Travel Destination Pick of the Week – Cayman Islands
While much of the U.S. settles in for a chilly winter and digs out their shovels, you could be digging your toes into the sand! Cabeau’s Travel Destination Pick of the Week is the Cayman Islands. If you’ve never been to the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands are calling!! This small, three-island country is a British Overseas Territory with outdoor activities galore. With around 56,000 residents distributed around the Islands (located about 400 miles south of Miami) we love its small-town feel, friendly residents and amazing views.
One of the things we liked best about the Cayman Islands is the ease of using U.S. cash! The current exchange rate in Cayman is 1KYD = 1.20US and most every location, retailer and restaurant takes U.S. currency. If you do pay in U.S. dollars, any change back is given in Cayman Island Dollars and the conversion rates are normally posted so it’s easy to figure out and no surprises!
Depending on the length of your stay and interests, Grand Cayman offers everything from sightseeing around the Island to structured tours. Stay on the popular Seven Mile Beach strip at favorites like the upscale Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman Marriott and Westin Grand Cayman hotels with private beach areas and on-site rental companies. Or opt for the cozy Sunshine Suites Resort (with their own mascot, Paco) for the best fish tacos on the Island. On the North Side, Cayman Kai’s Vacation homes and private rentals offer families and groups a more local experience.
While you can get away from renting a car along the West side of the island, they’re definitely recommended for stays in Cayman Kai and elsewhere. Just be sure to use a credit card that assumes liability as there are no police reports for accidents and you may very well be targeted for liability regardless of fault (which happened to us; thankfully we paid via American Express and they took care of us). Many of the resorts have on-site rental car companies as well, so if you decide to rent a car during your stay you’ll have plenty of options.
Islands Magazine recently chose the Cayman Islands for Best of the Caribbean: Watersports and it’s easy to see why! From diving to snorkeling to Stingray City, with warm waters year-round, our toes were in the sand 24/7.
If you love scuba diving, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac feature epic diving excursions that will take your breath away. Cayman Brac has over 50 dive sites including the MV Captain Keith Tibbetts, the only Russian warship accessible to divers in the Western Hemisphere, a must for experienced divers! Other dive sites include Little Cayman’s Bloody Bay Wall and Grand Cayman’s Kittiwake, a former USS naval ship. Bring a waterproof camera and your GoPro, you’ll see everything from sharks to colorful coral reefs, and if you’re lucky you may even spot a red-footed Boobie or two.
For tourists, Georgetown’s cruise port offers many of the Islands’ wares with local food a plenty. Excursions up to the pristine Seven Mile Beach with a stop at Tiki Beach is a must. Off Seven Mile Beach, Cypress Point offers golf at the North Sound Golf Club. And no visit to Grand Cayman is complete without a stop to Hell, you can even send a postcard from their post office!
Our favorite stops in Grand Cayman included the North Side’s Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, a nice stroll through the country’s indigenous flora and fauna. You may encounter a snake or two, and dog-size iguanas are rampant. They also have a Blue Iguana Recovery Program to encourage repopulation of this endangered species. Its serene, quiet landscape is a great escape from the crowds in Georgetown and Seven Mile Beach.
Don’t miss Stingray City, a small sandbar populated with tourists and stingrays. The squeals of visitors getting tickled by curious stingrays in neck-deep water (for the shorter crowd) can be heard daily. They love squid so if you’re brave enough to hit the grocery store and bring some along, you’ll be a guaranteed hit with the crowd. Tour boats used to offer pieces to feed but seldom do now, but you can sneak them on yourself. Just remember to keep your thumb and hand flat when feeding so you don’t get nipped. We took a Glassbottom Boat Tour from Rum Point Club in Cayman Kai (our favorite spot on Grand Cayman by far!) and stopped for the world famous Mudslides! They’ve also got jet skis and water bikes for rent so you can maneuver around the mangroves and reef to explore on your own.
And no trip to the Cayman Islands is complete without pirate ships! During November, Grand Cayman hosts a party like no other for Pirate’s Week. Parades, Pirate Ships and plenty of pretty costumes (make sure to bring your own and join in the costume contests!) . For Goonies fans, seeing a real pirate ship sailing the sea evokes all kinds of nostalgia and is a big hit with the kids!
What we packed:
- Camera, Go Pro and waterproof casing for the best photos (and plenty of chargers)
- Bug spray or natural repellants (we went through a can a day for a party of four)
- Swimming suits (you can never have enough swimsuits)
- Light clothing (shorts, sundresses, a shawl, tanks and tees, flip flops and walking shoes)
- A dressy outfit for a fancy dinner
- Cabeau Slingpack (folds easy and came in handy for snacks and camera gear on tour boats and walks)
- Pirate costumes!!
Whether you’re traveling solo, on your honeymoon or taking a family trip, the Cayman Islands offer a bit of magic for everyone. If you’ve been, share your favorite spots and you could win the featured Cabeau travel product, the Slingpack! Happy Travels!
Guest post by Heather Lynn – an avid traveler, meat eater and passionate USC fan – who enjoys writing and sharing travel photos on Instagram.