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30 Reasons Why I Love the Cayman Islands

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!

Here I am with my two older children, enjoying a drink and a laugh on Seven Mile Beach.

Here I am with my two older children, enjoying a drink and a laugh on Seven Mile Beach.

The Cayman Islands are located just south of Cuba.  It is just a short 1 1/4 hours flight from Miami International Airport.

The Cayman Islands are located just south of Cuba. It is just a short 1 1/4 hours flight from Miami International Airport.

My favorite spot to hangout is in a hammock on the beach.

My favorite spot to hangout is in a hammock on the beach.

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!

Stingray City

It is said that kissing a stingray will bring you seven years of good luck.  My daughter decided to test out that theory.

It is said that kissing a stingray will bring you seven years of good luck. My daughter decided to test out that theory.

My oldest son was a little skeptical about the "7 years of good luck for kissing a stingray" but he decided to go for it.

My oldest son was a little skeptical about the "7 years of good luck for kissing a stingray" but he decided to go for it.

Gentle giants glide below the water among the visitors to their home, the sandbar.

Gentle giants glide below the water among the visitors to their home, the sandbar.

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

Captain Marvin's:

  • 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

Former President Jimmy Carter visited the Stingrays with Capt. Marvin's recently. Crew was Glen, Derrin, Roy as the photographer, Charles (Marvin Jr) Anna and Ronnie.

Former President Jimmy Carter visited the Stingrays with Capt. Marvin's recently. Crew was Glen, Derrin, Roy as the photographer, Charles (Marvin Jr) Anna and Ronnie.

The Captain Marvin's crew really knows how to have fun, and to ensure the visitors do, too.

The Captain Marvin's crew really knows how to have fun, and to ensure the visitors do, too.

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Congratulations to Captain Marvin's!  FIVE-TIME WINNER OF THE CERTIFICATE OF EXCELLENCE

Congratulations to Captain Marvin's! FIVE-TIME WINNER OF THE CERTIFICATE OF EXCELLENCE

Former President Jimmy Carter visited the Stingrays with Capt. Marvin's today. Crew was Glen, Derrin, Roy as the photographer also pictured are Charles (Marvin Jr) Anna and Ronnie.

Former President Jimmy Carter visited the Stingrays with Capt. Marvin's today. Crew was Glen, Derrin, Roy as the photographer also pictured are Charles (Marvin Jr) Anna and Ronnie.

Bidding farewell to Captain Marvin

Bidding farewell to Captain Marvin

Captain Marvin's legacy will live on.

Captain Marvin's legacy will live on.

Captain Marvin's Watersports

 AdultsChildren 4-11 years of age

Fishing

$550-$750 per half day

 

Fishing

$1100-$1400 per full day

 

Snorkeling

$35-$65 per day

$27.50-$45

Stingray City

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

Pedro Castle

Pedro St. James Castle The locals are quite proud of this historic site.

Pedro St. James Castle The locals are quite proud of this historic site.

Old Time Cayman Kitchen at Pedro Castle

Old Time Cayman Kitchen at Pedro Castle

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

OpenCostMulti-sensory 3-D presentation

Daily,

$10 adults

10 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

except Christmas Day

Kids 12 years nd under are free

 

 

 

Pirates' Caves

My kids, other family members and I embarked on a tour of the Pirates' Caves.

My kids, other family members and I embarked on a tour of the Pirates' Caves.

Inside the cave, we all looked around for the best tunnels to crawl through.

Inside the cave, we all looked around for the best tunnels to crawl through.

Found it!

Found it!

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.

There is:

  • 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

A mock invasion opens the Pirates' Week festivities.

A mock invasion opens the Pirates' Week festivities.

Marauders line the streets or join in the parade, dress in their pirate or wenches garb.

Marauders line the streets or join in the parade, dress in their pirate or wenches garb.

The Governor of the Islands is "forced" to walk the plank. No harm done, though.

The Governor of the Islands is "forced" to walk the plank. No harm done, though.

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
  • music
  • street dances
  • competitions such as the steel pan
  • games
  • wonderful local food
  • drink
  • 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

Flip-flop tree

It started with just one flip-flop. but now there are hundreds, joined by assorted sneakers, slippers and even flippers, nailed to a casuarina tree bordering the coastal road that runs through Grand Cayman’s South Sound.

It started with just one flip-flop. but now there are hundreds, joined by assorted sneakers, slippers and even flippers, nailed to a casuarina tree bordering the coastal road that runs through Grand Cayman’s South Sound.

Over time, the collection has crept more than 15 feet up the trunk, and is now rapidly migrating to a neighboring tree.

Over time, the collection has crept more than 15 feet up the trunk, and is now rapidly migrating to a neighboring tree.

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

The message?

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

Only Cayman Airways offers free rum punch on board their flights. Please, enjoy responsibly.

Only Cayman Airways offers free rum punch on board their flights. Please, enjoy responsibly.

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

My youngest son, snorkeling close to Stingray City Sandbar

My youngest son, snorkeling close to Stingray City Sandbar

A popular dive site

A popular dive site

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

Rum Point

My older kids enjoying one of the many water sports offered at Rum Point/Cayman Kai

My older kids enjoying one of the many water sports offered at Rum Point/Cayman Kai

Heading to Rum Point,  my youngest son had a chance to be "Captain."

Heading to Rum Point, my youngest son had a chance to be "Captain."

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

There is a very large picnic area, and lots of restaurants where you can enjoy local foods and drinks.

There is a very large picnic area, and lots of restaurants where you can enjoy local foods and drinks.

This is just one of the cove areas where your younger ones can wade in the water while parents relax nearby.

This is just one of the cove areas where your younger ones can wade in the water while parents relax nearby.

Have you ever been to the Cayman Islands?

Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Gardens

My daughter touring the gardens

My daughter touring the gardens

My youngest son with a blue iguana

My youngest son with a blue iguana

Old style Cayman kitchen

Old style Cayman kitchen

My oldest son, just hanging out with one of the blue iguanas.

My oldest son, just hanging out with one of the blue iguanas.

Enjoying a stroll through the gardens.

Enjoying a stroll through the 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

Photo op with the Devil himself

Photo op with the Devil himself

If you're brave, you can capture an image of yourself as the Devil.

If you're brave, you can capture an image of yourself as the Devil.

10. Hell Township

Hell, Grand Cayman is:

  • 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?'

Mastic Trail

Visitors on the Mastic Trail

Visitors on the Mastic Trail

Signs  direct hikers exactly where to go.

Signs direct hikers exactly where to go.

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

Sister Islands

Wreck at the Bloody Bay Marine Park

Wreck at the Bloody Bay Marine Park

Diving the Bloody Bay Wall

Diving the Bloody Bay Wall

Iguana Crossing signs

Iguana Crossing signs

White sandy beaches at Little Cayman

White sandy beaches at Little Cayman

Cayman Parrot

Cayman Parrot

Booby bird

Booby bird

12. Sister islands

The Sister Islands, as they are affectionately referred to, are Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

Cayman Brac:

  • 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.