The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory with a robust Financial Services and Tourism Sector. Its economy sits solidly on its Services Industry, Construction, and Healthcare. There is a minute amount of arable land for agriculture and not many industrial services. With its white sandy beaches and proximity to North America make it the ideal location for a quick weekend getaway, and was a major cruise ship stop with over 6,000 passengers calling on its shores daily prior to the pandemic.
Before relocating to the Cayman Islands, I knew as much as anyone else about the island, and I did quite a bit of research polling my friends about what to expect. I may not have asked the right questions, so consequently I was in for quite a shock upon my arrival. So, here are five things I discovered that no one really tells you about the Cayman Islands.
1. Their rich culture & heritage
At last count, the island comprises over 130 different nationalities, with more than 50% of the population Caymanians followed by Jamaican, British, American, Canadian, Filipino, and many other nationalities on work permits.
So, what is Cayman Culture? It can be challenging to distinguish what is authentically Cayman with such a diverse make-up. What I discovered immediately was the genuine warmth and friendliness of the people. The island literally runs on charity work with over 300 charities and non-profits on the island, not all officially registered. Three different individuals approached me within my first week to join their charity!
What I didn’t expect was how much people live indoor lives. For someone who thrives on being outdoors, I was expecting a Caribbean vibe where people hung out on their porches and knew their neighbors. The heat and mosquitoes are to be blamed for driving me inside as soon as the sun sets.
2. The traffic rivals any big city
Grand Cayman, the largest of the three islands, is only 22 miles long by 4 miles at its widest part. The population pre-covid was listed at over 65,000, and I am convinced there are twice as many cars on the streets. While the island has an efficient public transportation system, it seems everyone owns a car and drives. Rush hour here can rival any large state in North America. With many people working from home since the start of the pandemic, the traffic situation has eased only slightly.
3. The real deal about the cost of living
The Cayman Islands has one of the highest costs of living in the Caribbean. But on the flip side, they also have one of the highest standards of living. Relocating from Bermuda which also has one of the highest cost of living index, going to the supermarket was a pleasant surprise in comparison (Pre-pandemic). Other things were comparable, and there are lots of opportunities to eat out at various price points.
The below infographic was compiled by Livingcost.org for The Cayman Islands and represents cost for a single person. That rental price would be for a small one bedroom outside of the George Town area. The listed transportation cost would only cover public transport and not the cost of petrol and maintaining a car.
So, for persons relocating from other jurisdictions with a much lower cost of living index, sticker shock is real. Housing can take up a significant percentage of your income, especially if you choose to reside closer to the capital of George Town. You can get more bang for your buck further out but the trade off is horrendous traffic during peak hours.
4. The one-sided weather
The Cayman Islands enjoy year-round sunshine. Translation, it is hot, all the time! If heat is your speed, then welcome to paradise! Temperatures rarely go below 70 degrees F in the cooler months (Fall/Winter). We will leave you to experience summers first hand! 🙂 My first week on the island, I laced up my sneakers for a 6 am run in 81-degree weather which felt more like 96 degrees! I was pleasantly surprised and relieved when the Christmas breeze started blowing in early December. However, it wasn’t until my 2nd Christmas on the island that I could genuinely appreciate the temperature change. I attribute this to my body slowly acclimatizing over time.
5. The Cayman Islands have the best sunsets
Watching the sunset from any vantage point along the West Bay road takes my breath away every time. Consequently, I have spent many evenings lost in its mesmerizing beauty, my toes in the sand and my favourite drink at hand. At times, not even the singing of the pesky mosquitoes can draw me away from experiencing its beauty and unobstructed views. I have not been to the whole wide world, but I’ve traveled a fair bit and seen many sunsets, and the Cayman Islands is by far the best I’ve seen. God took his time here.
You can make a home anywhere. There is so much in life to appreciate, we just need to look in the right places. So far, I have enjoyed my time on the island. Although you will still hear me complain about the intense heat, especially in the summer.
I would love to hear from you. What is one surprising thing you’ve found out that no one told you about the Cayman Islands? And if you have more questions you would like answered, please let me know in your comments or DMs, and I will be happy to share what I have learned in my time here.