Nestled in the Caribbean just south of Cuba is Little Cayman, a remote and beautiful island that is devoid of the tourist swarms. Living up to its name, Little Cayman is the smallest and least developed of the Cayman Islands. Unlike the main island of Grand Cayman known for their banking practices and the best of America’s cruise shippers, Little Cayman is about as desolate and relaxed of a place as I’ve seen.
I spent almost a week on this beautiful island enjoying its crystal clear water, deserted beaches, and awesome scuba diving. The Bloody Bay Wall is one of the world’s most famous dive sites and features some of the most dramatic wall diving in the world.
Getting to Little Cayman
Little Cayman is ~100 miles from Grand Cayman and only accessible by flight. Flights from Grand Cayman with Cayman Airways is the only way to get to this little slice of paradise. Multiple flights run daily (40 minutes one way) from Grand Cayman on a small 10 seat turboprop plane. Little Cayman’s airport is just literally a small house with a landing strip. Not quite as rustic as Ibo Airport in Mozambique, but it evoked memories for sure!
Getting around Little Cayman
The island is only 10 miles by 1 mile. If you’re staying near the airport (where most hotels and condos are), walking is all you’ll need to do. A bicycle is a good way to see other parts of the island and can be rented at Paradise Villas. Our condo rental came with bikes and I found bikes to be the perfect mode of transport around the island. There is so little traffic here that biking on the main road is not a problem.
Scooters can be rented at Scootin’ scooters and are a great way to see the island for those that don’t want to bike in the heat. They are expensive though at $45 a day and an additional $20 for a temporary Cayman drivers license that all foreigners MUST purchase to ride scooters or drive a car.
A car is really only necessary if you’re staying in a vacation rental far from town. There is one car rental agency on the island and car rentals are around 65 KYD (~$80) a day.
Vibe on Little Cayman
The Caribbean is not known for its undiscovered and rustic destinations. Most islands in the Caribbean are quite developed, expensive, and caters to cruise shippers and all inclusive vacationers. These aren’t my jam so the Caribbean has never been a place I’ve yearned to visit, but rather a place I’ve traveled to out of necessity. It’s not so feasible to just “pop over” to the Philippines for a long week to dive after all.
Enter Little Cayman. An island devoid of cruise ships and mass tourism. The island itself is just 10 miles by 1 mile, and most of it is concentrated near the Airport in the town of Blossom Village. It’s hard to even call this town a town as it’s literally just a handful of houses, hotels, ONE grocery store, and ONE liquor store. There are four restaurants on this island and they all belong to the hotels.
There are only 150 full time residents on the island, and iguanas outnumber people 20 to 1. In fact, the Iguana species on this island are native only to Little Cayman and they have the right of road. There are signs all over the island to tell drivers to watch for iguanas. It is more than likely some sort of crime to hit an iguana here.
Little Cayman is not budget travel
With that said, Little Cayman is still a part of the Cayman Islands, where the GDP Per Capita is almost 20% higher than that of America. This is NOT a place meant for budget travelers. If you want that style of diving in the Caribbean, head to Utila, Honduras.
The majority of tourists that come here are families and older couples. For a small remote island, the infrastructure here is still top notch with paved roads, electricity, fancy condos, and big expensive houses all over. But within that realm of posh Caribbean retiree lifestyles, this is by far the most rustic variation. Which I love.
Tourism on the island
Most of Little Cayman’s residents are retirees and people working at the hotels. There isn’t much to do on this island besides chill on the beach (where there’s no other people), and scuba dive. If you are not a diver, and don’t plan on learning how to dive, Little Cayman may get very boring very quickly. With that said, there are so few tourists on this island that the novelty of not being crammed on a beach like sardines might be worth the boredom!
There is no industry on Little Cayman besides tourism, and therefore nothing is grown on this island. Everything is imported so prices of goods are expensive. There is only one liquor store and one grocery store on the entire island so they can set the prices to whatever they want. For example, A six-pack of beer is between $15-20, a liter of milk is $5, and a jar of peanut butter is $12.
When we were here in late March, the winds had been problematic and the barge that normally comes in with the shipment of goods could not dock. The grocery stores were almost empty, and many of the restaurants trimmed half of their menu offerings. People would just say “oh the barge hasn’t come”, and I would nod in acknowledgement because this is just normal island life!
Buy groceries BEFORE arriving on Little Cayman
For those not planning on staying at an all inclusive hotel, groceries in some capacity is highly recommended. The secret is to stock up on groceries on Grand Cayman BEFORE getting to Little Cayman. There is an IGA grocery store a few minutes from the Grand Cayman airport.
A two hour layover is more than enough to take a cab from the Grand Cayman airport to the IGA, do your shopping, cab back, check into your Little Cayman flight, and make it in time.
Diving on Little Cayman
I remember speaking to a gentleman on my dive trip to Cozumel that had seemingly dived the entire world. When I asked where he thought the best diving was, he said without hesitation, Little Cayman. I had never heard about it before but after doing more research I discovered that this place is a must visit. Its claim to fame is the Bloody Bay Wall on the north side of the island that features some of the perhaps best wall diving in the world. The vertical drop off of the coral walls begins at 10 meters and dramatically plunges to 2000 meters!
Most of the dive shops operate within the hotels. The only standalone dive operation on Little Cayman is Conch Club Divers and we ended up diving with them the entire time. The owner Doug, a funny American dude, runs a great operation here. His dive instructors, Emily and Claire, are both top notch and we had a great few days diving with them.
The diving is much cheaper than I had anticipated with two tank dives being $95 (equipment is extra). The other dive shops associated with hotels: Southern Cross, Reef Divers, and Pirates Point all charged more which is to be expected.
From what I observed, all the dive shops have the same type of 42′ Newton boats that are perfect for diving. The quality of the shops around the island all seemed to be top notch.
Diving conditions on Little Cayman are some of the best I’ve ever seen. Visibility seems to go on forever (at least 30m) and water temperatures were a warm 26-27 Celsius. Currents are not much of an issue making it an easy dive destination for beginners.
We spend five amazing days diving in Little Cayman. We spent most of our dives in the north (where Bloody Bay Wall is), but strong winds kept the boat from venturing that far on certain days. The diving in the south side is fantastic but the highlight of Little Cayman is obviously the massive wall on the North side that slopes down from 10m to 2000m in a flash.
Bloody Bay Wall
Cracks and crevices along the wall are well inhabited by vibrant sea life. Bloody Bay Wall possesses a collection of exotic sponges unlike any other in the Caribbean. Divers will delight in the myriad of colors before them: red rope sponges blend with neighboring orange vase sponges and turquoise vase sponges. Nearby several other varieties exist in concert: emerald tube sponges, fiery basket sponges, beige vase sponges, and rare yellow tube sponges. While sponges are not the only highlight of Bloody Bay Wall, they certainly provide a magnificent sight.
Bloody Bay Wall is also home to hundreds of mobile ocean critters. Sea cucumbers, groupers, eels, horse-eye jacks, and triggerfish are among the tinier dwellers. Turtles, barracudas, and sharks can also be found trolling the wall for food. These underwater inhabitants have thrived so swimmingly due to the protection provided by Bloody Bay Marine Park. By keeping these creatures safe, Bloody Bay Wall will also live on as one of the greatest dive marvels in the world.
While the marine life density of Little Cayman still pales in comparison to places in Southeast Asia, it was still impressive. What really surprised me was just how pristine and healthy the corals were. Compared to other Caribbean destinations I’ve dived, Little Cayman is by far the most picturesque in terms of pure diving conditions. The only thing that could come close is diving near the Blue Hole in Belize.
Little Cayman is consistently voted as one of the best dive destinations in the world, and I’d reckon it’s certainly the best in the Caribbean. Lack of tourism and general awareness of the dive operators here have helped preserve the conditions of the reefs.
Kayaking to an island paradise
We saw numerous eagle rays, reef sharks, turtles, and last but not least, a great hammerhead shark!
Great Hammerhead in Little Cayman
What to do
Like I’ve mentioned previously, at least half of the visitors to Little Cayman are coming to dive. There are no restaurants (that are not attached hotels), and no nightlife to speak of. If you’re not diving, you might get bored after a few days unless you’re one of those that can hibernate on a beach.
Kayaking to Owen Island
Owen Island is a small island no more than 200 meters from Little Cayman. If you’re staying in Blossom Village, or anywhere along the southeast coast, then a short kayak trip is all that’s needed to come here. Our condo happened to have Kayaks for us to use free of charge and most places should have them readily available to rent. From our condos at the Conch Club, it was only a 20 minute kayak trip.
The ride was incredible in terms of scenery. There’s a giant sandbar that surrounds the island making the water a stunning shade of turquoise. Once we got to the island, we were the only ones there (which is actually most places on Little Cayman). The beach was pristine and the water so blue. Owen Island is also home to some decent snorkeling which we took advantage of.
Point of Sand
Point of Sand is located at the northeast tip of Little Cayman, far away from the main part of town. It’s a picturesque beach with powdery white sand, and totally secluded from everything. There’s no one here making it the perfect place to go after the morning dives.
It is 8 miles from Blossom Village and we ended up renting a car for the day so we could come here (cost of a half day car rental on Little Cayman is $50). Bicycles would have taken too long, especially as the winds were strong that day. The snorkeling is fantastic here and we ended up seeing schools of Barracuda, grouper, and multiple lobsters!
Ideally, the perfect day would be to have two dives in the morning, have lunch, and spend the rest of the afternoon hanging out on the beach at Point of Sand.
Where to eat
There are only four restaurants on Little Cayman and they are all part of hotels. I went to all of them because there isn’t much to do on the island at night. Because everything is imported, the prices are not cheap. Credit cards are widely accepted all over Little Cayman. I never took out cash a single time during my stay here.
Connected to Paradise Villas, the Hungry Iguana is a favorite on the island for their cheap happy hour drinks between 5-7. Like all of the restaurants on the island, it sits on the beach and has amazing views of the ocean. The menu consists of Caribbean theme dishes and the food is fantastic. We really wanted to try their famous curry but inclement weather prevented the barge from delivering supplies and they couldn’t make it for us!
Nevertheless, their Jerk chicken and pork combo is absolutely delicious. Everything is quite pricey here with mains going for over 20-25 KYD ($25-30) each. The secret is to order from their lunch menu which is served all day and half the price of the dinner.
Southern Cross Club
The Southern Cross Club was one of the first dive shops on the island. After talking to some of the older divers, this place was once akin to a backpacker dive resort. As the decades went on, the original clientele became older and wealthier and nowadays, this place is by far the most expensive place on the island at almost $400 a night per PERSON. This does include all food but does not include any diving.
They have their own top end chef that cooks gourmet meals for lunch and dinner. Dinner was almost $60 per person for a buffet style dinner that looked very tasty, but we stuck with their bar menu which was much cheaper but still delicious.
Beach Nuts Bar at Little Cayman Beach Resort
This is the ONLY affordable place on the island. Not to be confused with the other restaurant at the Little Cayman Beach Resort, Birds of Paradise that serves buffet style lunches and dinners ($30/$50), Beach Nuts Bar is the chilled out bar food version. We ate here multiple times as the food was quite decent for what it was, and we could get away with only spending $10-15 per person. They also serve cold draft beers and host a karaoke night on Fridays where the entire town seemingly comes to.
On our last night, we decided to “go big” and try the restaurant at the Pirates Point Resort. Like the Southern Cross Club, the Pirates Point is another hotel that provides the entire package experience (room, food, and diving). Their restaurant is rated #1 on TripAdvisor and the reviews were all fantastic. The food here is superb. After eating mostly bar food and random groceries for five days, it was great to eat some quality food here.
The menu changes every day depending on what they have available but I’m certain it is good no matter what it is. The price of wine is included in the meal so drink as much as you can. The price is $50 per person which is steep but Little Cayman is not a cheap place. Make sure to make reservations ahead of time!
Where to stay on Little Cayman
Unlike Grand Cayman which is home to more resorts and cruise ships than the eyes can count, Little Cayman has only four full time hotels: Pirates Point resort, Paradise Villas, Little Cayman Beach Resort, and Southern Cross Club. The rest of the accommodation options on the island are primarily condos and vacation homes that can be booked on Airbnb/VRBO. Hotels are generally on the pricier end but most hotel prices include a meal plan which would otherwise cost almost $100 a day.
Conch Club Condos
We ended up staying at the Conch Club Condos using VRBO. This cluster of condos is in Blossom Village and every unit has a balcony that commands premium views of the beach and ocean. Our unit was a 2 bedroom, 2 floor apartment with unobstructed views of the ocean from our balcony. We paid $400/night which split between four people is a very reasonable cost for the Little Cayman. Had we had more people in our group, there are plenty of houses along the beach that can be had for much cheaper on a per person basis.
In addition the Conch Club condos, the other options on the island are The Club (yes they are just called the Club), and the Neptune. These condos are all in Blossom Village and condo rates vary but expect to pay at least $200-300 a night.