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Experience the Heart and Soul of the Caribbean on This Island

With museum excursions, strolls through farmers’ markets, and displays of local artistry, immerse yourself in the distinctive character of the Cayman Islands.

Oceanfront restaurants like Bacaro are a delicious way to experience the culture of Cayman Islands.

Oceanfront restaurants like Bacaro are a delicious way to experience the culture of Cayman Islands.

Courtesy of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Vibrant culture, history, and heritage infuse the Cayman Islands and span its three islands, Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. Its relationships to other countries over the centuries mean you’ll find British as well as Afro-Caribbean and Jamaican influences. (Jerk chicken, beef patties and ackee and saltfish are island staples.) People of more than 130 nationalities live in Cayman, which makes for global and fusion cuisine, a thriving arts scene, and distinctive architecture and customs.

Charming wattle and daub cottages, an 18th-century housing style, and churches dot the island. During the holidays, you’ll see yards filled with powdery white sand, raked into patterns and adorned with conch shells for a “white Christmas.” Sights like these are the rich backdrop for museums, cuisine, and authentic experiences that will help give you a deeper understanding of what it means to be Caymanian on a trip here.

Discover history at Cayman Island museums and beyond

The Cayman Islands National Museum

The Cayman Islands National Museum

Courtesy of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Perusing the exhibits at the Cayman Islands National Museum in George Town is a fitting introduction to the cultural significance gleaned from the various inhabitants over the centuries. A collection of artifacts speaks to Cayman’s heritage of turtling, shipbuilding, and rope making, sea fossils and specimens highlight its geology and environment, and paintings and sculpture show how artists have interpreted it. You can also dive into the rich maritime history with a self-guided, driving tour of the Maritime Heritage Trail with stops across three islands, including the Wreck of the Ten Sail in Grand Cayman, the Cayman Brac Lighthouse, and Christopher Columbus’ first sighting of the Cayman Islands in Little Cayman.

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Rope, brooms, and other items woven from local palms during thatch classes

Courtesy of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Visit Pedro St. James in Savannah, a heritage museum housed in an 18th-century plantation house that’s known as the “birthplace of democracy” in the Cayman Islands. It’s also the former home of the island’s governors. During thatch classes held periodically at the Mission House Historic Site, learn from local artisans how to weave a hat, basket, or rope from the silver thatch palm, a local species used here for centuries for thatched roofs and goods.

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Pedro St. James

Courtesy of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

Art, storytelling, and music

Cayman has a thriving art scene with its own national orchestra, dance company, and drama society. At the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, you can find inspiration amid the permanent and rotating collections from Cayman artists that reveal the islands’ history through portraits, paintings, photographs, and traditional crafts. During Gimistory, a roving festival that takes place at venues in the different districts around Grand Cayman, professional storytellers from around the world gather to regale festivalgoers with folklore, myths, and legends that provoke laughter, imagination, and drama.

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The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands

Courtesy of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

But you don’t have to head to a museum or a festival to revel in Cayman’s artistic expression. Catch tunes by local musicians while enjoying happy hour or dinner at an area restaurant. You’ll find live music every night of the week. On the weekends, spots like Ms. Piper’s Kitchen + Garden in George Town, Next Door in Camana Bay, and Saint June and Silver Palm on Seven Mile Beach are all particularly lively.

Taste Cayman flavors

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Camana Bay is a vibrant spot for food, drinks, live music, and shopping

Courtesy of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

If food is the best window into a culture, Cayman offers abundant opportunities for delicious cultural immersion. Browse stalls of freshly caught fish, homemade pepper jelly, tangy escovitch sauce, and locally grown produce including cassava, callaloo, and calabash at farmers’ markets at the Cricket Grounds or Camana Bay. Pick up still-warm coconut rolls or a loaf of banana bread at the beloved Pioneer Bakery in Cayman Brac.

For more baked goods, tour the factory at Tortuga Rum Cakes, where you’ll learn how they make the ubiquitous treats found in shops and duty-free stores in the Caribbean and beyond. The experience ends with a sampling of different flavors, including the classic Golden Original Rum Cake.

When it’s time for a meal, book a picturesque table on a veranda by the water at Cayman Cabana in George Town, where you can enjoy a family-style, four-course farm-to-table dinner with local and sustainable ingredients like snapper, guava, and Scotch bonnet peppers. Or sit under a palapa in Bodden Town at Grape Tree Café, a thatched-roof beachfront shack, for an order of local favorites such as fried fish and fritters or ackee and saltfish.

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