The Cayman Islands, pronounced cay-mahn by the locals, and never “Caymans,” are an absolute treasure in the Caribbean. Besides the pecuniary meaning of the word (the islands are known to hide trillions of dollars of the world's extremely wealthy) it is also a beautiful place to relax and soak in the sun. While a British Overseas Territory, there is little trace of British influence on the islands, besides the obvious driving on the left. Most visitors are American, power outlets are US voltage and size, school buses are American, and even the currency is pegged to the US dollar. We hardly ever heard the queen's English.
We chose to spend our entire week-long vacation on the Grand Cayman, the largest of the three islands, selected for its picture perfect beaches. An ocean facing condo at Discovery Point on the north side of the Seven Mile Beach, provides a perfect base for utter relaxation.
Hurricane season spans June through November. For obvious reasons, we planned to arrive around the tail end of this range, and the weather ended up being mostly perfect.
The Grand Cayman is extremely flat. The highest point on the island is Mount Trashmore, a mere 60 feet above sea level, and hardly deserving of its prefix. The effect of this topology is that bad weather does not tend to linger and simply passes through. Any showers or thunder showers lasted an hour at most, and most of the rain occurred at night, which causes least disruption to one's plans.
Food and Drink
Food on the island is expensive and of slightly better than mediocre quality. Nearly everything must be imported, and the local fish is not terribly appetizing — grouper and snapper seem to be the only local options.
Similarly, alcohol is sold with a huge surcharge and can only be found at designated liquor stores. The main local beer is the Caybrew, which tastes almost like a Heineken and begs the question why there needs to be a Caybrew Light. The better, stronger beer is the Ironbock, an amber of 7% alcoholic content. All three local brews are expensive: at least $15 US for a six pack at the liquor store.
There is an excellent Middle Eastern fast food shack off of seven mile beach that is quite good -- it stays open very late: 4am, is very affordable, has friendly staff, and serves satisfyingly good food. Check out its menu at kebab.ky — that is the beauty of Caymanian web addresses: they are so short and sweet and easy to remember.
On our last night we also sampled a fine Italian restaurant that is my namesake: Luca. It had delicious seafood pastas and wines. We ordered a marvelous Austrian Sauvignon Blanc (Biohof Pratsch) that we have not since been able to find back home. Later, at our condo we were treated to some music from the mansion next door, whose owner was celebrating his 70th birthday.
Things To Do
There are plenty of attractions on the island to keep visitors happy: diving is, I hear, incredible, snorkeling, petting the sting rays, visiting the turtle farm, botanical gardens, etc. My recommendation: do nothing. If you stay on Seven Mile Beach, you are on the best part of the island. After our third day of relaxation we felt a bit guilty for not doing any exploring so we got into our rental and did the one hour drive to Rum Point on the north side of the island, stopping at the botanical garden along the way.
Perhaps it was the time of year, but the botanical garden did not seem worth their entrance fee. One can see most of its specimens for free elsewhere on the island, and the iguanas they advertise are frankly not very attractive. Similarly, Rum Point offers lesser quality beaches and more expensive food, so we high tailed out of there after lunch and resolved to remain at our condo beach for the remainder of our stay.
Seven Mile Beach is not really seven miles long — it is more like five. I expected to do a lot of running on the beach, but it is less than ideal for that. It is slanted and the sand is unevenly packed, making every step a surprise. Most runners choose the streets instead. A beach boardwalk would be a wise investment for the locals.
The water, however, is perfect: a warm 82 degrees, crystal clear, and calmer than a lake, making it ideal for long swims along the shore. Our stay was very enjoyable, but the departure somewhat tarnished our experience, leaving us uncertain about whether we might return. The airport security personnel were rude and forced Richelle to discard half her toiletries. And a subsequent foot infection immobilized Richelle for over a month, leaving doctors stumped over its cause. It was later discovered to be sea urchin spine. The experience has shown that tropical paradise does have its thorns.