Grand Cayman is a relatively small island, and the longest distance you can travel should take no more than a couple of hours. You can get by on Grand Cayman using a combination of tours and local buses (especially if you are staying in the Seven Mile Beach area), but if you want to explore on your own, it’s easier with a rental car. Although driving is on the left, British style, Grand Cayman’s well-paved road system makes independent travel fairly easy, though signage is not always clear. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are even tinier and can be navigated by bike or moped.
Several carriers offer frequent nonstop or direct flights between North America and Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts Airport. Flying time from New York is about four hours, just over an hour from Miami. Only small STOL propeller aircraft serve Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts Airport (GCM) is a modern facility located in the western, busier section of the island, roughly 2 miles (3 km) east of George Town. The current multimillion-dollar expansion and general upgrade (to meet the projected increase in arrivals over the next two decades) should be completed by late 2012. The airport is about 15 minutes from hotels situated along Seven Mile Beach, about 30 to 45 minutes from the East End and West Bay lodgings, and 10 minutes from George Town. Cayman Brac’s Gerrard Smith Airport (CYB) can accommodate smaller jets, while Little Cayman’s Edward Bodden Airstrip can only accommodate prop aircraft due to runway limitations.
Airport Information…Edward Bodden Airstrip (LYB). Little Cayman345/948–0021.…Gerrard Smith International Airport (CYB). | Cayman Brac345/948–1222.…Owen Roberts International Airport (GCM). | Grand Cayman345/943–7070.
All nonstop and direct air service is to Grand Cayman, with connecting flights to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman on a small propeller plane. Cayman Airways offers nonstops from several destinations, including Miami, New York–JFK, and Tampa. All operate several times weekly except Miami, which is daily. American offers nonstop daily service from Miami. Delta flies weekly from Detroit, Minneapolis, and New York–JFK, and several times weekly from its Atlanta hub. United flies weekly from Washington Dulles and Newark, and daily from Houston. U.S. Airways offers daily nonstop service from Charlotte and weekly flights from Boston and Philadelphia. Cayman Airways also flies to both Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Canadian carrier WestJet flies nonstop three times weekly from Toronto. There’s also interisland charter service on Island Air.
Airline Contacts…American Airlines.345/949–0666.…Cayman Airways.345/949–2311.…Delta.345/945–8430.…Island Air.345/949–5252www.islandair.ky.…United.800/241–6522www.united.com.…U.S. Airways.345/949–7488.…WestJet.888/937–8538www.westjet.com.
Bike and Moped Travel
When renting a motor scooter or bicycle, remember to drive on the left and wear sunblock and a helmet. Bicycles ($15 a day) and scooters ($50 a day) can be rented in George Town when cruise ships are in port. On Cayman Brac or Little Cayman your hotel can make arrangements for you (most offer complimentary bicycles for local sightseeing).
Rental Companies…Island Scooter Rentals.George Town,Grand Cayman345/949–2046.
On Grand Cayman, bus service is efficient, inexpensive, and plentiful, running roughly every 15 minutes. Minivans marked “Omni Bus” are mostly independently operated (there are 38 buses and 24 owners) and run from 6 am to midnight from West Bay to Rum Point and the East End. All routes branch from the George Town terminal adjacent to the library on Edward Street and are described in the phone book; color codes denote the routes. The one-way fare from George Town to West Bay via Seven Mile Beach is CI$1.50, to East End destinations CI$2, and from West Bay and northern Seven Mile Beach to East End CI$3. Some bus stops are well marked; others are flexible. Respond to an approaching bus with a wave; then the driver toots his horn to acknowledge that he has seen you.
Driving is easy on Grand Cayman, albeit on the left (British style). Most visitors, especially if they’re staying along Seven Mile Beach, are content taking taxis or a one-day tour to see the sights rather than renting a car. Traffic on the road from Seven Mile Beach to George Town then onto Bodden Town in Grand Cayman is terrible, especially during the 7 to 9 am and 4:30 to 6:30 pm commuting periods, despite construction of a bypass road. Fortunately, roads are generally well marked and well maintained. One major coastal highway circumnavigates most of the island (remember that no shortcuts divide the extensive East End), though you can get lost in the tangle of side roads in primarily residential West Bay. Exploring Cayman Brac on a scooter is fun and straightforward. You won’t really need a car on Little Cayman, though there are a limited number of jeeps for rent; bikes are the preferred mode of transport.
Rules of the Road
In the Cayman Islands, drive on the left, British style. Be mindful of pedestrians and, in the countryside, occasional livestock walking on the road. When someone flashes headlights at you at an intersection, it means “after you.” Be especially careful negotiating roundabouts (traffic circles). Observe the speed limit, which is conservative: 30 mph (50 kph) in the country, 20 mph (30 kph) in town. George Town actually has rush hours: 7 to 9 am and 4:30 to 6:30 pm. Park only in approved parking areas. Always wear your seat belts—it’s the law!
To rent a car in the Cayman Islands, you must have a valid driver’s license and major credit card. Most agencies require renters to be between 21 and 70 years of age, though the minimum age may be 25. Those over 70 may need a certified doctor’s note indicating a continuing ability to drive safely. A local driver’s permit, which costs $7.50, is obtained through the rental agency. Several dozen agencies rent cars, 4WD vehicles, and SUVs; rates are expensive—ranging from $40 to $95 per day (or $250 to $600 or more per week) in high season, depending on the vehicle and whether it has air-conditioning. Many firms offer significant discounts in low season, as well as reduced three-day rates. The rental generally includes insurance, pickup and delivery service (or shuttle service to your hotel or the airport), maps, 24-hour emergency service, and unlimited mileage. Car seats are usually available upon request.
The major agencies have offices to the left as you depart from the airport terminal in Grand Cayman; the closest, Andy’s, is to the right. All require that you walk outdoors for a hundred yards. Make sure your luggage is portable, because there’s no shuttle; if there are two of you, one can watch the bags while the other gets the car. Many car-rental firms have free pickup and drop-off along Seven Mile Beach (or second branches) so you can rent just on the days you want to tour. Consider security when renting a jeep that cannot be locked. Midsize cars here often mean subcompact.
Grand Cayman Agencies…Ace Hertz.345/949–2280, 800/654–3131, 855/212–1713 toll free. …Andy’s Rent a Car.345/949–8111, 855/691–3991 toll freewww.andys.ky. …Avis.345/949–2468www.aviscayman.com.…Budget.345/949–5605www.budgetcayman.com.…Coconut Car Rentals.345/949–7703, 800/941–4562www.coconut.ky.…Dollar.345/949–4790www.dollarlac.com.…Economy.345/949–9550www.economycarrental.com.ky.…Thrifty.345/949–6640, 800/367–2277www.thrifty.com.
Little Cayman Agencies…McLaughlin Rentals.345/948–firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Grand Cayman, taxis operate 24 hours a day; if you anticipate a late night, however, make pickup arrangements in advance. Call for a cab to be dispatched, as you generally cannot hail one on the street except occasionally in George Town. They carry up to three passengers for the same price. Fares aren’t metered; the government sets rates, and they’re not cheap, so ask ahead. The tariff increases with the number of riders and bags. To travel in style by limo, you can call A.A. Transportation or Elite Limousine Services. Drivers are courteous and knowledgeable; most will narrate a tour at an hourly rate of about $25 for up to three people. Be sure to settle the price before you start off and agree on whether it’s quoted in U.S. or Cayman dollars.
Taxis are scarcer on the Sister Islands; rates are also fixed and fairly prohibitive. Your hotel will provide recommended drivers.