An Introduction to the Cayman Islands

 

Nestled in the calm, turquoise waters of the western Caribbean, lies the peaceful British Overseas Territory known as the Cayman Islands. Consisting of three islands just 480 miles south of Miami, collectively the islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman remain a little piece of paradise.

Blessed with sun-kissed beaches and waters teeming with breathtaking marine life, the Cayman Islands offer some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world.

You'll never be short of things to do in the Cayman Islands. World-class scuba diving, snorkeling, and sailing are just the beginning of your Islands' adventure. The Islands' histories are rich in exotic detail, as the Museum, Botanical Garden and National Trust clearly demonstrate. So, whether it's a trip under the sea to feed the stingrays, an excursion to the Turtle Farm for a hands-on experience of one of nature's most inspiring miracles, or a journey into the past to revisit the first landing by Christopher Columbus, a feast for the senses - and sensibilities - awaits.

Grand Cayman:

Spectacular natural beauty, a wealth of activities and points of interest, and all the modern conveniences to make your stay as comfortable as possible can be found on Grand Cayman. The largest and most developed of the three Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman is the home of George Town, the capital city, which boasts some of the finest cuisine and shopping in the Caribbean. Whether you want to explore a sunken wreck, dance the night away, or simply go sightseeing, Grand Cayman is the place to start.

One of the many attractions Grand Cayman has to offer is Seven Mile Beach, a long stretch of white sand rated as one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire Caribbean. Other attractions on Grand Cayman include: the 65-acre Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and National Trust's Mastic Trail (2 mile traditional footpath through unspoiled woodlands in North Side); Cayman Islands National Museum in George Town; Pedro St. James Historic Site in Savannah; Cardinal D's Park, a private collection of animals in a natural tropical park setting on Courts Rd; Hell, Cayman’ famous Turtle Farm; National Trust historic walking tours of central George Town and West Bay; blowholes in East End district; and historic buildings now being restored under the direction of the National Trust and National Historic Sites Committee, including the Old Savannah Schoolhouse. Rum Point is not to be missed. Imagine sipping a cocktail in a hammock on a beach, shaded by majestic Casuarina trees. Enjoy a beach snack, indulge in an a la carte meal, or simply take a dip in the crystal-clear sea. Regular ferry services operate daily from the Hyatt Dock. 

Cayman Brac:

Cayman's Brac's rugged 14 square miles retain the charm and friendliness of a traditional seafaring community - yet offer the country's most dramatic scenery. "Brac" is the Gaelic word for bluff, the Brac's dominant natural attraction, a limestone ridge which rises gradually from the west along the center of the island to 140 ft. at the eastern tip, plunging as a sheer dramatic cliff into the indigo Caribbean below. It sculpts the landscape into unexpected vistas carved with caves and covered with a startling variety of trees and plant life. Experience the breathtaking view on the bluff from the lighthouse. Explore the enticing caves and sinkholes, high above water. Wander through the woodlands filled with exotic flowers and plants. Bird watching on the bluff is stunning. Frigate birds, brown boobies, peregrine falcons and the rare Cayman Brac parrot can be spotted in their natural environment.

Just as rugged and fascinating are the Bracers themselves, a warm and independent population of fewer than 1300. They take pride in their homeland and enjoy sharing it with visitors. Small towns have names like West End, Watering Place, Cotton Tree Bay, Creek and Spot Bay. Tropical flowers bloom year-round in carefully tended yards surrounding charming Caymanian - style homes. The Brac's special peacefulness refreshes - but its startling contrasts will awaken your adventurous spirit! In Cayman Brac, diving is what attracts most people to this small island. The newest attraction for divers is the wreck of the 330 ft. M/V Captain Keith Tibbett’s, a Russian built Cuban naval frigate which was sunk off the island's northwest coast in September 1996. It is already the home for a variety of marine life. There are two other small wrecks off the Brac's coast.

Ashore, attractions include the Cayman Brac Museum at Stake Bay, a variety of dramatic caves, (such as Rebecca's Cave, Peter's Cave and Skull Cave), nature trails, exploration of the bluff and iron shore beneath the island’s eastern tip, and small, charming homes restored in traditional seafaring architectural styles. The delightful people of this unusual community are another main attraction. Fisherman will revel in shallow waters filled with bonefish and deeper offshore waters teeming with game fish. Those simply wanting to relax can indulge in the solitude of quiet beaches.

The National Trust chapter has activities scheduled throughout the year. A two-mile long nature trail on the bluff adjacent the 180-acre Parrot Reserve was opened in July 1996. Bird watching has long been considered an excellent, if under promoted, attraction of this tiny island.


Little Cayman
:

Little Cayman is the least developed of the Cayman trio. With a resident population of less than 170, most of Little Cayman remains uninhabited. Only 10 miles long and a mile wide, it still offers that rare combination of sun-blessed solitude, glistening beaches and miles of untouched tropical wilderness. Here, shy iguanas and rare birds outnumber humans. On Little Cayman, you'll find privacy and total relaxation. Bask yourself on empty beaches. Venture to remote South Hole Sound Lagoon for a private swim. Or row out to tiny, deserted Owen Island to enjoy a view of nature in its most pristine form. Here, you can truly ease the body and soul. 
Diving on Little Cayman, especially on famous Bloody Bay wall and Jackson Point, is the main attraction. Bloody Bay Marine Park is one of the world's truly legendary dive sites. The sheer coral wall begins at 20 ft. and plunges to 6000 ft. Colorful coral gardens, wavering sea plumes and exotic tropical fish thrive among more than 50 unique dive sites. 
Exceptional fishing can be done on Little Cayman, where bonefish, small tarpon and permit, particularly in South Hole Sound lagoon, challenge anglers looking for light tackle action along the coast. The 15-acre Tarpon Pond is always filled with small, but feisty, game fish.

Little Cayman also has the largest known breeding colony of the Red Footed Booby (5000 pairs) and only breeding colony of Magnificent Frigate Birds in this hemisphere. It hosts the country's first RAMSAR site, the 203-acre Booby Pond Nature Reserve now under National Trust protection. Groundbreaking took place on 22 July, 1995 for the Little Cayman Trust House, a Caymanian-style building overlooking the rookery, which opened in late 1996 and serves as the headquarters for Little Cayman National Trust activities. It also provides an observation deck with high-powered telescopes for year-round viewing of the sanctuary's bird life. Little Cayman now has its own museum, located across from the Booby Pond Nature Reserve. Little Cayman also has a resident indigenous Little Cayman Rock Iguana population estimated at 2,000. Signs painted by local artists were erected in 1995 cautioning motorists to watch out for iguanas along the main coastal road. The local chapter of the National Trust organizes outings and activities on a regular basis. The mile-long Salt Rock Nature Trail provides glimpses of Little Cayman's natural habitat.

What to Expect on the Cayman Islands

BANKS:
Although Grand Cayman now has more than 692 licensed banks, only a handful are full-service "A-class" banks providing full customer banking services as visitors know it. These include: Barclays Bank, Scotiabank, Bank of Butterfield, Royal Bank of Canada, Cayman National Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, British American Bank. Regular banking hours are 9: 00 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 4:30 p.m. on Friday. In addition, Automatic Teller Machines accepting VISA and MasterCard with Cirrus affiliation are located at Cayman National Bank and other banks and at Owen Roberts International Airport.

CURRENCY:
The Cayman Islands has its own currency called the Cayman Islands dollar, first issued in 1972, whose basic unit is the dollar, issued in notes with denominations of CI$100, 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 and coins valued at 25 cents, 10, 5 and 1 cent. The CI dollar has a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar $1 USD equals CI $.83. There is no need for visitors to exchange their US dollars into local currency. The US dollar is accepted throughout the islands at a rate of CI 83 cents. However, this can be confusing to visitors: for example, a US$20 note becomes CI$16. Banks do NOT give a better rate of exchange! Major credit cards (with the exception of the Discover Card) and Travelers checks are widely accepted. Canadian dollars and pounds sterling can be exchanged for CI dollars at local banks.

CLIMATE:
The Cayman Islands lie in the far Western Caribbean, closer to the equator then a lot of people realize, between latitudes 19° and 20° North. The islands are cooled by prevailing trade winds, but the sun is Hot and you can be easily sunburned. Winter - November to April: 72°F to 86°F during the day. 64°F to 72°F at night. Water temperature ranges between 78°F and 82°F. Summer - May to October: 85°F to 90°F during the day. 73°F to 85°F at night. Water temperature ranges between 82°F to 86°F. Relative humidity varies from 68% to 92%.

DEPARTURE TAX:
The Cayman Islands has a departure tax of $25 U.S. Dollars that is normally included in the price of your ticket. Please check with your airline or ticketing agent for details.

DRINKING WATER:
The piped water in the Cayman Islands is completely safe to cook with or drink. All hotels and condos and most restaurants and private homes are connected to the city water supply. The water is originally pumped from the sea and then purified by reverse osmosis.

DRIVING LICENSE:
British rules apply, so please drive on the left and be extra careful on roundabouts. Visitors may use their home licenses for up to three months or may apply for an international driver's license. Pedestrians should remember to look right before crossing streets.

ELECTRICITY:
The Cayman Islands use the same electrical standards as the USA - 110 volts, 60 Hz. Most electronics and appliances are imported from the USA, and any travel items such as hair dryers, electric razors and travel clocks will work.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:
U.S. and Canadian citizens must have a valid Passport and a return or ongoing ticket.

TOURISM SEASONS:
The year divides into two seasons, the summer or "rainy" season, generally from mid-May through October, moving into the winter or "dry" season, from November to April. March and April are the driest months and May and October are traditionally the highest rainfall months. Being in a tropical zone, it is not unusual to have brief afternoon showers during the summer, and, at certain times, brief morning sprinkles too. The Atlantic Hurricane season starts June 1st and ends officially on November 30th, but the Cayman Islands have often been spared the full wrath of devastating hurricanes.

VACCINATIONS:
No vaccinations or preventative medications are recommended for travel to the Caymans. However, we always suggest that you speak to your family physician for a personal recommendation.

WATER TEMPERATURES AND WETSUITS:
Water temperatures generally range between 78 – 82°F. Most people find wearing a 1mm – 3mm wetsuit keeps them comfortable.


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Visual Tour: Cayman Islands

 

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