12 things you should know about Grand Cayman
If you are reading this blog, you are probably considering Grand Cayman as your next vacation destination. That’s great! The notes below will help convince you that Grand Cayman is a beautiful place, you should definitely visit, and will help guide you to maximize your experience while on the island.
The west side is the active side
If you are looking for a remote slice of beach to call your own for the week, consider renting a house or condo North Side or Cayman Kai. You will definitely need a car if you are staying this side, but if peace and quiet during your vacation are what you are after, it will be worth it. On the other hand, if you require an itinerary of fun things to do and see each day, you may prefer to stay on Seven Mile Beach, which is on the west side of the island. There are many hotel and condo options along Seven Mile Beach, and restaurants and shops abound all within walking distance. West Bay might be a happy medium if you are looking for a little quiet time, but still, wish to be near the more dynamic side of Grand Cayman.
Driving is on the left
The Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory, so steering wheels are on the left, and that’s where the cars drive too. Not to worry – if you choose to rent a car, you’ll be pleased to know that all rental cars have special license plates and stickers indicating as such. Also, locals are friendly enough to point you in the right direction if you look bumfuzzled at the entrance of a roundabout.
Rental car vs. cab vs. public bus
Perhaps you are nervous about renting a car but hesitant to pay taxi prices any time you want to go out somewhere. Consider taking the public bus! A very safe and ever more comprehensive option, the public bus will take you near anywhere you want to go on the west side, and many attractions on East End are accessible by bus as well. The cost of the bus is US$2.50 per person, per leg of the route. See the bus routes here.
Grocery stores and shops are closed on Sunday
Due to the religious history in the Cayman Islands, you will not find any stores that are open on a Sunday, except gas stations, and some liquor stores have reduced hours. Restaurants are open, and many excursions still run on Sunday, but don’t save your food shopping for a Sunday! Also, on Saturday nights, all bars are required to close at midnight in respect for Sunday.
Plan your excursions around the cruise ships’ schedule
Grand Cayman currently accommodates two million cruise ship guests per year, and can see as many as 9 cruise ships anchored in their waters per day. Just a friendly heads-up, there is a good chance those visitors are excited to see the same attractions as you are! You can view the cruise ship schedule on Cayman Port Authority’s website and plan your visits to Cayman Crystal Caves, Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanical Park, Crazy Crab private boat charter, any souvenir shopping and driving through George Town around this schedule.
When is the island’s busy season?
The slowest month of the year in Grand Cayman is September and October. Come Thanksgiving holiday at the end of November the island starts buzzing. There is a slight lull after New Year’s Day vacationers return home until the end of February when spring breakers begin to visit, and March is usually the busiest time of the year. Once the spring break influx draws closed, there is a constant stream of visitors through the summer until about the end of August, and the cycle repeats. All of this to say that if you are planning your visit over the winter holidays or in March, book all of your restaurant reservations and excursions in advance to ensure you get the times and days that you want, as space is limited at those times.
We hear from guests often that they want to stay away from “tourist-y” things during their stay and want off the beaten path experiences. Here in Grand Cayman, the attractions that draw the most visitors are not tourist traps to be avoided. They are things that you will want to see most and are popular for that reason.
Must-See and Dos
By far, the most popular attraction in Grand Cayman, the stingrays are an encounter you do not want to miss. There are two ways to get out to the shallow sandbar where they dwell: larger pay-per-seat excursion or small intimate private charter. Just remember that the fewer people are on the boat with you, the more personalized experience you will have with the stingrays, the more individual attention guides are able to give you, and the more comfortable you will feel. If you are looking for an unforgettable, personal experience catered just for you, check out Crazy Crab, who was just awarded Charter Company of the Year by UK Travel and Hospitality Awards, at www.crazycrabcayman.com.
As the name suggests, Starfish Point is where you can see bright Red Cushion Sea Stars. Starfish can be reached by car in the East End, or it may be included in a boat excursion or private charter. If you are going out on the boat during your stay, consider allowing your guides to show and tell you about the starfish. The best guides will introduce some friendly competition into your private charter by showing you the starfish game!
The Bioluminescent Bay, where the water glows
You read it right, bioluminescent plankton makes the water in the Bio Bay appear to glow. The glowing only happens with motion, so there are two ways to experience the Bio Bay: by kayak from Kaibo or Rum Point, or by boat. Kayak excursions do not permit guests to get into the water, so the wing is seen top-side by paddling and stirring the water with one’s hand. If you wish to get up close and personal with the bioluminescence, a boat trip is the way to go. You may snorkel in the calm, secluded waters of the shallow bay and see the individual glowing animals by moving your fingers nice and slow in front of your mask. It is worth noting that visiting the Bio By may be incorporated into a private charter.
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
The water clarity in the Cayman Islands is unparalleled throughout the Caribbean, and the reefs are in good stead, making this a fabulous snorkeling and scuba diving destination. Loads of great snorkeling is accessible off the shore from Seven Mile Beach, as well as restaurant/dive shops on either side. Considering taking a private boat charter? Ask your guides to take you to their favorite snorkel spot away from the crowds.
Have you ever wanted to submerge yourself to the fishes’ level and see the reefs up close? Consider doing a Discover Scuba Diving excursion through one of many dive shops on the island. If you are already a certified scuba diver, you do not want to miss diving here in Grand Cayman.
Source: Flickr/ heatheronhertravels
Scenic self-tour of East End
As we mentioned, the east side of the island is much quieter than the west side. It also displays more culture, like going back in time ways. Stop and see the monument to Wreck of the Ten Sails, the event that ensured no taxes in Cayman. Seek out Davinoff’s sculpture garden and view his artwork that depicts many of the native animals in Cayman. The botanic park, captive breeding ground for and only place you can see the blue iguana is located on the east side of the island, as well as the Crystal Caves and Mastic Trail. Choose a small local eatery for amazing Caribbean food. This drive trip can easily take avid explorers half of a day, but it is awesome to experience the true island vibe of Cayman on the side that is slower-paced.
Cayman is a culinary playground
Especially if you are a foodie, make sure you take time to explore the many restaurants in Grand Cayman. If you are looking for suggestions on where to try, consult one of the previous blogs, Where should we eat tonight? A first-timer’s guide to Grand Cayman’s culinary scene.
As you can see, there are tons of fun things to do and see while you are in Grand Cayman, and now you have some of the logistical knows how to start planning your visit. As the Caymanians would say, “Unna, come see us, ya hear?”