Before, when I would think of the Cayman Islands, I'd think of gilded lamp posts lining marble sidewalks that were occupied by a dichotomous mix of the über rich and the fanny-pack army of cruise patrons on shore leave. I wasn't writing the place off, it just wasn't at the top of my list of places to see.
So when I was invited along on Westjet's inaugural flight to Grand Cayman for the weekend, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to see for myself what the Cayman Islands were all about. Not only were my perceptions embarrassingly wrong but I now know of at least one more place in the world that I could call home should I ever pack it in up here in Canada.
The island, just 76 square miles with a population of approx. 60,000 but having over 350 financial institutions, is a much more relaxed place than I was expecting. If I was next to a billionaire while in line at the posh Ritz Carlton breakfast buffet I wouldn't have known it. There was no pretentiousness that I could detect and the people, visitors and locals alike, were all friendly and of the same mindset: this is a place to relax and enjoy yourself. Not in the Daytona Beach or Cancun 'relax and enjoy yourself' sense, though.
With about half the population being expats from various parts of the world, there's something for everybody and virtually no place to feel unwelcome or out of place. Perhaps it's something to do with the warm weather or aversion to high taxes that border on extortion but the majority of the locals I met were fellow Canadians who now call Grand Cayman, a place without taxes, home.
And then there's the food. Being the 5th largest place for banking in the world and with so many different cultures represented, you know the cuisine can't be anything short of amazing. It would be an exercise in futility to try and name them all - there are over 150 restaurants - but places like Luca at the Caribbean Club, Michael's Genuine and Osetra Bay are all exceptionally good.
While the beach was beautiful when we were there, it wasn't what the locals would call "normal". Hurricane Tomas was off in the distance causing a fuss so there was a constant breeze, crashing surf and chance of rain, which suited me just fine since a pristine beach with no action can get a little boring after awhile. The water itself was warm and refreshing, even after midnight - when Caribbean swimming is best.
Where to stay:
- Marriott Beach Resort on Seven Mile Beach
- Caribbean Club luxury condo hotel
- Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman
- Westin Casuarina Grand Cayman
- Comfort Suites Grand Cayman
- Sunshine Suites Grand Cayman
Must do & see:
- Osetra Bay Restaurant
- Michael's Genuine
- Luca Restaurant at the Caribbean Club
- Stingray City tour with Red Sail Sports
- Boatswain's Beach Adventure Park & Turtle Farm
Other things to do & see:
- Go to Hell
- Black Pearl Skate & Surf Park
- Atlantis Adventures Submarine Expedition
- Cayman Motor Museum - see the original Batmobile!
- Hang out at Rum Point (video, not mine)
How to get there:
Alternatively, work with a trusted travel agent who can recommend other great diving, shopping and dining activities as well. TripAtlas.com has thousands of travel agents who can help plan your dream trip to the Cayman Islands.
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Travis Snelling is the cofounder of TripAtlas.com and is based in Toronto, Canada. When not stuck in the office wearing shoes he's out on adventures with his camera looking for new drinks, dishes and experiences.
Located: Toronto Canada
Likes: photography, history, culture, cuisine, adventure