Cayman Islands travel guide

United Kingdom 21 October 2021
Spotts Beach in Savannah, Grand Cayman (Alamy)
Article by Estella Shardlow

Why you’ll love it

Adjust your body clock to the languorous pace of island time and let this trio of small Caribbean islands show you the meaning of relaxation. Seven Mile is routinely voted one of the world’s best beaches, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg here when it comes to Cayman’s pristine white-sand coves. As a British Overseas Territory, home to a sizeable expat population, the Cayman Islands offers an appealing mix of home comforts (think driving on the left-hand side and Waitrose products in the supermarkets) supplanted into such a  sun-drenched Caribbean setting. Handily, British Airways flies direct to Grand Cayman from London, then from the main island it’s only a quick hop via Cayman Airways to the “sister islands” of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman — the former is a craggy rock-climbers’ paradise, the latter an unspoilt jewel surrounded by world-renowned dive sites like Bloody Bay Wall.


What to do

No prizes for guessing that many of Cayman’s best activities revolve around the ocean. We’re talking catamaran cruises, paddleboarding, jet-skis, windsurfing and even a submarine excursion. Not to worry if scuba diving isn’t your thing, as a huge amount can be seen by simply snorkelling, including turtles at Spotts Beach. Cruise ships dock in the capital George Town, home to high-end souvenir shops and waterfront restaurants, but the islands’ authentic charms really lie beyond this hub. Head out to the East End to gawp at the glittering interiors of the Crystal Caves, learn about the islands’ first settlement in Bodden Town, and greet the endangered blue iguanas at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. Speaking of wildlife, make sure you pay the residents of Stingray City a visit. The story goes that the rays originally congregated here to score an easy meal while fishermen cleaned their catch. Today, standing on a natural sandbar in waist-deep water while these gentle giants glide all around makes for an unforgettable experience.


Where to stay

Hotels in the Cayman Islands are as beautiful as one would expect in this part of the world. Icing-sugar sand, palm trees, a calm, bathwater-warm sea — Seven Mile Beach ticks all the boxes for a Caribbean getaway. This stellar stretch of big-name beach resorts and sleek condos is bookmarked by the sleek Kimpton Seafire to the north and Margaritaville to the south. For those seeking maximum space and tranquillity, meanwhile, some palatial rental properties are tucked away on Cayman Kai — a short boat ride across the North Sound lagoon — and the less developed East End. Whether opting for a no-frills condo in rustic West Bay or a five-star hotel with spa and golf course, you’re never more than ten minutes from the beach.

Food and drink

The local seafood’s a dream, naturally — visit one of the brightly coloured beachside shacks for a serving of freshly caught, blackened snapper or mahi mahi with rice and peas. Cayman’s cosmopolitan expat population equally makes for a tasty blend of food influences — globally minded chefs spin the island’s bountiful coconuts into everything from vegan ceviche to gelato, for instance. And a farm-to-table scene has been awakening in recent years, best sampled at Camana Bay’s farmers’ market or the weekly supper club at Cayman Cabana.

As for libations, rum’s the name of the game, either free-poured into the island’s famously potent, fruity punches, or paired with an indulgent tasting menu. The Mudslide deserves a (dis)honourable mention, too — this creamy, coffee liqueur-laced concoction was reportedly invented at Grand Cayman’s Rum Point Club.

Don’t miss

Get a whole different perspective on Cayman’s mesmerising marine life on a night-time snorkelling excursion (try the Ritz-Carlton’s Ambassadors of the Environment) or a nocturnal bioluminescent boat trip, watching the nocturnal waters glow an ethereal blue. Another lesser-seen side to the island is the mangroves lining its northern edge, best explored up close on a kayaking tour. You might spot seahorses or juvenile sharks in the shallows as you paddle through the greenery.

Know before you go

Both Cayman Islands dollars and USD are accepted (either way, you’ll need a lot of them, as dining out here doesn’t come cheap). Grand Cayman’s public transport takes the form of minibuses, flagged down at the roadside for a few dollars, while the flat, well-maintained roads make car rental an easy option. On Little Cayman, a bicycle is all you’ll need to loop the island.

With a laid-back, family-friendly vibe, there’s a notable absence of beachside hustlers compared with some neighbouring Caribbean destinations and very low crime — in fact, the warm, close-knit community’s known for their “Caymankindness”. As for the best time to visit, that’d be mid-December to mid-April, dodging hurricane season.

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