FLASH: This Caribbean island famous for its rum cake and Pirate Festival and it is also, the 5th largest financial center in the world
Welcome to Grand Cayman
Grand Cayman is the largest of the 3 Cayman Islands which are located between Jamaica and Cuba. Its much smaller and lesser-known sister islands are Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, and together they make up an autonomous British Overseas Territory ruled by the Queen.
The Cayman Islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus during his 4th voyage to the New World in Y 1503. Columbus named them Las Tortugas, Spanish for turtles, for the masses of turtles residing on their shores. Legend says that when his ships were approaching the land, the crew noticed large boulders on the shore, but as they got closer, they realized those boulders were giant turtles. The ample supply of turtle meat made Cayman Islands a popular port for ships, but it took the 1st permanent settlers, who came from the British Army in Jamaica, another 100 years to arrive.
Grand Cayman is a major cruise ship port and a popular tourist destination known for its beaches, superb diving and tax-exempt status. You will also find world class dining, boutique shopping, buzzing nightlife and some of the friendliest people on our planet.
Below is a look at the best things to do when visiting Grand Cayman, as follows:
Seven Mile Beach
Grand Cayman’s most famous stretch of sand is called Seven Mile Beach, it is the most popular and developed area of Grand Cayman and home to the majority of the island’s luxury resorts and hotels.
No matter where you are staying, you can walk its full length since the beach is public or just pick a spot to bask in the Sunshine and work on your tan.
If you are up for some water sports like snorkeling, parasailing, banana boating, kitesurfing, stand up paddle-boarding, you will find it here
Because it’s located on the western part of the island, Seven Mile Beach is also a superb spot for taking in one of Grand Cayman’s spectacular Sunsets.
Cayman Turtle Center
Not too far from Seven Mile Beach is the Grand Cayman Turtle Center, the island’s largest tourist attraction, which welcomes more than half a million visitors each year. The facility was originally established as a turtle farm, used for breeding the endangered green sea turtles for commercial purposes. Its main purpose was to help reduce over-fishing due to human consumption which, over the years, drove the species to dangerously low numbers
The Grand Cayman Turtle Center is still in operation as a farm for raising turtles. It also serves as an important research, conservation and education facility.
Visitors are allowed entry to turtle breading and feeding tanks. You will also find a 23-acre park, which includes a nature trail, an aviary and a reef lagoon where visitors can snorkel with fish, green sea turtles and other sea life.
Turtles are not the only special marine animals found on Cayman Islands. At Stingray City, home to Grand Cayman’s gentlest and friendliest citizens, you can find fevers of stingrays.
Stingrays began gathering on the North Sound of the island decades ago when fishermen returning from fishing trips cleaned their fish in the calm waters of the sandbar area.
Stingray City is another big attraction for visitors to the Cayman Islands or passengers from cruise ships who dock on the island for the day. When planning your visit, try to avoid large, impersonal excursions, which can feel rushed and leave you disappointed.
Scuba or Sail Away
If you are into SCUBE diving, you probably already know that Grand Cayman is listed as one of the Top 5 Best Caribbean Shore Diving Destinations, but scuba novices should know that there are plenty of beginner spots as well. The island is home to dive sites for people of all skill levels including shallow options and deep dives.
Those preferring to stay above the water can choose sailing, another popular activity on Grand Cayman, which has a strong recreational sailing community. Take a lesson, hop on a boat for a day of adventure on one of the two neighboring islands or simply chill on a romantic sunset cruise. Red Sail Cayman sunset catamaran cruise will take you along Seven Mile Beach and have you enjoying hors oeuvres, a cocktail and some lovely island beats while the Sun disappears beyond the horizon.
The Pirate Festival
The Pirate Festival is Grand Cayman’s biggest and most famous event, taking place on the island for a week every year in November. The festivities begin on Cayman Brac and then move on to Grand Cayman. There are parades, games, fishing tournaments, fireworks and even a mock pirate invasion with capture of the Governor. The event culminates on Little Cayman with a big farewell BBQ. Fans of Pirates of the Caribbean will not want to miss out, but make sure to book your trip well in advance due to the event’s popularity.
The Food is Good Too
The Cayman Islands restaurants are known for their seafood and Caribbean influences such as “jerking”, which involves slow-smoking meat with a spice blend. There are many casual joints with delicious local fare such as the famous Pepper, known for live music, energetic mix of tourists and locals and incredible jerk chicken, which will have you licking your plate. Another good option is Kaibo, located at Rum Point and perfectly positioned for Sunset viewing. The list of world class dining establishments representing both local and various international cuisines is equally long. Many of them are run by famous chefs such as Roy Yamaguchi, who recently opened Eating House 1503, the year Columbus discovered the Cayman Islands at the newly refurbished and greatly underrated Margaritaville Beach Resort. Popular restaurant spots, be it casual or refined, fill up quickly, so it pays to make a reservation ahead of your visit.
A Few Tips
Given their location in the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands are a year-round Sunshine destination. The coldest month is January with an average daily temperature of 77˚F (25˚C). The best weather is during the Winter season, December through April. Summer months bring more rain, humidity and the hurricane season (June – November). The Cayman Islands have experienced the most hurricane strikes in history.
The Cayman Islands has it own currency, the Cayman Island Dollar (CI$), which is tied to the USD, and does not fluctuate from it.
The exchange rate is CI $1.00 = US$1.25.
Since they are a British Territory, keep in mind you will be driving on the left if you happen to rent a car. Most stores, even many of those in touristy areas, are closed Sundays.
Enjoy your travels