Grand Cayman Vacation Tips - Travel Guide
Grand Cayman vacation is known for the island's spectacular beaches with perfect snorkel and dives sites, fun attractions and activities including shore and island excursions, boat and submarine tours, attending many of the islands' festivals and carnivals and the most safest and stress-free vacation you have dreamed of. It's the largest and most popular island of the Cayman Islands group, the other smaller and more secluded ones are called Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.
Why vacation on Grand Cayman Island?
Choosing Grand Cayman island for your next vacation is the best decision when it comes to booking your perfect get away. Cayman Islands are all family-friendly and welcome tourists of all ages.
Many dive magazines have awarded the 3rd place to the Cayman Island for being one of the top destinations for snorkeling and diving. The clarity of water was taken into consideration, the beautiful underwater reefs and the abundance of sea life. There are fabulous dive and snorkel sites that are easily accessible and shore diving and snorkeling are two of the best things both the locals and tourists enjoy when it comes to Grand Cayman vacation. What also attracts divers and snorkelers to Grand Cayman Island is that there are no big waves, the waters are pleasantly warm and very enjoyable, and there are almost no currents, making it the best destination for exploring the underworld.
Some of the most popular attractions that are available on Grand Cayman Island are shore excursions, submarine and boat tours, swimming with dolphins or stingrays, jet skiing, fishing and many others. Atlantic Submarine takes on about 48 passengers on board and goes underwater about 100 feet down. A very unique experience where you will be in the middle of the underworld glancing at the fish and other sea critters. Have a passion for fishing? Then take on one of the boat tours and bring the catch of your life back to the shore. Swimming with dolphins or stingrays provides a fantastic experience as well during your Grand Cayman vacation. Shake hands with a dolphin in a large pool or feed the stingrays while sitting in pleasantly warm sea water under a bright sun. These fun experiences are great for both swimmers and non-swimmers and provide a hands-on interaction with dolphins and stingrays.
Photo by Jeremy Lim
Turtle Farm is one of the leading attractions in Grand Cayman, featuring many turtles. Some of them come up to almost 600 pounds (272 kg) and are more than 70 years old. The park also offers souvenir shops and restaurants, as well as educating its' visitors about turtles and their habitats. This is an amazing day trip to take with your family to - learning all about these amazing creatures and checking out their on-site breeding facility.
A visit to Hell should be a definite plan during your Grand Cayman vacation. Hell consists of menacing shards of charred brimstone, which was blackened and sculpted by acid algae and fungi for millions of years. Now this territory looks like a big landscape of these black brimstones all of different sizes. This attraction is absolutely free and you can even send out post cards from the post office on-site. The postcards that read "From Hell" are available for purchase as well as bumper stickers, T-shirts with logos and a Scotch bonnet-based Hell sauce. You will not be able to go down to the brimstones, but you can take observe the area from the observation deck. Take as many photos as you can, friends back home will be interested to hear all about your trip to Hell.
Feeling like walking and exploring the scenery of Cayman Islands? Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park offers a magic walk through Heritage Garden, Flower Colour Garden where you will enjoy gorgeous flowers of all possible colours, a 2-acre lake and a breeding ground for native birds as radiant looking as the flower terrain. The park is large, there is a lot to see, so plan to spend a few hours there on your Grand Cayman vacation.
Cayman Motor Museum in the West Bay is a piece of art. It's a large collection of more than 80 vehicles that's a real dream for anyone who is interested in vintage cars. The world's first produced auto is available on display, as well as classic Ferraris, Jags, Corvettes, BMWs and a lot of other cars dating back as far as 1930. Interested in seeing Elton John's Bentley or one of the three original Batmobiles from the 1960s TV series, then this attraction is for you.
Best time to go to Grand Cayman
The most popular time to go for Grand Cayman vacation is from December to April. This is the time when you will see a massive inflow of tourists, and the hotel rates are significantly higher. It is considered a high season, and it is also the perfect time to party as the island offers extensive entertainment programs.
If you are looking for a less crowded and reasonably priced Grand Cayman vacation and more deserted beaches, then visit the islands anywhere from May to July. What's great about the Grand Cayman at that time is that the weather is steady during most of the year and holds at about 27 degrees Celcius (80 degrees fahrenheit). You will find that the waters are calm, and are great for water sports like snorkeling, sailing, diving or fishing.
Going for Grand Cayman vacation during any season will swirl you into spectacular events that are a true highlight on the island. For example, if your vacation happens to be in December, attend a Cayman Parade of Lights, February will surprise you with an Orchid Show, where you can also purchase some of the most exotic orchids to bring home. The month of May holds the most exciting Batabano Adult Parade, where exotic costumes are glowing with diamonds and locals are gathered on the streets to enjoy a cultural celebration of the diverse historical influences. Don't miss the Flower Sea Swim in June that holds over 900 competitors (some are even Olympic swimmers), take part in a swimming competition along the shores of the Seven Mile Beach.
August all through November is the rainiest period in Grand Cayman, and even though the hotel rates drop down to almost 50%, there are not that many tourists. However, if you do go on Grand Cayman vacation in November, you will be amazed if you attend the Pirate Week that lasts from November 10th to November 20th and features a mock pirate invasion of the islands and the Governor, a ton of music and dancing, heavenly delectable local cuisine, competitions, pirate parades, sports, kids events and the entire week full of fun and celebrations throughout all 3 islands. This is the most grand and one of a kind event in the Caribbean region that sure will leave you with fantastic photos, memories and more knowledge of Cayman Islands and their culture.
Where is Grand Cayman Island on the map?
Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory that is located 480 miles (772.5 km) south of Miami, 150 miles (241 km) south of Cuba, approximately 180 miles (290 km) northwest of Jamaica, and 1,399 miles (2,252 km)southeast of Mexico. The total land area of the Cayman Islands is 100 square miles (264 square km).
There are 3 islands that make up the nation - Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Grand Cayman is the largest out of all 3 and has a land of approximately 22 miles (35 km) long and 8 miles (13 km) wide. Cayman Brac is located about 90 miles (145 km) northeast of Grand Cayman and is about 12 miles (19 km) long and 1 mile (1.6 km) wide. The smallest, the flattest and with very little development is Little Cayman. It lies about 5 miles (8 km) west of Cayman Brac, is 10 miles (16 km) long, 1 mile (2 km) wide, and is the least developed island with a very small population.
Capital city of Cayman Islands
George Town is the capital city of Cayman Islands and is located in Grand Cayman. Based on a 2014 statistics it has a population of approximately 30,123 and since Grand Cayman is the biggest island out of all three that are part of the Cayman Islands, most of the population resides there and most people choose it for Grand Cayman vacation. George Town is located approximately 2 km south of Owen Roberts International Airport which is a short 4 minute car drive.
Government buildings such as a Court House, Government Administrative Building and the Legislative Assembly of the Cayman Islands are all located in George Town. The Court House which was built more than 150 years ago and served its' purpose as a court house, a jail and as the island's first official Post Office, now operates as a Museum. The Government Administration Building is home to the office of the Premier, Deputy Governor and other members of Parliament.
George Town is the center of all offshore activities where many investors, entrepreneurs and other people come for their financial dealings and banking. The capital is a very busy town, with the famous Seven Mile Beach where millions of tourists come for Grand Cayman vacation every year on the most extravagant resorts. The town is so busy and full of live that you can spot two to seven cruise ships docked in the Harbour at the same time. There are a lot of traffic in George Town and a lot of new construction developments, so even when rush hour is hours away, seeing heavy traffic on the roads is common.
Cayman Islands have their own brewery that is located approximately 10 minutes from George Town port and offers custom-made beers like Caybrew, Caybrew Light, White Tip and the strong Ironshore Bock. Tours throughout the Beer House are available for tourists from Monday to Friday, where guests can check out how the canning and bottling lines work, and sample the most delicious Caymanian beer.
While on Grand Cayman vacation, do not forget to visit the National Gallery, which is a very popular tourist destination. It is a quick 12 minute (7.7 km) drive up north and presents its' viewers with fabulous national art exhibitions. Its primary missions are to promote the appreciation of visual arts within the community, teach diverse educational programs, and embrace the many cultures and traditions of Caymanian global community.
There are so many things to do in George Town during Grand Cayman vacation, including a variety of water sports such as boat tours, snorkeling, kayaking and submarine tours, sightseeing tours. There are shopping centers that offer high-end merchandise as well as local customized creations, and a busy island full of family entertainment during the day and a busy nightlife when the sun goes down.
How easy is it to get to Grand Cayman Island
Grand Cayman Island has its own International Airport - Owen Roberts International Airport. Cayman Airways, a large national airline for the islands provides direct flights throughout the islands, as well as to several cities in the United States including New York, Chicago and Miami, to Cuba, Jamaica and Honduras.
Nonstop flights to Cayman Islands are offered from United Kingdom, United States and Canada. You can sit back and enjoy your flight on Grand Cayman vacation without worrying to not be on time for your connecting flight in another country. In case you are travelling to either Cayman Brac or Little Cayman, then your transit stop will be on Grand Cayman. Once you get to the Owen Roberts International Airport, catch your direct airflight to Cayman Brac offered through Cayman Airways, or get on a small propeller plane to travel to Little Cayman.
Hotels and resorts do not offer shuttle services from the airport of Grand Cayman, so if planning on staying on the island, order a taxi or rent a car. That will be the best way to get to your resort or Grand Cayman vacation rental.
Grand Cayman Island vacation options
There are a vast variety of accommodations available on the most popular tourist destination on Grand Cayman island - Seven Mile Beach area. It is the most expensive place to stay at, but offers a wide selection of resorts, restaurants and bars, amazing entertainment, super fun water sports and activities outside of the sea. Since Seven Mile Beach is loaded with luxury resorts and fine dining, many tourists choose that part of the islands more often for Grand Cayman vacation. If you are looking for a cheaper option of lodging, try the West Bay area near Rum Point or the quiet East End.
You can find resorts or hotels that offer all-inclusive Grand Cayman vacation packages. At the time of writing this, only Wyndham Reef Resort in Grand Cayman offered an optional all-inclusive package. Just specify what package you prefer at the time of your booking and enjoy a one of a kind vacation. If you choose a non-inclusive package (which most of the hotels and resorts offer), be prepared to pay for your meals and entertainment within and outside of the hotel on your own. In those cases dining options and some or all of the hotel amenities are not included in the price and will be costing you extra. Some hotels include breakfast in their rates while others offer a meal plan for an additional price. To avoid surprises and to budget your Grand Cayman vacation properly, check with your hotel in advance, they will let you know what is included in your hotel stay and what will be offered separately. Some hotels only include breakfast in their rates while others offer a meal plan. All of the hotels are family-friendly welcoming families with kids, couples, adults and scuba divers. Parking won't be costing extra, because it is free at all of the hotels and the resorts in Cayman Islands.
There are also guesthouses available for rent for Grand Cayman vacation. They are situated a little further from the Seven Mile Beach but offer unbeatable prices. These guesthouses are located right in the core where locals reside, so it's a great opportunity to get to know the Caymanian culture and its' people as well. The houses are very clean yet simple and some of them have private baths.
For those that are interested in renting a condo or a private villa, Grand Cayman island has got exactly what a guest needs. Most condo complexes are very much alike with telephones, air-conditioning, patios and parking but their rates are significantly higher in the winter months and visitors might be required to purchase a minimum of 3-7 nights package. Private villas are a great alternative if you want to have a more secluded Grand Cayman vacation, just thoroughly check what's available online as some villas change their agents fairly often, which means the demand for that specific villa rental is low to none.
Weather on Grand Cayman Island
High season in Grand Cayman Island does not begin until mid-December and lasts to about early to mid-April. This is one of the popular as well as the most expensive times to go on Grand Cayman vacation. Try booking your trip 2-3 months in advance to ensure a a wide selection of resorts, hotels and activities available on the islands.
The best times to visit the islands is from May to July, when the hotel rates are considerably lower. What's great about the Cayman Islands is that the weather is steady during most of the year and holds at about 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit). You will find that the waters are calm, and are great for water sports like snorkeling, sailing, diving or fishing.
The coolest months on the islands are January and February, with the temperatures in the high 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). Rains are common only from May to November but come in light showers that don't last more than a few hours a day. August to November experience the most rainfalls, and at this time of the year islands see fewer crowds of tourists even though the hotel rates drop down about 50% so you can get a bargain for your Grand Cayman vacation.
It is known that Caribbean islands are prone to experience light to strong Hurricanes during the Hurricane season. What's great about Cayman islands in this case, is that they are located on the western part of the Caribbean. Even if hurricanes do approach Grand Cayman island, they are not powerful or dangerous at all.
Public Transportation on Grand Cayman
Public transportation on Grand Cayman Island is simple, accessible and inexpensive. If you are staying in the Seven Mile Beach or George Town areas during your Grand Cayman vacation, you will have absolutely no problem hopping on a bus, that are individually owned minivans marked with an "Omni Bus" sign. Depending on a route, buses run from 6:00 a.m. to midnight on a strict schedule and must follow specific rules. There is a Public Transport Inspector on duty from Mondays-Saturdays that is there to supervise the buses and ensure smooth and efficient bus operations.
There are special areas specifically designated for a bus stop which are marked with a round "bus stop" sign. The fastest way to get on a bus is to wave it down with your hand. If you walk down the road and you hear a bus beeping behind you, don't get alarmed, it is common on the islands. This means that the bus driver is asking if you need a ride and whether he should stop to put you aboard. Most buses carry 14-25 passengers, so if you wave down the bus and it doesn't stop to pick you up, it means the number of passengers has reached the limit and there is no more space for extra commuters.
Taxis are another form of transportation that visitors use quite frequently during Grand Cayman vacation. It is, however, a much more expensive option, but runs 24 hours per day. Unlike with buses, you cannot wave down a taxi, it simply will not stop for you. If you need a get a ride, there are many taxis available at the airport, parked along the streets, at the cruise ship terminals, at the hotels or you can always ask your hotel front desk for taxi recommendations.
Taxi fares on Grand Cayman island are not metered and are regulated by the government. Each driver must show you an official government rate sheet upon request. There, you will be able to find all of the destination fees and discuss them with your driver. You are allowed to bring up to 3 passengers and split the bill if your trip is a short one and is within the area. If you are bringing more than 3 persons, one third of a fare is added for each additional passenger.
Planning on catching a cab late at night while on Grand Cayman vacation? Please call the taxi company prior to going out for your nightly entertainment, otherwise it will be difficult to catch them after midnight. Taxi fares in Grand Cayman vary depending on the time of the day you order a cab. If the weather is rainy and there is flooding, some companies might charge their passengers an extra 25%. In between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m., in the afterhours, a lot of taxis charge an extra 25% on top of the initial fares.
According to government statistics, the Cayman Islands expected 2 million cruise arrivals in 2015, so thirty new taxis and six tour buses were planned to begin their service in order to accommodate the mass tourism that Grand Cayman Island is experiencing.
Rent a car in Grand Cayman
Even though you do not need a car if you are staying in George Town or around the Seven Mile Beach area on Grand Cayman island, you might need to rent a vehicle if you are travelling further north or east. Driving is British style, which is on the left, and the speed limits are 30 mph (50 kph) in the country and 20 mph (30 kph) if you are driving through town. There are is a bit of traffic during the rush hour, but driving is easy and other drivers on the roads (especially the locals) are friendly and considerate.
In order to rent a car on your Grand Cayman vacation, you will require a valid driver's license and a credit card. Legal age to rent a car in Grand Cayman Island could be anywhere from 21 to 70 years old. Although some car rental agencies raise up the age limit to 75 years old, another requirement could also be that the person must be at the age of 25 in order to rent a vehicle. If the driver is over 75 years of age, a doctor's note specifying his/her ability to operate a vehicle is required.
Along with having a valid driver's license from your home country, you will be required to obtain a local temporary driver's permit. These can be purchased at any car rental agency for about $20. Car rental rates can start at being reasonably priced to being on the expensive side; however, those rates do include insurance, so you won't have to spend anything on top of those amounts. Pumping gas on Grand Cayman vacation will not break your bank either but it will definitely be costly. If you are not planning on travelling out of Town or for long distances, explore the island by foot or take a bus if you become tired.
Whether you get exhausted driving or feel that you cannot operate a vehicle after dinner and a few drinks, a company called "Homesafe" will come to the rescue and will gladly help you out. This is an amazing alternative to taxis and they will drive you home in the comfort of your own car. A professional driver comes in a scooter to meet you wherever you are, puts his scooter in the back of your vehicle and drives you home safely. Their prices are very reasonable and they are available day and night. Give them a shout, you will be pleased with their quick and attentive service.
Renting mopeds, scooters or bicycles is widely available as well on Grand Cayman vacation. Roads in Cayman Islands are straight, smooth and reasy to ride on. You will find free bikes for use in Camana Bay, just check with the secuity guard by the mailboxes there and he will help you sign out the bikes. To avoid sun burns, sun or heat strokes, please remember to take a hat, sunscreen and water with you, as the weather gets hot. You may also check with your resort or a hotel where you are staying, renting bikes or allowing guests to use them for free might be included in their hotels amenities.
If you are looking to rent a scooter or a moped you are in luck. These rentals are mostly available on Grand Cayman and Little Cayman Islands. The roads are straight and easy to ride on both islands; however, there is much less traffic on Little Cayman and the speed limit is just 25 mph (40 kph). When getting on a moped or a scooter on Grand Cayman vacation, remember to wear a helmet and obey roads signs and rules and you are guaranteed to enjoy your ride.
Money in Grand Cayman
Grand Cayman is a major financial district with offshore banks, private banks, and international banks that offer services such as asset managements, investments and so much more. There are over 600 banks in Cayman Islands, and almost anybody (resident or non-resident) is welcome to open an account with one of them. The application process takes a bit of time while the identity of the applicant, all of the certified documents for the funds and bank references back in their home countries are being checked and verified.
Aside from using the U.S. dollar, Cayman Islands use their own currency namely Cayman Islands Dollar, which is abbreviated as "CI$". Both the local currency and the U.S. dollar is widely accepted across the islands. There are also a lot of ATM machines in the capital city George Town and people have an option to either withdraw U.S. currency or Cayman dollars.
Major credit cards are also accepted almost everywhere on the island, but if you are using a debit card the bank in your home country might temporary suspend access to your account. In Grand Cayman vacation reviews, some travellers complained, that they ran into debit card problems, where after purchasing some items, their debit card access was denied. To avoid such headache, before leaving your country notify the bank that your debit card might be used on the islands and should not cause any suspicion by the bank.
Even though U.S. dollar is accepted on the islands most of the prices are in official currency. However, be prepared to receive the change in Cayman Dollars. Cayman Islands Department of Tourism has issued a fixed exchange rate for a CI dollar with the U.S. dollar. The rate never changes and is as follows: $1 CI is equal to $1.25 US; or $1 US is equal to $.80 CI. It is up to you, and it is not necessary to exchange your U.S. dollars for the local currency, but in order to avoid confusion when it comes to the difference in value between the two and the conversions at the time of your purchase it's recommended to use CI dollars on the islands.
Tipping in Grand Cayman
Tipping during Grand Cayman vacation should be customary for everyone who works in the tourism/service industry, does a very good job and the customer is pleased with the service. If you visit a large hotel, then you might discover that a 15% service charge has already been added to your bill. However, if you are renting a condo or a villa, tipping might be left up to you. In a restaurant or a bar a service charge of 10%-15% is added to your bill automatically; however, you are not legally obligated to pay if you think you received poor service and did not enjoy your meal. These kind of things happen quite rarely, because Caymanians know their income is based on the mass tourism the islands receive every year. They try to please all of their guests, and provide attentive and exceptional service. If after carefully reviewing your bill you find that the service charge was not added and you are happy with the service, a tip is required.
If you look closely on the bill, you might see a line below the space where the service charge was added, asking you to leave additional tips for the server. In such cases, don't be surprised if additional payment is requested. The service charge that the establishment automatically charges its' patrons is split between all the stuff in the restaurant including cooks, dishwashers, servers, bartenders. Leaving additional tips during Grand Cayman vacation are on a fully voluntary basis and only if you think your server went above and beyond to serve you and make your dining a pleasant experience.
Tour guides will expect some kind of gratuity from you but it is not required by law and service charge is not added anywhere. Once your tour comes to an end, tip your guide somewhere in between 10%-20%. You can tip 10% if your guide did not make any effort in making your trip special, 15% if you enjoyed the trip and the guide did a good job at explaining or 20% if your received over the top service and had a hands-on engaging experience.
Taxi drivers get tipped 10%-$20% depending on their work performance, friendliness towards customer and hours they have spent with you. Tip the bellman and porters approximately $2 for their assistance, while the maids should receive somewhere from $2-$5 per day. Please remember, your contribution to great service and appreciation of the service staff makes a long way in the islands' tourism industry creating a higher economy for Grand Cayman Island.
Solicitation in Grand Cayman
There are no beach vendors or solicitation on the streets in Grand Cayman. When on Grand Cayman vacation chances that you will be faced with harassing or pushy vendors or people begging for money are none. This is most likely due to the fact that unemployment rate is extremely low on the islands, people are happy with the way they live and enjoy their every day lives.
Safety in Grand Cayman
Even though Grand Cayman island is safe and fairly crime-free, when travelling there everyone should exercise regular safety precautions just like anywhere else in the world. Walking outside of the resort is safe, and chances of local harassment are extremely slim to none. However, everyone should remember that it's best to keep the valuables in the hotel's safe, not to walk alone at night in deserted or unlit areas, to keep the rental cars locked at all times and always use common sense and the best judgement when it comes to security during the Grand Cayman vacation.
Please also take into consideration that there are no nudist beaches on Cayman islands and sunbathing topless is strongly prohibited and is against the law.
Tourism is the island's second-largest industry, so guests that visit the islands are treated with a lot of respect and are well taken care of. According to the reviews of many tourists, Grand Cayman Island is the most beautiful and peaceful place that visitors fall in love with, feeling secure, protected and relaxed.
Grand Cayman vacation tips - Potable Water
Water in Grand Cayman Island is piped from the city's water supply and is absolutely safe to drink. So when going down for a vacation in Grand Cayman, no need to worry about tap water on the island. Water on the islands is desalinated and is good to the taste. It is pumped from the sea and then purified, making it absolutely safe to drink and to cook with.
Grand Cayman vacation tips - Electricity
Grand Cayman Island use a voltage of 110v to 120v and the frequency is at 60Hz. If you are travelling from the United States or Canada, you will not need any adapters as the connectors and voltages are all the same. Just bring your electronic devices, cables and chargers and you are set to go. If you are travelling from other places in the world please check if the plugs and voltages from your home country correspond with the ones in Grand Cayman Island. In case they don't, please remember to pack plug adaptors and/or transformers with you before leaving off to a Grand Cayman vacation.
Electric blackouts are a seldom occurrence but in case you do experience them, you can always explore the island by foot or sit and glaze at the beautiful Caymanian skies. Bars are always opened as well, and since their cash registers don't work during electricity blackouts, you are in luck for free drinks.
Time in Grand Cayman
In the year of 2015, the government of Grand Cayman Island decided to implement Daylight Savings Time in its' schedule that was supposed to commence in 2016. However, later, in January of 2016, they changed its' opinion and concluded that the Daylight Savings Time will not be utilized. At this moment, the islands run on a Standard Eastern Time.
See also: Cayman Islands People