About Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory, encompasses 3 islands in the western Caribbean Sea. Grand Cayman, the largest island, is known for its beach resorts and varied scuba diving and snorkelling sites. Cayman Brac is popular for deep-sea fishing of tuna, marlin and barracuda. Little Cayman, the smallest island, is home to diverse wildlife, from rock iguanas to red-footed boobies.
The Caymans have one of the highest living standards in the world. This is mostly due to their position as a major financial centre and their tourism industry. The islands attract over one million visitors every year. The Caymans offers white beaches, bountiful sunshine and classy, yet expensive, accommodation and restaurants. The outstanding coral reefs and incredibly clear waters have made this island group a favourite destination for divers.
The largest island, Grand Cayman is just 13km wide and 35km long. Grand Cayman receives the most visitors, with the Seven Mile Beach as the main attraction. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are quieter but as spectacular.
George Town (on Grand Cayman) Currency : Cayman Islands dollar Driver's License : A valid driver's license and a temporary driving permit must be purchased. Must be 21 years old. Electricity : 110 V, 60 Hz Entry Requirements : A valid passport is recommended but an official birth certificate and photo id are accepted. Return or onward ticket required. It is the traveller's responsibility to check with the country’s Embassy for up-to-date information. GMT Time : -5 hr. Daylight savings time is not applied. Government : Self-governing British Overseas Territory Land size : 262 km2 Language : English National Airlines : Cayman Airways Population : 49,035 approx Religion : United Church (Presbyterian and Congregational), Anglican, Baptist, Church of God, other Protestant, Roman Catholic Required Vaccines : none Tourist Season : December through April
Caymanian cuisine's two main ingredients come from the bountiful sea: turtle and conch. They are best enjoyed in chowder soups, stews, steak, fritters, or simply marinated in lime juice. With such proximity to Jamaica, the cooking influences are also quite present, especially in the jerk seasoning that ignites fish, chicken, and other meats. This dish if most commonly served with rice and beans. Other Caymanian favourites include breadfruit, cassava, ackee fruit, fish tea (a broth-like soup), johnny cake, meat patties, pumpkin soup, and saltfish.
Desserts also have the fair share of glory here. One worth trying is the traditional Heavy Cake. But the favourite would be the Rum cake, particularly from two makers: the Tortuga Rum cake or the Blackbeard's Rum Company Rum. Chocolate lover must go to the Icoa Chocolates store, which offers completely natural hand-filled chocolates. All the fillings are made from scratch using fresh local produce like Key limes, passion fruit, coconut, rum, pineapple and spices. Local libations consist of the local Stingray beer and the island's rum companies.
Culture Caymanians are very respectful. Greetings and pleasantries are common and expected, even to shopkeepers when entering their stores. Most islanders use titles of respect, such as Mr. and Miss, when addressing other islanders. Dress codes are also enforced on the Cayman Islands, especially in public areas, church and restaurants.
Christianity is pervasive here and religion is taken quite seriously. Cayman Islands ports are even closed to cruise ships on Sundays and other religious holidays.
Geography The Cayman Islands, a British dependency, are located in the western Caribbean Sea. The Cayman Islands are south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica. The largest of the islands is Grand Cayman (197 sq. km). Her sisters, Cayman Brac (36 sq. km) and Little Cayman (26 sq. km), are located about 145km northeast of Grand Cayman.
The terrain consists mostly of a flat limestone base surrounded by coral reefs. The highest point is The Bluff, on Cayman Brac, which rises to 42m above sea level. The Cayman Islands are flanked to the south by the 6,000m deep Cayman Trench, the deepest part of the Caribbean Sea.
History The Cayman Islands, at first named Las Tortugas after the numerous sea turtles found there, were first sighted by Christopher Columbus on May 10, 1503. The first recorded English visitor to the islands was Sir Francis Drake, who landed there in 1586 and named them the Cayman Islands after the native Taino term for crocodile.
The first permanent inhabitants of the Cayman Islands settled around the 1700. The settlers were made up of pirates, refugees from the Spanish Inquisition, shipwrecked sailors, and slaves. The majority of Caymanians are of African and British descent, with considerable interracial mixing. The islands, along with nearby Jamaica, were captured and ceded to England in 1670 under the Treaty of Madrid. They were governed as a single colony until 1962, when they became a separate British overseas territory.
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 exotic flora of the Cayman Islands is best exemplified by the national flower, the wild banana orchid. There are actually a little over two dozen indigenous orchid species. Every March locals and visitors can enjoy the Cayman Islands Orchid Show that takes place at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. Another national symbol is the silver thatch palm, known for its silvery underside. Mango lovers will rejoice from sampling some of the 15 different varieties of mangos grown on the islands.
There are quite a few Indigenous animal species found on the Cayman Islands, including the loggerhead and green sea turtles, tree frogs and harmless snakes. Other animal species found here are the agouti, blue iguanas and lizards, and land crabs. This destination is considered to offer some of the best scuba diving in the world. The waters are teaming with tropical marine life of all kinds set against the magnificent coral reefs scenery. The Cayman Parrot, Cayman's national bird, is but one of the 180 plus species of birds that have been identified. Common sightings also include the Antillean Grackle, the smooth-billed Ani, the Green-backed Heron, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, the Snowy Egret and the Bananaquit.
Sports If you enjoy frolicking in the water you will be thrilled by all the available water sports for practice, such as swimming, parasailing, kayak, sailing, jet skis, and fishing to name a few. But the real attraction here is for scuba diving and snorkelling enthusiasts, as the island features many reefs and walls, some of which can be accessed by swimming from shore. And those who prefer their activities on firmer ground can choose from horseback riding, golfing, bird watching, hiking, cycling and tennis.
Caymanians are big fans of soccer, cricket, basketball, field hockey, rugby, tennis, softball and volleyball. Martial arts are quite popular as well. Darts and dominoes are a favourite pastime.
Banks & Money
The legal tender is the Cayman Islands dollar, but the US dollar is widely accepted as well. The Cayman Islands is widely recognised to be one of the leading offshore financial centres. There are close to 500 banks and hundreds of various financial institutions.
There are also numerous ATM machines in Grand Cayman, but are more scant in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Most credit cards and Traveller's cheques are accepted at all large shopping centres, restaurants, hotels, etc.
Climate The Cayman Islands enjoys a warm and tropical climate, with an average summer temperature of 30° C, and with an average winter temperature of 22° C. It can be quite humid at times. The rainy season starts in May and lasts through early November. Hurricane season is June to November. The water temperature hovers around 27° C.
For monthly average temperatures please refer to your destination of choice.
Communication The international code is 345. Calls are all direct dialling and local telephone numbers are seven digits. Most hotels offer internet services and there are Internet cafes available as well.
There are several newspapers on the island. The leading paper is the Caymanian Compass which is published daily. Cable TV is available in most hotels. The Friday edition lists entertainment events. Usually found in hotel lobbies, the What's Hot is a free monthly magazine geared to visitors.
Health The water, when desalinated, is for the most part safe to drink. Since there are no natural fresh water resources, drinking water supplies are met by desalination plants and rainwater catchments. Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac supplies purified water, but drink only bottled water on Little Cayman. Other health concerns include bug bites and sunstroke. Food wise, do not eat local reef fish (barracuda, groupers, amberjack, red snappers, eel, sea bass, and Spanish mackerel) as it can cause fish poisoning.
There are no required vaccines to enter the country, unless you are arriving from a yellow fever affected destination. The following vaccines are recommended for any tropical destination: hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus and yellow fever.
Official Holidays January 1st – New Year's Day January – National Heroes Day February/March – Ash Wednesday March/April – Good Friday, Easter Monday May – Discovery Day June – Queen's Birthday July – Constitution Day November 11 – Remembrance Day December 25 – Christmas December 26 – Boxing Day
Safety Pick pocketing, purse snatchings, and robberies happen occasionaly around hotels, beaches, and restaurants. Use good judgement, take advantage of the safety deposit boxes provided by the hotels and ensure that your lock hotel door or your rented car. Carry your wallet and camera discreetly. Avoid walking on the streets after dark.
There have been incidents of sexual assault, some reportedly involving the use of so-called "date rape" drugs.
Shopping With no sales tax and plenty of duty-free merchandise, visitors can find great deals on certain items such as perfume, electronics and china and much more. Traditional souvenirs include woven mats, baskets, jewellery made of Caymanite rock (from the cliffs of Cayman Brac), cigars, and authentic sunken treasure.
It is highly recommended NOT TO BUY black-coral products, as it is an endangered species and has most probably been taken illegally from the sea.
Taxes & Tips There is no sales tax in stores. Hotels add a 10% government hotel tax and 10% in service fees. Restaurants usually include a 10 to 15% service charge on the bill, make sure to inquire first. Taxi drivers may be tipped 10 to 15%.
The departure tax of around CI $20, per person, is payable at the airport unless already charged on ticket. Please verify.
Transportation Each island has its own airport but most tourists will arrive at the Owen Roberts International Airport on Grand Cayman. Short flights between other islands are easy and affordable with small charter companies.
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. Call for a cab to be dispatched, as you generally cannot hail one on the street. 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.