony until 1962, when they became a separate British overseas territory.
The island of Grand Cayman was severely damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, which destroyed or damaged most buildings. Since then Grand Cayman has fully recovered.
There are quite a few Indigenous animal species found on the Cayman Islands, including the loggerhead and green sea turtles, tree frogs and harmless snakes. Other animal species found here are the agouti, blue iguanas and lizards, and land crabs. This destination is considered to offer some of the best scuba diving in the world. The waters are teaming with tropical marine life of all kinds set against the magnificent coral reefs scenery. The Cayman Parrot, Cayman's national bird, is but one of the 180 plus species of birds that have been identified. Common sightings also include the Antillean Grackle, the smooth-billed Ani, the Green-backed Heron, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, the Snowy Egret and the Bananaquit.
Caymanians are big fans of soccer, cricket, basketball, field hockey, rugby, tennis, softball and volleyball. Martial arts are quite popular as well. Darts and dominoes are a favourite pastime.
Other Useful Information
The legal tender is the Cayman Islands dollar, but the US dollar is widely accepted as well. The Cayman Islands is widely recognised to be one of the leading offshore financial centres. There are close to 500 banks and hundreds of various financial institutions.
There are also numerous ATM machines in Grand Cayman, but are more scant in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Most credit cards and Traveller's cheques are accepted at all large shopping centres, restaurants, hotels, etc.
For monthly average temperatures please refer to your destination of choice.
The international code is 345. Calls are all direct dialling and local telephone numbers are seven digits. Most hotels offer internet services and there are Internet cafes available as well.
There are several newspapers on the island. The leading paper is the Caymanian Compass which is published daily. Cable TV is available in most hotels. The Friday edition lists entertainment events. Usually found in hotel lobbies, the What's Hot is a free monthly magazine geared to visitors.
There are no required vaccines to enter the country, unless you are arriving from a yellow fever affected destination. The following vaccines are recommended for any tropical destination: hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus and yellow fever.
January 1st – New Year's Day
January – National Heroes Day
February/March – Ash Wednesday
March/April – Good Friday, Easter Monday
May – Discovery Day
June – Queen's Birthday
July – Constitution Day
November 11 – Remembrance Day
December 25 – Christmas
December 26 – Boxing Day
Pick pocketing, purse snatchings, and robberies happen occasionaly around hotels, beaches, and restaurants. Use good judgement, take advantage of the safety deposit boxes provided by the hotels and ensure that your lock hotel door or your rented car. Carry your wallet and camera discreetly. Avoid walking on the streets after dark.
There have been incidents of sexual assault, some reportedly involving the use of so-called "date rape" drugs.
With no sales tax and plenty of duty-free merchandise, visitors can find great deals on certain items such as perfume, electronics and china and much more. Traditional souvenirs include woven mats, baskets, jewellery made of Caymanite rock (from the cliffs of Cayman Brac), cigars, and authentic sunken treasure.
It is highly recommended NOT TO BUY black-coral products, as it is an endangered species and has most probably been taken illegally from the sea.
The departure tax of around CI $20, per person, is payable at the airport unless already charged on ticket. Please verify.
Each island has its own airport but most tourists will arrive at the Owen Roberts International Airport on Grand Cayman. Short flights between other islands are easy and affordable with small charter companies.
Caymanians drive on the LEFT side. If you plan on renting a car, a jeep or a van, you will need to purchase, for about US $7.50, a temporary visitor’s drivers license at the car rental agency. Mopeds, scooters and bicycles can also be rented, helmets are required by law. Taxis fares are set by the government and are considered expensive. Call for a cab to be dispatched, as you generally cannot hail one on the street. The bus service, called Omni Bus, of Grand Cayman is runs from West Bay to Rum Point. Although bus stops are usually well marked, you can often flag down the driver with a wave.