There’s nothing better than a few days in the Caribbean to fight the winter blues, though one look out into the crystal clear water and any cares you may have will be washed away regardless of the season. I recently had the opportunity to go to the Cayman Islands and I will tell you, it is paradise.
Located just below Cuba, there are three islands that make up the Cayman Islands, including Cayman Brac, Little Cayman, and of course, Grand Cayman. I spent my time on Grand Cayman, and yes, I’m ready to go back. However, before I go, I wanted to share a few of the things I learned from my first visit to the Cayman Islands.
1. You want to stay on the west side of the island. For one, that’s where you’ll see a fantastic sunset, but it’s also where you’ll find famed Seven Mile Beach, which is where all the top resorts, like the new Kimpton Seafire Resort and the Comfort Suites Seven Mile Beach are situated. The airport and George Town, the capital city of the Cayman Islands, are also on the west side.
2. Nearly everything is closed on Sundays. You’ll find some restaurants open on Sundays, but everything else is closed. I walked into George Town on a Sunday and saw one cruise ship, but every shop was closed for the day. Just a few restaurants where open. It was practically a ghost town, but it was quite nice since the town is bustling every other day when the cruise ships are in.
3. There’s no pier in Grand Cayman. Sure, you’ll find lots of cruise ships – Carnival, Holland America, Disney – making stops in Grand Cayman, but there is no pier in George Town. Grand Cayman is a “tender port,” meaning that to get to shore you need be ferried in a tender boat. On a busy day, you may find as many as dozen ships parked away from the town ferrying passengers in by boat.
4. You can do the Cayman Islands on a budget. When value-seekers think of the Caribbean, Jamaica and Bahamas are usually top of mind, but a trip to the Caymans does not need to break the bank. The Comfort Suites Seven Mile Beach, a well-known value brand, is situated on the beach, offers free breakfast and even gives an extra discount to Choice Privileges members who book online at ChoiceHotels.com.
5. Stingray City is just a sandbar in the middle of the water. I knew about Stingray City (it’s featured in Frommer’s 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up), but I didn’t realize it was a sandbar in Grand Cayman’s North Sound. I took a boat tour with Six Senses Cayman Adventures and was surprised when it was time to hop out in waist deep water, but there they were, dozens of friendly stingrays.
6. The Mudslide hails from Grand Cayman. I always thought the Mudslide was born in Jamaica (or TGI Friday’s), but nope, it hails from Grand Cayman. More specifically, the first one was mixed up more than 40 years ago at the Wreck Bar & Grill at Grand Cayman’s Rum Point. You’ll make a stop for lunch at Rum Point on the Six Senses Eco Tour, so be sure to order one with a side of conch fritters. Yum.
7. There aren’t as many starfish as you’d expect at Starfish Point. Honestly, Starfish Point is awesome. I’d suggest this as a must-do to anyone. However, I expected to see dozens of starfish in the water. I saw maybe eight or ten. It was very, very cool, but unfortunately, so many starfish were taken from the water by tourists and that was that. Now it’s illegal to remove starfish from Starfish Point.
8. They drive on the left-side in Grand Cayman. The Cayman Islands are a British colony. More specifically, they are a part of the British West Indies. That noted, they drive on the left-hand side of the road, just like they do in the U.K. You may not need to rent a car while in Grand Cayman, but be sure to look the correct way when preparing to cross the street so you don’t step out into oncoming traffic.
9. Save your must-sees for after the cruise ships sail away. The cruise ships leave by mid-afternoon, or at the very least, the cruisers are on their way back to their ships, so plan to visit must-go spots, like Stingray City and Rum Point at that time. We went to the Cayman Turtle Centre around 4 pm and had the place all to ourselves. There are turtles, of course, but there’s also a predator reef and an aviary.
10. It’s easy to get around the island by bus. It’s just $2.50 to ride the bus to popular spots, like Rum Point, Cayman Turtle Centre and Hell. There are signs along the main road where you can wait for a minibus. I never saw any signs, but from what I hear, it’s not hard to flag one down. However, many ground tour operators will pick you up at your hotel and bring you back so you don’t need to navigate on your own.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Choice Hotels while in Grand Cayman. However, I was not compensated for this article and all opinions expressed here are my own.