The Cayman Islands are the Arcadia of the Caribbean. I say that without having ever visited any other island in the Caribbean, but it must be true. The beaches are dream material, the water is crystal clear. The people are friendly, there is no chaos, everything is orderly beautiful. It doesn’t surprise in the least that honeymooners love the Caymans, especially those from North America, who can easily hop on a five hour flight to reach paradise.
Now Tandiss and I weren’t honeymooners, but once she found at that her cousin lives and works on the petite enclave – tax free, of course, which makes the island an attractive stop-over for temporary expats from Europe, Australia and the States – we took the chance to cross the Atlantic. It is, after all, the year of Caribbean- and Soca-influenced pop-music. And Drake’s “One Dance” was definitely blaring through all speakers.
When you’re in Cayman, you’re always in transit
Not only were we literally in transit during our stop-overs in Madrid, Miami, London and North Carolina; we were also constantly between two sides of Cayman. Not fully tourists, but definitely not locals.
And while this perpetual movement was exhausting, it was also intriguing to find out more about life, culture and the people that constitute Cayman Island.
One side of its schizophrenic character is dedicated exclusively to tourists who saved a lot of money to come to this perfect image of a summer beach vacation. It has the white beaches and the diving trips, the divine food and the tropical excursions, the luxury hotels and the beach bar parties.
It’s easy to forget that Cayman is also a very popular destination for people who like to bank their money offshore.
The fine divide between “local” and “expat”
The other side of Cayman is committed to the locals and the expats. They who live the dream, who get to work in such an environment, and who definitely know how to party.
Cayman, being small and familiar quickly, is a place where people of all colors and nationalities get to unite temporarily. As far as I understood, they leave after an average time span of 3 to 4 years, sometimes sooner, sometimes later. Cayman seems to be an endless beach vacation for backpackers who don’t want to stop being backpackers. It’s fun: water-slides, alcohol-promos, binge-drinking, after-work parties, delivery-food, roadside jerk-chicken, jet ski tours, island hopping, yacht safaris, sunset functions, club nights at the beach, tourists season.
We were lucky to see both sides, to party with our new friends during the annual Carnival Batabano, to shop like the locals in the nearby supermarket – definitely very expensive-, to have many interesting conversations about life and love in the Caribbean.
We were lucky, especially because we were also very naive regarding the prices on the island. Of course, most tourists are better off booking a full board deal in one of the amazing hotels on Seven Mile Beach. They usually know what kind of costs a vacation to the Caribbean entail. Meanwhile, we were trying to get by on a budget without restricting ourselves too much (it was still a holiday, after all), failing miserably as the prices were downright ridiculous in comparison to what we earn in Berlin.
In the end, diving was substituted with a quick snorkeling trip, and our favorite time of day was always Happy Hour. It was good to be there for two weeks, but by then we’d known almost all the names of the other guests in the places we frequented. An island is an island after all – Caribbean or not. It was time to go home again.
What to do on Cayman Island
- Calypso Grill for great lunch menu
- Calico Jacks Bar & Grill for beach party evenings
- Royal Palms for happy hour and free access to Seven Mile Beach
- Sam’s Quality Jerk (near the Kirk market on Seven Mile Beach) for amazing & affordable Jerk Chicken or BBQ chicken
- Batabano in April for a massive carnival party
- Stingray City & Rum Point for a nice daytrip (although the stingray thing might evoke some feelings about animal cruelty)