Introduction to the Cayman Islands and The “Grand” arrival
The Cayman Islands, a trio of sandy, sun-blessed islands in the Western Caribbean Sea is a small self-governed British Overseas Territory of only 102 square miles comprising of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
A unique and heavenly dichotomy considered both a major global offshore financial haven for international business and an incomparable cosmopolitan tropical paradise with infamous white sand beaches and an idyllic year-round climate.
Renowned for its safety, security and highest quality standard of living, direct access is far-reaching served by 23 destinations and 10 International airlines including British Airways to London, American Airlines and Cayman’s own flag carrier Cayman Airways, heading to/from North America on a regular basis.
The air approach into Grand Cayman, the largest and by far the most populous of the three isles, has a considerable “wow” factor as you fly in low over a graduation of deep to turquoise blues and coral sand beaches that stretch in all directions. First-time visitors are struck by the array of luxurious seafront property viewed along infamous Seven Mile Beach in harmonious contrast to the shadow of their arriving aircraft playing hide and seek with the gently swaying palms that similarly dot these affluent shorelines.
Air arrivals are regularly gifted an intimate view of chic waterfront restaurants and cafes, prestigious office buildings, a plethora of distinctly private homes, pools and condominiums all before landing at Owen Roberts International Airport with its newly expanded runway, just minutes from the Islands’ financial centre and capital city of George Town.
By the time passengers disembark, buzzing with vacation anticipation inside the brand new airport terminal building, they have already been potently privy to the orderly sun-soaked promise of richly diverse real estate offerings to accommodate any and all.
Further movement in and around the Cayman Islands is made uncomplicated by its thoughtfully designed and well-maintained road network of private cars, taxis and impressive public bus system happily accommodating its discerning and time efficiency minded visitors and residents alike.
For inter-island travel, Cayman Airways serves domestic routes to the sister islands on a regular daily schedule.
Cayman’s Economic Environment
Arguably the Caribbean’s most prosperous economy and one of the world’s largest financial centres, Cayman boasts highly regulated banking, trust, legal and insurance sectors, attracting investors, financiers and money managers from around the globe. A skilled cadre of high-level fiduciaries keeps pace with the demands of globally evolving business markets and the complexities of international compliance.
Cayman’s welcoming economic environment supports a brimming population of 70,000 residents, equally divided between mixed professional expatriates from over 130 nations and generations of Caymanians, who predominate among senior government officials and management workforce most often in financial services, public administration and healthcare/social work.
The numbers are large enough to support a diverse class of international executives, yet small enough to foster local neighborhood intimacy. However surprisingly, for such a small country, the pace of life spans a large spectrum and is enjoyed at liberty. Opening a business requires reciprocal local partnership but minimal licensing requirements makes any such administrational efforts well worthwhile. For good reason, Cayman remains a well sought out place of residence for both work and play.
Cayman Homes and Property Options
Cayman’s real estate industry is among the islands’ most prominent and significant.
Home and property investment options are plentiful on all three islands, in all sizes, prices and environs, and serve a global clientele whether residential, commercial or somewhere in between. Stamp duty is payable on property but there is little else to restrict the purchase of real estate in Cayman as the government imposes no property, sales, income or capital gains taxes.
An array of exceptional island real estate, from raw, undeveloped land to full scale property developments, residential condos to single family homes, traditional cottages to private gated communities are to be found tracing the beaches, the dramatic ironshore waterfront, and throughout Cayman’s lush interior priced to attract global investors, high net worth individuals, “snowbird” vacationers and local working families alike.
An abundance of high quality architectural firms ensure home designs appeal to every niche of a broad market from island elegance and opulent luxury condos on the oceanfront, to modern spacious multi-storey canal-front duplexes, to traditional Caribbean homes set in lush interior gardens. Affordable offerings are sought from comfortable mid-priced family homes and apartments in quiet district neighborhoods. In addition, local gems and picturesque Caymanian cottages can still be found and are a firm favorite for island style renovation.
Modern construction and its architectural adjunct ensures updated infrastructure and perennially renewed supplies of housing and office inventory for its tourism supporting workforce.
Tourism, Visitor Experience and Duty-free Shopping
Cayman’s thriving tourism sector draws mostly affluent North American visitors which in turn supports a host of related services from car rentals to restaurants, bars and nightclubs, sophisticated supermarkets, heralded luxury brand accommodations that include the Ritz-Carlton and the Kimpton Seafire Resort. In addition, Cayman also offers a very generous selection of luxury villas as well as mid range hotels, local guest houses and rental apartments found on platforms like booking.com, Vrbo and Airbnb.
Visitors flock to those several thousand rooms mostly to experience Cayman’s pristine beaches and translucent waters and the recreational options that magnify those environments.
At the heart of those options and the islands’ tourism industry, are world class water-sports that include incomparable snorkelling and diving often inspiring ever popular underwater photography. The pristine waters surrounding all three Cayman Islands, boast no fewer than 365 recognized dive and snorkel sites around shipwrecks and teeming coral reefs often within reach of the shoreline including the World famous ‘Stingray City’ and adjacent mid ocean sandbar lying in crystal clear shallows.
Glass-bottom boats and amphibious bus tours provide alternative ways for families to view the magic of Cayman’s marine life.
Other water sports like free diving, paddle-boarding, kite surfing, wind surfing and kayaking (see Rum Point bioluminescent tours) have an equally keen resident and visitor following. Prestigious swimming (see the highly prized Flowers Sea Swim), offshore fishing (see Guy Harvey) and jet ski competitions are held annually and attract additional international attention.
Not surprisingly, given Cayman’s global popularity and central position in the Caribbean, the sailing, powerboat and yachting sector has grown so large as to form a subsidiary industry and lifestyle all of its own.
Duty-free shopping has always been a popular ritual for cruise ship passengers especially, disembarking for a day’s port of call in George Town on the hunt for best value jewellery, perfume, beauty products and leather goods.
Cayman’s Attractions and Cultural Activities
It would appear that there is a never ending list of interesting things to do and see in the Cayman Islands.
For the swiftest of island tours, take to the air by helicopter and enjoy panoramic vistas of Grand Cayman with stunning ocean blues, sweeping beaches and lush interior landscapes dotted with island real estate. Delight in the aerial views of North Side where boaters, visitors and residents enjoy lazy days, frolicking in the clear waters and spotting the starfish that surround the sleepy neighbourhoods of Rum Point and Cayman Kai.
For some over land scenic touring and local history, one can visit historic sites like Pedro St James (Pedro’s castle) and old pirates caves, or geological marvels like Smith Barcadere, Crystal Caves, East End Blow holes and the cliff like bluffs of Cayman Brac.
In complement, nature-based exhibits like the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park (home to blue iguana conservation and the Cayman Orchid society), the Parrot Sanctuary and the Mastic trail, showcase an abundance of Cayman birds, flora and fauna. The booby pond in Little Cayman is another favorite with bird watchers.
For those who wish to encounter the islands’ marine life without entering the water, one can head to the well known Cayman Turtle and Dolphin discovery centres with differing aquariums made even more enticing with the addition of exotic aviaries and colorful butterfly exhibits.
There are public beaches, parks and playgrounds for children in every district including the Black Pearl skate park in Red Bay perfect for the most adventurous of teens. For more holistic activity, kids can be signed up to take advantage of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program at the Ritz Carlton while parents enjoy some pampering at one of many luxury spas or hair and nail salons to be found at nearly every hotel and shopping outlet. For the more adult friendly experiences, childcare is easily found in Cayman with a great selection of babysitters and nannies available and ready to assist.
In the heart of Seven Mile Beach, Camana Bay, a meticulously planned waterfront pedestrian town of its own accord, is a glitzy venue for world class shopping, with over forty shops and services for fashion, furniture, music, books and toys, and over a dozen restaurants, bars, cafes and speciality eateries.
Cayman is constantly enlivened by cultural happenings and activities including weekly craft and agricultural farmers markets, opportunities to purchase local art, produce and farm to table bites.
In addition there are a myriad of local art galleries for collectors or enthusiasts and good public libraries for avid readers. Historians on a search to glean further information or a broader understanding of Cayman’s history and eclectic culture, should head to both the Cayman Islands National Museum and the Cayman National Gallery, neither one to be missed.
To round off the list of experiences to be had, Cayman is privileged to host well known annual festivals drawing crowds from all over the globe including those of local favorite Batabano carnival, the ever popular Pirates week festival, the KAABOO international music festival, Gimistory international storytelling festival, the National Arts festival and ‘Red Sky at Night’, a sprawling multicultural arts fair.
The Culinary scene
Anyone seeking culinary sustenance, local fare, a cold brew or an instagram worthy frozen drink (with obligatory cocktail umbrella) will be amply gratified with the choices in Cayman.
Hundreds of bars vie for clientele year round. From beach bars, hotel bars, sports bars, to quiet inland taverns or cigar bars with a selection of fresh Cuban products and live music to accompany them. The local rum distillery and brewery delight with tours and award winning tastings too.
Cayman’s culinary scene caters to all. From local kitchens to Mediterranean bistros to high end American style steak houses, all with extensive menu options.
It is widely acknowledged that Cayman is spoilt for choice with it’s quality restaurant selection producing superb international menus with broad appeal and moderate price points. There is a much revered focus on fresh seafood where possible, lobster and conch season are both local favorites. Sunday brunch is also a longstanding Cayman tradition, often served beach side under covered patios for maximum enjoyment of the sea views.
Fine-dining is abundant, with broad tasting menus and global wine lists to be found but casual dining leads the way in Cayman. A spectrum of advantageous venues cater to beach goers requiring bathing suit welcome lunch spots, sunset seekers, honeymooners looking for romantic candlelit dining atmospheres and adventurous foodies in search of offbeat local kitchens and “must find” hole in the walls.
Culinary festivals and much anticipated foodie events include the world renowned ‘Cayman cookout’ and ‘Taste of Cayman’. Cayman has it’s very own wine school and keen amateur sommelier following. Cooking classes, wine tasting dinners and other culinary events are well received and happily common place.
Sports, Fitness and Recreation
Cayman has an abundance of sporting options for everyone. Most primary and secondary schools offer after-school activities: clubs, sports and even daycare, while island-wide, sports clubs and public facilities invite participation from all.
The most popular team sports are soccer, cricket, rugby, tennis, squash, netball, basketball, athletics, softball and beach volleyball. Many have active clubs and associations that operate both competitive and recreational leagues, and sponsor teams that compete internationally. The squash club for example, has the finest facility in the Caribbean and has hosted the world squash championships. Caymanians have represented their country in past olympics in swimming, cycling and sailing.
Leagues are built around government organizations, local companies and churches.
The islands boast a vast wellness community with a great number of health clubs offering yoga, CrossFit and other fitness training. A handful of private companies sponsor regular sea swim competitions on Seven Mile Beach, while either triathlons, marathons, cross-country or charity runs/walks are staged almost every weekend island wide.
While lower profile, plenty of other Cayman sports claim recreation lanes too. These include road cycling, sailing, boxing, martial arts, gymnastics and dance.
Golf is especially popular with residents, with two current course options, the more private Greg Norman course at the Ritz Carlton and that of the North Sound golf club, available to the public.
Equestrians enter regional shows, dressage and jumping competitions; popular hockey groups have a large expatriate following; US-style American touch and flag football is growing, while racing fans organize stock car and other vehicle races.
On the quieter side, playing dominoes is a national pastime; darts, bridge and Scrabble groups compete and even pub/trivia quizzes have gained a following.
Cayman’s multi-accredited education system observing a mostly Christian ethos, draws students from all over the world creating a potpourri of languages, faiths, cultures and interests. The primary and secondary education sectors follow British, American, Montessori and International Baccalaureate curricula, with significant choices spanning kindergarten through university, offering a range of academics and tuition to accommodate varying needs.
The tertiary education sector is served by George Town’s University College of the Cayman Islands; the Truman Bodden Law School affiliated with the University of Liverpool; International College of the Cayman Islands and the schools of medicine and veterinary medicine at St. Matthew’s University.
The Central Caribbean Marine Institute also presents a unique opportunity for residents to get involved in the science, learning and protection of our waters and marine life.
Healthcare and Medical Network
Cayman is home to three world-class hospitals with far reaching international connections.
Centrally located in George Town, the Cayman Islands Hospital is the “official” public hospital, providing accident and emergency services, a wide range of surgical, oncology and multiple speciality facilities including a hyperbaric chamber for divers.
Also in George Town, the smaller privately owned Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial/Doctor’s Hospital specializes in family practice, primary care and a host of specialties and features a 3D mammography and breast unit.
Health City Cayman Islands is the latest addition to Cayman’s broad healthcare sector. This newly opened internationally accredited East End hospital serves both Cayman and multinational clientele with a spectacular list of services and a primary cardiology focus in addition to sizeable neurology and oncology centers as part of the global “medical tourism” industry.
Five smaller health centers serve Grand Cayman’s outlying districts and Little Cayman, while Faith Hospital serves Cayman Brac.
Altogether, Cayman’s Health Practice Commission lists 157 healthcare and medical-related facilities, from pharmacies to researchers to general practitioners and alternative medicine facilities.
Community life and Cayman Kindness
Community life in Cayman is rich in spirit, generosity and involvement. There are regularly scheduled meetings of likeminded individuals to suit all interests from book clubs, garden, chess and photography clubs to National/Youth choir and orchestra rehearsals, and Cayman Drama Society and Dinner Theatre clubs for potential performances at the Harquail Theatre and Prospect Playhouse. The Visual Arts Society offers workshops in art, painting and pottery. Playing dominoes is a national pastime; darts, bridge and Scrabble groups compete and even pub trivia quizzes have gained a following.
The International food and wine society hold regular events as does the increasingly popular Astronomical society at Pedro’s castle.
Cayman is a multi-denominational country with faith-based community represented weekly by varying religious services and church groups.
The Cayman National Cultural Foundation and National Trust are focused on open topics of conservation effort including the protection of coral reefs, traditional Caymanian homes and blue iguanas to name a few.
Cayman is a pet loving community, with pet friendly hotels and rental accommodations that are becoming more and more popular. Much care and effort goes into saving animals from harm and rescuing strays. The Humane Society, Canine and Feline friends, CARE and ‘One dog at a time’ among other rescue organizations hold regular adoption and charity events to support these protective efforts.
Cayman “Kindness” is genuine and the list of local charitable foundations and organizations with far reaching fund raising capabilities is a long one. From the medical support focused foundations like the Cancer Society, Heart Fund, the Breast Cancer and Special Needs Foundations to service clubs like the business & professional Women’s clubs, Kiwanis, Lion’s and Rotary clubs to action forward organizations like the Crisis Centre, The Red Cross, Cayman Ark Acts of Random kindness, big brothers big sisters, YMCA and the Pink Ladies Volunteer corps…and so on. Charity auctions and high society events like the annual sold out Breast Cancer gala have their own “season” in Cayman and they are embraced wholeheartedly and considered opportunities for helping the community as much as they are societal platforms.
‘Cayman Kind’ has become a national motto and felt throughout the residential and visiting populations.
For detailed information on all things Cayman, The ‘Resident’ magazine is a local know-it-all publication for new and existing residents alike, a dependable fountain of local wisdom.