Ever pet a stingray in an aquarium? How about petting a few dozen while wading in the Caribbean? The Stingray City Sandbar is one of the top Grand Cayman attractions and is home to a whole fleet of southern stingrays who congregate near the shore.
Cayman Islands National Trust preserves cultural and traditional sites of artistic and architectural interest on the islands. The Cayman Islands National Trust also provides protection for local natural resources and wildlife.
The oldest building in the islands and one of the most popular Grand Cayman attractions, Pedro St. James Castle is the restored centre-piece of a national historic site overlooking the Caribbean Sea–the best view in Grand Cayman. Built by William Eden in 1780
When Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II opened the Grand Cayman Botanic Park in 1994, the Woodland Trail was all that existed. In recent years, the grounds have grown into the majestic and vibrant Botanic Park that is operating today.
Cayman Visitor Info
When in Cayman
As a visitor to our islands, you will find it helpful to know certain facts about East End Grand Cayman Blowholes, explore our Island with Cico Avis Rent A Car, the sure way to save money on your Cayman Islands car rentals Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. In order to make your stay more enjoyable, we ask that you read and comply with our laws and just a few rules of local etiquette. We thank you and welcome you to the Cayman Islands!
What to see
We all have our personal preferences. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. We won’t recommend our scenic mountain trails – mainly because we don’t have any mountains. The beaches – well, hopefully you like beaches as they are a main attraction here. The same for watersports in general.
Every supermarket carries free booklets listing restaurants and other useful information for our tourists and business visitors. Remember that two beers or a glass of wine will put you over the legal limit for driving in Cayman. That would nullify your coverage in the event of an accident while driving. You’d best wait till you get back to your hotel or condo.
Snorkelers usually like Eden Rock, just south of George Town, and Rum Point, an hour’s drive away on the eastern side of North Sound. Rum Point also has a modestly priced lunch menu, served at picnic tables beside the water. Very pleasant. (But you’re not allowed to bring your own food or drink there.)
Stingray City is a family favourite, except for those who freak out at the idea of touching stingrays. Despite the name, stingrays are not aggressive creatures. They will let you feed them up close and in the water. Really, the only thing they don’t like is to be lifted out of the water; we recommend you don’t do that. Visiting the “City” involves a boat trip with other people – and it isn’t available when the sea there is too choppy.
Camana Bay is the best place in Cayman for walking around licking ice-cream cones. It’s best described as a model-town – a hundred-years project of Cayman’s favourite zillionaire philanthropist. He’s done a fine job so far, and there’s a whole lot more on the drawing board. There’s a six-screen cinema there; so is the terminus for the ferry to Rum Point on the other side of the Sound.
The minimum age for Scuba divers is eleven – and there’s not much that most eleven-year-olds would like more than a short “resort” course lesson and actual dive conducted by professional divers. Presentation of your Avis rental-contract will get you a special discount at Cayman Diving School, subject to availability. [subject to arrangement!]
Smith Cove (a mile and a half south of George Town on the coastal road) and Cemetery Beach (at the southern end of West Bay) have shady trees and safe swimming. The Public Beach up near the Governor’s house has cabanas and safe swimming.
Public rest-rooms are in short supply, on the Island. Smith Cove and the Public Beach have some, and the Cruise Terminal in George Town and Camana Bay. Otherwise you’ll have to ask a restaurant or sneak into a hotel.
Grand Cayman is unique in the Caribbean. Only half of its 55,000 residents are citizens, and fewer than 20,000 are ethnic Caymanians whose ancestors settled here some time before the early 1900s. Another 15,000 or so represent families who immigrated since then – mostly after the British government set us up as an “offshore” tax-haven in the late 1960s as a rival to the Bahamas, in advance of those Islands’ political independence.
The rest of the population are transient migrants from a hundred different nationalities, imported under an indentured-service system. Their employers are granted licences (Work Permits) for specified individuals to work at specified jobs under specified conditions.
The success of the tax-haven (now called “an international financial centre”, please) and of the tourism industry that followed – resulted in a long economic boom that still endures. Grand Cayman today has a sophisticated financial sector with highly respected clients from all over the world.
Britain and its former colonies provide most of the executives in the “offshore” sector and related services; Jamaica and other West Indian islands provide most of the gardeners and domestic servants, Indians most of the security guards, Philippines and Latin America most of the other workers. Hotel workers come from a very wide range of countries – Nepal and Pakistan, Eastern Europe, China and Indonesia – you name it.
Everybody speaks some variety of English, though not always as their first language. Spanish and Tagalog (Filipino) are commonly overheard in shops, and Jamaican patois on building sites. Probably fifty other languages or dialects are spoken in the privacy of homes.
Visitors need to be aware that race and skin-colour are not factors in Cayman life. There exists some occasional tension between ethnic (bloodline) Caymanians of all races and colours and expatriates of all races and colours, but that tension derives from cultural differences, which visitors don’t usually notice. In describing individuals we tend to be literal, and we never use the general term “black” to describe all non-whites. To avoid confusion, visitors of all races and colours might like to bear that mild eccentricity in mind.
Sir Turtle, the pegged-legged turtle pirate, is a conglomerate symbol of turtles, which for a long time provided much of the food and livelihood on our islands; and the pirates who once used our islands as their Caribbean hideout, as well as the shipwrecked sailors, buccaneers and army deserters who made our Islands their home.
Economy and Taxes
Cayman is reputed to be the richest territory in the region – and it probably is. We are a popular retirement haven for some seriously wealthy foreign investors, and their homes can be seen on a casual drive around our suburbs. Let your Avis car give you a quick personal peek at how “the other half” lives!
The chief industries are tourism (cruise ships and stopovers) and "offshore" financial services. Although Cayman is usually billed as a no-tax jurisdiction, the term applies to taxes on income and capital gains, and death duties. Much of government's revenue derives from consumption taxes and user-fees levied on visitors as well as residents. Most imports attract stamp-duty of 20-30%, including fuel for vehicles and electricity generators. That is largely responsible for our high cost of daily living, and periodic increases in this duty boost the local price-inflation rate above the US rate.
Almost all of our imports come from the USA and are paid for in US Dollars. Downtown, tourist-related goods and services are priced in US Dollars, although locally we use a "coupon currency" called the Cayman Islands Dollar, which has no recognition outside our territory. This CI Dollar was invented in 1972, when its value was fixed at the US equivalent of ten shillings Jamaican, which was also ten shillings British. The US equivalent at the time was US$1.20, and that is still the official exchange mid-rate today. That's why - to the indignation of some of the more patriotic Americans - our dollar is worth more than theirs.
The conversion-rate for US$ credit-cards is marginally different from cash, because of the banks' commission. In shops, though, the exchange-rate for cash is 80 cents Cayman to $1.00 US. Visitors can pay US Dollars, but will always receive their change in CI Dollars. There is no need to exchange money at the bank, if you don't want to.
Road Safety Laws
Renting a car is the best way to see our Islands. Remember though, we are a British Crown Colony and we drive on the LEFT side of the road! You must be 21 to drive a rental car and 25 to rent a car on your own. A temporary local permit (US$20.00) is required. Pedestrians are asked to stay on sidewalks or roadsides, and to use our crosswalks for safety.
While many of our hotels and restaurants automatically add a 10-15% service charge, some do not. Please examine your check and feel free to reward those who serve you with any added tip you feel appropriate.
We welcome you to look at, photograph and admire our many natural wonders. Many of them, however, are endangered species and Cayman is dedicated to keeping them alive. Our strict Marine Conservation Laws prohibit the taking or disturbing of any marine life while in scuba gear or while in areas designated Marine Parks or Replenishment zones. In general, we ask that you respect and do not harm Cayman's flora and fauna, whether marine or terrestrial, and do not remove it from its natural setting. The possession or use of spear guns by visitors anywhere in Cayman waters is illegal. Littering is also prohibited throughout the Islands and carries a CI$500 fine.
The Cayman Islands remains on Eastern Standard Time all year round. If you rent your car with Avis Rent A Car to explore our Island with the best deals found in the Cayman Islands car rentals have your watch on Daylight Savings time, be sure to reset it while you're here.
While we pride ourselves on having a low rate of crime, we must remind our visitors to please lock their doors and keep their valuables in a secure place. Do not leave purses, wallets, cameras, jewelry, passports or any valuables out in the open, unattended at the beach, in your rental vehicle or other public places. Shopping is "trouble-free" in the Cayman Islands and can be done in the comfort of a wide variety of local boutiques, souvenir shops, fine jewelry and duty free stores and small art galleries. Cayman Islands law strictly prohibits begging, selling and soliciting any kind of individuals on the street or on the beach. Please report any violations of this to the police.
Our Sincere Advice
The Cayman Islands has very strict laws prohibiting the use of any illegal substances including marijuana (or ganja as it is called locally). Large fines and prison terms are given to those who are in possession of or who import any controlled substances.
Our Dress Regulations
Cayman Islands law prohibits all forms of public nudity, including topless sun-bathing. In accordance with local customs, we also request that you put on a shirt, dress or beach cover-ups as you leave the beach and go to public places outside your resort.
Cayman has plenty of sports bars, and most major sporting events in the world are covered. Apart from that… Sometimes it’s fun, on vacation, to watch the natives at play. Cayman has plenty of amateur games, especially at weekends. Cricket, golf, motor racing, field and rollerblade hockey, sailing, softball, tennis, squash, darts, martial arts, dominoes, several codes of football – and many more that we can’t call to mind just now. Oh, beach volleyball, swimsuit edition – how could we overlook that?
We have several gyms, and personal trainers are always available. There’s a running-track at the John Gray High School south of George Town. Street races (from 5K to half-marathons) and swimming races (usually a mile long) are organized throughout the year – also occasional triathlons.
Horse rides are available at a price, and dogs can be walked for free at the Humane Society’s pound.
Most of the world’s major religions are represented here. Caymanians’ and Jamaicans’ major traditional faith is Baptist, but Roman Catholicism’s numbers have been boosted by recent immigration from Goa in India, Philippines and Latin America. Other Christian denominations abound. Hindus and Moslems, Jews and post-Christian atheists all live together in peace. Religious conflict is unthinkable, here. The only legally banned religion is obeah (voodoo), a carry-over from the days of slavery.
We have two live-theatre groups that put on plays or reviews fairly regularly – one at The Playhouse on the south side, the other at the Harquail Theatre near Camana Bay. The quality varies, but it’s not bad for a population of 55,000. Our Public Library is in the centre of George Town, over from the Court House; it has small branches in every outer district. Used books can be picked up cheaply at the Humane Society’s Book Loft.
Rotary (three clubs), Kiwanis, Toastmasters and Lions (two clubs) all have branches in Cayman, and there’s a Freemasons Lodge as well as local meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
The contact numbers for all these are in “The Resident” Magazine, a copy of which will be found in your Avis rental car as part of our welcome-package. The Magazine also has an online presence, which can be found via Google.
Medical standards are among the highest in the region. The main George Town Hospital has an A & E section (Accidents & Emergencies), and rosters of doctors and dentists. Dental emergencies are treated at the Dental Clinic beside the Hospital, starting at 7.30 a.m., and eye-problems at the Eye Clinic. Private doctors, dentists and optometrists are listed in the Phone Book and in “The Resident” magazine.
Our government is pursuing the option of “medical tourism” – a less expensive alternative to North American prices. A new internationally staffed hospital has just opened (“The Shetty hospital”, on the south eastern side of the Island), specializing in heart surgery.
Whenever medical problems can’t be handled in Cayman, for whatever reason, patients can be flown to Florida or Jamaica by air-ambulance at a few hours’ notice. The cost is $15,000 (more or less), and can be paid by credit-card.
Cayman is well provided with pharmacies and fully qualified pharmacists. Most convenient for visitors might be those inside the Foster’s supermarkets in The Strand Plaza off West Bay Road just south of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, and in The Airport Center out by the airport; and inside Kirk’s supermarket on Eastern Avenue a mile north of George Town. There are a dozen others scattered all around the Island.
We wish you a safe and pleasant stay on Grand Cayman.
The National Museum in George Town is both a natural history as well as cultural history museum. It is one of more educational of the Grand Cayman attractions that you can visit on your Caribbean vacation to Cayman.
The town of Camana Bay elevates luxury and style to a whole new level. Stretching 500 acres from Grand Cayman’s Seven-Mile Beach to the North Sound, Camana Bay offers every convenience, from fashion and nature, to entertainment.
The Kittiwake was a Chanticleer Class Submarine Rescue ship. In service from 1945 to 1994, her most memorable duty was the diligent recovery of the Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster. The ship was later donated in 2010 to the Cayman Islands.
With more than 12 million passengers, Atlantis Submarines International is the world leader in tourist submersibles, with operations in nine special locations around the Caribbean and Pacific. The company started in Grand Cayman during 1985.