The Cayman Islands lie south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica like three little gems in the Caribbean Sea.
Often to referred to by locals simply as Cayman, but never as ‘The Caymans,’ the country is a British Overseas Territory. The largest island in the trio is Grand Cayman, which is around 22 miles long and eight miles at the widest part, where most of the 55,000 population lives. The so-called sister islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are a 45-minute flight away.
The Brac, as it’s known, is about 14 square miles with 1,500 residents, while nearby Little Cayman is just 10 square miles and has a year-round population of only 150. Grand Cayman is a bustling, cosmopolitan island, where the capital George Town is at the center of the offshore financial industry for which the country is renowned. However, tourism plays a big part in the economy, attracting a high-end crowd who come to enjoy the sunshine, safety and white-sand beaches.
All three islands are also favored by a large number of dive tourists, with the underwater attractions considered to be amongst the best in the world. In fact Bloody Bay Wall, which is located off Little Cayman, is consistently ranked as one of the top five dive sites, at 20 feet from the surface and plunging more than a mile into the deep.
Because Cayman has a thriving economy and more jobs than can be filled by locals, around half the population is composed of expatriate workers. Many wealthy people live in the Cayman Islands, some of whom are year-round residents, while others are retired and enjoy the sunshine during the winter. Immigration rules, however, are extremely strict and anyone wishing to take up employment on the island must have a work permit, with preference for a position always given to a qualified Caymanian. There are also stringent rules about who can live in the country as a permanent resident, with a seven-year limit known as the ‘roll-over policy’ in place for expatriate workers.
Even so, the high number of expatriates makes for a cosmopolitan society with many races nationalities working and living together. You will hear Jamaican patois, along with accents from America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Philippines, India, Australia, New Zealand and just about every island in the Caribbean, among others.
This diversity is also reflected in a the variety of cuisine, with dozens of superb restaurants. It also leads to a great mix of music and you can enjoy the laid-back rhythm of reggae, the upbeat tempo of soca, country and western, pop, hip-hop and gospel blasting out at the beaches, concerts and on the radio.
While Grand Cayman is bustling, the sister islands are the opposite. Both the Brac and Little Cayman are ideal to visit if you want to step back to an age when life moved at a slower place.