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Cayman Islands

Grand Cayman Travel Tips: Hotels, Attractions, Weather

Stingray City is the top attraction on Grand Cayman. Credit: Lawson Wood
Stingray City is the top attraction on Grand Cayman. Credit: Lawson Wood

Anyone who plans a Grand Cayman vacation may begin with three important facts about this western Caribbean island.

First, it is much more of a cruise port than a destination for a hotel and resort vacation. The island has seven times more cruise visitors than overnight visitors, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. The ratio of cruise to overnight visitors is the second highest rate in the Caribbean.

Second, the ratio has more to do with the fact that Grand Cayman is in a prime location for western Caribbean cruises. It still has about 400,000 annual hotel and resort visitors.

Third, Grand Cayman is popular with both cruise and hotel visitors because of three major tourist attractions: Stingray City, Cayman Turtle Centre and Seven Mile Beach.

Where is Grand Cayman?

Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands, is about 450 miles south of Miami, Florida, and 220 miles south of Havana, Cuba, in the Caribbean Sea. It lies almost midway between Cozumel, Mexico, to the west and Montego Bay, Jamaica, to the east.

Hotel and Resort Visitor Tips

Hotel and resort visitors fly into Owen Roberts Airport by the capital city of George Town. From there, most of them have a quick drive to their hotel or resort. The majority of the major places to stay are on the western side of the island near George Town.

These major hotels and resorts populate the famous and popular Seven Mile Beach, which also attracts the majority of cruise visitors.

A few major hotels and quite a few small hotels and villas are scattered elsewhere around the rim of the island.

Beach vacationers who want easy access to shopping, restaurants and major attractions should considering booking a hotel or resort by George Town and Seven Mile Beach. Anyone who prefers a quieter beach vacation should look elsewhere on the island.

Anyone who stays at a place on the far east end of the island, such as the Wyndham Reef Resort, has a 40-minute drive to reach George Town.

Grand Cayman Attractions

Grand Cayman horseback riding
Grand Cayman visitors ride horseback in the island’s surf. Credit: Depositphotos

Grand Cayman is one of the most popular destinations in the western Caribbean in part because of several unique attractions.

Our favorite excursion among all of our many travels through the Caribbean was Stingray City.

Visitors boat out to a sandbar and get into the three-foot water with snorkel gear to watch and touch a school of stingray that lives there. The stingray have become accustomed to human contact and often touch snorkelers with their wings as they glide past them.

Other popular attractions include the Cayman Turtle Farm with 16,000 sea turtles. The farm attracts about 500,000 visitors a year and claims it is the island’s most popular land attraction. It is just north of Seven Mile Beach on the island’s west end.

Seven Mile Beach is the location of many major resorts and hotels. It also is within a quick walk of the cruise terminal.

The island has three golf courses: the 18-hole North Sound Club, the nine-hole Britannia Golf Course and the nine-hole Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.

Tourism / When to Go

Seven Mile Beach
Seven Mile Beach is one of the top beaches in the Caribbean. © Cayman Islands Department of Tourism

The most popular month for hotel and resort visitors is March followed by April, with December a close third. March is popular because of spring break for families with children.

The least popular month is September followed by October during the peak months of the Caribbean hurricane season. Rainfall hits a high point during that time. It’s worth noting that August has been a month that tempts fate with high hurricane activity including Dean in 2007.

All U.S., U.K. and Canadian overnight visitors require passports.

Transportation / Getting Around

A taxi stand is available at Owen Roberts International Airport, the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism says. Rates are fixed.

A taxi from the airport makes sense for anyone who is staying on the island at the west end because it is close to the airport. A rental car makes more sense for anyone staying elsewhere, especially on the far west end.

Car renters must get a license and have a minimum age of 21. Note that cars travel on the left side of the road according to British custom.

Budget-minded visitors may use a public bus system. The terminal is next to the Public Library on Edward Street in George Town. Services begin at 6 a.m. daily. Tickets start at $1.50 in Cayman Islands currency.

Cayman Islands Weather

Grand Cayman monthly rainfall
© 2022 Scott S. Bateman

The official Caribbean hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Before Dean in 2007, the last two hurricanes to hit the islands directly were Ivan in 2004 and then all the way back to one in 1932. Others, however, have passed nearby.

The average high temperature during the summer reaches into the low 90s Fahrenheit or low 30s Celsius. During the winter, it is in the mid 80s Fahrenheit.

March and April have the lowest average rainfall of the year at less than two inches a month. They are followed by January and February.

Grand Cayman weather in September and October has the highest rainfall of the year at more than eight inches each month, according to 30 years of data from the National Meteorological Service of the Cayman Islands.

Travel tip: April is the best month to visit for a combination of low rainfall and warmer temperatures. May is warmer but has a much higher risk of rain.

Currency / Tipping / Taxes

Currency is the Cayman Dollar. U.S. visitors can pay with U.S. bills, but be prepared to receive change in Cayman coins.

Hotels may include a 10 percent service charge, while taxi drivers and restaurant may include a 10-15 percent service charge. Travel tip: Always ask for rates before getting into a taxi.

Goods and services generally aren’t taxed, but hotel rooms have a 10 percent tax.

Culture / Geography

The dominant language is English. Because there is no direct taxation, the islands are better known as an offshore financial center than for tourism.

The geography consists of a low-lying limestone base surrounded by coral reefs.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
August 02, 2023

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Grand Cayman Travel Tips: Hotels, Attractions, Weather