Your session will timeout due to inactivity, please choose to continue your session if you’d would like to continue.
Renowned for beautiful beaches, excellent diving, and offshore banking, the Cayman Islands is made up of three islands situated between Cuba and Jamaica, only a 90-minute flight from Miami. Grand Cayman is the largest and most developed of the islands and the location of the capital, George Town. It is hard to believe that among the buildings that line George Town's harbour are more than 500 banks making up one of the world's largest offshore financial centres.
It was not until 1670 that the islands came under British rule, and remain a British territory to this day. The Queen's picture is still displayed proudly, but the US exerts a lot of influence over what it considers its backyard.
For years the islands were a base for pirates who delighted in the remoteness of Grand Cayman. A bonus was the island's absolutely flat topography, which ensures that its profile is practically invisible against the horizon, making it the perfect hideaway for nefarious characters.
While some people are still looking for a safe place to hide their treasure, these days most visitors to the Cayman Islands are after a relaxing getaway. The Islands are a beach paradise with great swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing, and other watersports.
Little Cayman and Cayman Brac are 70 miles (113km) northeast of Grand Cayman and are much smaller and even more relaxed than the main island. Visitors don't come to these islands in suits; the little business that goes on revolves around diving and catering for the world's best bone-fishing.
The most popular things to do in the Cayman Islands revolve around the three islands' attractions of sun, sand, and blue water. Unsurprisingly, the Cayman Islands are a watersports paradise. Around Grand Cayman alone there are more than 150 scuba diving sites and the coral reefs of the Cayman Islands are celebrated for their health, despite the overall degradation of coral in the Caribbean.
The islands are also a prime destination for fishing and the resorts offer all the usual fun recreational sports. Lounging on the beautiful beaches is also a favoured pastime. Indeed, Seven Mile Beach, on Grand Cayman, is said by many to be the best beach in the Caribbean.
Colourful and rare wildlife is found in abundance in the Cayman Islands, both in the water and on land. Little Cayman, the least visited of the islands by tourists, thrives with visiting red-footed boobies. Dive sites like the aptly names Stingray City are home to surprisingly friendly stingrays that are a delight to snorkel with, while Boatswain's Beach on Grand Cayman is home to the famous Cayman Turtle Farm.
Landlubbers will do well inland visiting the historic sites of George Town and Pedro St James Castle or walking through Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. The rainy season, from May to November, staves off tourist crowds and is a good time to soak in the Cayman attractions despite a bit of rain.
Just north of George Town, Seven Mile Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand that curls around the west of Grand Cayman. A bit of a misnomer, Seven Mile Beach is actually only five and a half miles (8.8km) long, and is slowly shrinking due to erosion. A reef protects the coast and ensures that the water is blissfully calm and ideal for swimming and snorkelling. This is the most popular beach on the island and is bordered by dozens of hotels, but it is large enough to ensure sunbathers do not end up towel-to-towel. For day-visitors there are plenty of restaurants, beach bars, and even grilling facilities to relax at after a day of watersports. The calm and safe swimming conditions and ample space make Seven Mile Beach a great option for families with children. North of Seven Mile Beach is West Bay, the country's second largest town.
Boatswain's Beach is Cayman's premier attraction. It features the famous Cayman Turtle Farm, an Education Centre, as well as a one of a kind marine park, with 23 acres of reef lagoon in which guests can snorkel. When Christopher Columbus arrived at the Cayman Islands in 1503, he named them Las Tortugas, meaning 'The Turtles'. According to legend, there were so many turtles that the islands looked like they were covered with rocks. They are now a protected species and the Cayman Islands Turtle Farm is home to thousands of turtles ranging in size from six ounces (170g) to 575 pounds (261kg) each. The priority of the farm is to maintain an ideal breeding environment for the turtles. Guests at Boatswain's Beach can tour the Turtle Farm, and enjoy other attractions: Cayman Street, which showcases a bit of the Cayman Islands' culture and history; a nature trail with colourful flowers and butteflies; a free-flight bird aviary; Boatswain's Reef, with a viewing panel into the Predator Reef; the Breaker's Lagoon swimming pool; and up-close-and-personal animal encounters at the touch tanks.
East of George Town is Pedro St James, the islands' oldest surviving building, originally built by an Englishman who arrived here on Grand Cayman in 1765. Local stories also associate the house with the pirate Henry Morgan and a 17th-century Spaniard, Pedro Gómez. The house is touted as the islands' 'birthplace of democracy' because it was here in 1831 that the decision was made to vote for elected representatives, and four years later the Slavery Abolition Act was also read here. Constructed around 1780 from quarried native stone, the house has been restored by the government as an historic site. Behind a traditional coral stone wall rises an authentic, three-storey early 19th-century great house, and assorted outbuildings, with traditional grounds planted with pineapple, banana, and other provisions. The adjacent acres are covered with luxuriant tropical plants, palm-lined walkways, and a splendid manicured Great Lawn sprawling to a fantastic view over the Caribbean. A new 3D multimedia theatre shows a 20-minute film of the history of the castle, and there is a memorial to the victims of Hurricane Ivan.
The Cayman Islands are better known for their sea life than flora and fauna on land, but for keen botanists or those who would simply like a pleasant walk, the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is hard to beat. A well-marked mile-long (3km) trail winds through lush and easy terrain, featuring almost 300 native species including roses, hibiscus, lilies, and orchids (which bloom in late May and June). The park and lake is home to the endangered and elusive Blue Iguana, as well as a fascinating array of birdlife including parrots, herons, coots, and the rare West Indian Whistling Duck. The nearby Mastic Trail meanders through the old-growth forest that once supplied early settlers with timber on Grand Cayman. The 26-hectare (65 acre) park is in the district of North Side, and is a 45-minute drive from George Town.
Rum Point Beach consists of hundreds of yards of crystal-clear shallow sand flats, perfect for snorkelling in a conservation marine park. It is a tranquil retreat where hammocks slung under shady trees, picnic tables, a sandy beach, and warm shallow waters provide a relaxing haven for the day. Many watersports are offered, with easy access to North Sound, including jet-skiing, sailing, and kayaking, and snorkellers can explore the coral formations just off the beach. The shore is dotted with ultra-casual beach bars, and slipping into a hammock with a cocktail is the perfect way to relax. Rum Point is a good option for families on Grand Cayman as the shallow waters are calm and safe and there are plenty of diversions for kids.
Stingray City and the Sandbar are snorkelling sites located in the North Sound, and are a must-visit for watersports enthusiasts. The clear shallow waters are frequented by friendly stingrays that come to find out what titbits visitors have brought them. Boat tours take snorkellers and divers to swim with and feed the stingrays on bits of squid. They will brush against swimmers and allow themselves to be touched. This famous Cayman attraction was accidentally created by fishermen who used to clean their catch in the calm waters, casting bits overboard, and so attracting the Southern Stingrays to the area. Swimming with the stingrays is a remarkable experience. Travellers should do their best to ensure, however, that they use only reputable tour operators who have respect for the environment and the animals.
A popular and slightly bizarre stop on any tour of Grand Cayman, Hell is a tiny village that features strange black limestone rock formations that are said to resemble the Underworld. Though Cayman residents are generally religious, residents of Hell show their sense of humour to tourists with a bright red post office that sends 'Postcards from Hell', and a gift shop where 'Satan' passes out souvenirs and inquires of visitors. The village, home to only 60 people, also features a restaurant and bar. The natural rock formations, comprised of the spiky Ironshore limestone found elsewhere on the island are interesting, and the residents have turned Hell into a quirky island attraction for those exploring beyond the beaches and resorts.
In general, the weather in the Cayman Islands is good all year and the trade winds ensure it doesn't get too hot. The peak tourist season in the Cayman Islands runs between December and April. The rainy season runs from May to November and visitors are advised to keep an eye on the weather reports in the days before arrival, as this is also hurricane season. Many regard the wet season as the best time to visit the Cayman Islands as room rates are cheaper, the beaches are less crowded, and the rain comes in short, sharp bursts that don't usually impact too much on holiday fun.
The Cayman Islands Dollar (KYD) is the official currency, which is divided into 100 cents. It is fixed to the US dollar at US$1.20. Currency can be exchanged at the banks, bureaux de change and many hotels. Banks are open Monday to Saturday. US Dollars are accepted as payment in most establishments and are the preferred currency for exchange as both cash and as travellers cheques. ATMs are widely available and major credit and debit cards are accepted.
English is the official language. Spanish is also widely spoken.
Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. American style two-pin plugs are standard.
US nationals: United States passport holders must have a valid passport or a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, as well as proof of citizenship, such as an original or certified birth certificate. No visa is required for stays of a maximum of 6 months for tourists, or 10 days for business travellers. However, the length of visa-free allowance varies depending on the endorsement on the passport.
UK nationals: UK nationals require a valid passport or proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or naturalisation certificate, accompanied by an official photo ID (e.g. driver's licence), for travel to the Cayman Islands. No visa is required for stays up to a maximum of 6 months for tourists, or 10 days for business travellers. However, the length of visa-free allowance varies depending on the endorsement on the passport.
CA nationals: Canadian nationals do not require a passport for travel to the Cayman Islands providing they hold a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, as well as proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate. Canadian citizens can stay in the Cayman Islands visa-free for a maximum of 6 months as tourists and 10 days as business travellers. However, the length of visa-free allowance varies depending on the endorsement on the passport.
AU nationals: Australian nationals must have a valid passport beyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required for a maximum stay of 6 months for tourists or 10 days for business travellers. The length of visa-free allowance varies depending on the endorsement on the passport.
ZA nationals: South African nationals require a passport valid beyond the period of intended stay in the Cayman Islands. No visa is required for a maximum stay of 6 months for tourists or 10 days for business travellers. However, the length of visa-free allowance varies depending on the endorsement on the passport.
IR nationals: Irish nationals require a passport valid at least beyond the intended period of stay. No visa is required for a maximum 6 month stay for tourists or 10 days for business travellers. The length of visa-free allowance varies depending on the endorsement on the passport.
NZ nationals: New Zealand nationals must have a passport valid beyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required for a maximum 6 month stay for tourists or 10 days for business travellers. The length of visa-free allowance varies depending on the endorsement on the passport.
All visitors are required to hold sufficient funds for intended period of stay in the Cayman Islands, as well as a return or onward ticket and documents required for further travel. Tourist visas can generally be extended for stays of up to six months. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers travelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. If departing from the USA a valid passport will be required by immigration authorities. We recommend that passports be valid for six months after intended period of travel.
There are no specific health risks associated with travel to the Cayman Islands and food and water are generally considered safe. No vaccinations are required, but vaccination for hepatitis A is recommended and travellers should always be up to date on vaccinations for MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and tetanus-diphtheria. Dengue fever has been reported in the Caribbean region and insect protection measures should be taken. Medical facilities are relatively good in the Cayman Islands, with two good hospitals, but serious illness or injury may still require evacuation. Visitors should take out adequate travel and travel insurance to cover the possible need for an air ambulance. There is a decompression chamber available in the Cayman Islands.
Most restaurants and hotels automatically add a 10 to 15 percent service charge to the bill, otherwise a gratuity of the same amount is expected. At hotels, a 10 percent government tax is also usually added to the cost of your room. Taxi drivers expect a 10 to 15 percent tip as well.
The Cayman Islands has a relatively low crime rate. Nevertheless, visitors are advised to take the usual sensible precautions they would anywhere else in the world to prevent being the victims of petty crime. Do not leave valuables lying about: keep them in a hotel or other safety deposit box. Visitors should be aware of the risk of flooding during hurricane season (June to November) and follow local advice with regards to leaving the island in the event of an approaching hurricane.
The culture of the Cayman Islands is a blend of American, British, and West Indian traditions. The churchgoing Caymanians appreciate politeness and modesty - topless bathing and nudity is illegal and beachwear in not acceptable off the beach.
The Cayman Islands are one of the principal financial centres in the world. The hub of business and banking is in George Town on Grand Cayman. Business dress within the financial industry is formal, but other businesses may have a more relaxed protocol. After hours meetings are usually fairly casual. Handshakes on introduction are followed by the exchange of business cards. General business hours are 8am to 5pm, while banks open at 9am and close at 4pm Monday to Friday.
The international access code for the Cayman Islands is +1, in common with the US, Canada, and most of the Caribbean, followed by 345. International direct dialling is available. Internet cafes and hotels and restaurants with free wifi are widely available.
Travellers entering the Cayman Islands may take 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco, as well as one litre of alcohol, without paying duty on these.
Cayman Islands official tourism website: www.caymanislands.ky
British Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also represents Cayman Islands): +1 202 588 6500.
Cayman Islands Government Office, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7491 7772
British High Commission, Ottawa, Canada (also represents Cayman Islands): +1 613 237 1530.
British High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also represents Cayman Islands): +61 2 6270 6666.
British High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa (also represents Cayman Islands): +27 12 421 7500.
British Embassy, Dublin, Ireland (also represents Cayman Islands): +353 1 205 3700.
British High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand (also represents Cayman Islands): +64 4 924 2888.
United States Consular Agent, George Town: +1 345 945 8173.
UK Embassy in the Cayman Islands, George Town: +1 345 244 2434
Canadian High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica (also responsible for Cayman Islands): +1 876 926 1500.
Australian High Commission, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (also responsible for Cayman Islands): +1 868 822 5450.
Your session will timeout due to inactivity, please choose to continue your session if you’d would like to continue.
Your session has timed out due to inactivity.