George Town, Grand Cayman Cruise Port Guide

A Grand Cayman cruise brings you to an enchanting island of long, sandy beaches, translucent water, and spectacular marine life. The island, the largest in the Cayman archipelago, is one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean thanks to its status as a center of offshore finance, yet also exudes a laid-back charm.

Cruises to Grand Cayman drop anchor off George Town, the waterfront lined by wooden buildings in bright colors. Although the lure of soft sand and sparkling water is compelling, there’s plenty to see and do here, from lush botanical gardens to mysterious caves. Divers will find exciting wrecks to discover, while there’s fascinating history at the stately Pedro St. James Castle and a vibrant art collection at the National Gallery. This is before you’ve even begun to check out the designer shops and the enticing array of restaurants and beach bars waiting for you to explore on your Caribbean cruise.

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Top Sights & Attractions on Cruises to Grand Cayman

Seven Mile Beach

Although it’s technically only five and a half miles in length, the famous Seven Mile Beach is a long series of white coral sands and small coves lined with cafés and restaurants. You’ll find everything from waterfront cocktail lounges to sun umbrellas, stand-up paddle boards, and kayaks here. Bring a mask and snorkel; spectacular marine life over the coral reefs just offshore makes this a good spot for beginners.

Crystal Caves

Head underground at Old Man Bay into the Crystal Caves, a network of around 100 caves dazzling with otherworldly stalactites and stalagmites, the rocky ceilings sparkling with crystals. Pirates used to shelter from hurricanes here, and legend has it that the caves still contain hidden treasure. You’ll visit three caves, including one with a subterranean lake. Then, explore the surrounding tropical forests, where you could see brilliantly colored parrots in the trees.

Pedro St. James

Uncover some local history at Pedro St. James Castle, where the islands’ first legislative assembly was elected and the proclamation ending slavery was issued. This stately stone house at Spotts Bay dates back to 1780 and is one of the oldest buildings on the islands. Visit the mahogany interior to admire the art collection and colonial-era furniture, and stroll through lush tropical gardens for romantic views of Great Pedro Bluff.

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Top Things to Do in Grand Cayman

Mingle With Stingrays

Standing on a sandbar in warm, shallow water while docile stingrays brush gently past your legs is a memorable sensation. Stingray City lies in Grand Cayman’s North Sound, accessible by boat, and is a spot where stingrays would congregate to feed on the fish trimmings thrown overboard by local fishermen. Nowadays, the rays know they’ll get tidbits from visitors. Keep your feet on the seabed or snorkel over the sandbar, watching these graceful creatures mill around.

Dive Over Wrecks

Grand Cayman offers some of the best diving in the Caribbean, as it’s fringed by reefs and walls, and the water is crystal clear. Dive at Devil's Grotto, known for its intricate caverns and abundant marine life. Or explore the USS Kittiwake, a submarine rescue vessel that was scuttled in 2011 to create an artificial reef, now populated by eagle rays and groupers. The highest part of the wreck is just 15 feet below the surface, so experienced snorkelers can dive down as far as the wheelhouse.

Stroll Through Beautiful Gardens

The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Gardens, opened by the late queen herself in 1994, is 65 acres of woodland trails, gardens, and wetlands populated by butterflies, parrots, and other native birds. Visit the vibrant Colour Garden and the fascinating Heritage House for a glimpse into the tough life of early island settlers. You’ll also see the endemic blue iguanas basking in the sunshine; the gardens run a conservation program to protect this handsome but endangered lizard.

Top Food & Drink in Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman is one of the best Caribbean destinations for food lovers, with more than 200 restaurants serving everything from tasty Caribbean specialties to healthy spots offering fresh juice and healthy bowls. Look out for traditional Caribbean fare like beans and rice, or spicy jerk chicken. Fish rundown is a slow-cooked stew of assorted seafood with coconut milk, thyme, Scotch bonnet, and pumpkin. You’ll see conch on every menu in the form of tasty fritters, a crisp salad, or a creamy conch chowder. For dessert, try sticky toffee pudding, which consists of a rich sponge made with dates served with a toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Local drinks include rum, which is distilled on the island and served in a fruity punch, among other cocktails. For something authentically local, order a mudslide, made with vodka, Kahlua, Baileys, cherry, and cinnamon.

Culture & History of Grand Cayman

Christopher Columbus reported sighting the Cayman Islands in 1503. While not home to any permanent settlements, the islands were visited by indigenous tribes and were populated by crocodiles and iguanas, with seas teeming with turtles. Turtles remain a symbol of the islands today, although their population was drastically reduced by passing ships hunting them for their meat.

Throughout the 17th century, the islands were frequented by pirates and privateers. British settlement began in the mid-17th century, primarily by individuals of British, African, and Jamaican descent. Until the mid-20th century, islanders mainly relied on fishing, subsistence farming, and employment in the merchant navy for foreign ships. However, a shift began with the opening of the first commercial bank, the establishment of hotels, the creation of the world’s first scuba diving center, and the government's encouragement of the growth of the international finance industry — which thrives today thanks to zero taxation, a British legal system, and political stability.

Although many Caymanians have emigrated to work abroad, a strong sense of national identity has been maintained, with many individuals eventually returning home. Today, the Cayman Islands enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean and remain a British Overseas Territory.

Grand Cayman Cruise Port Facilities & Location

Your cruise ship will dock in George Town Harbor and you’ll be tendered ashore to one of three tender terminals, all of them on Harbour Drive, within easy reach of the bus terminal and the main sights and shops of George Town. You’ll find souvenir shops, taxis, tourist information, and plenty of bars and restaurants nearby, although no facilities in the tender docks themselves.

Transportation in Grand Cayman

The easiest way to get around Grand Cayman if you’re not joining a shore excursion is by taxi, and you’ll find cars waiting at the port. There are no rideshare services here. Otherwise, the island has an efficient bus network, with minibusses operating multiple routes to all the main attractions. You can wait at a bus stop or simply flag the driver down. 

Mopeds, bicycles, and quad bikes are available to rent, but do remember that driving is on the left here, as it is in Britain.

Shopping in Grand Cayman

George Town has a wide range of elegant shops, many specializing in high-end jewelry and luxury labels. Be on the lookout for colorful Caribbean art, antique maps, and even shipwreck coins. Local jams, spicy sauces, and rum cakes make great gifts to take home. For something really unusual, look for jewelry made from Caymanite, a gemstone that comes in a spectrum of earthy colors. It’s found only in the Cayman Islands and made into beautiful bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and cufflinks by local craftspeople.

Local Currency & Tipping Customs

The local currency in George Town and the rest of the Cayman Islands is the Cayman Islands dollar, which is pegged to the U.S. Dollar at $1.20 U.S. to $1 Cayman. Most places will display prices in both currencies. You’ll find that U.S. dollars are widely accepted, although you may be given change in local currency. If you do need Cayman Islands dollars during your Grand Cayman cruise, you’ll find ATMs located throughout downtown George Town.

A tip of 10% to 15% is expected when dining at restaurants in Grand Cayman, unless service is already included. Taxi drivers don’t expect tips, although you could round up the bill, and it’s customary to tip a good tour guide $5 to $10 per person.

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