Cayman Islands guide
Cayman Islands at a glance
THE CAYMAN ISLANDS three islands differ markedly in size and character, but all offer some of the best scuba diving in the entire Caribbean, while Grand Cayman also has excellent sandy beaches. Although the Cayman Islands remain part of the British West Indies the majority of tourist visitors come from the USA, and in recent years, from Canada. Seven Mile Beach is the busiest on the island, but it offers white sand and safe swimming as well as access to all the amenities of the most developed tourist areas. Travel to the East End and the island changes markedly, and becomes closer in character to the less developed ‘Sister Islands’ of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Read about Cayman history, population and politics in Island Essentials.
The Cayman Islands by travel journalist and broadcaster, Tim Ecott, gives you independent reviews, listings, and information.
- Best for:
- Beach, Family, Scuba Diving, Weddings & Romance
- What for:
- Family, Scuba Diving, Weddings
- Not for:
- All inclusive, Backpackers, Camping, Gay, Naturist
- How to get there:
- Direct (via Nassau) with British Airways from the UK, or with several airlines with connections through Miami, New York and other gateway U.S. and Canadian cities
- Top tip:
- Take a short trip to Cuba
Cayman Islands in depth
About THE CAYMAN ISLANDS...
The Cayman Islands are well developed and offer as much or as little of the Caribbean feel as the visitor wants. All three islands are low-lying slivers of coral surrounded by extremely clear waters which have made them a haven for scuba divers. History and local colour are not as visibly abundant on Grand Cayman as in some parts of the Caribbean, since the island’s geography and history did not allow for a rise of grand old plantation style estates. The island’s also had a much smaller ‘slave culture’ than anywhere else in the region. Hurricanes have also made their mark on the islands, and as recently as 2004 ‘Ivan’ – one of the worst on record in the whole Caribbean - caused major damage to much of Grand Cayman.
At twenty two miles long, ‘Grand’ as the locals call it, is compact enough to be explored in a day or two, while ‘the Brac’ and ‘Little’ need scarcely more than a few hours by car. This would be an injustice to any and all of the islands, whose individual character takes a little more time to discover.
Seven Mile Beach on ‘Grand’ is a strip of high-end condominiums and hotels about ten minutes drive from the small and peaceful capital, George Town. Famously busy on the days when several cruise ships dock for a few hours offshore, the town is geared up for day visitors rather than for night-life. Drive to the West End of Grand and things get much quieter, with some of the island’s best restaurants and a more residential feel. Drive East and you reach the small settlement of Bodden Town and, a little further on the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, a jewel of its kind, and home to the endemic Blue Iguanas and the Cayman Parrot.
Inevitably, with regular flights from the USA, and with Miami only an hour away most visitors do come from America, and the branded hotels cater very much for that market. The advantage of that proximity is that standards of accommodation and amenities are generally high, but the Cayman Islands do not attract travellers on a tight budget.
Caribbean culture may be less obvious in Cayman than many other parts of the region, but it is there in the gentle, old world civility of the islanders. Delve just a little beneath the obvious tourist venues and you will find simple eateries serving jerk, farm shops selling island-grown produce and small-scale businesses run by Caymanians. Crime is still rare, and remains virtually unknown on the Brac or Little Cayman.
While Cayman Brac is a small genuinely local community where everyone still knows everyone else, Little Cayman is even smaller but has a higher proportion of seasonal tourist visitors – a very large proportion of them being ‘repeaters’. ‘Little’ is served only by 19-seater ‘Twin Otter’ aeroplanes and as a result, mass development has been impossible. ‘The Brac’ has only a few places to stay and retains a genuinely sleepy feel. By contrast, Grand Cayman is big enough to offer a vast selection of restaurants – everything from burger bars, a vegan café and numerous high-end eateries on a par with good restaurants in London or New York.
This Definitive Cayman Islands Guide, with over fifty topics, carries independent reviews and gives in-depth coverage to the islands, its accommodation, things to do, places to see, getting around, how to get there and links for travel to The Cayman Islands.
Contributors to the guide include Sara Macefield (cruises). Our picture editor is Holly Cocker. Senior picture editor, Alexander Gray.
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Cayman Islands weather
Looking for inspiration?
- Take a day sail to Stingray City
- Walk the length of Seven Mile Beach
- Dive the many sites off Little Cayman
- Enjoy a guided tour of Cayman Brac
- Choose from three excellent restaurants in Osetra Bay
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