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Home > Destinations > Cayman Islands > Trip Reports > Trip Report

Cayman Islands - Trip Reports

Island of Grand Cayman

Sting Ray City: try to take this excursion early in your trip. On two days while we were there, trips were cancelled due to choppy seas. You wouldn't want this to happen on your last day when you have no chance to reschedule. I don't believe that the number of passengers is really an issue; all the boats go to the same places, so even if you had your own boat, you'd be in a crowd if they all came at once. Look for coupons. We used Soto's, for CI$15 (US$19). Some charge a little more, but I didn't see any difference. There's absolutely no reason to pay CI$30, as some people did. We were picked up and returned to the hotel exactly as scheduled and got what we expected. People who took Bayside waited a full hour beyond the appointed time for pickup by an indifferent driver.

Transport: Consider the local bus system on 7 Mile Beach. It's convenient, clean, efficient and a lot cheaper than renting a car. Price CI$1.50 per ride. No formal stops, just wave down a bus when you see one. In most cases, they'll find you, with a little toot or flashing the headlights. To get off, just tell the driver where to pull over. They are actually privately-owned mini-vans. On the front and back they have a large green or yellow dot. In the dot is the number 1, 2 or 3, and the letters WB. The colours and number are irrelevant; at one time there were different routes, but no longer. The WB means West Bay, the town at the north tip. (If you get on the bus at the station in Georgetown (beside the CIBC building at the centre) you'll see some labelled EE (East End) and BT (Bodden Town) to go to those locations. I was told they are a lot less reliable.) We often took the bus up and down 7 Mile Beach, and up to Hell and the turtle farm (you can walk from one to the other).

Car Rental: We were told that Andy's was probably the best deal. I don't believe it, even after the 10% off coupon from one of the free magazines. Certainly their cars are poorly maintained. I put my rental agreement into the glove compartment, and found the ones from the previous two renters, complete with a clear imprint of their credit cards. After picking up the car we drove into town to a restaurant. When we came out, a tire was flat. Looking closer we could see that it was bald and badly cracked. The car had over 45,000 miles on it - quite a lot for a small island - and lots of things didn't work properly. However, thanks to the bus system, we found we needed the car for only one day, to explore the east.

Accommodation: We stayed at the Sleep Inn. This is not a resort, and doesn't pretend to be. If you've been to this chain, or a Super 8 motel, or a good Day's Inn, in North America, you'll know what you're getting: a motel. Its main asset is price. While we got a great last minute deal (Can$636 for a week, including flight from Toronto), we noted that the regular brochure price was well below other places. People travelling independently should note that Sleep Inn offers discounts for walk-ins when they have room (or so they advertise). No complaints, by the way. It was clean and well-maintained, with a pool and a spa - and a full American buffet breakfast included, again saving money. Ask for a room overlooking the pool; those facing the street can be quite noisy due to the traffic.

We checked out a few other places to get an impression. The nicest to us seemed to be the Treasure Island resort. Very open and airy, with the sound of falling water everywhere. Nice pools. Good beach, but rocky at water level, making for good snorkelling but not so pleasant for swimming. The Marriot didn't impress us. Too claustrophoblic and overgrown with decorative vegetation. They also have no beach to speak of any more, thanks to autumn storms. In some places, the water washes against the seawall. The Beach resort is the only all-inclusive, but we wouldn't recommend it. It looks run down, and they rent their meagre beachfront to cruise passengers. The Hyatt is quite a hike from the beach. It's beautiful, but you could easily be in central Florida somewhere, not on an island. Someone mentioned the Turtle Nest Inn in Boddentown. This looks like a lovely place, if you like isolation (you'll definitely need a car). However, it looked to me like there was a significant current just offshore.

Food: Bring down as much snack food and pop as you can, so you don't have to pay quadruple prices. Consider shopping at Kirk supermarket for deli foods. This place rivals the best I've seen in North America. We thought the food at Chicken Chicken was top notch - beautifully spiced, excellent side dishes and free refills on sodas (not signed).

For restaurants, we can't say enough about the Crow's Nest, 7 minutes south of Georgetown on South Sound road. Great location on the beach. Food was good, especially the turtle steak. After dinner, the owner offered us complimentary glasses of port. He said he gave it to all patrons, but I didn't see other people with any. And he had no way of knowing that I do part time work as a travel writer. Then he sat down and had a long chat with us, giving us a lot of insight into what it's like for Cayman natives, especially those running businesses. Later, he came out and helped me change my flat tire and after, invited me in to wash my hands. He then gave me his cell phone number and told me to call if I had any further problems getting home.

On the east end, stop in at Vivine's Place. It's actually just in the backyard of their home and is marked only with a small handscrawled sign that says "Ray and Vivine's residence". Main road, south of Morritts. Not obvious, but people keep finding it. Very good local food at inexpensive prices, cooked in their home. Popular with the locals.

We also enjoyed the Thai Orchid, in Queen's Court Plaza, near the Sleep Inn. Very good Thai food, very clean place and friendly. The Cracked Conch was okay for food, but nothing special. It was the only place we went to that automatically added a 15% service charge. However, the service was earned.

Snorkelling: No need to hire a boat; there's lots of good snorkelling right off the beach. The best was at Cemetery Reef, off the public beach in front of the cemetery at the north end of 7 Mile Beach. (See the free map they give out everywhere, near Foster's West Bay, at Boggy Sand Road). Calm water here. Farther south, it's pretty good near Treasure Island, but it's not as clear and there can be a current.

Sunsets: The best place to watch is from the public beach in front of the Governor's Residence. He often has some kind of reception going, with a steel band playing. You and everyone in the mansion will hear the same music and see the same sunset, except your view will be clear, while they have you in their picture. (Check out his limo. It has no licence number, just a crown.)

Take insect repellent. There are some kind of very tiny bugs that bite. We had a number of mosquito-like bites. Not enough to spoil the trip, but enough to be annoying. We saw many others that had these bites.

Go to Hell. The only real reason to go here is to mail postcards that get postmarked "Hell". But who looks at postmarks, especially when they are not prominent? At least one we sent didn't get marked at all. The solution is simple: buy your postcards there. The souvenir shops sell cards that have already been marked with a prominent cancellation that your friends won't miss. They sell the same cards as elsewhere on the island, at slightly cheaper prices.

Cayman people are conservative and religious. Cruise ships are not allowed to come in on Sundays. A year or two ago, a special gays cruise was turned away. Topless sunbathing has become quite common elsewhere in the Caribbean, but not on Cayman.

Prices: 2L bottle of Coke at the supermarket: US$2.75. Six-pack of Coke in cans US$4.50. Cayman rum (750 ml) at a liquor store: US$21. (Note: Cayman doesn't make rum. The small print on the bottle says it's from Jamaica.) Other booze is higher. Wine: megabucks. Stuff as many bottles as you can into your suitcase, look the customs man in the eye and lie. Or forget it and stick with duty-free booze you bring in. Bottle of beer in a restaurant: usually US$4.38; US$5 at the Lone Star.

Lone Star café: someone suggested the blackened shrimp Caesar salad. My wife had it. She reported crisp lettuce and firm shrimp - signs of freshness. A good choice.

Cracked Conch. While this place is on a beautiful location, most of it is inside, so you won't even see the water. Best bet: go for lunch, when there are few people and you can find a spot on the patio outdoors.

Thanks to Ed for this trip report ...
December 1999

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