Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands are located in the western Caribbean sea. The three islands are situated about 480 miles south of Miami, 150 miles south of Cuba, and 180 miles northwest of Jamaica. Grand Cayman is by far the largest, with an area of 76 square miles. The two "Sister Islands" of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are located about 90 miles east of Grand Cayman and have areas of 14 square miles and 10 square miles respectively.

The two smaller Cayman islands were discovered by Columbus in 1503. Sir Francis Drake explored the area in 1586, but it was 1670 before the islands came under full British rule. Grand Cayman was settled from Jamaica by 1672; Little Cayman and Cayman Brac were settled some time later and maintained a separate administration until 1877. The Governor of Jamaica held administrative responsibility for the islands until 1962, when Jamaica itself became independent. Since then the islands have had their own Governor appointed by the British crown.

The economy of the Cayman Islands used to be built around turtling. However, this industry began to disappear in the 20th century and tourism and financial services began to become the economic mainstays during the 1970s. The United States of America is the Cayman Islands' largest trading partner.

The healthy state of the economy has attracted migrant workers from Jamaica, Europe and North America who now make up 30 per cent of the working population.

The per capita income is the highest with an average income of around $35,000, Caymanians enjoy the highest standard of living in the Caribbean.

Tourism accounts for 70-75% of the annual GDP of the Cayman Islands and is hence a major part of the economy. Grand Cayman's major tourist attraction is the world-famous Seven Mile Beach (SMB) on which most of the island's hotels and resorts are located. SMB is regarded by many as one of the best beaches in the world.

The Cayman Islands are also world famous as a Scuba Diving destination because of their crystal- clear waters and their proximity to the Cayman Wall. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are also considered to be elite dive destinations. There are several snorkeling locations where tourists can swim with stingrays.

The Cayman Islands have no direct taxation and have become important as an offshore financial center and a tax haven. The finance industry has grown rapidly since the late 1980s when many companies relocated to the islands from Panama, which was racked by political instability. Good communications and infrastructure helped to sustain its growth, to the point where the islands are now the world’s fifth-largest banking center.

The island of Grand Cayman was severely damaged by the Category Five Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, which destroyed many buildings and damaged 70% of them. Power, water and communications were all disrupted. Ivan was the worst hurricane to hit the islands in 86 years. The island has made rapid recovery since Ivan, with most of the infrastructure now restored.

The Cayman Islands have observer status at the Caribbean Common Market, CARICOM, and associate membership of the European Union.

Grand Cayman carnival occurs in the last week of April or the first week of May and is called "Batabano". This name "Batabano" is the name of the Rotary club that created Carnival in the Cayman Islands. There are two days of fun filled excitement and gay abandonment. Batabano is a weekend when people there use their talents, imagination and devise the most colourful beautiful costumes. There are exotic foods, live steelband music and hot soca music give the revelers parading the streets every reason to jump, party and enjoy themselves. One of the sister islands Cayman Brac holds their celebration the next Saturday after Grand Cayman's and it is called "Brachanal."


Information provided courtesy of: Caribbean Association Midwest America