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Climate

Sunbathers and water sport enthusiasts can bask all year round in the Cayman Islands' pleasing tropical climate. With its welcome seasonal trade winds, Grand Cayman's average temperature hovers between 24 C and 30 C.

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Climate cont'd

The dry season is from November to April, with March and April as the driest months. As this season happily coincides with cold Canadian winters, you'll often find that prices will reflect the higher tourist demand during these months.

The rainy season runs mid-May through October, with September and October being the wettest months. Don't worry though, it does not rain constantly in Grand Cayman. Rainfall tends to be higher on the west side. If you're looking for savings, hotel rates tend to drop, sometimes significantly, from April to December.

During the rainy season, you may encounter storms, particularly around September. However, the islands' unique hurricane guarantee covers cancellations made prior to arrival and compensates you if inclement weather shortens your vacation. 

Pack a light sweater, shawl or jacket for the evening – many nights you probably won't need it. Also, bring an umbrella if you're visiting May through October.

Weather chart

What makes it different?

The three Cayman Islands – Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac – are quite different from one another.

If you want action after the sunset, Grand Cayman is the place to go, with around 150 excellent international restaurants, most located in the popular west side. You'll be hard-pressed to find another destination that offers more than seven Wine Spectator-rated restaurants within a few kilometres. Although the nightlife offerings aren't as expansive as larger Caribbean islands, Grand Cayman has plenty of clubs and resorts where you can go dancing and catch live entertainment.

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When you learn that a limestone bluff dominates the mid-sized Cayman Brac, and that "Brac" is Gaelic for bluff, the island's name makes perfect sense. Cayman Brac is the island for adventure sports, popular with climbers, cavers, divers, walkers and birders.

Little Cayman is the smallest of the trio of islands. On this easygoing, one-road island, nature is king. You'll get an idea of how treasured the wildlife is from a roadside sign cautioning: "Iguanas have the right of way." It's no joke. Here, iguanas and birds outnumber people. Inland, the Booby Pond Nature Reserve houses the Caribbean's largest red-footed booby population. Offshore, Little Cayman's famous Bloody Bay Wall Marine Park is one of the world's best dive sites.

The Cayman Islands are a Mecca for scuba divers and consistently win various dive awards. For divers on a budget, Grand Cayman has plenty of areas for shore dives. All three islands also offer fabulous deep-sea and bone fishing opportunities. Seven Mile Beach recently was named seventh on TripAdvisor’s list of the world's best beaches.

The romantic Cayman Islands are also a top choice for honeymooners, and were recently ranked 15th in the world by Brides magazine. The islands here are also one of the few destinations where Canadians can marry on the same day they arrive.

Geography

The Cayman Islands are part of the Cayman Ridge, an underwater mountain range that extends westward from Cuba. The islands nestle on the edge of the Cayman Trench, the deepest part of the Caribbean Sea that plunges to depths of more than six kilometers.

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Geography cont'd

Healthy coral reefs surround all three islands. Along with steep walls close to shore, these coral reefs are ideal sites for diving and sport fishing. There's exceptional visibility in the surrounding Caribbean for diving – often well beyond 36 metres.

Though Grand Cayman may be grand in name, when it comes to size, the term is relative. The area of Grand Cayman is 197 sq. km. With the sister islands added in, this British overseas territory has a land mass of just 259 sq. km., not much larger than that of Saskatoon. Lying 145 km northeast of Grand Cayman, the sister islands are separated by a channel about 11 km wide. There is no ferry service between them.

While Little Cayman is flat – its highest point is only 17 metres tall – Grand Cayman rises only slightly higher at 24 metres. By comparison, Cayman Brac is mountainous, sweeping on its eastern end to a 44-metre limestone bluff riddled with mysterious caves. If you like exploring, the cliffside path is ideal for birdwatching and hiking.

On Little Cayman, you can stroll across more than a dozen secluded beaches, or explore the lagoons, mangrove forests, salt ponds and wetlands.

Grand Cayman's most striking feature is North Sound. This shallow, reef-protected lagoon is home to famous Stingray City.

Culture

As a British overseas territory, the Cayman Islands retain strong links with Britain and enjoy a parliamentary democracy. Not surprisingly, British English is the official language here. However, when Caymanians speak to each other, you may hear a hard-to-understand broken English vernacular, which varies slightly in each district and on each island.

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Nowadays, the Cayman Islands population is close to 55,000. About half are native Caymanians, representing a rainbow of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Approximately one in four Caymanians is European, mainly the descendents of British settlers. Another quarter is of African descent, and the rest are interracially mixed.

Historians believe the islands' first settlers, who arrived in Little Cayman around 1658, were deserters from Oliver Cromwell's army in Jamaica. Over the years, a variety of people settled on the islands including refugees from the Spanish Inquisition, shipwrecked sailors and pirates.

Back in the day, these waters were the territory of the real pirates of the Caribbean. Today, the lore of pirates and buccaneers is resurrected every November for Grand Cayman's 10-day Pirates Week Festival.

When you visit, you'll discover that Caymanians are friendly and devout, church-going people. The Cayman Islands is one of the few places where bars close earlier on Saturday night than other nights. Sundays are a day of worship and family time, which often means plenty of gatherings around the table. Sunday brunch is very popular and there are great spreads at Seven Mile Beach's resort hotels and local restaurants.

There is a large number of expats in Grand Cayman, primarily because of the financial industry. Canadians are the third-largest group of the 100 nationalities or so that comprise the expat community in Grand Cayman. This international mix is reflected in the island's diverse restaurants and annual celebration of food at the Cayman Culinary Month in January. You can find any kind of food here, including traditional Caymanian.

Fish and seafood feature prominently on restaurant menus in Cayman. Fish is cooked up numerous ways, but Caymanians typically bake or stew it with tomatoes, onions and peppers. Try the fish 'n fritters (fish seasoned and fried with dough balls in coconut oil) which is an all-time favourite with locals.

Due to the once-plentiful stock of green sea turtles that thrived in the Cayman Islands, the national dish is turtle. Make sure you also try traditional Caymanian favourites like rundown, a coconut milk stew with fish or salt beef, vegetables, pumpkin, christophine (chayote squash), onion and peppers. Other foods to try in the Cayman Islands include stewed conch, dumplings, tubers, starchy vegetables and cassava stretchers.

If you want to learn how to cook Caymanian delicacies, the Cayman Islands National Museum in George Town hosts a monthly traditional cooking class. The museum is also the perfect place to explore the Cayman Islands' longstanding nautical tradition. If you're a history buff, you'll enjoy the exhibits and videos about the islands' past, and the traditional handmade catboat from the islands' early seafaring days.

Transportation

There are several efficient and effective ways to get around the Cayman Islands. The old, traditional method of horse and carriage is still alive here and one of the most romantic ways to travel. If you're looking to get around a little faster, car rentals, scooters, taxis and public transportation are also always available.

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Transportation cont'd

People drive on the left hand side of the road here and all drivers require a Cayman permit. Around Grand Cayman, it's usually smooth sailing throughout the day and evening. But expect congestion during high traffic, rush-hour commute times. To help, there's a ring road that wraps around most of the island, which gets you around with less hassle (and less stress!) than attempting to navigate the back roads.

Taxis in Cayman Islands

Most travellers to Grand Cayman will find the 24-hour-a-day local taxi service a convenient way to get from point A to B. Taxis here aren't metered but fares are regulated by the government (though still on the pricier side).

In Grand Cayman, taxis charge more for each additional passenger after three people, as well as for baggage. Additionally, if you know you'll need a cab later at night, it's often a good idea to book a ride in advance because it can prove challenging to hail one on the road in the wee hours. As a general rule, it's always best to confirm price and currency (either Cayman Islands or U.S. dollars) before heading out in a taxi to your destination.

Outside of Grand Cayman, taxis are less common. Should you need one, ask your hotel concierge for a driver referral. You can also try some of the islands' other methods of transportation, such as scooters, jeeps and bicycles (the preferred method among most locals). 

The Cayman Islands by Bus

Public buses around Grand Cayman are an inexpensive and safe travel option, running about every 15 minutes. You'll also likely see mini buses travelling the roads, many marked with an "Omni Bus" logo. These van buses run from around 6 a.m. until midnight, from West Bay to Rum Point and the East End. You can catch any route from the George Town terminal for a cost of under CI$3.

Car Rentals

You can easily get by without a car in Grand Cayman, especially if you're staying in the Seven Mile Beach area. But, if you're looking to do a lot of exploring away from the main hotel zone or if you're staying further away on a different island, you might want to consider renting one.

To rent a car on the Cayman Islands, you must be between 21 and 70 years old, though some rental insurance policies may only cover drivers over 25. All Canadian visitors will need to obtain a Cayman driving permit, available at the rental dealerships for US$7.50. Just be sure to bring your passport and driver's licence. Typical rental costs run between US$40 and US$90 a day.

Note: Be careful when driving after 6 p.m.. The sun goes down early here and the roads are not well lit.

Currency

The currency used on the Cayman Islands is the Cayman Islands dollar (KYD), often abbreviated as "CI". American money, traveller's cheques and credit cards are also accepted. In addition, most major international banks have branches on the Cayman Islands and there are many ATMs in malls, gas stations and other public spaces where you can easily withdraw cash.

Travel requirements

Located on the west side of the island about 3 km away from George Town is Grand Cayman's Owen Roberts Airport. When you land at this modern airport, you'll proceed through customs and baggage claim before getting transportation to your resort or hotel.

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Travel requirements cont'd

If you've booked a tour through WestJet Vacations, look for a representative from Cayman Destination Management Transfers holding a WestJet Vacations sign. Identify yourself as a WestJet guest and you will be transported to your hotel.

From the airport, it takes approximately 15 minutes to get to hotels along Seven Mile Beach and only 10 minutes to get to George Town. If you're headed to the East End or West Bay areas, expect a half-hour to 45-minute trip.

Vaccinations

No specific vaccinations or health precautions are recommended when travelling to the Cayman Islands. However, it is always advisable to stop by your local clinic to ensure you are up to date on routine vaccinations.

Voltage

Throughout the Cayman Islands, you'll see the North American standard plug, however some properties have only two-pronged receptacles in the room rather than three-pronged receptacles. Most hotels have adapters available for European travellers as well.

Travel requirements

Located on the west side of the island about 3 km away from George Town is Grand Cayman's Owen Roberts Airport.

Learn more

Currency

No specific vaccinations or health precautions are recommended when travelling to the Cayman Islands.

Learn more

Transportation

There are several efficient and effective ways to get around the Cayman Islands.

Learn more