Photo Courtesy of KatieThebeau
The perfect beaches with powdered-sugar sand and turquoise water aren’t the only things luring travelers to the Cayman Islands. Grand Cayman—the largest of the three islands—is the cosmopolitan big sister filled with exquisite restaurants, great beach bars, and shopping. Cayman Brac is known as the …“adventure island” with caves, bluffs, and trails to explore. Little Cayman—the smallest of the three—is sought after for its secluded beaches, privacy, and disconnection from the modern world. The three islands offer a complete balance of fine dining, extraordinary excursions, and beautiful beaches, all of which encourage total relaxation.
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As with all Caribbean islands, the Cayman Islands have high and low seasons. Hurricane season starts around June 1 and goes until November 30. Prime time for visiting is mid-December until mid-April. But great hotel deals can be found in late April and May while the weather is still beautiful and the beaches are less crowded. Just bear in mind, some restaurants aren’t open during low season and some hotels have fewer amenities. If you plan to travel during a prime winter holiday such as Christmas, New Year's, or Presidents' Day weekend, book well in advance to ensure vacancy as well as car rental.
The Cayman Islands are easily accessible from many cities in the United States, with Grand Cayman being the main port of entry to both Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. The islands are just a 70-minute flight from Miami. Direct flights are offered from Miami by American Airlines and Cayman Airways. Getting between the three islands is also very easy, as multiple inter-island flights are offered daily to and from Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. Flights also leave from other cities including Houston, Tampa, and Atlanta.
If you come by cruise ship or just plan to settle into your resort, renting a car isn’t necessary. You can easily get around by bus or taxi and avoid the hassle of renting. If you want to explore the islands, though, renting a car is your best bet. Keep in mind the Cayman Islands are still a British Overseas Territory, so driving on the left side of the road is standard. Also, be sure to reserve a rental a day or two in advance—or more during high season—to ensure availability.
Food in the Cayman Islands centers around fresh and local seafood. Signature Caymanian dishes are also authentic and delicious. One recipe that dates back generations is the Cayman jerk rub. Used to spice a variety of meats from pork to chicken, this spicy concoction is made up of allspice berries, hot pepper, thyme, and cinnamon. Other specialties range from turtle stew—the national dish—to conch dishes. Grand Cayman is known for its farm/fishing boat–to-table brasseries as well as breathtaking oceanfront dining under the stars. The liquor of choice on the island is spiced rum, with domestic brands like Tortuga and Seven Fathoms produced on Grand Cayman.
It's good to understand the ways in which Great Britain still influences the islands in etiquette and customs. As in England, the legal drinking age is 18 and open containers are illegal on the streets, beaches, or anywhere that isn’t zoned for consumption. In comparison to much of the Caribbean, Grand Cayman is quite formal. The restaurants encourage smart casual attire, and visitors should be covered up once off the beaches. If you're staying on the islands, be mindful of the days that cruise ships come into port for the day. Places like George Town and Rum Point get crowded from the influx of passengers passing through which can make the experience a bit more chaotic.
The official language of the Cayman Islands is English (or, really, British English) but you'll also hear plenty of Jamaican patois and slang. American citizens need a passport to enter the islands—whether you sail or fly in. The standard voltage is 120 volts and outlets take the same two prong plugs as American outlets.
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