The peaceful British Overseas Territory known as the Cayman Islands, lies in the calm, turquoise waters of the western Caribbean.Consisting of three islands just 480 miles south of Miami, Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman remain a little piece of paradise.
Blessed with sun-kissed beaches and waters teeming with fish flecked with gold, the Cayman Islands offers some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world.
Blessed with sun-kissed beaches and waters teeming with fish flecked with gold, the Cayman Islands offers some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world.
Location and GeographyThe island country consists of Grand Cayman, largest and most populous of the trio; and the Sister Islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, which lie approximately 89 miles east-northeast of Grand Cayman and are separated from each other by a channel about seven miles wide. The total land mass of the three islands is just 100 square miles.
The three islands are limestone outcroppings, the tops of a submarine mountain range called the Cayman Ridge, which extends west southwest for the Sierra Maestra range off the southeast part of Cuba to the Misteriosa Bank near Belize. The islands lack rivers or streams because of the porous nature of the limestone rock. It is this lack of runoff which gives the surrounding Caribbean Sea exceptional visibility, often well over 120 ft.
Between the Cayman Islands and Jamaica lies the deepest part of the Caribbean, the Cayman Trough, which is over four miles deep. South of Cayman is the Bartlett Deep where depths of over 18,000 ft. have been recorded. All three islands are surrounded by healthy coral reefs which lie at the top of dramatic walls and drop-offs close to shore, creating ideal conditions for diving and sportfishing.
It is this combination of fantastic climate and unusual geography that creates such an ideal environment for all activities, whether they be physical or relaxing.
A Brief HistoryThe Caymen Islands were discovered in 1503 during Columbus' 4th and final voyage to the New World. Whilst sailing from Panama to Hispaniola, severe winds pushed his ships off course west. Columbus named the islands Las Tortugas after the abundant sea turtles sighted around them.
The islands were later named Lagartos, meaning alligator or large lizard and finally, the name Caymanas was applied around 1540, derived from the Carib word for marine crocodile. This name in a modified form has remained since the late 16th century.
The Islands survived through squabbles over their ownership, prodomenantly between the British and the Spanish, and in 1655 became part of the British Empire.
Despite being administered as a dependency of Jamaica the Cayman Islands went through a colourful period, changing from an island associated with piracy in the 18th Century, to being renowned for the modern "birth of democracy" and the emancipation of the slaves nationwide in May 1835.
In 1962 when Jamaica declared independence the Cayman Islands chose to remain tied to the British as a crown colony. In 1971, the Islands received their first Governor and the present constitution was adopted in 1972 and its most recent amendments were adopted in February 1994.
The Cayman Islands suffer from a lack of availability and abundance of natural resources, but their astounding geographical features and climate have created a tourism haven for all lovers of watersports.
WrecksThe Cayman Islands are internationally renowned as one of the world’s top diving destinations with opportunities for divers of all levels. More than 100 dive sites around Grand Cayman alone draw divers to enjoy the spectacular underwater visibility of up to 100ft (30m), with year round temperatures of around 26.6oC (80oF), spectacularly colourful protected reefs and an abundance of tropical fish life.
A whole new world will open up to you when you dive in the Cayman Islands and if you have never tried diving but have always wanted to give it a go, then look no further as there are all types and levels of internationally recognised courses available. For experienced divers, the drop-offs in the Cayman Islands are rated as some of the finest in the world, as is the shore diving and the shipwrecks, including the Keith Tibbetts, a 330 ft (100m) Russian Frigate found off of Cayman Brac.
Due to the Cayman Islands' colourful history the waters around the islands have seen many wrecks. While modern wrecks can still be seen relatively intact the older ones may be reduced by time to parts of ships and cargoes covered in concretions. All however, have been colonised by the local undersea life to make fascinating dives.
Many dives are accessible from the shoreline or after short boat rides and many begin at fairly shallow depths, giving a wide range of dives suitable for divers at all skill levels. For non-diving companions there is plenty to see and do.
Cayman FoodThe people of the Cayman Islands are proud of the history and heritage of their islands and are known for their warmth, sincere friendliness and their genuine pleasure in welcoming visitors. This is never more apparent than in the range of restaurants around the islands where a huge diversity of cuisine is available all with a typical Caymanian smile.
For a true taste of the Cayman Islands try a tiger-striped wahoo, traditional conch or lobster, all fresh from the sea and served with exotic spices, yams, breadfruit, coconut and plantains.
For those with international palates, the choice of cuisine will not disappoint, and neither will the exotic and luxurious surroundings, amazing vistas and incredible al fresco lifestyle that accompanies the enjoyment of dishes from around the world, ranging from Japanese to Italian and Indian.
Cayman ClimateThe year divides into two seasons, the summer or "rainy" season, generally from mid-May through October, moving into the winter or "dry" season, from November to April. March and April are our driest months and May and October are traditionally the highest rainfall months.
This of course, does not mean that it rains constantly during either of those months, but reflects the trend within our region. Being in a tropical zone, it is not unusual to have brief afternoon showers during the summer, and, at certain times, brief morning sprinkles too.Similar to most West Indian Islands, rainfall tends to be higher in the western sections.
The average temperature in the winter is 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 degrees in the summer. Winter or summer, the temperature generally stays within the range of 70 - 90 degrees. The months with the least humidity and lowest temperatures are December through April, February occasionally recording night-time temperatures in the mid 60's, and March probably being the most "temperate" month of the year. We should also point out that most properties offer air-conditioned rooms, and the seasonal trade winds in our region help to make our islands even more enjoyable.
The Atlantic Hurricane season starts June 1st and ends officially on November 30th. The Cayman Islands is located in the far Western Caribbean, 480 miles south of Miami, 150 miles south of Cuba, 180 miles Northwest of Jamaica and more than 1,000 miles West of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the Leeward Islands.
The Caribbean is a large region and most storms have shown a tendency to veer to the Northwest (towards the US Mainland) long before reaching the far Western Caribbean area. Consequently, the Cayman Islands have often been spared the full wrath of devastating hurricanes. Nowhere is exempt from hurricanes though and we endured Hurricane Ivan which passed through in September 2004. Prior to Hurricane Ivan the last occurred in 1932, and more recent brushes causing some property damage, were Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, which passed 30 miles south of Grand Cayman, and Hurricane Mitch in 1998 passing about 200 miles to the south.
The Cayman Islands are -5 hours GMT.
Neat, casual and comfortable tropical attire is appropriate throughout the Cayman Islands. Visitors will want to bring smart casual tropical resort wear for evenings out at our restaurants. When attending church services, "Sunday dress" is appropriate - shorts and T-shirts are not considered acceptable, especially for ladies. However, ties are not expected!
Visitors should remember that the Cayman Islands remains a "proper" British Crown Colony and our people are conservative by nature. Please do not wear bathing suits or scanty beach wear beyond the beach or cruise ship - and cover up when in public areas elsewhere. As we say in Cayman, Please keep your shell on!
There are no nude beaches in the Cayman Islands. Public nudity and topless bathing are strictly prohibited by law.
You must drive on the left-hand side of the road throughout the Cayman Islands. The law also requires mandatory wearing of seat belts. Visitors must obtain temporary drivers licenses from the police station or car rental agency, easily granted upon presenting a valid drivers licence from their home state, county or parish. The fee is US$7.50.
Cayman has one of the Caribbean's most extensive modern fleets of rental cars, (last estimate was 1600) and many feature right-hand drive. In addition, most rental jeeps and vans are right-hand drive, left-hand stick shift. A variety of models of rental cars at competitive rates are available in Grand Cayman and a limited number on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman (jeeps and 4-wheel drive only).
You must be 21 to rent a car in the Cayman Islands, and some rental agencies' insurance will not cover renters under 25. Check with your rental company in advance to determine.
Mopeds and scooters are also available on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. Riders are required by law to wear a helmet at all times and urged to be extremely careful. Remember to stay on the left. Average daily rate is US$25 which includes helmet and permit.
In order to ensure that you have a hassle free experience when passing through our borders, please have the following items prepared and available to the agent, a completed Tourist Identification Card (will be provided by airline staff), proof of identification (please see criteria below), and a completed Customs declaration card. Once you proceed past the immigration area, please take the opportunity to visit our visitor information booth located in the baggage area of the arrivals lounge.
Entry Requirements for the Cayman Islands:
Tourist Information Booth Arrival Lounge
United States, and Canadian citizens Do Not Require passports, but must present proof of Citizenship. Note: a Voter's Registration Card or a Social Security Card is not considered valid proof of US citizenship and is therefore not valid Identification for re-entry into the United States. Proof of Citizenship include:
Passport or Birth certificate with a raised seal &
Photo Id (i.e. Driver's License)
* Photocopies of Birth Certificates need to have the copy notarized by a Notary Republic.
All those entering the Cayman Islands who require a passport should ensure that the passport is valid for six months after date of return.
If you are American, British, Canadian, a citizen of another Commonwealth country (with the exception Bangladesh, Gambia, India, Jamaica, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda) or a national of any of the following you will not require a Visa:
Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, China (peoples republic) citizens holding Hong Kong (SAR China) passports only, Chile, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Irish Republic, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Panama, Peru, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United States of America & Venezuela.
All other countries not noted above should contact the nearest British Consulate or High Commission Office to inquire about entry requirements or receive applications for Visas. Entry is granted for up to six months. Resident aliens of the US who show a valid US Alien Registration Card (green card) may be permitted to enter and remain in the Cayman Islands for up to 30 days.
A person who is not a prohibited immigrant* and satisfies an immigration officer that he is: (i) authorised by a work permit to work in the Cayman Islands
(ii) a person named in a work permit as a dependant of the licensee
(iii) a person who is exempted from the requirement to possess a work permit or a dependant of such a person
(iv) a person who has permission to reside permanently in the Cayman Islands
(v) the holder of a valid re-entry permit is not required to produce a visa on entering the Cayman Islands.
* Prohibited immigrants are defined in full in the Immigration Law 2003 but include the destitute, the mentally disordered, persons creating health hazards to the community, anyone reasonably believed to be a prostitute or living on prostitution, anyone previously deported, anyone convicted in any country of an offence for which a prison sentence of twelve months or more was imposed, and others declared to be undesirable immigrants for economic or moral reasons.
A transit passenger who is a national of any of the following countries is required to have a visa upon arrival in the Islands: Afghanistan, Liberia, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burma(Myanmar), Burundi, Cameroon, China (Peopleâ€™s Republic of), Colombia, Congo Dem. Republic (Zaire), Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, India, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Liberia, Macedonia (F.Y.R. of), Moldova (Republic of), Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia & Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkey, Turkish Rep. of Northern Cyprus, Uganda, Vietnam, Yugoslavia & Zimbabwe.
Electricity in the Cayman Islands is equivalent to standards used in North America. IE: 60 cycle and 110 voltage. For more information on Caribbean Utilities Company, Ltd visit: www.cuc-cayman.com
Banks: Although Grand Cayman now has more than 692 licensed banks, only a handful are full-service "A-class" banks providing full customer banking services as visitors know it. These include Barclays Bank; Scotiabank; Bank of Butterfield; Royal Bank of Canada; Cayman National Bank; Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and British American Bank. Regular banking hours are 9: 00 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
The Cayman Islands has its own currency, first issued in 1972, whose basic unit is the dollar, issued in notes with denominations of CI$100, 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 and coins valued at 25 cents, 10, 5 and 1 cent. The CI dollar has a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar of CI$1.00 equals US$1.25. Or, the US dollar equals CI $.80.
There is no need for visitors to exchange their US dollars into local currency. The US dollar is accepted throughout the islands at a rate of CI 80 cents. However, this can be confusing to visitors: for example, a US$20 note becomes CI$16. Banks do NOT give a better rate of exchange! Major credit cards (with the exception of the Discover Card) and travellers checks are widely accepted. Canadian dollars and pounds sterling can be exchanged for CI dollars at local banks.
In addition Automatic Teller Machines accepting VISA and MasterCard with Cirrus affiliation are located at Cayman National Bank and other banks and at Owen Roberts International Airport.
The Cayman Islands has a variety of modern medical facilities on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, including government-operated hospitals on both islands. In addition, Cayman now has an efficient, island-wide 911 emergency service.
The newly expanded and renovated George Town Hospital on Grand Cayman now has 128-beds and includes Maternity, Surgical, Medical and Pediatric units. Also available are physiotherapy, radiology and laboratory services; a dental clinic and eye clinic, and pharmacy. The Emergency Room is open 24 hours with a physician on-site at all times. The facilities including 24-hour ambulance paramedic service, only a phone call away to 911 or 555. The hospital is affiliated with Baptist Hospital of Miami for patient referrals involving advanced care or treatment.
The Faith Hospital in Stake Bay on Cayman Brac has 16 beds and offers emergency room facilities.
The Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital is a state-of-the-art privately owned and operated hospital, which is open to all visitors and residents. An Outpatient Department staffed by specialist consultants is available in addition to fully equipped private and semi-private rooms for those patients requiring hospitalization. Additionally, the hospital offers an ultra-modern Maternity Ward with baby-friendly private patient rooms designed to facilitate delivery and stay-over. The 35,000 square foot facility stands on 4 1/2 acres and offers the following services: Urgent Care, CAT Scanning, Radiology, Ultrasound, Mammography, MRI (Open), Nuclear Scanning, Laboratory, Physiotherapy, Endoscopy, 2 Major Operating Rooms, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Ambulatory Surgery, Intensive Care Unit and Pharmacy. The Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital also located in George Town, Grand Cayman: Tel: (345) 949-6066, Fax: (345) 945-1695.
Divers should know that the George Town Hospital also has a two-man, double-lock decompression chamber staffed by trained operators and supervised by a physician experienced in hyperbaric medicine who is on-call 24 hours for treatment of diving-related accidents.
Medivac services can be arranged quickly through Island Air at Owen Roberts International Airport. When necessary, a Lear Jet B-20 is available for transportation to US facilities.
There are two private medical centers on Grand Cayman, Professional Medical Centre (345-949-6066) and Cayman Medical and Surgical Centre (345-949-8150), which also has a 24-hour physician-referral hotline for medical advice. Each center is staffed by resident medical practitioners and receives regular visits by a variety of medical specialists. In addition, there are a number of doctors representing a variety of specialties practicing in the Cayman Islands, most of them on Grand Cayman. They are listed in the local telephone directory.
In addition to pharmacies at the Hospital and independent medical centers, there are four full-service pharmacies on Grand Cayman, open Monday to Saturday. Island Pharmacy in Westshore Centre and Health Care Pharmacy in PhotoPharm Plaza on Walkers Rd. are open from noon until 6 p.m. on Sunday.
There is a new private dental clinic, Cayman Dental Services, in George Town, with resident dental surgeon/ specialists on call 24 hours (345-947-4447). Other private dental practices are available, including Dr. Robert Parr at Cayman Medical & Surgical Centre (above).
TOURIST INFORMATION CONTACT DETAILS
Head Office Address (Grand Cayman)
Regatta Office Park, Leeward Two, West Bay Road.
P.O. Box 67 GT, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, BWI
Ph: 345-949-0623; Fax: 345-949-4053/ 345-949-5746
Doral Centre, 8300 NW 53rd Street, Suite 103 Miami, Florida 33166
Ph: (305) 599-9033; Fax: (305) 599-3766
3 Park Avenue, 39th Floor, New York, NY 10016.
Ph: (212) 889-9009; Fax: (212) 889-9125
Two Memorial City Plaza, 820 Gessner, Suite 1335, Houston, Texas 77024
Tel: 713-461-1317; Fax: 713-461-7409
One Lincoln Centre, 18W140 Butterfield Road, Suite 920, Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181.
Tel: 630-705-0650 Fax: 630-705-1383.
234 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 306, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 1K5
Tel: (416) 485-1550; Fax: (416) 485-7578
In Canada: 1-800-263-5805
In the UK and Europe:
United Kingdom & Continental European Region
6 Arlington Street, London, SW1 1RE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7491-7771 Fax: +44 (0) 20 7409-7773
In the US & Canada: Ph: 1-800-G-CAYMAN