International Travel Writer and Photographer who considers herself a global citizen, sharing the world with her readers through her travels.
See you in the Cayman Islands!
A brief history of the Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands, a British Dependent territory situated in the Caribbean Sea between Jamaica and Cuba, were sighted by Christopher Columbus, on 11 May 1503 on his disastrous fourth and final voyage to the New World. He named them Las Tortugas after the numerous sea turtles there. 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 Neo-Taino nations term (caiman) for alligator.
Now a thriving off-shore banking industry and tourist destination, today, it is tourism that brings in much of the riches. Grand Cayman suffered a setback when it was battered by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and the island all but shut down for numerous months while it was restored. Things have now recovered and it continues to attract high-end tourism to the country due to a combination of excellent infrastructure, top class hotels and of course the world-famous beaches and diving.
Language in Cayman Islands
English is the official language, with a distinctive 'brogue' reflecting heritage of Welsh, Scottish and English ancestors still distinguishing the speech of the Caymanian people.
The number of Jamaican residents in the workforce means the Jamaican patois is also common.
Spanish, particularly regional dialects of Central America and Cuba, is also widely spoken.
Visit the Cayman Islands!
1. Stingray City Experience
The Stingray City sandbar experience in Grand Cayman is an experience of a lifetime.
- Touch and feel the stingrays.
- Snorkel with the fish nearby at the magnificent Coral Gardens
- Check out even more abundant marine life at the gorgeous Barrier Reef.
- 24 friendly stingrays, ranging in size.
- Stingray City is perfect for the whole family.
We traveled with Captain Marvin's Watersports tour. My very own sister, Anna, was one of the tour guides. Fabulous!!
Captain Marvin's Watersports
- an experienced company
- offers a variety of charters
- specializes in snorkeling and fishing trips
- host to several watersports activities
- six well-equipped vessels make up their fleet
- included in each booking is round trip transportation to the motor boat and all equipment use
- experienced and well seasoned crew.
- comfort is your number one priority.
Captain Marvin's Watersports
Captain Marvin's Watersports
|Adults||Children 4-11 years of age|
$550-$750 per half day
$1100-$1400 per full day
$35-$65 per day
starts at $45
starts at $45
Stingray City and Snorkel tour with lunch
starts at $75
Stingray City Sand Bar, Grand Cayman
Snorkeling excursion, part of the Stingray City Trip
2. Pedro James Castle
Pedro St. James Castle is affectionately called Pedro Castle by the locals. Discover the unique heritage and culture of Cayman via this lovingly restored window into the 18th century that’s only a 20-minute drive from George Town. At a time in the Cayman Islands when most people lived in tiny, thatch-covered houses, a wealthy Englishman, using slave labour from Jamaica, created an astonishing 3-storey building called Pedro St. James. In the 1990s, the Government of the Cayman Islands purchased Pedro St. James and painstakingly restored the Great House to the splendor of its 18th century heritage. Today, visitors can stroll through the imposing edifice with its period furniture and authentic artifacts to experience what life was like so long ago in Cayman’s history.
Pedro St. James Castle
|Open||Cost||Multi-sensory 3-D presentation|
10 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
except Christmas Day
Kids 12 years nd under are free
3. Pirates' caves
The Pirate's Caves are:
- natural limestone caves located below the southern part of Bodden Town on the south shores of Grand Cayman.
- suitable for all ages.
- equipped as a sight for kids up to 12 years.
- a talking parrot
- a petting zoo
- a gift shop
- Pirates' graves across the street complete the visit
The caves are said to have once extended underneath Bodden Town with openings out to the sea.
Legends tell about a pirate's treasure, which still lies buried in the caves!
Due to many storms over the years, the openings out to the sea have been buried and the locations of treasure troves have been entombed.
Pirates' Week Festival
4. Pirates' Week festival
Every November, the Cayman Islands play host to an onslaught of scallywags and rapscallions at the annual Pirates Week Festival. Though the festival is known as Pirates Week, celebrations actually last for 11 days.
The Pirates Week Festival:
- only event of its kind in the Caribbean
- eleven days of partying, basically
- opening Street Dance and Food Festival
- usually starts around the middle of November. Check the calendar for the year you wish to visit.
- eleven fun-filled, family-friendly days
- street dances
- competitions such as the steel pan
- wonderful local food
- kids day
- glittering parade
- sports events for everyone
- Heritage Days
- pirate invasion that includes the Governor walking the plank
- fancy dress including pirate paraphernalia, swashbuckling boots, hooks, swords, tattoos, bangles and beads, readily available for hire or purchase.
- fireworks galore
- crowning of the Festival Queen
Prepare to be transported into a world that has gained notoriety due to Disney's popular film series the Pirates of the Caribbean. There are plenty of Jack Sparrow look-a-likes marauding the streets of George Town so best be on the look out or you might end up in Davy Jones' Locker.
Pirates' Week Festival
5. Flip-Flop tree
A must-do for selfie-snapping tourists.
Wolfgang Brocklebank and his girlfriend Giovanna Inselmini started nailing the random flip flops they found washed up on the island’s beaches to the dead tree to:
- draw attention to the garbage polluting Grand Cayman’s shores
- to encourage recycling
Come to the Cayman Islands, but when you leave, take your garbage with you.
Visitors are eager to memorialize their visit come every day to add their own slides and sandals or to snap a pic of the casuarina’s strange fruit, but few know the real story behind it.
Cayman Airways and FREE rum punch
6. Cayman Airways and free rum punch
Only one airline gives free rum punch during its flights: Cayman Airways.
No matter the location of your seat onboard, Cayman Airways guests have the pleasure of enjoying FREE Rum Punch along with complimentary sodas and juices.
Cayman Airways offers nonstop flights from New York, Chicago, Miami, and Tampa.
Diving and Snorkeling
7. Diving and Snorkeling
The underwater scenery in the Cayman Islands is as breathtaking as the above water scenes, offering fun and excitement for divers of all skill levels:
- amazing wall dives
- beautiful coral reefs
- visibility that often seems infinite
- stretches of magnificent coral reefs
- underwater drop-offs
- shipwrecks dating back to pirate times
- and vertical wall dives
- an abundance of marine life such as tropical fish, turtles, colorful sponges and hard corals
- some of the best scuba diving in the Caribbean, from the Cayman Wall on Grand Cayman to the Bloody Bay Wall in Little Cayman.
Diving in the Cayman Islands
8. Rum point
As a teenager, Cayman Kai/Rum Point area was the beach to go to if I just wanted to get away. Today it is a:
- very popular tourist attraction
- with a very nice beach
- lots of beach chairs
- hammocks to relax in
- lots of watersports to try
- and if you're not the jet ski type, calm coves to swim in.
- one of the stops on the Stingray City excursion.
My kids enjoyed this immensely, and is one area that they want to return to again and again.
Scenes from Rum Point
Have you ever been to the Cayman Islands?
Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Gardens
9. Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park
Not far from the main highway, this is a delightful side-trip on a non-diving day. The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park off Frank Sound Road is a must visit for anyone into nature and wildlife conservation, or for anyone just wanting to enjoy a casual day...a walk in the park!
The park is:
- 65 acres of tropical beauty ranging from ornamental flower/plant gardens arranged by colors
- a historic Cayman Cottage
- Palm Garden
- Orchid Walk
- Undisturbed woodland trail that showcases Grand Cayman's endemic plant and animal life Endangered Grand Cayman Blue Iguanas living freely throughout the whole park
- Picnic spots
- Friendly and helpful park staff
- Peaceful tropical gardens
- A lagoon with a beautiful gazebo
The Park provides an excellent insight into the life on the Cayman Islands, be it botanical or animal. Very charming and helpful staff. If you plan to tour the Park, however, please remember to wear sensible shoes for walking around the Park.
Hell Township, Grand Cayman
10. Hell Township
- a group of short, black, limestone formations in the northwest Grand Cayman town of West Bay
- roughly the size of half soccer field
People are not allowed in among the limestone formations; two viewing platforms exist for tourists.
There are numerous versions of how Hell received its name, but they are generally variations on "a local official exclaimed, 'This is what Hell must look like.'"
Regardless of how it first came to be called Hell, the name stuck and the area has become something of a tourist attraction, featuring:
- a fire-engine red hell-themed post office from which you can send "postcards from hell"
- a gift shop with 'Satan' passing out souvenirs while greeting people with phrases like 'How the hell are you?' and 'Where the hell are you from?'
11. Mastic Trail
If you're a nature lover, you should definitely add the Mastic Trail to your list of Cayman Island must-dos.
The trail is:
- a 200-year-old gravelly path that winds through a native mangrove swamp
- a 2 million-year-old woodland area, surrounded by some of the island's most colorful and rare plant life
- is preserved as a flat, beginners hike by the Cayman Islands National Trust
- challenging but worth the trek, especially with a guide.
Bananaquit song on Mastic Trail
12. Sister islands
The Sister Islands, as they are affectionately referred to, are Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
- the largest sister island
- situated 90 miles northeast of Grand Cayman
- 12 miles long by just over 1 mile wide
- offers two sides: quiet and adventurous.
- The west side of the island where the airport is located is flat, while the east offers a steep bluff with a remarkable ancient coral limestone cliff and caves.
- The caves on this island were reputed to have been used by Edward Teach (Blackbeard) to hide his ill-gotten gains plundered from Spanish ships.
- Brac is Gaelic for bluff and aptly identifies the cliff that sores to a massive 42 metres (140 ft.) at the eastern point of the island
- Visitors who climb to the top of the Bluff Lighthouse will be rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view.
- Five challenging Bluff footpaths
- Trails appeal to naturalists, bird-watchers, butterfly experts and botanists, as they allow them to explore intriguing caves and sinkholes high above the water or wander through woodlands filled with exotic flowers and plants.
- Some 200-bird species can be found here including Frigate birds, brown boobies, owls, peregrine falcons and the rare Cayman Brac parrot.
Little Cayman is:
- the smallest of the three islands.
- permanent population of barely over 100
- serene and tranquil as it gets
It is 10 miles long and only about one mile wide. It is the least developed island, and it is home to more than 50 amazing dive sites. It is located about 58 miles northeast of Grand Cayman4 and about five miles west of Cayman Brac.
Its unique charm is its peaceful, serene atmosphere. This is a “hideaway” for those who relish empty beaches and “getting away from it all”. Although one can rent a car, bicycling is a great way to see this island paradise. Nature thrives here with indigenous wildlife.
Iguanas are so abundant that “Iguana Crossing” signs have been posted throughout the island.
Bloody Bay Marine Park, along the north shore of Little Cayman, offers some of the world's most spectacular and varied diving experiences, but if you're not a diver, Little Cayman offers a variety of offshore snorkeling where even beginners will find incredible sites just a few feet off the shoreline.
Beautiful sunrises and sunsets
13. Breath-taking Sunrises and Sunsets
The Cayman Islands boast some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets of the world, my opinion, of course, but we know it's true!
Depending on where you are on the island, you can either have dinner on the beach from the Wharf restaurant while the sun is going down, or watch the cruise ships depart from the Harbor in George Town.
If you're an early riser, don't miss the beautiful sunrises. Let the photographs speak for themselves.
14. Laid back lifestyle
A laid back atmosphere that permeates the Cayman Islands!
- Great food!
- Friendly people!
- Beautiful beaches!
- Lots of water-related recreation!
- This is definitely the place to be if you want to have it all.
Cayman Turtle Farm
15. Cayman Turtle farm
If you're vacation in the Cayman Islands, something you should definitely do is visit the Turtle Farm in West Bay, Grand Cayman. There are so many activities, including holding a week old turtle, to snorkeling with turtles and fish. You can watch the sharks being fed, and use the water slide. Be sure to visit the Education Center in the farm to get more information about turtles. Good family fun for all!
16. Art scene
Art galleries in Grand Cayman are extremely good at carrying the work of local artists and craftsmen, such as original paintings, Caymanite jewelry or hand-woven thatch products. The quality is superb and such works have become highly collectable. Other locally produced goods include Cayman sea salt, soap products, jams, hot sauces, sculptures and more.
Cayman’s art and cultural scene has evolved into a rich and colorful representation of a diverse community through the contributions and essence of its people.
The National Trust Visitor Centers and the local markets are great places to find artisanal products and locally made gifts.
Cayman Islands Art Scene
Camana Bay, Grand Cayman Art Scene
17. Old Time Cayman-Style homes
100 year old Cayman Bracker Mrs Dean Brown Looks Back~
18. Blue Iguanas
The Blue Iguana is Cayman’s largest native land animal. It’s a giant, dragon-like blue lizard which grows to over 5 feet long, over 25 lbs. weight, and can live as long as humans!
Native to Grand Cayman, this magnificently striking blue iguana is one of the most endangered lizards on Earth. Indeed, at the time of its original description in 1940 the Cayman Island blue iguana was already considered to be on the brink of extinction. Blue iguanas normally possess a blue-grey complexion when resting but are better known for the stunning azure blue they turn during the breeding season or when excited
19. Green Iguanas
The green iguanas are not native to the Cayman Islands, and are considered a nuisance, and I am sure that I am one of the few who may even utter that they like the green iguanas. Yikes!
Humane ways of reducing the numbers of the green iguanas is underway.
Fresh coconuts and coconut water
20. Fresh coconuts
Coconut water is the ultimate thirst quencher and offers a tasty alternative to water. This pure liquid is packed with nutrients that yield an array of health benefits. When I was growing up, and even today, my favorite beverage was coconut water. I drank it as often as I could, but especially because I knew that it was good for the kids and bladder function.
In addition to boosting hydration, coconut water has numerous other benefits.
- Helping with digestion
- Reducing blood pressure
- Being compatible with human blood
- Low in Carbs and Sugars
- Boosts the immune system
- Improves circulation
- Raises metabolism
- Facilitates weight loss
- Aids with oxygen circulation
- Helps with hair loss and dryness
- Filled with nutrients such as potassium and Vitamins C and B
- Great energy booster
- Has diuretic properties
- Reduces stress
- ....and more
21. Thatch items
22. Christmas Lights and Santa's Arrival
Santa got a sunburn (song)
23. World Famous Beaches
24. Tortuga Rum, Rum Cakes and Factory
Tortuga Rum Cake Factory Visit
25. Blow holes
26. Starfish Point
27. Lighthouse Club
The Lighthouse in Cayman is an iconic restaurant:
- with stunning views over the water
- with an outstanding menu that features a creative mix of fresh, local seafood and Italian cuisine.
- houses an impressive wine cellar
- never fails to make you feel like one of the family.
28. Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville
The great taste of traditional Cayman food comes from from the fact that it is based on whatever grows naturally on the island and whatever can be caught in the surrounding ocean. Dishes from the Cayman Islands are similar to other Caribbean foodsbecause many of the vegetables like ackee, yams, and bananas grow on all of the islands.
Local Caymanian restaurants and Cayman Kitchens are a great way to get exposed to the local flavor. If you are open to trying new things, you will be in for a wonderful journey. Caymanian delicacies such as:
- Turtle Stew
- Cayman-style Beef
- Conch stew
- Conch fritters
- Cassava Cake
- Jerk chicken
Places to eat in the Cayman Islands:
Kaibo-Upstairs Restaurant (North Side)
Big Tree BBQ (Gun Bay)
Bombay Chopsticks (East End)
The Brasserie (George Town)
Sunshine Grill (Seven Mile Beach)
Ristorante Pappagallo (West Bay)
Tukka (East End)
Copper Falls Steakhouse (Seven Mile Beach)
Icoa (George Town)
Blue Cilantro (West Bay)
Edoardo's (Seven Mile Beach)
XQ's Pizza Bar and Grill (Seven Mile Beach)
Heritage Kitchen (West Bay)
.....and so much more
If you haven't figured it out by now, I am a Caymanian! I am extremely proud of my culture and country and hope that anyone who visits finds as much excitement as I do.
Caymanians are very friendly and proud of their culture and heritage.
28. Margaritaville, Cayman Islands
Grace Gealey on concealing her Cayman accent on the set of Empire.
© 2015 Gina Welds Hulse
Gina Welds Hulse (author) from Rockledge, Florida on October 24, 2015:
Hi Lipnancy. Yes, those starfish are alive. Starfish Point is a wonderful place to see them.....so many! The ones we took the photos with were only out of the water for a few minutes. They were promptly put back in after the photo shoot.
Thanks for your kind words. My photography skills have come a long way. :-) I still work on it each day.
Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on October 24, 2015:
Wow, it seemed like your family was having a wonderful time the Cayman Islands. I would like to swim with the sting ray's. I do have a stupid question, are those starfish alive? They are really wonderful pictures. I wish I had your gift for photography!