All ships are currently required to anchor in the harbor and tender passengers on to the island. Ships tender passengers to one of two George Town docks (North or South), both of which are right in downtown George Town where there’s a cluster of shops, restaurants and museums within walking distance of the dock
On Foot: You’ll be dropped a few steps from town, where you can easily walk to numerous shops and restaurants
Taxi: Cabs without meters are available at the dock. Rates are fixed and posted, but be sure to confirm the fare before the driver takes off. New cabs have meters. Most cabs are actually van-sized, and drivers may require a four-passenger minimum before they’ll take you anywhere
Bus: You can hail minibuses that shuttle passengers along the main routes. To hail one, respond with a wave when the driver toots his horn. The bus depot is next to the library (across from the Hero’s Square Fountain). There are stops next to popular attractions like Dolphin Discovery and Hell, but you may be taking the “scenic” ride when using the public bus (a good way to see the island).
Car: Cico Avis offers one-day specials to cruise passengers and runs a courtesy shuttle between the port and the rental office (345-949-2468). Out at Seven Mile Beach, Andy’s Rent A Car (345-949-8111) has good Internet discounts. Americans are required to purchase inexpensive driving permits, but you can buy them at the rental office. Remember, Grand Cayman is a British overseas territory, so drive on the left.
- Top Attraction: Stingray City, a sandbar off North Sound where a population of rays once congregated to eat the leftover bits that fishermen threw overboard and now hang out to be fed squid by tourists. Visitors have the unusual opportunity to hop in the shallow water with the habituated creatures, feel their velvety skin and pose for photos. Guides accompany you.
- Scuba-diving and snorkeling: The Cayman Wall is a world-renowned dive site. Snorkelers flock to Devil’s Grotto, south of Eden Rock, and also can check out the wreck of a 1940’s schooner called the Cali just steps from the port. The shipwreck is also the most popular spot to “snuba” (a hybrid of snorkeling and scuba-diving, with air coming through long hoses connected to tanks at the surface, rather than tanks strapped to your back). Snorkeling right off the beach at some spots (near the Marriott at Seven Mile Beach, for example) is super easy and accessible. The island abounds with dive and snorkeling trip operators, such as Ocean Frontiers (800-348-6096) and Divers Down (345-945-1611).
Lunch spots are divvied up between downtown George Town and the various beaches. It easy to get a table if you go slightly earlier and slightly later than the peak lunchtime hours (say, 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.). Typical menus spotlight the same ingredients found on other Caribbean islands: beans and rice, steamed fish and coconut, though the Caymans are particularly known for conch-based dishes.
- Near the Turtle Farm, the Cracked Conch features conch in an assortment of appetizers, including fritters, soup and ceviche. And, of course, you can order your conch “cracked” (pounded thin, dredged in egg, then flour, and fried); the dish is accompanied by pickled fennel and curried tartar sauce. Jerked meats (pork, chicken and burgers) are popular, too — as are the sweeping sea views. (North West Point Road on West Bay; 345-945-5217; lunch served daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. December through May only).
- Champion House is a favorite with the locals. Only open Saturdays at lunch. It features popular island dishes like curried goat, braised oxtail and turtle stew. If you’re there on a Saturday, don’t miss the themed lunch buffet, featuring even more Caymanian and West Indian dishes. (43 Eastern Ave.; 345-949-7882; open 6:30 a.m. to midnight daily)
Cocktail: A “Cayman Mama” consists of Caribbean fruit juices and both gold and coconut rum. Try it at the Cracked Conch by the Sea (just past the Turtle Farm in West Bay; open from 11:00 a.m.)
Numerous cafes, hotels and shops offer Internet access in Grand Cayman. Cable & Wireless, the main Internet provider for the Cayman Islands, has a “Communication Station” located next to Columbian Emeralds in George Town (open daily from 8:30 a.m.). You’ll find other options at Galleria Plaza, West Bay Road and along Seven Mile Beach, and there is an Internet cafe up an alley opposite the main George Town post office, a five-minute walk from the tender stations
- The Caymans are the jewelery capital of the Caribbean: watches and diamonds
- Tortuga Rum Company (S. Church Street and various other locations) makes incredible rum cakes. You can sample the different flavors before buying
Best Hands-On Choice for Nature-Lovers: To experience one of the most popular shore excursions in the world, visit Stingray City, where the stingrays are so tame they suck the squid right out of your hand. Warning: When there are lots of ships in port, the water gets very crowded, and the stingrays are positively swamped by eager humans (and vice versa). Duration: 3-4 hours.
Best Choice for Sightseeing Nature-Lovers: Take a ride on the Atlantis Submarine, a real, 50-foot-long submarine that carries 48 passengers to a maximum depth of 100 feet below the surface for a close-up look at the Cayman Wall. Not to worry — you won’t get wet or hot, as the sub is air-conditioned. Duration 1.5 hours.
Best for Active Types: The Cayman Jeep Wrangler Adventure and Beach Snorkel tour lets you drive your own 4×4 vehicle (in a convoy, of course) across the island. Stops include Morgan’s Harbor, Barkers National Park, blue iguana habitat, the town of Hell and a rum cake shop. The trip wraps up with two free hours to snorkel and lounge at the Beach Club Colony. Duration 5.5 hours.
Best for Divers: Travel by catamaran to the Cayman Wall, where divers of all levels usually find favorable, calm conditions and warm water year round. Most outlets offer two-tank dives, taking you 100 feet deep in search of sponges, coral, sea turtles, reef sharks and dozens of fish species. Those seeking an easier, shallower dive should opt for an alternate trip to Casuarina Point near Devil’s Grotto. Duration: 2 hours