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Cayman Islands

Cayman-Islands

Great Destination:

4

Value for Money:

2.5

Total Stars:

6.5

Personality Types that Like it Best

Appeals primarily to Mid-and Centric-Authentics, and true Authentics

Did You Know…?

  • Recreational diving in the Caribbean got its start in the Caymans in 1957.
  • Tourists can have cards and letters postmarked from Hell (it’s near West Bay).
  • The word Cayman comes from the Carib word for crocodile.
  • Tourism accounts for about 70% of the islands’ GDP.
  • By 2008, the islands tallied nearly 11,100 registered firms in the financial industry.

Of turtles and taxes

In bygone days, people came fishing for turtles. Then they arrived to relax in the warm Caribbean sunshine. Now they come to dive in the incredibly clear waters that surround the three Caymans.

Oh, yes, a fortunate few might come to arrange a tax shelter or undertake some other financial business; this island nation says it is the world’s fifth-largest financial center.

As for ambience, the Caymans are a British territory, but the islands are more casual and American in feeling than one might expect. Tourists commend the various types of accommodations throughout the islands, all comfortable and clean — and luxurious, if desired. Travelers also say the locals are pleasant, the islands are clean, prices are reasonable, it’s easy to get around and there is a sense the islands are safe.

The Caymans don’t offer lush tropical scenery. They sit largely on coral and seashell, and their wonders are mostly under the sea — hence the diving mania. But a couple of beaches compare with any in the world for beauty and comfort.

The Caymans have a special draw for those who like the watery depths — for scuba diving and snorkeling — plus quality dive masters. The fantastic plants and ocean life so easily seen in the clear blue waters entice visitors below the surface over and over. Above the water line, sailing and windsurfing are popular.

The islanders have awakened to the dangers to their environment from overcrowding and pollution, and they have made sincere attempts to protect native flora and fauna. Most tourists appreciate that fact.

For those not diving at every opportunity, the Caymans offer some variety. But, most especially, the islands are a place to let a weary traveler unwind, be lazy or enjoy some water activities where the ocean is warm, blue and clear.

When less-venturesome visitors assess the Caymans, they emphasize the weather, the islands’ unspoiled and clean appearance, and the lack of crime and poverty. They also note the Caymans aren’t really that far from home, there is no jet lag for North Americans and everyone speaks English. Most like the duty-free shopping, too.

Things to do for Venturers

  • If scuba diving is the key draw for you, consider staying at one of the inns that focuses on divers and their interests. Typically small in size, often owner-managed, these inns care about what you care about — fantastic undersea gardens, fish and other sea life.
  • Parasail along the Seven Miles Beach. Go waterskiing. Hire and captain a small sailboat. Or, enjoy the beaches on horseback.
  • For those who like sportfishing, the Caymans are an angler’s paradise. You can make big catches as close as a quarter mile offshore on all three islands.  Consider entering one of the local fishing tournaments. Local captains promote conservation by encouraging anglers to release any fish that will not be eaten and all billfish unless they set local records or are potential prize winners in tournaments.
  • Fly down for the summertime Cayman Jazz Fest.
  • Go windsurfing. The various options on Grand Cayman’s East End, North Sound and west coast combine to provide choices for windsurfers at all levels. Real enthusiasts say the best location is the four-mile stretch of reef-protected shallows off East End.
  • Take a guided walk along the two-mile Mastic Trail in the Mastic Reserve on Grand Cayman. The reserve is the largest area of untouched, old-growth dry forest remaining on the island. Because this is one of the last remaining examples of the Caribbean’s dry, subtropical forest, the National Trust for the Cayman Islands has given the reserve a special protective status.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Travel around Grand Cayman on a hired motor scooter or bicycle.
  • The Caymans offer many ways to get wet. Consider aqua trikes, banana boats, hobie cats, ocean kayaks, paddleboats, paddle cats, sun searcher floats, view boards, waverunners and windsurfing boards. You get the idea.
  • Join the locals at the Pirates Week Festival held each autumn. Parades, costumes, street dances — and a “pirate invasion” — are part of the festive goings-on. The event has become so popular you’ll need to reserve well in advance.
  • Sample traditional Caymanian dinner fare: stewed conch (pronounced “conk”) or jerk chicken with rice and beans.
  • Take a two-hour afternoon “pirate cruise” on the Jolly Roger, a replica of a 17th century Spanish galleon. Play the pirate, fire the cannon, watch a sword fight — and don’t think this is just for families with children. The vessel also does double duty for sunset and dinner cruises.
  • Visit the beautifully reconstructed 1780 great house, the Pedro St. James Historic Site, in Savannah, Grand Cayman. It is considered the birthplace of democracy in the Caymans. Two other historical buildings were moved to the site: an early 20th century Caymanian-style cottage and Steadman Bodden house, a restored traditional 100-year-old Caymanian wattle and daub home.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Enjoy shopping here. The Caymans are a duty-free destination. Also, look into the arts-and-crafts galleries for special finds.
  • Go to Hell, a district on Grand Cayman that features ancient rock formations that look so barren — like the charred remains of a hellfire — that the area earned a special name. This is very hard limestone, estimated to be 1.5 million years old.
  • Have a body scrub and wrap, or Swedish massage, or your choice of aromatherapies — or whatever restores you — in one of the Caymans’ several spas.
  • Go golfing with stunning Caribbean views as a backdrop. Or, veg out on the beach for as long as you feel like it, then roust yourself for a sunset or dinner cruise aboard a 19th century tall ship.
  • Go bird-watching on Cayman Brac, which has almost 200 bird species. You’ll certainly want to get a look at the endangered Cayman Brac parrot, a protected species. Visit the 180-acre Cayman Brac Parrot Reserve and its associated nature trail. The reserve is part of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands.
  • Turtle hunting attracted attention to the Caymans, but it almost wiped out these reptiles. Take your opportunity to observe several varieties. Visit the Turtle Farm, now home to more than 16,000 sea turtles ranging in size from six ounces to 600 pounds.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism at www.caymanislands.ky  To find a Cayman Islands Travel Specialist, at www.caymanislands.ky, go to Plan a Trip and click on Contact a Cayman Travel Specialist, or just go http://www.caymanislands.ky/planatrip/contactacaymantravelspecialist.aspx