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Cayman Islands: What to know before you go

The Cayman Islands is a little Caribbean island paradise, an hour’s flight from Miami. It is both posh and high-end, or as laid-back and low key as you like.

My brother and his family have been living here for 20 years now, so I pop over and “live like a local” as often as I can.

You might be surprised to know the dining scene in the Cayman Islands is really great and runs the gamut from roadside huts with a great reputation for home cooked food to classy restaurants by the sea with twinkly lights winding up the trees. You’ll also find karaoke bars and Irish pubs, pubs that host quiz nights and cigar bars with a DJ and a dance floor.

But let’s be honest, it’s the beaches you come here for, with gin clear water lapping over soft white sand enticing you to wallow all day.

Rubber duck in sea
I waded in and took this pearl of a pic along Seven Mile Beach!

<< See my top picks for beachfront luxury hotels, as well as mid-priced hotels, below >>

Where are the Cayman Islands?

The Cayman Islands is made of three islands, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac and they’re located under Cuba in the Caribbean Sea.

The flight time is about one hour from Miami and an easy side trip to Jamaica too.

Cayman Islands map
Cayman Islands sits under Cuba

Cayman Islands weather

Before you know what to pack, you need to know what the weather’s going to be like!

Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 until November 30, but don’t let that put you off. Hurricanes are not regular occurrences in the Caymans. The last one that hit was in 2004, although another passed nearby in 2008.

When I visited in May the temperature sat at a balmy 90+F/30C all week and dipped to about 27 overnight. Come July/August and you can expect only another 5 or 10F and maybe dipping to the high 70s in January. I also most recently visited in December and loved the temperature, in the mid-20s. Too cold for me to swim in the pool though!

Funny hurricane advice in a bar
Hurricane advice!

It’s the beach you’ve come here for so packing for a week is really easy:

What to wear day time in the Caymans

Flip flops (jandals/thongs) are what you’ll live in and a strappy pair of heels if you fancy dining in one of the many great restaurants or have a night on the town.

Bring at least two swim suits as you’ll be in and out of the water a few times a day and I only had one pair of togs with me so was always hanging them in the humid sun to try and get them dry before pulling them back on again. FYI wriggling into a wet bathing suit is like trying to wear a balloon skin. It’s bloody hard work!

Sarongs and simple sundresses are what everyone is wearing around resort pools, in beachside bars and it’s pretty much all you’ll be able to buy in the shops too. Don’t plan to come to Cayman to shop! Unless it’s duty free goods you’re after, as the locals can even shop in the duty free stores without needing to furnish the cashier with a passport or ticket. Personally I save my shopping for the US.

In May I had brought a light cardigan and a cotton poncho but never took them out of my suitcase. The only time you might need one is on the plane when the air conditioning can be chilly. Most businesses and homes don’t chill the air down below about 22-25C because it’s just too expensive. In December I needed a light jacket when we dined beachside, as it can get a little windy and chilly.

Sun hats and sun glasses are a whole look in themselves, so enjoy the big brimmed (yet oh-so practical) hat look with some big dark sunnies.

Cayman Island travel tips
Working my sun hat and sunnies with my camera-shy husband!

Night time in the Caymans

We girls have it easy when it comes to dressing up or dressing down as a simple dress or tunic and short skirt can be turned into an evening outfit with a bit of bling and a swish of makeup.

The men we went out for dinner with wore jeans and a T-shirt, polo neck shirt or short sleeved buttoned shirt. My brother even wore his flip flops to that fancy dinner in a restaurant by the sea, but husband chose dress shoes and socks. Of course men’s shoes are the bulkiest things to pack, so I’d suggest you wear them on the plane as you’ll only need them a couple of times in Cayman.

What power points do they use in the Cayman Islands?

They may be a British colony and drive on the left, but they are American when it comes to power, so bring US plugs/adapters. My best tip is to bring a multiboard from home and one converter plug so that way you can charge every gadget you brought here all at once. (Read more of my best ever travel tips on this post here >>)

Cayman Islands currency

They use two currencies interchangeably: CI (Cayman Island dollars) and US dollars. The CI is about 20% higher than the US and you’ll certainly notice it on your aforementioned food bills! ATMs dispense both currencies so you can pick up your CI dollars when you are here.

Cayman Island shopping

The best things to eat in the Caymans

Seafood is the best thing about dining in the Cayman Islands. Try everything from raw tuna tartare to cerviche to sashimi and sushi as they are wickedly good. Mahi mahi and wahoo is a nice meaty fish that is often served blackened, on risotto or in tacos.

Tipping is expected and don’t be surprised if the waiter/ess has already added 15-18% onto your bill. Make sure you check that lest you add it on again!

Kimpton Cayman cerviche
Delicious mahi mahi cerviche at Cocaloba beach restaurant at the Kimpton

What is the Cayman Islands drinking age?

Drinking age in the Caymans is 18 years old, but you won’t find a load of college students down here in the bars taking advantage like you do in Mexico – maybe because it’s a more expensive vacation!

You also cannot drink on the beach or have any open alcoholic container on the beach or in your car. Instant fine.

7 things to do on Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman is shaped a bit like a shoe and you’ll probably spend most of your vacation on the left of the island, from Georgetown and along Seven Mile Beach. It’s a stunning beach with pure white sand and tepid water that gently laps on the shoreline.

Edged in hotels and bars, it’s a great spot to spread out your towel or picnic blanket and settle in for a few hours with some snacks and utensils to build sand castles. You can rent jet skis and catamarans here, but do be aware that the hotels don’t let you sit on the sand in front of them unless you are one of their guests.

However, don’t panic, keep reading and I’ll show you where to go!

1. Seven Mile Beach

This iconic and ironic five mile stretch of dazzling white sand that runs from Georgetown (the main hub of the island and where cruise ships tender their passengers into each day).

It is lined with hotels and some of the sun loungers are free to use, while at others you need to be a paying guest. This is the beach that all the iconic photos are taken at (I’ve sprinkled a few below). It is utterly divine and if you want to stay in this area, I have listed my top hotel picks below.

2. Tillie’s

Hang out on the beach at this bar/restaurant on Seven Mile beach which allows you to use the beach chairs with a minimum spend $25. Update: when I was last there the beach tables were reserved for in-house guests of Palm Heights (see my hotel recommendations below).

Beach table at Tillie's Seven Mile Beach
Sadly this table at Tillie’s is reserved for hotel guests, but you can eat further in.
Hemingways Cayman
The gin clear water of Seven Mile Beach facing Tillies

3. Visit Stingray City

A must for first-timers, this is a sandbar in the middle of the bay and is a great experience – especially if you have friends with a boat who will take you out there and on to a beach bar afterwards! (Thanks Scott and Mel :))

If you book one of the tour boats the crew will have squid for you to feed the 50 stingrays who come here each day for their dinner from the many squealing humans. It’s only waist-deep and the big females can measure about a metre in diameter as they brush against your legs feeling like a wet mushroom.

Swimming with stingrays
Beersies with the stingrays at Stingray City

4. Visit Rum Point or Kaibo

These are two really great beach restaurant/bars. You can bring your boat and tie up to their piers or drive around the island. It’ll take about 40 minutes to drive from Georgetown or if by boat, you can stop off at Stingray City on the way (as we did!)

Kaibo allows dogs and both serve the deliciously moreish mudslide cocktail made of Kahlua, Baileys, Vodka and at Kaibo, a drizzle of chocolate sauce rolled around the plastic cup first.

Rum Point Cayman
Pull up at Rum Point by sea or land
Beach bar Cayman
Kaibo is also a land or sea accessible beach bar – where dogs are allowed
Cayman mudslide
Trying a cheeky mudslide!

5. Dine at Morgans

Morgans is a beautiful restaurant on the water’s edge in Georgetown with the byline from ocean to table. We had a great meal here and my wahoo on risotto was to die-for. I also had the chicken liver pate (as I can’t resist a mousse-y parfait and our friends who live here highly recommended it). The cerviche and sashimi were shared around to much delight. But breaking from the ocean for a moment, the husband had an Angus fillet which he said was outstanding.

6. The Cayman Turtle Farm

A great thing to do. The Cayman Turtle Farm is a breeding centre as well as an educational, research and conservation centre and a fun park. Since I first visited the Caymans the original turtle centre was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, so this one has been built with more bells and whistles including water slides and play pools as well as turtle encounters where you hold them and even swim with them.

7. Cayman Crystal Caves

There are a reasonably new and terribly exciting discovery of stalagmites and stalactites under the lush tropical forest of Old Man Bay. They’re quite a distance from Georgetown so if you have a car and are doing an island tour, they might be worth popping into.

There are three caves and you can only see them on a guided tour where pirates used to hangout hundreds of years ago. Tours run on the hour and cost US$40 per adult and $30 per child. Or you can book this Crystal Caves tour which will pick you up in Georgetown (from your hotel or cruise ship), and drop you back.

Cayman Caves
Pic/Cayman Crystal Caves
Georgetown, Cayman Islands

On my last visit we flew direct from New York on Cayman Airways, then spent a night in Miami – and this time stayed in the Brickell neighborhood, then flew to Houston and back to New Zealand.

If you need a rental car, and I’d advise you get one if you’re staying in a hotel or Air BnB so you can tootle off around the island and find beaches to lie on and restaurants to eat at, then try Expedia Car Rentals.

Bucket List Pinterest pin
Pin this to your Bucket List Pinterest board!

My Picks for the Best Seven Mile Beachfront Hotels

Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa

If you want a five-star Cayman Island Hotel that is absolute beachfront with beautiful swimming pools as well, then Kimpton Seafire Resort is my pick. My brother and his family even have staycations here! Even if you’re not staying, you should come to their Coccoloba Bar and Ave Restaurant, which is located on the sand and serves great family food.

Zoe does a cartwheel at Kimpton Hotel
My neice Zoe pulling off the cartwheel at Kimpton on Seven Mile Beach

The Ritz Carlton

Another exceptional, beachfront hotel is The Ritz Carlton. I’ve been here for their incredible Sunday brunch (although I don’t think that’s running at the moment) and walked through the grounds too. It’s actually between Seven Mile and Governor’s Beach, but that is pretty much one and same. There’s no demarkation between them! Golfers will enjoy the 9 hole golf course. They have 2 swimming pools and 5 restaurants. If money was no object, this is where I’d stay in their super styly rooms with beach views.

Westin Grand Cayman

Another hotel located at the southern end of Seven Mile, at Governors Beach, is the lovely Westin Grand Cayman. I like this one for their beach bar, pool bar and swim-up bar. Guests have private access to the beach in front, where water activites and catamarans are ready to take you out on the crystal clear ocean. They have 6 restaurants, including Toes in the Sand, which is a table literally on the sand for a romantic dinner.

Palm Heights

Palm Heights is an all-suite one and two-bedroom five-star hotel. It stands in front of a magnificent stretch of Seven Mile Beach. Tillie’s Restaurant is situated underneath, where your toes are on the sand. They had a spare table when we wandered past, so I asked if we could dine there, but was told the beach tables are for hotel guests only. The spa here is decadent with outdoor bathtubs.

Palm Heights Hotel overlooking Seven Mile Beach
Palm Heights Hotel overlooking Seven Mile Beach

My Picks for Best Mid-Price Hotels

Because not all of us have thousands of CI dollars (which are worth more than the US, by the way), there are some lovely hotels within say 100m from Seven Mile Beach – for the rest of us!

Botanica Luxury Cottages – Have the entire home to yourself, 2 minutes walk from Seven Mile Beach.

Hotel Indigo – Located next to the Kimpton, this hotel is in a divine location without the Kimpton prices.

Grand Cayman Marriott – this luxury hotel is close to Camana Bay, on the opposite side of the island to Seven Mile Beach, but surrounded by lots of things to do, places to eat and beaches.

Regal Beach Club – at the southern end of Seven Mile Beach, these apartments have kitchens, washing machines and make it easy for long stays.

The Locale Hotel – located near Seven Mile Beach and Camana Bay, this hotel is a good price and an easy walk to the best of both worlds

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Caradonna Adventures

Friday 20th of October 2023

Ensure that you have a valid passport. Depending on your nationality, you may also need a visa to enter the Cayman Islands, so check the visa requirements in advance.

Ary :)

Tuesday 29th of November 2022

My husband and I are going to Grand Cayman next month (along with our 3 children). This article was very helpful! Thanks so much!!

Megan Singleton

Tuesday 29th of November 2022

Thanks, have a fabulous time!


Tuesday 12th of June 2018

Hi Susan - did you ever do the expedited customs check they offer when you've gone here? I don't know if it is worth the $35/pp charge or not. Any input you have on this subject, I would appreciate hearing it from you.


Tuesday 12th of June 2018

Hi Annie, I'm not sure who Susan is (!) but we were the only plane in when we landed so customs was not busy. I didn't know about the expedited customs, but I guess on busy days it would be helpful. Cheers, Megan :D

Ranga Bernanduge

Sunday 22nd of April 2018

My wife got a job in Cayman Islands and we will move to CI soon. My concern is whether I can work there as I come there as a dependent?. If yes, what should I do next?.

Appreciate if someone could clarify me above.



Tuesday 4th of September 2018

I know immigration takes forever to get back to you in the Caymans, my brother had some great help with advice and getting settled from a relocation site called Mosaic Solutions run by expats and locals on the Islands, hope this helps you out (if the post seems to advert-ie and you are uncomfortable please take down <3 )


Sunday 22nd of April 2018

Hi Ranga, this is a question for Immigration, not me! Perhaps you could have your wife ask her new employer what other spouses have done? It's a great place. Enjoy your time there!

Chris Heath

Sunday 18th of February 2018


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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!