Cayman Islands vs. Puerto Rico

If it were only about beaches, the Cayman Islands wins easily. But if you want to explore beyond the sand, sun, and sea, Puerto Rico wins. Both Caribbean islands are top-notch destinations year-round. And between Puerto Rico and the Cayman Islands, relaxation is a win-win decision. So, it all boils down to one thing: what type of adventure do you seek?
Cayman Islands vs. Puerto Rico

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For the casual traveler looking for a mixture of relaxation and adventure, the Cayman Islands might be the better option. Underwater adventure in the Cayman Islands is much better, and ideal for those with an interest in snorkeling and diving.

Puerto Rico offers beaches, historical sites, rainforests, water sports, and a ton of land adventures. Overall, this makes it more suitable for the all-around traveler. If you don’t want to spend all your time lounging by the beach, there are plenty of options in Puerto Rico, from cave explorations to jungle hiking trails and historical towns.

Cayman Islands

Great beaches, fantastic snorkeling & diving, and endless fun swimming. The Cayman Islands is the definition of “living the beach life.”

When people think of “Cayman Islands,” they mostly attribute it to Seven Mile Beach. It’s one of the most popular and beautiful beaches in the world. However, Grand Cayman only makes up one-third of the Cayman Islands. And you have more to explore and experience than simply spending your entire vacation there.

Enter Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. The siblings of Grand Cayman.

Of the two, Cayman Brac is perfect if you’re looking for underwater adventure, and Little Cayman if you want unspoiled beaches to relax in.

Fast fact: You can take Cayman Airways Express if you want to visit Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. The trip takes under two hours only.

It should come as no surprise then that the Cayman Islands is widely regarded for its pristine beaches. All-inclusive resorts are also abundant around the Cayman Islands. What’s more, Grand Cayman is popular for being the culinary capital of the Caribbean.

Looking for more adventure?

Scuba diving is without a doubt the most popular activity in the Cayman Islands. That said, active travelers can enjoy the 200-year-old hiking trail known as Mastic Trail. Tourists can also explore the Crystal Caves be it as a family or as a couple.

For the kids, a bioluminescent tour and a trip to Stingray City or Starfish Point are exciting, fun-filled activities.

All in all, the Cayman Islands boasts a rich underwater life, along with beautiful beaches and enough adventure for the family. Occasionally, the island can feel like a big party, too, as the nightlife is quite lively.

What Makes Cayman Islands Unique?

Idyllic Beaches Everywhere

Beaches are tiny bits of paradise scattered throughout the world. Most are great, but only a few make it to the top. And the Cayman Islands has several of the best and most beloved around the world.

The Seven Mile Beach consistently voted as one of the world’s best beaches is a clear example of that fact.

Soft white sand and crystal clear waters are words you probably hear often. So, if you’re asking what sets Seven Mile Beach apart, think x3 of what powdery white sand and jaw-dropping water look like. Nothing is ever truly flawless in this world, but Seven Mile Beach comes pretty close to that.

If you’re after the same allure and appeal as Seven Mile Beach but without the crowds, Cayman Kai is perfect. Like its famed Seven Mile sibling, Cayman Kai offers white coral sand and beautiful turquoise waters. Only Cayman Kai is a better choice if you prefer a quiet retreat or a peaceful getaway.

North of Grand Cayman is another lively, strikingly gorgeous beach: Rum Point. But unlike the other two beaches mentioned, Rum Point isn’t just famous for swimming activities. It’s also because of Wreck Bar – one of the most popular bars in the Cayman Islands and the birthplace of the original frozen mudslide.

Then there’s Sandy Point and Owen Island, unspoiled beaches both found in Little Cayman. All in all, it’s clear why so many gravitate to the beaches in the Cayman Islands be it for water sports activities, time to spend with family, or to soak up sun and sand.

Perfect for a Relaxing Family Vacation

If you thought beaches, you’re not wrong. However, stunning coastlines are only one way to spend time as a family in the Cayman Islands.

For an exotic marine-life experience, Stingray City offers plenty of chances to feed, pet, and interact with dozens of stingrays. Note that this isn’t a city.

Stingray City is a shallow sandbar where dozens of stingrays greet tourists with their friendly fins. Don’t worry about their stingers either. Stingrays in Stingray City have grown so fond of tourists you can even hold them and give them a kiss.

Another exciting family-friendly activity in the Cayman Islands? Visiting the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. Orchid gardens, a butterfly garden, and hundreds of flora and fauna will surely keep kids in high spirits. The main highlight is being able to see the endangered Cayman blue iguana.

Next, you can do a bioluminescent tour aboard a kayak or electric-powered catamaran after exploring the botanical park. And just before your day ends, Camana Bay in Grand Cayman is the perfect place to unwind after all the adventure.

What’s to see in Camana Bay? Think of it as a large outdoor open-air plaza where tourists and locals come together to embrace the food, culture, and nightlife of the island. This family-friendly haven offers a great selection of restaurants & shops, a movie theater, and various cafes. Plus, the watering holes at Camana Bay also give kids a chance to play while the adults relax at a nearby café.

A World-Class Gastronomic Destination

A haven for foodies? Try culinary capital of the Caribbean. Fresh sea-to-table dishes are what the Cayman Islands are known for. Being the culinary capital, there’s no better place than being able to dine and experience fresher seafood.

And while the cuisine leans more towards fresh catches of the sea, it is by no means dull, boring, or bland. The Cayman Islands is also quite mixed in its culinary roots, offering English and African influences. There’s always going to be that Caribbean kick to it, but above all, it’s creative and unique.

There’s a meal to satisfy everyone at the Cayman Islands. And your gourmet options aren’t limited to just seafood either.

Bayside offers a mix of Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, and English cuisines. The Falls Steakhouse serves well… steak (obviously) but with a twist. Every entrée order comes with three veggie sides, one starch side, and six steak sauces. Plus, all entrees include one choice of beer, martini, or highball.

Then there’s Ragazzi, which serves excellent pizza and wine. Thai Orchid for a contemporary taste of Thai cuisine. Tukka West for seafood fusion food. Bacaro for Italian and…

You get the picture, right? The Cayman Islands overflows with quality restaurants to eat at. Plus, you don’t always have to spend it at luxury or fine dining restaurants either. You can easily find midrange and several budget-friendly restaurants around the island.

Each Cayman Island Has Something Unique to Offer

While Grand Cayman is a popular choice for many, there’s a reason why it’s called “Cayman Islands.” The other two, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, carry their own Caribbean appeal and charm.

Granted, Grand Cayman is home to the Seven Mile Beach. That includes luxury shopping districts, restaurants, cafes, and even art galleries. Being the largest among all three, it’s only fair that Grand Cayman offers the most variety.

However, Cayman Brac is where you’ll find a combination of laid-back vibes and adventure. Plus, it’s home to some of the best dive spots too.

Perhaps the biggest highlight of visiting Cayman Brac is being able to climb the natural limestone bluffs. And as soon as you’ve reached the highest point, you can make a jump for it for a full-on thrill-seeking experience.

As for its laid-back side, Cayman Brac’s natural beauty is what makes it perfect for taking a step back and enjoying the view. Additionally, you can also take the time to explore the caves around the island:

  • Bat Cave
  • Great Cave
  • Rebecca’s Cave

From Cayman Brac to Little Cayman, you get a mix of wildlife, diving, and secluded, unspoiled beaches. Not to mention, it’s the perfect island getaway for honeymooners. Beaches-wise, this is the place to be if you’re after uninterrupted peace and exclusive relaxation.

But if you’re not visiting Little Cayman for its quiet, tranquil beaches, you’ll still surely enjoy the Booby Pond Nature Reserve. What you’ll find here is 4,000+ red-footed boobies, along with several species of wetland and shore birds.

Lastly, diving at the Bloody Bay Wall Marine Park is by far one of the best dive sites in the Cayman Islands. If it’s not bird-watching you’re after and you prefer underwater adventure, you can’t miss this dive spot.

The best part about all these three islands? Their close proximity to each other makes it easy to island-hop from one island to the other. In fact, it only takes about 30 minutes to travel from Grand Cayman to Cayman Brac or Little Cayman.

365 Dive Sites to Choose From

“A different dive for every day!” That’s the kind of diving experience you’ll find in the Cayman Islands. And also, quite literally… 365 different dive sites.

If there’s one thing that the Cayman Islands is known for apart from its beaches, it’s diving and snorkeling. Not only will you find some of the best underwater views here, but also great underwater visibility. In these dive sites, there are colorful reefs, sunken ships, underwater tunnels & caves, and a ton of wildlife.

One of the best dive sites was mentioned in the previous section, Bloody Bay Wall. But that’s only skimming the surface, really. Those interested in wreck diving can check out the sunken ex–US Navy ship USS Kittiwake in the Grand Cayman.

South of Cayman Brac, you can visit Wilderness Wall where divers can dive several feet into a deep abyss. North of Grand Cayman is Tarpon Alley. As the name suggests, you’ll find a ton of tarpon here. If you’re lucky, you just might even get to see hammerhead sharks.

Babylon North Wall is another dive spot if you’re after a dive site with huge drops. In particular, the drops at Babylon North Wall are over 30.5 meters (100 feet). There’s also Orange Canyon known for its Elephant Ear Sponges and Eagle Ray Pass for its Spotted Eagle Rays.

Overall, there are too many dive sites to list in this guide alone. But at the same time, that’s exactly what makes visiting the Cayman Islands worthwhile.

Puerto Rico

Classic Caribbean charm meets beaches and nature is the best way to describe Puerto Rico. On the surface, the island is known for its rainforests, quiet beaches, vibrant nightlife, and great surf spots. However, there’s more to Puerto Rico than meets the eye.

After all, it was named the no.1 destination for family vacations in the Caribbean by US News. Plus, it also ranks no.2 when it comes to affordable Caribbean getaways.

The landscape that surrounds Puerto Rico is vast and awe-inspiring. This doesn’t only refer to its forests and jungles, by the way. There are caves, mountains, and bioluminescent bays. Not to mention, breathtaking waterfalls and historical, colorful towns.

And who can ever forget that one of the highlights of visiting Puerto Rico is none other than its iconic dish: lechon. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and chock full of spices to make your palate come alive.

Nature lovers, families, couples, and even solo travelers will love it in Puerto Rico. With so much to do and explore, Puerto Rico easily climbs to the top as one of the most visited destinations in the Caribbean. In fact, more than a million cruise ship passengers pass through the San Juan port every year. And with direct flights readily available from most major US cities, Puerto Rico is a tourist destination gem for many.

Being able to explore several natural wonders of the world in Puerto Rico makes it one of the best places to visit. And if you’re eager to know the specifics of what makes Puerto Rico worth visiting, all the details are found in the next section.

What Makes Puerto Rico Unique?

You’ll Never Get Bored With Puerto Rico’s Diverse Landscape

Hailed as the ‘Island of Enchantment,’ Puerto Rico has it all. Beaches, colonial towns, rainforests, old Spanish forts, jungles, waterfalls, and amazing food.

So, what exactly can you do in Puerto Rico? Plenty. You can explore the Guanica Dry Forest, one of the biggest dry forests in the world. Spend days exploring El Yunque, home to over 20 waterfalls, hiking trails, and thousands of wildlife species. Trek through the 3rd largest underground cave system in the world: Rio Camuy Caverns. And if that’s not enough, you still have several caves to explore:

  • Cueva Ventana
  • Cueva del Viento
  • Canon de Tanama

Next, you can take a grand tour around Old San Juan. This colonial town exudes a Spanish charm full of colorful architecture and cobblestone streets. Around the plaza, you’ll also find museums, art galleries, historical sites, gourmet restaurants, cafes, and more.

For history buffs, you can visit two 17th century Spanish forts as part of your itinerary:

  • Castillo San Cristobal
  • Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Once you’ve had your fill of history, there are still dozens of adrenaline-pumping activities to do around Puerto Rico. Wingsuit flying, waterfall climbing, and zip-lining are just some of the many available. Be sure to check out Toro Verde Adventure Park as well. Here, you’ll find one of the longest zip lines in the world plus beautiful panoramic views atop a mountain.

From historical landmarks and caves to waterfalls and massive rainforests, it truly is the Island of Enchantment.

Jaw-Dropping Beaches and Bioluminescent Bays

If jungles and outdoor hiking aren’t your thing, there are plenty of sandy shores and rich blue waters in Puerto Rico. Some of the best beaches are found in Puerto Rico. But many of the unspoiled nature and picturesque shores are in its neighboring islands: Vieques and Culebra.

Vieques is also where the famous black-sand beach (Playita Negra) is located. Other fabulous beaches to visit while in Vieques include La Chiva, Pata Prieta, Playa Esparanza, and Sun Bay.

For those looking for a beach-hopping adventure, head to the island Culebra. Both Culebra and Vieques are easily accessible via boat or plane.

Culebra will make you fall head over heels with the Caribbean. And there are 11 beaches for you to explore, unwind, and lounge in. One of the most popular is Flamenco beach. This beach paradise is truly made to impress. From its soft white sand and uber-rich blue waters to its entire beach landscape.

Zoni beach, also located in Culebra, is an enchanting space that calls to nature lovers the most. Other beaches worth visiting in Culebra include Brava beach, Luis Pena beach, Resaca beach, and Datiles beach.

Beaches aside, Puerto Rico also offers a unique experience for tourists. Kayaking or swimming in bioluminescent bays. The simplest way to describe bioluminescent waters? They glow a bright aqua blue when agitated.

So, even a quick paddle using your kayak or simply dipping your hands in a bioluminescent bay gives off a glowing blue effect. It’s one of the most amazing natural wonders in the world, and truly a sight not to be missed in Puerto Rico.

Additionally, there are only five of these bays in the world. And Puerto Rico is home to three of them.

It’s an All-Around Vacation

Are you the type who prefers to stay in the resort all day? Or are you looking for a more sun-kissed beach adventure? Perhaps you enjoy a vacation you can explore at your own pace?

Either way, that’s exactly the beauty of visiting Puerto Rico. It’s for the all-around traveler whether you’re vacationing purely for the sun and sand, for jungles and adventure, or for a quiet stay at the resort.

The best part? Puerto Rico’s hotels and resorts aren’t cramped or packed with tourists. Not only that, but it’s easy to get around, too, be it Uber, taxi, public transportation, or even if you wanted to rent a car.

Puerto Rico’s neighboring islands are also close by. So, if you wanted to do beach-hopping today and a lazy day the next day, it’s absolutely possible. Thanks to Puerto Rico’s convenience and easy navigation, this also makes it perfect for solo female travelers. Not to mention, families who want to spend time with their kids.

And did you know? Puerto Rico offers a host of accommodations, from budget hotels & hostels to luxury resorts. What’s more, finding cheap daily flights from major US cities to Puerto Rico is easy to do too.

Puerto Rican Cuisine Is out of This World

What exactly is Puerto Rican cuisine? Most might think it’s simply Caribbean. True – seafood in Puerto Rico is excellent. But local dishes and traditional recipes prove it’s not just fish, lobsters, and crabs.

Puerto Rican food is a dynamic mix of European, American, African, and Caribbean cuisines. As one can imagine, this mix brings about a unique flavor to many who visit the island. Mofongo, a standard local dish, is a mix of crunchy pork skin, fried plantains, and garlic.

Many who visit Puerto Rico for its culinary scene are also delighted after trying one of their most famed dishes: lechon. Also known as pernil, it takes nearly a full day to prepare. The traditional recipe uses oregano, black pepper, garlic, vinegar, and water. The lengthy part is when it’s left to roast over coals for several hours.

Despite a long preparation time, it’s worth the wait. Perfectly roasted lechon asado is juicy, tender meat on the inside and crispy skin on the outside.

In fact, an even better way to enjoy lechon asado just like how the locals do is with pique, or hot sauce. Puerto Rico has its own blend of chilis and spices, giving its famed pique a kick that goes well with almost every dish.

And for those who love seafood, a must-try local dish in Puerto Rico is aguacate relleno. It’s avocado generously stuffed with creamy garlic shrimps.

Don’t forget to grab a cup of Puerto Rican coffee while you’re there too. It’s said that Puerto Rico produces some of the highest quality coffee beans in the world. For sweet tooths, you can’t miss out on tembleque (coconut custard), flan (vanilla custard cake), and Arroz con dulce (rice pudding with cinnamon).

Which Is Better – Cayman Islands or Puerto Rico?

Both the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico have great beaches, excellent food, and are family-friendly. Plus, both have no shortage when it comes to accommodations whether you’re in need of a budget, midrange, or luxurious lodging.

So, here’s how you decide which is better:

If you seek more underwater adventure and plenty of beaches to explore, the Cayman Islands is the better option. Travelers looking for variety and more activities to do both on land and at sea will love Puerto Rico more.

Generally, the Cayman Islands is truly better for those who prefer spending their vacation mostly on the water. This doesn’t mean just snorkeling and diving. Think water sports activities and swimming in general.

The Cayman Islands fares slightly better when it comes to beaches. Puerto Rico also has magnificent beaches. However, it’s more of a combination of beautiful landscapes, mountains, caves, and beaches.

It’s worth noting, though, that you can do a lot of land adventures in the Cayman Islands pretty much in a day or two. After that, it’s either diving, snorkeling, or spending most of your time at the beach.

Puerto Rico is also slightly cheaper overall to visit. In addition, US citizens don’t need a passport to enter the island.

Overall, active travelers and outdoor enthusiasts will prefer Puerto Rico over the Cayman Islands.

Hardly will you run out of things to do and places to explore in Puerto Rico. Even after you’ve explored most of its neighboring islands, you still have caves, rainforests, bioluminescent bays, and more.

Food-wise, you can’t go wrong with either destination. Both are culinary gems any traveler would enjoy. As for honeymoons, the Cayman Islands is a better choice. If you’re traveling with kids, it depends on what they prefer most.

If it’s water sports activities and snorkeling, the Cayman Islands without a doubt. But if it’s things like underground caves, jungle wildlife, nature, and adventure parks, Puerto Rico takes the cake.