On Grand Cayman the good news is that there’s no sales tax and plenty of duty-free merchandise including jewelry, china, crystal, perfumes, and cameras. Savings on luxury goods, though rarely as great as good sales in big cities or at outlet malls in the United States, range between 10% and 25%. Notable exceptions are liquor, which is available minus that tariff only at specially designated shops, and haute couture (though the ritzier resort shops stock some designer labels). “Brand Cayman” is the local nickname for the glamorous shops along Cardinal Avenue, the local answer to New York’s Madison Avenue and Beverly Hills’s Rodeo Drive. Esteemed names include Cartier, Waterford, and Wedgwood.
Worthy local items include woven thatch mats and baskets, jewelry made from a marblelike stone called Caymanite (from Cayman Brac’s cliffs, a striated amalgam of several metals), and authentic sunken treasure often fashioned into jewelry, though the last is never cheap (request a certificate of authenticity if one isn’t offered). You’ll also find individual artists’ ateliers and small, colorful craft shops whose owners often love discussing the old days and traditions. Bear in mind that most major attractions feature extensive and/or intriguing gift shops, whether the Turtle Farm or the National Gallery.
Local palate pleasers include treats made by the Tortuga Rum Company (both the famed cakes and the actual distilled spirit, including a sublime 12-year-old rum), Cayman Honey, Cayman Taffy, and Cayman Sea Salt (from the ecofriendly “farm” of the same name). Seven Fathoms is the first working distillery actually in Cayman itself, its award-winning rums aged underwater (hence the name). Also seek out such gastronomic goodies as jams, sauces, and vinegars from Hawley Haven and Whistling Duck Farms on the eastern half of the island. Cigar lovers, take note: Some shops carry famed Cuban brands, but you must enjoy them on the island; bringing them back to the United States is illegal.
An almost unbroken line of strip malls runs from George Town through Seven Mile Beach, most of them presenting shopping and dining options galore. The ongoing Camana Bay mega-development already glitters with glam shops, including Island Companies’ largest and grandest store offering the hautest name-brand jewelry, watches, and duty-free goods.
Bayshore Mall.…Optimally located downtown and one of the leading shopaholics’ targets (you can’t miss the cotton-candy colors), this mall contains a Kirk Freeport department-store branch (Tag Heuer to Herend porcelain, Mikimoto to Mont Blanc), swank Lalique and Lladró boutiques, La Parfumerie (which often offers makeovers and carries 450 beauty brands), and other usual luxury culprits. | S. Church St. | George Town, Grand Cayman.
Cayside Courtyard.…This small courtyard shopping center is noted for its specialty jewelers and antiques dealers. | Harbour Dr. | George Town, Grand Cayman.
Duty Free Plaza.…This mall caters to more casual shoppers with the T-shirt Factory, Island Treasures, Havana Cigars, Blackbeard’s Rumcake Bakery, and the Surf Shop. It also contains a kid-pleasing 12,000-gallon saltwater aquarium with sharks, eels, and stingrays. | S. Church St. | George Town, Grand Cayman.
Island Plaza.…Here you’ll find 15 duty- and tax-free stores, including Swarovski Boutique, Island Jewellers, and Churchill’s Cigars (with bars like Margaritaville to de-stress in after binge shopping). | Harbour Dr. | George Town, Grand Cayman.
Kirk Freeport Plaza.…This downtown shopping center, home to the Kirk Freeport flagship department store, is ground zero for couture; it’s also known for its boutiques selling fine watches and jewelry, china, crystal, leather, perfumes, and cosmetics, from Baccarat to Bulgari, Raymond Weil to Waterford and Wedgwood (the last two share their own autonomous boutique). Just keep walking—there’s plenty of eye-catching, mind-boggling consumerism in all directions: Boucheron, Cartier (with its own mini-boutique), Chanel, Clinique, Christian Dior, Clarins, Estée Lauder, Fendi, Guerlain, Lancôme, Yves Saint Laurent, Issey Miyake, Jean Paul Gaultier, Nina Ricci, Rolex, Roberto Coin, Rosenthal and Royal Doulton china, and more. | Cardinall Ave. | George Town, Grand Cayman.
Landmark.…Stores in the Landmark sell perfumes, treasure coins, and upscale beachwear; Breezes by the Bay restaurant is upstairs. | Harbour Dr. | George Town, Grand Cayman.
Seven Mile Beach
Galleria Plaza.…Nicknamed Blue Plaza for its azure hue, Galleria Plaza features several galleries and exotic home-accessories stores dealing in Oriental rugs or Indonesian furnishings, as well as more moderate souvenir shops hawking T-shirts and swimwear. | West Bay Rd. | Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman.
The Strand Shopping Centre.…This mall has branches of Tortuga Rum and Blackbeard’s Liquor, and banks galore—the better to withdraw cash for shops with cachet like Polo Ralph Lauren and another Kirk Freeport (this branch particularly noteworthy for china and crystal, from Kosta Boda to Baccarat, as well as a second La Parfumerie). | West Bay Rd. | Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman.
West Shore Shopping Centre.…Dubbed Pink Plaza for reasons that become obvious upon approach, West Shore offers upscale boutiques and galleries (tenants range from Sotheby’s International Realty to the Body Shop). | West Bay Rd. | Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman.
Bed Buddies.…The name of this store refers to husband-wife team Bonnie and Fernando Thompson, who fashion lovely jewelry, bags, and baubles from local materials, including whelk shells, coconut husks, tree resin, and distinctive seeds from cat’s claw to Cayman red apple. | Hell Rd. | West Bay, Grand Cayman | 345/917–1182, 345/929–8017 | www.bedbuddiescreation.com.
East End and North Side
Bodden Town Art Shop.…This shop purveys a grab bag of goodies, from homemade jellies to giclee prints, woven thatch handbags to hardwood and bronze sculpture. Top local and expat artists such as Randy Chollette and Avril Ward also exhibit here. | 293 Bodden Town Rd., next to Pirate Caves | Bodden Town, Grand Cayman | 345/943–2827.
NasArt.…At the home-studio of Luelan Bodden, virtually every surface is painted with wild images and hues. One of Cayman’s most exciting, controversial artists, he works in various media and is deliberately provocative with a sociopolitical slant. | Crewe Rd. | Red Bay, Grand Cayman | 345/945–8278.
Hurley’s Marketplace.…Hurley’s is open Monday through Saturday from 7 am to 11 pm. | Grand Harbour Shopping Centre,1053 Crewe Rd. Red Bay, Grand Cayman345/947–8488www.hurleys.ky.