Ringed by kaleidoscopic coral reefs, the Cayman Islands is one of the Caribbean’s top dive destinations, with a glamorous reputation as a cashed-up castaways dream. But this trio of tropical beauties in the western Caribbean is refreshingly unpretentious, with adventures for every type of traveler.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman each have their own unique tourist attractions. Sublime beaches, picture-perfect pastel cottages, pirate legends and luminous water laced with fish-rich reefs tick all the boxes for a quintessential Caribbean vacation. Beneath the translucent, turquoise seas lies an underwater wonderland with plunging walls, sunken wrecks, canyons, tunnels and grottos. Beach lovers can bask on one of the Caribbean’s best stretches of sand. Nature buffs can explore bat-filled caves or hike along lush trails and sea cliffs, and anglers can cast on crystalline flats or venture out for some deep-sea action. If a dose of retail therapy is more your style, head to the colorful capital and cruise ship port of George Town to shop the duty free stores or soak up some culture at the local art galleries and museums.
Get ready for a warm welcome! The Cayman Islands’ colorful expat population hails from all corners of the globe, and the friendly locals always have time for a chat. So stake a sandy spot under a coconut palm and enjoy a cushy taste of the Caribbean with a beguiling British and American twist.
Grand Cayman is the gateway to the Cayman Islands and the most popular of the three sister isles. Stunning, silky-soft Seven Mile Beach is Grand Cayman’s pride and joy, with crystal-clear water in eye-popping shades of blue. The remote sandbar of Stingray City is one of the Caribbean’s most famous shallow-water snorkel and dive spots, and serious divers and snorkelers will find some of the top spots a short kick from shore, typically with excellent visibility.
Grand Cayman is also a fantastic destination for families. Kids can commune with turtles at the Cayman Turtle Center, cool off at the adjacent water park, look for endangered blue iguanas at the Q.E. II Botanic Park and explore bat-filled caverns deep in the Cayman Crystal Caves.
Cruise ships glide into the safe capital of George Town. Stroll among the candy-hued cottages here, browse the funky local art galleries, sample rum or beer and learn about the Cayman’s fascinating history and ecology at the Cayman Islands National Museum.
You can even visit Hell. Rugged and razor-sharp, this apocalyptic-looking sea of lava rock in West Bay is a nod to the locals’ sense of humor. The sleepy East End offers a more authentic taste of Grand Cayman life, and not far from here, on the island’s northern tip, hammock-slung Rum Point is a hot spot for a cool drink.
A 30-minute flight from Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac is a diamond in the rough. Craggy caves, fantastic wreck diving and rugged coastal bluffs are some of the top tourist attractions on the Caymans’ second biggest sister island. Taking its name from the 45-meter-high limestone bluff or “Brac” on its eastern tip, Cayman Brac is home to the highest point in the Caymans. Hiking along the soaring sea cliffs is one of the most popular things to do on the island. You can also look for the elusive Cayman Brac parrot or explore the island’s many crystal-encrusted caves. If you’re a diver, don’t miss the MV Captain Keith Tibbetts, one of the world’s most famous wreck dives, and deep-sea anglers can catch species like wahoo and mahi-mahi.
Fishing and diving are the biggest draws on petite and pretty Little Cayman. Anglers come here to cast a fly line along the shimmering bonefish flats or hook the big one in the Tarpon Pond. Bloody Bay Wall is one of the world’s best wall dives, and other popular things to do include birdwatching at Booby Pond Nature Reserve and playing Robinson Crusoe for a day at idyllic Owen Island.
Any time is a great time to visit the Cayman Islands! Due to its tropical location, temperatures vary little throughout the year and typically range from 74°F to 89°F (23°C to 31°C), rarely dipping below 70°F (21°C) or rising above 90°F (32°C). The sea is warm all year-round.
To see all the top attractions and tap into the relaxed vibe here, you should plan a visit of at least a week or longer — especially if you’re a diver and need to adhere to minimum surface interval times before flying. Staying longer also gives you a chance to explore all three islands.
The high season in the Cayman Islands is from mid-December to mid-April. In the low season, from May through November, hotel rates often dip by 20 to 50 percent.
The Cayman Islands basks in a balmy, tropical climate. Daytime temperatures during the high season (December through April) average a comfortable 75°F (24°C), and humidity is lower at this time of year. Most rain occurs during September and October, but storms usually pass over the islands quickly. Hurricane season is from June through November, but fortunately these are rare.
The Cayman Islands features a lively calendar of events:
February: Taste of Cayman
May: Cayman Carnival Batabano
June: Flower Sea Swim
November: Pirates Week
Check out the current calendar of the Cayman Islands for specific dates and other fun events.
The Cayman Islands is located in the Eastern time zone. To check the local time in the Cayman Islands, click here.
From December through April pack cool, breathable tropical clothing, as well as some light layers and a warm sweatshirt for the evening. From May through November, pack light tropical clothing, a light sweater, and a raincoat. Sun protection, such as a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, is highly recommended.
If you plan to snorkel or dive, it’s a good idea to bring a mask that fits your face.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We donât want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly change. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $25 per person
$$ => Tickets $25-50 per person
$$$ => Tickets $50-100 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $100-250 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $250 for a double
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$ => $15-30 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $30 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$ => Tickets less than $50 per person
$$ => Tickets $50-100 per person
Fly the Friendly Skies
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.
Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.
That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.
Have Car, Will Travel
Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.
There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.
Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities and college towns in the U.S., Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transportation, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Open the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. You need to apply for membership and download the app in advance. Memberships cost about $7 a month; rentals are about $8 to $10 per hour; gas and insurance are included. Foreign drivers can apply and you don’t need to pay a monthly fee if you’re an occasional driver (from $25 per year for a membership).
Ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.
Money Saving Tip: Costco, because of its behemoth size and price negotiating power, offers great low prices for most major car rental companies. Yes, you need to purchase an annual Costco membership first, but it more than pays for itself with what you’ll save with a typical week’s car rental (i.e. searches turn up a mid-size car through Costco for $225 and a comparable car through another aggregator for $325.)
Did You Know: Budget Car Rental offers drivers residing at the same address (i.e. unmarried partners or BFFs) complimentary extra driver coverage. Other car rental companies charge upwards of $10/day. By the way, when renting in California, there are no additional driver fees by law.
Hopefully, your trip to (or within) the U.S. goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation: About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical: Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.
Trip Interruption: For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay: Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.
Baggage: Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case” … no matter what.
Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework; check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregator sites like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
If you have pre-existing health conditions: Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance: If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.
The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.
For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.