A great place for a relaxing vacation
If your favorite vacation spot is one with a beautiful beach with very clear water and tons of water-based activities, this is the best and most relaxing place in the world.
All pictures Copyright (c) 2002-2009 V. Spencer
Entering Cuban air space for overflight. Forgive my fingers reflecting from the aircraft window.
Setting up for final approach to my favorite vacation destination.
Very nice turn onto final. I have a movie below to show the landing.
The new Beachcomber condo in the making (Dec 2008). A fantastic place, and it has been ready for customers since about May 2009.
Just imagine walking on this beautiful beach, or walking or swimming in this clear water. It feels wonderful.
This was my iguana friend. I did not bite him.
Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman is stunning.
This native almost beat me senseless. I told him a joke he didn't like.
This is my iguana friend. I got some veggies, sat almost next to him one morning and he would not let me have any of it. Not very friendly if you ask me.
Beautiful sunset coming up.
Coming in for a landing at Grand Cayman.
A few clouds, but the beach and water are fantastic. This picture was taken in May when the rainy season starts, meaning 2-3 30-minute showers daily. Not a big deal. You can stay in the water or under a tree, or just stay where you are, because it is warm enough. Mid-November to April, it is very nice and sunny.
The water is very clear, the sand is soft and almost white. Grand Cayman is very popular with beach lovers, divers or for people who love water activities. There are no big waves or undertow to worry about. It is absolutely fantastic.
It is great for small children or adults alike.
You just have to get into the water. It is FANTASTIC.
Just after sunset from a restaurant. There are some great restaurants here.
This is my small boat. Just kidding. Since Grand Cayman is the fifth largest banking center in the world, there is a lot of money down here.
The sunsets are very nice.
We are heading out to a place called Sting Ray City. There are many sting rays out there. They come up to you and rub against you. They feel like velvet and are very friendly. Like pussycats. This is enormous fun. There have been no accidents with them so you are perfectly safe. This is a great and unique experience.
Here come the sting rays!
These are people just for a few hours from three big cruise ships daily. Coming to Grand Cayman with a cruise ship does not do justice to the island. Similarly, since these cruise ships dump about 5,000 people into Georgetown's shopping area daily, Georgetown is anything but a bargain hunter's paradise, except for perfumes and top name watches. However, you can go on an interesting submarine dive to 100 feet, or a deep sea dive to 1000 feet from the harbor in Georgetown. You can also find several good restaurants in Georgetown. The cruise ships visit only in the middle of the day, so they do not effect evening activities in Georgetown. There is a large duty free shopping area also. If you get to it at 3 PM, the masses from the cruise ships will be gone.
Grand Cayman has a large turtle farm. Click on it to check it out. The only one in the world. I am holding a small turtle right here. They raise them for local consumption and for repopulating in the sea. They have found their released turtles as far north as South Carolina, and as far south as Venezuela.
The Westin Casuarina hotel pool area. Very nice design. We found a much better solution though for staying here. There are excellent condos that one can rent with 2-3 bedrooms, kitchen, as good a quality or better than the Westin or the Hyatt, right on the beach with ocean view for as much as one room costs at the Westin or the Hyatt. Like the Beachcomber or Villas of the Galleon. These are multi-million dollar per unit condos, so they are very nice. These two properties are nice, well serviced, and the water in front of them has a gentle slope and is free of coral.
More at the Westin.
The pool at the Westin. It was great to soak in the somewhat shaded pool after many hours in the sun at the beach - with a pina colada in hand from the pool bar.
Documents needed to enter Grand Cayman and return to the USA:
1. A US passport
2. a return airline ticket.
No need to bring a lot of cash with you. Virtually every place accepts credit cards, and you can get money from ATM machines that are all over the island.
Do not bring jewelry. Crime is not a problem on Grand Cayman, but losing them in the water or in the sand can be and happens often.
Any top international resort will be expensive compared to what you pay at home. The best hotels and restaurants on Grand Cayman are expensive. But there is a way to cut the local expenses very significantly and we are describing them below.
The center 30% of Seven Mile Beach is the best, although some properties may have some coral in the water, but not much. Seven Mile Beach is a world famous beach, with white sand and clear water without waves and undertow. It is fantastic.
The area around two condos, the Beachcomber and Villas of the Galleon has 10-11 good restaurants, a very nice and large supermarket, Fosters (see map, open 7 AM to 11 PM daily and has an ATM), a drug store, 3-4 dive/water activity shops, 2 car rental agencies, clothing and other stores, all within 10 minutes walk, or less than 20 minutes walk of the Westin or Hyatt. There are also two nice golf courses within the same distance. You can buy just about anything you need at the Fosters supermarket.
Any of the big hotels, like the Westin or the Hyatt will cost you the same as a nice condo - or even more. Just for a simple room that is not as nice as the one at the above condos for the same money. And you will be going through a maize for a long time before you get to the beach. If you stay at a condo, you can cook your own meals and save $40-60/person/day. But this is your vacation, and I am not sure that you want to cook to save a tiny part of your vacation expense. Go to Eats, across from the Westin for breakfast, lunch or dinner for the best prices (about $20/person for dinner, $15 for breakfast). Other good restaurants are (you may need a bus or taxi to some) Casa Havana (expensive, $100-120/person) at the Westin, but very good, The Brasserie, Edoardo's, the Reef Grill, Bed, Smugglers' Cove, and Papagallo. These restaurants cost about $60/person. There are many more good ones. You can save significant money if you go to the restaurants for lunch instead of dinner.
If you buy any meals at the top hotels, you can expect to pay at least 50% more than at a restaurant not on the hotel grounds. To compare the meal prices to what we pay in the USA, restaurants that are not on the hotel property are 50-80% more than a USA restaurant for a similar meal. So you walk a little and can save big bucks. The top restaurants in the large cities like New York will cost as much or more than the restaurants in Grand Cayman (or any other comparable resort). We are not comparing to those.
Sounds expensive? Every world class vacation spot is. However, there are ways to cut the expenses significantly if several couples stay at a condo.
If you book any tour at a major hotel, it is bound to cost you twice as much as buying the same tour at an office of another tour operator within five minutes of the hotel. The Sting Ray City tour (highly recommended) cost $60 in the hotel PLUS cost of equipment. At Soto's five minutes away the same tour cost $30 with equipment included and they did a great job. For water sports and tours Red Sail Sports is a hotel associated outfit. Try Ebank's, Soto's, or any other outfit's office on the island and save nearly 50%. These good people have been around in this business a lot longer than the big hotels.
Supermarket prices (Foster's) appear to be about 50-60% higher than in the USA. The island needs to import virtually all food and clothing items. The island is not a good place for shopping. I guess I should tell you that I don't like shopping. It is expensive, except for duty free (alcohol) purchases at the airport (they seem to be 30-40% less than US prices). Duty free purchases for expensive china, watches and jewelry seem to be also less expensive than in the USA, but you have to know what you are buying, as anywhere else. There is no bargaining in the Caymans and you will not be cheated.
You may not bring into The Cayman Islands any non-processed plants (e.g., fresh fruits, vegetables), but you can bring in meat. You may be charged duty if the amount is more than US$35.00 per family (the price you paid in the USA). Meat and other cold cuts coming out of the US must have the USDA stamp of approval, preferably stored in the original supermarket packaging and will be inspected by a representative of the Cayman Islands Department of Agriculture who is usually found in the customs area of the airport terminal. You are also allowed to bring in a reasonable amount of groceries for personal consumption. You may be charged duty if the amount if over US$40.00 per family. If you stay at a condo, you can cook there. One could argue that this may not be a wise thing since you are spending more than $1500 per person anyway on air fare and hotel. And this is your vacation. You will not be cooking all the time. If you stay at a condo, you may save $100-150 per person per week at most by bringing in food.
Buy snorkel masks, flippers, floats (the blow up type that you can pack small) in the US. Also one bottle of booze per person or four bottles of wine. If you stay at a condo, you could bring from the US snack foods like potato chips, cheetos, granola bars. I'd bring sunscreen also. They are all more expensive here.
Public bus transportation is very convenient. They are using vans that run every ten minutes, and cost only US$2.50 per person. You pay the driver when you get off. Although there are posted bus stop signs, they will pick you up or drop you off anywhere along their route. A bus is difficult to recognize because it has a tiny "bus" sign on it with a route number. If you pay attention to all vans (like a long Dodge Caravan type van), you can't miss them.
If you need to cross the street, you will find the drivers very polite everywhere. Tourism and banking provide plenty of income for the island. There are no taxes on anything here, and you can buy property here and own it forever. On Seven Mile Beach, on beach areas zoned for hotels, the price is $7,500,000 per 100 feet of water line. For private homes, the same area is 90% less. That tells you how much it is in demand, because it is really beautiful.
Being the fifth largest banking center in the world today, the Cayman Islands (after London, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong) are cooperating with US authorities and Interpol since 9/11/01 to disallow any drug money or money laundering. There is no unemployment, and the standard of living is one of the highest in the world. The Cayman Islands are part of the British Commonwealth (British West Indies) and had the most sophisticated intelligence network in the Caribbean for many years now.
We think that the best time to visit is between December 1 and 14 or April 16 and May 31. The high season with its higher prices is from December 15 to April 15. The rainy season starts in June. Rainy season means several small showers per day interspersed with a lot of sun most days, with more rain or possibly a hurricane July - November. The last two weeks of November are pretty safe also.
We made a good number of trips to this island and to many other destinations worldwide. In our opinion, this is THE BEST destination in the world if you love beautiful water, beaches, any water sport or water activity, safety anywhere, good hotels or condos and good restaurants. It is not the best place for shopping for bargains, seeing shows, theater or even movies. Evening entertainment is present, but limited. There are plenty of disco spots around. Frankly, being in the sun and water most of the day, we were pooped by the evening.
It is very safe to walk around on the island. Although the police is unarmed and is hardly visible, they are very efficient and are very conservative. There are no hawkers (people who bother you to buy something) anywhere, like you find on other Caribbean islands. It is against the law here. Drug possession is an instant prison sentence. They also search the cruise ships with dogs. A few years ago an American couple was jailed because a police dog found a small amount of marijuana in their cabin.
We love this place. We think that it is the most relaxing place in the world. Well worth the money.
Destination Cayman Islands
Cayman Islands Information 1
Cayman Islands Information 2
Cayman Islands Holiday Rentals
Cayman Islands Restaurant Guide
Grand Cayman weather forecast.
Scattered showers down here means a 15 minute shower twice a day in the afternoon. It really does not interfere with any beach activity. If you are inexperienced, for snorkeling pick days that are not windy.
Villas of the Galleon
The above two condos were selected by us originally by talking to people on the beach who stayed at the various condos on Seven Mile Beach.
Send us an email if you have any comments.