Whether it’s a family getaway or friends having a milestone vacation, consider relaxation with opportune travel connections, purchases with American currency, the English language and safety – all found in the sparkling Cayman Islands with dazzling biodiversity in the Caribbean Sea.
Two of the islands (Cayman Brac and Little Cayman) were sighted in 1503 by Christopher Columbus, who named them Las Tortugas after the giant sea turtles swimming in the area. Decades later, the island group was named Caymanas, the Carib word for “crocodile.”
Enticing visitors to the Caymans are the relative inexpensive airfare and travel time (6 hours, including connections); staying in the same time zone as Oklahoma for most of the year (the British territory, south of Cuba, is on eastern time, but doesn’t recognize daylight saving time); and using U.S. or Caymanian money.
The friendly airport personnel and music from steel drums welcome you. Taxis are available, but consider renting an off-road vehicle for an idyllic driving experience. The prevalent public buses (more like vans) charge $2 each direction. There are no aggressive vendors and Grand Cayman, the largest of the three islands, is immaculate with impeccable facilities and fragrances. The tap water is safe to drink and the police security is good.
The warm ocean invites you to stay for hours among the mossy rocks while watching fish swim in transparent waters.
With many luxurious hotels on Seven Mile Beach, renting a condominium is a smart option. Stock up at grocery and beverage stores. The Discovery Point Club Condos (medium price range) have a superb staff and private beach with pristine chaise lounges, umbrellas, a pool and a hot tub. Take your drinks, snacks, floats and paddleboards right outside your condo for beach tranquility and hedonism.
The Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman is a high-end hotel option.
The Caymans are sometimes called the “Culinary Capital of the Caribbean,” providing scores of unique foods, like oxtail empanadas, conch, flash fried wahoo, crocodile fritters and snapper. Restaurant recommendations include the Macabuca Oceanside Tiki Bar and Grill, the Cracked Conch, Deckers, the Calypso Grill and the Kaibo.
Magic happens at the Macabuca with its jovial staff. Lunchtime turns into dinnertime with a long afternoon of floating inside the cove of a craggy bluff and ordering pitchers of Macabuca’s famous rum punch.
As the sunset suffuses with the horizon, you take group pictures and absorb the gleaming view. Macabuca in the Taino language means “What does it matter?” You definitely embrace this phrase while aspiring to follow what Ralph Waldo Emerson prescribed: “Live in the sunshine. Swim in the sea. Drink the wild air.”
Take a morning beachside walk to the Ritz for frozen drinks or go to the seaside VIVO cafe for breakfast with coconut bacon. Visit the Cayman Turtle Centre and Dolphin Discovery Grand Cayman to encounter sea turtles and iguanas. Then literally drive over to Hell, a group of foreboding, black limestone formations.
Charter a private boat from the Cayman Islands Yacht Club for a day on the sea. The Double Trouble is a personal recommendation. After dancing to music blaring from the boat’s speakers, you won’t want to disembark. Gliding past luxury homes, you reach Coral Gardens, Starfish Point and Sting Ray City, where you can kiss sting rays, let them swim around you, hold starfish and look for conch shells. Snorkeling and diving in the Caymans are unparalleled.
Schedule a bioluminescence tour, depending on the moon cycle’s darkest night, to see sea creatures glow.
Explore Cayman Crystal Caves, where semi-precious caymanite is found within limestone rock walls.
Spelunking in Cayman Brac, the mid-sized island, is a must for adventurers, while Little Cayman is known for its maritime museum and kite surfing.