Below are my notes for visiting the Cayman Islands. These travel tips, such as the best time to visit the Cayman Islands are obtained from a variety of sources including some of the following: my first hand observations, personal conversations, magazines, newspapers, websites, books and so forth. Whenever I hear something that interests me about the Cayman Islands, I jot it down here. Hope this comes in handy.
Best Time to Visit the Cayman Islands
Short Answer: Mid-November to Mid-April
Longer Answer: Mid-November to Mid-April is more dry than May through October. There is a high season that hits around Christmas with peaks and valleys into March. For instance, you can go during the end of November or beginning of December and not be inundated with crowds. The weather should be great for swimming and wandering.
In reality, the Caymans is a good place year-round, its just that you will most likely experience thunderstorms and rain in the summer months (e.g. June, July, August, September). Hurricane season also runs (technically) from June to November but I never really am too concerned with that personally.
One other note, many places (including grocery stores) are closed on Sundays so if you are doing a quick trip or otherwise, plan for that.
Grand Cayman vs Little Cayman vs Cayman Brac
The Cayman Islands is comprised of Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. Transportation is provided between them via air. Check https://www.caymanairways.com/
Grand Cayman Island
Grand Cayman is the main island, and where you’d go if you were interested in the opportunity to swim, dive, snorkel, shop, eat, explore. Essentially Grand Cayman is your default choice. The other two islands are much less developed and you go to them to get a more chilled environment with less people.
Little Cayman Island
Little Cayman is good if you are interested in wildlife (especially birding), diving and chilling out. Little Cayman is the least populated and least developed but offers some of the best diving. Note that in the winter, a north wind can impact the diving on the north side which is mostly where you want to be on Little Cayman.
Cayman Brac is good for diving, deep sea fishing, hiking, caving and climbing. The diving maybe isn’t as great as Little Cayman but makes up for it as it is more varied.
Beaches/Snorkeling Grand Cayman Island
You can swim and go to any beach, even if its in front of a resort. You just obviously can’t use their amenities and should stay below the high water mark. If you want to post up above that mark, you can try it out but might be asked to leave. If you go at a low point, this is unlikely to occur.
If you are a type that enjoys resort life, then just choose your favorite resort along Seven Mile Beach and forget it. Alternately, you could head up to Rum Point where there is a resort-style setup with chairs, drinks and the whole nine yards.
If you aren’t into the whole resort scene, you can check out:
Governors Beach which is located next to the Westin and in front of the Governors House. You will see the beach chairs and water sports equipment but your beach will be free of the commercialism. Easy snorkeling not far from the beach with mostly dead corals but good fish.
Cemetery Beach is located a little further north, and is of course in front of a cemetary. It is more removed from the resort set without being remote. Good, easy snorkeling straight out from shore (start where the cemetary gate is, or between two large rocks in the shore). Head for the dark patches. Very close to shore is one spot and if you continue further, you will get to a better patch. There is a tugboat wreck maybe 450ft from shore which is on some diving itineraries.
West Bay Beach a little further up is even more localized feeling and has a dive site.
North from Seven Mile Beach:
If you comtinue north through West Bay all the way up to the northern side, you can find lots of kite surfing and remote beach spots from where to watch. Further still on dirt roads which can be choppy (feasible for a car if not muddy) is Barker’s National Park which has a cool mangrove system and a scenic shoreline.
Heading south of Seven Mile Beach:
Eden’s Rock and Devil’s Grotto is just south of the cruiseship port and thus popular. I wouldn’t bother.
Continuing on, Smith’s Barcadere (sometimes referred to as Smith’s Cove) is a great place for snorkeling and has a small beach which is not commercialized, other than the restroom and food truck that is there at times. For snorkeling, you should see a rock in the center of the cove (it is growing smaller with time/erosion). In any case, you want to head for that rock. In front of the rock and to the left in where you will first pick up the coral. From there, you can follow it further to the left (aka south).
Spotts Beach on the southern coast is a nice remote spot and a good place to encounter sea turtles. Sometimes you can spot them from the dock.
Between Bodden Town Public Beach and Governor Russel beach is, not only remote beachhead, but a snorkeling area that is quite decent.
On the northeast corner of Grand Cayman are some hotels with snorkeling in front.
Continue now westward along the northern coast and you will come to Barefoot Beach (which you can find using Google Maps). Is it located in the East End, a bit before getting to the North End. It is a nice secluded, natural, remote spot but can be full of trash washed up from the sea. People come by and clean it every so often so beauty depends if you are there close to it being cleaned or just before.
There isn’t a sign marking it and (sadly) it has been purchased by a resort developer in 2015 (after having been a potential site for the Mandarin Oriental). There is a staircase to nowhere on the right (east) side in the rocks. If you head out 75 to 100 yards (past the seagrass) you should come across the great coral and sea life. To the right (east) is a sunken ship. Shallow waters that are calm if the winds are right can easily become less hospitable with a strong northern wind.
Another spot of note is to the west of Barefoot Beach, called Anchor Point, and is known for the volcanic vents that bubble into the water (more of them here than Barefoot). You can find coral around this area.
If you keep heading west, you will get to Rum Point with a private resort property that has bathrooms and showers. A long dock gives you a more complete view of Rum Point, with the northern tip a small patch of non-commercial space. This area of what also has snorkeling spots.
If you then continue south from Rum Point, you can find your way to Starfish Beach. Starfish Beach is so-named for the starfish that sun themselves in the waters here. The water has a good amount of seagrass and wasn’t really a great place for swimming. It was actually not as great as some of the online publications made it out to be, with frequent boats docking up and letting tourists out to wander around before puttering away. It is certainly secluded and natural in a sense, but it is also somewhat small.
Miscellaneous Travel Tips for the Cayman Islands
Note: These tips relate to Grand Cayman unless otherwise noted.
The main, most popular strip where people stay is called Seven Mile Beach (7MB) and is pretty close to the Grand Cayman airport and just north of Georgetown, which is where the cruise ships dock. If you want to be around people, then this is the strip you want.
For convenience to 7MB without the crowds, you can stay (if you have a car) in the West Bay, preferably near the western shoreline. Up in that area, the coastline is more rocky but good for diving.
If you want a 7MB at a much smaller scale – you can check out Rum Point.
If you want to get away from tourists, then stay in the East End or North End.
The island is somewhat expensive for things like food and lodging but the flipside is that you aren’t harassed daily as you are in other islands.
Driving is on the left. Rental cars (automatic transmissions abound) are both left & right hand drive. Drivers permit as of end of 2016 was $20 and only required a US license (I’m sure license from any normal country should probably suffice but do research first).
Good gifts to bring back are rum cakes. Look for Blackbeard Rum Cakes which are made and sold only on the Cayman Islands. Tortuga Rum Cakes are a big commercial enterprise with bakeries in several countries and offices all over. Tortuga Rum Cakes you can buy in the US so the specialness isn’t really there. Furthermore, Tortuga Rum is not from the Cayman Islands.
Another good gift is Caymanite jewelry which you can find at the Cruise Ship Market and in certain stores around town. There are also some jewelry makers I believe in Cayman Brac with special stuff.