Cayman Islands Travel Guide

Caribbean  #6 in Best Caribbean Beaches
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Cayman Islands Area Map

Neighborhoods

Chances are you'll be staying on the larger, more tourist-convenient island of Grand Cayman. The main island is where visitors can enjoy the majority of top sights. To see the Cayman Islands without the interference of commercialization, consider spending time on the less developed islands of Little Cayman or Cayman Brac.

Located on the western end of the archipelago, Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands, and it's known for two activities: banking and scuba diving. Home to the islands' capital city, George Town, Grand Cayman is the commercial and cultural hub. However, you shouldn't necessarily expect an authentic Caymanian experience here, as the booming tourism industry has reshaped the island. The famous hotel- and restaurant-lined Seven Mile Beach is ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving, but visitors also choose Grand Cayman for its hiking trails and wildlife-watching opportunities. Though there are accommodations on the archipelago's other islands, Grand Cayman is your best bet.

Cayman Brac earned its name from its most distinctive natural feature – a jagged limestone bluff (brac in Gaelic) that cuts across the center of the island. The brac is speckled with caves and has a sheer 140-foot cliff at its east end. Lacking the long stretches of quiet beach for sunbathing, Cayman Brac is the most different from its sister islands, but there are great spots for scuba diving, snorkeling, bird-watching and fishing. Residents of this island – who refer to themselves as "Brackers" – are just as relaxed and welcoming as their island, often engaging in conversation with tourists as they stroll in and out of local shops and restaurants.

Uncluttered and far from being dominated by tourists, the aptly named Little Cayman is quiet and peaceful. The smallest of all the islands features fantastic diving locations. Above water, this island boasts pristine beaches, lush wetlands and amazing nature reserves like the National Trust Booby Pond Nature Reserve, where visitors can come face-to-face with local animal life.

Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman experience little crime, but you should lock your valuables in the hotel safe for the duration of your trip; theft of small tech items like smartphones and laptops has been on the rise. There are also a few health issues to keep in mind during your trip.

Mind the sun

The sweltering Caribbean heat could take you by surprise, so it may be best to take it easy on your first day on the islands. Remember to wear sunglasses, drink water and apply sunscreen regularly during your trip. This will not only help you avoid sunburn, but also heat stroke, the symptoms of which include fever, chills, headache, nausea or dizziness.

Respect the bugs

Dusk in the Cayman Islands brings out the "no-see-ums," tiny gnats that like to pester and bite. Slather on some bug spray and insect repellent before heading out for a night on the town.

Dive with care

Divers in the Cayman Islands should receive proper training before attempting even the most basic expeditions, and never dive alone. Keep an eye on weather conditions, as strong currents can wreak havoc on your underwater adventure.

You also need to be cautious about decompression sickness, or "the bends," which can occur upon ascending to the surface too quickly (causing nitrogen bubbles to form in a diver's blood and tissues, resulting in joint pain, itchy, swelling skin, confusion, loss of balance and shortness of breath). Swim to the surface slowly (no more than 30 feet per minute) and take breaks when ascending after deeper dives. If you feel the symptoms of decompression sickness, diving experts strongly advise seeking medical attention immediately.

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