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Island in Cayman Islands
Grand Cayman is the largest of the Cayman Islands, the British Caribbean territory. George Town, its capital, is home to the Cayman Islands National Museum, dedicated to Caymanian heritage, and the ruins of colonial-era Fort George. At the island’s centre is the Mastic Reserve and Trail, a footpath through old-growth forest, sheltering a wide variety of native plants and animals.
Population: 52,601 (2010)
Island groups: Greater Antilles, Antilles
Grand Cayman is the largest of the three islands in the Cayman Islands. It is also very well known for diving and snorkelling. The island features many reefs and walls, some of which can be accessed by swimming from shore. Along with its natural beauty, several museums, unique attractions, and sunken ships, Grand Cayman is guaranteed to please any visitor.
Located on this island is the capital, George Town, a modern and bustling city. It is recognized as the offshore banking center of the Caribbean. As a matter of fact you can count close to 500 bank branches. The capital offers wonderful fine cuisine and shopping.
Grand Cayman's most famous beach is Seven Mile Beach. This unspoiled powdery white sanded beach is home to most resorts, restaurants, and shopping centers.
The quaint Cemetery Beach attracts sun worshipers, swimmers, and snorkel enthusiast. Here you can also have a unique experience by feeding some very friendly local fish and marine life.
Rum Point Beach, located on North Sound, is a local favourite for week-end gatherings. Surrounded by a barrier reef, it is an ideal spot for easy access snorkelling.
Smith's Cove, just to the west of George Town, is a great beach for swimming, Snorkelling and family picnics.
Water Cay offers an unspoiled beach in the purest sense. Here you will often spot the large orange starfish in the shallow waters.
Climate Generally, the island enjoys good weather all year with cooling trade winds. The rainy season runs from May to November.
Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands and is home to the capital George Town. The eastern side of the island remains undeveloped, while the western side, which holds George Town and the Owen Roberts International Airport, is quite modernized.
The island is a high-lying limestone reef, with a highest elevation of roughly 18m above sea level. No natural fresh water source can be found here, so seawater must go through a catchment area and be desalinated.
History The first permanent settlement on Grand Cayman was recorded around 1700. Many more settlements followed suit for the next years till 1742, some implementing slavery but to a lesser degree then elsewhere in the Caribbean. In 1831, the Legislative Assembly was established in George Town, giving it a certain amount of authority over local issues. To this day George Town remains the capital city of the Cayman Islands.
Know as the Father of Diving, Bob Soto opened here, in 1957, the first dive shop of the Caribbean. He is considered a pioneer of the diving industry. In the following decade, many efforts were made to develop the tourism industry, such as the formation of a Tourist Board in 1966. 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.
Nature The Mastic Trail is a real hiker's paradise. Ideally you should book a guided excursion to learn about all the local flora and wildlife. This trail, once a route of commerce, traverses the island from its south coast to the north. Along the path you will be amazed by the mangrove swamps, palm savannahs, and rocky formations. This is but one of about 35 trails developed by the National Trust for nature explorers to enjoy.
The natural local attraction referred to as Hell, is a group of short, black, limestone formations in the northwest of Grand Cayman. You may observe these unusual formations from two viewing platforms.
Here on the island visitor are offered 3 unique ways of learning about the local fauna. The first is the Turtle Farm, in operation since 1968, the world's only commercial Green Sea Turtle farm, which also serves as an educational platform for these great creatures. Secondly, the Butterfly Farm invites you to stroll through a tropical garden teeming with butterflies from around the globe. And finally, a visit here would not be complete without going to Stingray City. This site is accessible to all, with or without scuba or snorkel gear, and lets you interact with the friendly stingrays.
Unique to Here The only one of its kind in the world, Cayman Turtle Farm is home to over 16,000 sea turtles, ranging in size from six ounces to six-hundred pounds each. The farm is a modern-day reminder of the turtle's role in the history of the Cayman Islands. When Christopher Columbus first discovered the islands in 1503, he named them Las Tortugas, meaning The Turtles. According to legend, there were so many turtles that the islands looked like they were covered with rocks.
Although the farm is a commercial enterprise that provides the local market with edible turtle meat, the top priority at the Farm is maintaining an ideal breeding environment, hence preventing the need to hunt them in the wild. In fact, since 1980, the Farm has released 29,000 turtles back into the sea to help replenish the wild population.
Owen Roberts International Airport Airport Tax : The departure tax of around CI $20, per person, is payable at the airport unless already charged on ticket. Please verify. Distance from Airport : 3 km from George Town Tourist Office : Regatta Office Park, Leeward Two, West Bay Road. Tel: 345-949-0623 Tourist Season : December through April Festivals & Events March - The Cayman Islands Orchid Show, held at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.
April - Cayfest, or National Festival of the Arts, celebrates the arts and culture of the Cayman Islands.
May - Cayman Carnival Batabano is best represented by the live calypso music, extravagant costumes, and the colourful parade. It is usually held after Ash Wednesday.
October - Pirates Week Festival Over 10 days this festival features music, street dances, costumes, fireworks, a pirate invasion re-enactment, and much more.
December - Cayman Jazz Fest
Transportation Visitors arrive on Grand Cayman at the Owen Roberts International Airport. Cayman Airways also provides connecting regional service to Cayman Brac, Little Cayman, and other nearby islands.
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. Taxis are readily available from all resorts and from the taxi stand at the cruise ship dock in George Town. 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.
Activities & Sports
The Cayman Islands are really world renown for the scuba diving and snorkelling opportunities. The islands are the exposed top of an underwater mountain. Underwater, the sides of this mountain are quite steep, vertical in some places, offering incredible wall diving. Also on display are the gorgeous coral reefs which are teaming with colourful fish and sunken wrecks. Another reason why diving here is unique, is the proximity of the dive sites, some accessible directly from shore. Many resorts and condominiums cater directly to divers, having in-house diving operations, courses, daily excursions and rentals. There are 145 dive sites around Grand Cayman, which roughly into 4 areas: Seven Mile Beach and the Northwest Point, The North Wall, The South Side, and The East End.
Of course many more water sports can be practiced here at the various beaches or resorts, such as swimming, parasailing, kayak, sailing, jet skis, and fishing.
Considered by many as a golfer's paradise, Grand Cayman offers three golf courses, all set in a lush tropical setting: The Links at Safehaven, The Britannia, and Sunrise Family Golf Centre. Many tour companies offer wonderful horseback riding or nature hiking excursions. Bird watching, cycling and tennis are also quite popular on the island.
Attractions & Sights Great historical sites not to be missed include; the National Museum, with over 2,000 items on exhibit; the authentic great house Pedro St. James, the oldest surviving stone structure; and the Cayman Islands’ National Trust office, located in George Town, which offers extensive information on the local history and culture, as well as tours permitting the discovery of smaller but important sites such as the Bodden Town Guard House, Old Savannah Schoolhouse and Watlers Cemetery.
The Queen Elizabeth Botanic Park offers 40 acres of lush vegetation and local wildlife. Explore, camera in hand, the Visitors Centre, the Floral Garden, the Heritage Garden, and the lake. The park has since become the protected home of 40 endemic Grand Cayman Blue Iguanas, an endangered specie.
If diving or snorkelling are not an option for you, the Cayman Islands offer a unique solution for all to admire the mysterious underwater world. Several tour companies have submarines, semi-submersibles or glass-bottom boats. There is even a submarine built for two passengers, going to depths of 18m with a 360-degree view.
Nightlife You are sure to find something here to your liking with such an enjoyable variety of nightlife and entertainment. The free monthly magazine What's Hot, the What's Happenin column in the Friday issue of the local newspaper, and the Caymanian Compass, are the best sources of information about nightlife and special events.
Nightlife includes several nightclubs and bars. Some of the more hip destinations include the Matrix, O Bar, and Bobo's Iguana, where you can dance the night away to the sounds of Hip Hop, Disco, Calypso, Reggae, Salsa and Meringue. Other popular clubs and bars include Chameleon Nightclub, The Next Level, Club Inferno and Legends Pirate’s Den Pub is one of the original pubs on Grand Cayman.
The Harquail Theatre, on West Bay road, and the Prospect Playhouse in Red Bay both feature year-round regular performances of comedy, drama, musicals and sometimes art exhibitions. Concerts are usually held at the Lions Centre in Red Bay. There are also two noteworthy comedy clubs: the Coconuts Comedy Club and the Chuckles.
Side Trips A trip to the Cayman Islands would not be complete without a stop at Grand Cayman’s two sister islands.
Cayman Brac This islands charm, truly lies in the splendour of its natural and serene beauty. The Bluff, a massive limestone outcrop rising to 43m, is the islands most famous natural attraction. You will also find here an extensive cave systems and caverns to explore. Of particular interest is the Great Cave which is home to some of the world’s most stunning stalagmite and stalactite formations. Cayman Brac is a paradise for divers, snorkellers and trail hikers. Also a must while on the island is the Brac Parrot Reserve, the Cayman Brac Museum, and the Cayman Brac Heritage House.
Little Cayman If you are searching for an oasis of peace, isolation and beauty, then look no further then this little jewel of an island. There are fabulous diving and snorkelling opportunities here, such as the world-famous Bloody Bay Wall. The Red-Footed Booby Bird Nature Reserve is home to the largest colony of Red-footed Booby birds. Also claiming the reserve a home is the Frigate bird, Egrets, Herons, West Indian Whistling Duck, and Black-necked Stilts. Dedicated to the history of the island and its inhabitants is the Little Cayman Museum.
On Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac you will find a wide variety of accommodation to suit any requirements; from full service resorts, to modern hotels, condominiums, self-catering villas and cottages. Little Cayman's lodging options are more aimed at visitors seeking a quiet haven or incredible diving opportunities.
Do keep in mind, budget accommodations are practically unheard of in the islands.
Eating Out Grand Cayman offers a wide selection of restaurants, ranking from fine dinning establishments, to fast-food outlets, and snack bars. Not only can you find wonderful traditional Caymanian and Caribbean cuisine, but most international fare, such as Italian, Mexican, Thai, Chinese, Indian and American. Most places can be found in the capital of George Town. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman have a very few, yet delicious, small local restaurants.
Shopping Visitors definitely have quite a selection of shopping centers to choose from, such as: Harbour Place, Kirk Freeport Plaza, Galleria Plaza, and Queen's Court Shopping Centre. Another common sight is the many art galleries found on the islands, due to an abundance of local artistic talent. Not to be missed of course is the Cayman Craft Market.
The Tortuga Rum Company and the Blackbeard's Rum Company have several rums available, liquors, and as well as delicious rum cakes.