[Travel Guide] Grand Cayman

Random Observation/Comment #341: Always order seafood if you’re staying on an island. Well, maybe not Long Island; that place is gross.

see lemons in grand cayman

Triumphs During the Trip:

  • Got scuba certified
  • Saw a Caribbean reef shark about 15 feet away (peed my wetsuit)
  • Saw silverfish and tried to hit them (they really move like in Finding Nemo)
  • Held a Sting Ray (felt like a wet portobello)

Things Grand Cayman Does Well:

  • Blue crystal clear water. The blue is so unreal. When you’re on the boat riding out, the water stays around 40-60ft deep until you hit the wall (it’s an underwater cliff that goes from 60ft to 6000ft). This corresponds with a change of color from the sandy light blue bits to the deep clear blue parts.
  • Scuba diving. This is the only place I’ve been diving, but I get the feeling that I’m already spoiled. The water is relatively warm (around 80 degrees), and you can go diving with just a rash guard / exposure suit if it’s not raining out.  Needless to say, the reefs are teeming with life and there are some amazing swim throughs.
  • Friendly, laid-back people. If you’re expecting things to get done quickly, you’re in the wrong place. People usually don’t complain when it takes 2 hours to eat a meal because no one is trying to go anywhere fast. It’s a change in mentality for myself as I’m always sticking to some type of schedule and organization, but it’s also what a vacation is for – letting go of productivity for a while.
  • Grand Cayman is small and filled with adventure. The entire island is 26 miles wide and everything really only takes about 20 minutes to drive to.  We drove from our hotel (Compass Dive Resorts) on the East end of the island to Seven mile beach (upper West end) in about 40 minutes.
  • No taxes. No one pays taxes in Grand Cayman. They get 100% of their paychecks and probably don’t have to deal with any tax forms in April. This is absolutely crazy to accountants, but what type of micromanagement governance is required on an island where it’s mostly there for tourists, banks, and diving?

Things Grand Cayman Can Improve:

  • Beaches. The Seven Mile beach area is where you get that Miami vibe with hotel strips and lovely sand beaches. Everywhere else, it’s just diving central. Come here for the diving, not the beaches.  In all cases, you’ll definitely be able to lay somewhere and tan.
  • Efficiency. People here take their time to do everything, which is probably a good thing, but it’s hard for me to get out of the “to do list” mentality.  I love optimization and this entire country has many little business processes that can be much better to save them extra time to do nothing.
  • Ridiculously expensive prices. Because it’s an island and they don’t pay taxes, everything is imported and expensive. You’ll find prices to be 15% more than New York and about the same as Iceland.  Remember that all prices are in Cayman Island dollars (0.82 USD to 1 Cayman Island dollar).

Lessons Learned:

  • Don’t convert to Cayman Island dollars.  I’m more of a plastic vs paper type of guy anyway, but depending on how your bank deals with overseas charges, this could be a bad idea. Normally, I would use my debit card to take out local currency, but I’ve found that the conversion rate isn’t that bad at restaurants or stores (0.80 with their method vs 0.82 market right now). Since that’s directly from the stock exchange, using 0.80 actually might be a better deal than the bank conversion rates.
  • Bring a light hat. This is just to keep your head from getting sunburn. Man, the sun is hot.
  • Don’t pack jeans – you’ll get weird looks wearing them because no one wears them. I don’t know why I thought I needed a pair of jeans to look cool at a fancy restaurant. It’s not necessary at all because everyone everywhere wears khaki colored shorts, t-shirts, and sandals/boat shoes.
  • Talk to locals. Everyone is super friendly and helpful, so don’t forget to get to know the random interesting folks from around the world (mostly Texas).
  • Expect to spend a lot of money. We planned our trip so we’d have at least 2 meals that we cooked, but we still spent around $80 each per day (not counting the dives).

Summary of Things to do:

  • Scuba dive as much as you can. If you’re scuba certified, go to these dive sites and see the most ridiculous creatures and swim-throughs
  • Be lazy on a beach. This is true for every Caribbean island, but especially true here.
  • Sting Ray City. It’s $40 per person to go out on a catamaran from Red Sail (sailing off of Rum Point) and swim with Sting Rays. It’s totally worth it.
  • Stop thinking about things you should be doing – you’re in the Grand Cayman. Change the way you think when you’re on vacation.

~See Lemons Love Grand Cayman