Grand Cayman (Las Tortugas)
The Cayman Islands are located in the Eastern Standard Time zone however the Island doesn’t change over to the daylight time saving so, in the summer month will be an hour behind Miami time. Grand Cayman only rises above the water 12m (40 ft). The highest point is The Bluff located in Cayman Brac at North East point 43 m (141.08 ft) above sea level and the lowest elevation is the ocean. There are no rivers on any of the islands. The coasts are largely protected by offshore reefs and in some places by a mangrove fringe that sometimes extends into inland swamps.
Christopher Columbus discovered the Cayman Islands on 1503 after crossing the Atlantic and the Caribbean in his fourth and last attempt to find the alternative route to China. They name the islands “Las Tortugas” which is the Spanish translation of Tortoise. The Cayman Islands became a Crown Colony under the jurisdiction of the Governor of Jamaica. When Jamaica gained her independence in 1962 the Cayman Islands opted to remain a British Crown Colony and have remained so ever since keeping the sense of British tradition on the Islands.
The Cayman Islands’ tax-free status has attracted numerous banks and other companies to its shores. Becoming one of the world’s leading offshore financial centers and the world’s largest island banking location. Cayman Island’s economy is also highly dependent on tourism. Unspoiled beaches, duty-free shopping, scuba diving, and deep-sea fishing draw almost a million visitors to the islands each year. Several Cruise ships dock each week just outside the capital of George Town in Grand Cayman.
Cayman Islands has an average temperature of 80-85°F, could be best described as “endless summer” and is perfect for vacationing all year-round. There isn’t much variation form the coolest to the warmest months. During the summer months the high humidity could be a problem rising to above 92%
The hurricane season ranges from June – November, but the island is generally untroubled by hurricanes thanks to the bulk of the island of Cuba in the north and of Jamaica to the east. Rain season start in May and the heaviest rainfall are usually in October, but usually not all day.
British English is the most commonly spoken language in the Cayman Island with a distinctive Caymanian dialect.
The official currency was issued in 1972 is the Cayman dollar (CI) and worth approximately $1.25 US, although US dollars are widely accepted, you may get CI dollars in your change. Major credit cards are accepted in the majority of restaurants and shops around the island. Traveler’s checks are perhaps the safest because everyone uses them.
Cayman Islands Accommodations
Despite its small size Cayman Islands have a wide variety of lodgings ranging from large luxury resorts hotels, condominium, cottages, guest houses and private villas. All the major hotels offer restaurant, bars and swimming pool. Other also offers nightclubs, tennis court and a beach. If you have a large or small group you will find a place to satisfy your needs. The high season usually runs from Mid-December to Mid- April. Rates may double the price during the Christmas week.
Things to do
Cayman Islands are truly one of the perfect vacation destinations of outdoor attractions; you will be able to participate in every possible water sport like windsurfing, kayaking, water skiing, snorkeling, para-sailing, fishing or scuba diving. You could also horseback riding or even play some golf. Whether relaxing in some of the world’s prettiest beaches, re-discovering history at museums or simply admiring stunning views, Cayman Islands has a lot to offer.
George Town is the supremely wealthy but surprisingly modest capital of the Cayman with more than its fair of excellent restaurants, bars and shopping. Easy to walk around and there is often little going on especially at weekends. On certain days the attractions crawl even more when the cruise ship arrive.
Some of the best beaches in Grand Cayman are: Seven Mile Beach, Rum Point and Smith’s Cove. If you have a chance to visit Cayman Brac the best beaches are located on the Southwest coast. And if you go to Little Cayman you could find Point of Sand beach also ideal for snorkeling. Point of Sand is the best beach in the Little Cayman with a strip of luminescent pink sand.
The most pristine sites are located on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, although the diving around Grand Cayman is also extraordinary. Grand Cayman is home to a legendary dive location “Stingray City” considered one of the most popular and spectacular dive locations in the world. The Sandbar located on the eastern side of the deeper channel is much shallower making the perfect location for children and snorkeling.
The Cayman Islands are an ideal destination for scuba Divers of all experience and skill levels. The best places to dive in Grand Cayman are: Eden Rock Dive Center, The Maze, The Snapper Hole and Tarpon Alley located near Stingray city. If you have a chance to visit Cayman Brac don’t forget to go dive off The Wreck of the Captain Keith Tibbetts located only 5-15 minutes boat ride from most resort of the island. Little Cayman is undoubtedly the “Mecca” for divers and if you have the chance to visit it you could dive at the Bloody Bay Marine Park, considered one of the best diving sites of the Caribbean.
Grand Cayman historic sites include the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, the Cayman Islands National museum and the Cayman Maritime and Treasure Museum, which displays the island’s most important documents, photographs, letters and other items. While there you could also visit the Conch Shell House: a charming little house located on the North Sound Road and The Cayman Turtle Farm that is the only one of its kind in the world.
One of the most overblown and most irritating attractions in Grand Cayman is called Hell. This is a tiny village located in a desolated area of West Bay about half mile from the sea covered by jagged limestone and rough terrain. If you are lucky to pass the restricted sign and try to walk there you could have a great chance of spraining your ankle and the only big attraction found in the village is a trip to a post office where you could get a postmarked letter from Hell.
Cayman Islands can be reached by sea or by air. There are more than 35 weekly direct non-stop flights from United States to Grand Cayman. Owen Roberts International Airport is located 2 miles east of George Town. There is not ferry service between Grand Cayman and the other two islands. Little Cayman and Cayman Brac are serviced regularly by Cayman Airways and Island Air. There are three cruise terminals located in George Town, the North, South, and Royal Water Terminals. The ride from the ship to the terminal is about 5 minutes.
A full passport is required for everyone except American and Canadian citizens. Visitors from some other countries may also require a visa for entry.
Travel by car is far the best way of getting around giving you the freedom to move around at your own pace and getting the real flavor of the Island. Rental cars are available at the airport, hotels and some other places. The British tradition of driving on the left is followed in the Caiman Islands. A driving permit is mandatory if you rent a car. They will issue a permit that is valid for six months.
If you are not planning to do major exploring you could also rent taxis or limo Bus that are widely available. If you are a bit patient you could also use the bus service. The bus is mainly used by islanders going to and from work. Buses are independently operated and serve all the main points on the Island including Seven Mile Beach, West Bay, Bodden Town, East End and North Side. Traffic moves on the left side of the road.
Renting a Bike or Scooter is also a great way to move around the island and Grand Cayman is considered one of the best places for biking in the Caribbean Islands. If you stick to the coastal route you could find fairly paved roads. Side road on the other hands are often not well marked and could be difficult especially is you attempt to go to the interior areas of the islands.
Cayman Islands offers more than 150 separate dining experiences ranging from elegant gourmet eateries to casually stylish beachfront bistros and bars to festive roadside grills. . Although most resorts offer better than average dinning it will be a great experience to try also one of the many reasonably priced independent restaurants.
Most tourists only ever experience the expensive (and truly gourmet) restaurants. However, there are many alternatives, but required a little search and a touch adventurous. The locals are friendly and lay back and despite its British heritage you could find great tempting expensive eateries.
Shopping on Cayman Islands is unique in the Caribbean. You could find a great variety of goods imported from Europe and Asia and is all duty free. At the malls clustered around the waterfront saving are significant for consumer goods such as jewelry, sunglasses, camera, designer clothes etc. you will also encounter a huge selection of local treasures.
As well as the downtown shops, the major Hotels have boutiques and department stores. On Grand Cayman there is also a number of small plazas on the West Bay Road including the Seven Mile Shops, Westshore Plaza and Queen Court Mall just to name a few.