If you are headed to the Cayman Islands from Fort Wayne, be sure to wave to the Castros of Cuba as you fly over them two and a half hours into your flight.
Sitting just 150 miles directly south of Cuba, this tropical Mecca is a self-governed British territory. First sighted by Columbus in 1503, the Cayman Islands was an outlier island group in the days of the pirates and tall masted ships of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Today, Grand Cayman Island is anything but an outlier. Known for being an international banking hub, it has become a very progressive urban center in which you will find a rich intermixing of cultures. The locals are friendly, happy and seem to take pride in keeping the islands clean and safe. But the secret is out on this jewel of the Caribbean – it is a sought after destination by visitors from all over the globe.
Patience is something frequently lacking with travelers from the U.S. Depending upon when you arrive at the nearly completed and expanded Owen Roberts International Airport, clearing customs can sometimes be a tedious process during peak arrival times and seasons. If that is the case, just take a big breath and relax.
Grand Cayman Island is about 22 miles long. The government has been working hard to modernize the roads as its population and popularity continue to grow. If it is not rush hour, it takes about 30 to 40 minutes to get from one end of the island to the other. You can travel almost anywhere on the island’s perimeter by public bus. Cayman busses are really mini-vans that travel up and down the main highways and roads throughout the day until about 9 p.m. They are truly one of the best value travel methods on the island. Look for the bus stop signs along the road – you won’t have to wait long. The cost to ride a bus is $3 USD or $2 CI (Cayman dollar) – always cash. Tips are appreciated but not expected.
Speaking of money, one Cayman dollar is worth about $1.30 USD. Also, most bars and restaurants automatically add a 16 percent gratuity to the bill. Check before you automatically add your tip. Prices for food and alcohol are in CI, so when you get your credit card bill, with tip, it is going to be 30 to 50 percent more than what you saw on the menu.
There are plenty of very nice hotels, condos and resorts to pick from on the island at a variety of price points. Like most popular vacation spots, prices are driven by the calendar. Late August through October is typically the least expensive time to visit, with Thanksgiving through the middle of April being the most expensive. When looking for a place to stay, you have lots of choices. If you are looking for endless beaches near lots of bars, restaurants and shopping, then 7 Mile Beach on the west side is your clear choice.
A more secluded, less traveled tropical experience can be had on the east or back side of the island. Also on the east side, you will find a number of towns mainly inhabited by locals that have a much more relaxed and Caribbean vibe about them.
If you are a diver or like to snorkel, there are few places in the world that can match the clear waters and underwater habitat off the shores of the Cayman Islands. It is like diving in a bottomless aquarium. Not an underwater person? Then consider a horseback ride on the beach, biking, parasailing, strolling the beautiful sands on 7 Mile Beach, visiting the Turtle Farm or swimming with the dolphins.
Your taste buds will not be disappointed during your stay, either. From simple fare to a high-end, experience you will not be disappointed. The seafood, salads and fruits all taste fresh. Almost any style of food can be found somewhere on the island.
Caymana Bay is a beautiful contemporary walking mall that is full of shops, eateries and entertainment. With modern soft lighting all over the grounds, it offers a great place stroll in the evening after a day on the beach.
So bring your swimsuit, sunglasses and a desire to kick back and relax your cares away at this amazing place called The Cayman Islands.