> Destinations > Cayman Islands > Trip Reports > Trip Report
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
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 ...