Grand Cayman is a gorgeous island with a lot to offer, including the famous Seven Mile Beach. Getting around any new town can be intimidating, but luckily, Georgetown has a public bus system that is quick, inexpensive, and easy to use. Below we'll explain.
We've been to Grand Cayman (the island, the city is Georgetown) many times over the years, and in addition to it's gorgeous beaches, great diving, and peaceful atmosphere, it also offers high prices on many things, including cabs and tours. If you know where you want to go through, such as Seven Mile Beach, Hell (mail a post card, leave, tell your friends), West Bay Beach, or maybe one of the great restaurants in town, you can be there as quick as any private car, and for only $2.50.
How to Ride Grand Cayman Public Busses
What the Buses Look Like
The first thing to know is that these aren't really buses like you might be picturing - they're vans. Seating up to 12-17 people (with jump-seats down), they come in different colors, but are plainly identified as they say, "PUBLIC BUS" across the top of the front and rear windows. The background color of the signage indicates the route of the bus (along with a numbered placard) - but more on that in a minute.
Where to Catch a Bus from Your Ship
Cruise ships don't dock in Grand Cayman, so you'll tender (take a small boat) and be dropped off at the cruise terminal. There are several parts of that terminal, but they're all in a space that is less than 500 feet across. Walking out of that complex you'll come up on Harbour Drive/Church Street, which is the "main drag" in that area. Right away, you'll start to see these busses. While you can flag down any of them and simply hop on (make sure you have cash though!), for your first time, I'd recommend walking to the Bus Depot, which is just a four minute/350 meter/1150 foot walk (according to Google) from the cruise terminal. You can just walk east (inland) from the terminal and look for the signs. If you have any doubt, just ask - all the locals know where it is.
Which Bus to Get On
There are a number of bus routes on Grand Cayman, but the good news for cruise ship guests is that two (or perhaps three) of the routes cover the area you're likely to be visiting (along the NW side of the island). These routes, 1 (yellow) and 2 (green) make a big loop and are nearly identical, though route 1 runs right along the beach. Route 3 (purple) also goes to the NE end of the island, but it takes a more inland route, which means it won't stop along Seven Mile Beach. You can see all the routes below, and depending on your plans, you may absolutely want to explore some other routes and parts of the island.
If you take my advise, and start at the Bus Depot, you can't go wrong. All the staff (including the drivers) are happy to help, and over the years we've found the extremely safe island to be full of warm and friendly folks. Paying attention fo the route matters a bit more on the way back, as route 3 (purple) goes back to the bus depot, but won't stop right by the cruise terminal, and by the end of your day, that extra four minute walk might matter more.
When wanting to head back to the ship (or anywhere else), you're not going to hunt for a station, but instead, just flag down a bus that's going your way (make sure they're heading the right direction to avoid taking a short bus tour) and hop on! If a bus is full, on the main routes, there are busses every couple of minutes - so don't stress! We told a few cabs to keep going when we were waiting once - it ended up costing us about three minutes, which is much better than the $15 they wanted to charge.
Get Off Wherever You Want
You can get off the bus wherever you'd like, so long as it's along that buses route - they won't deviate. When you're approaching the spot you'd like to get off, just let the driver know and they'll pull over in a safe spot.
If you're just wanting to stop at a nice beach, all the beaches (even in front of the Governor's house) are public - but not all have loungers, places to get drinks, etc. You can book a day pass with a local hotel, or head to a place like Royal Palm Beach Club where you can enjoy many amenities for free, or rent loungers and other things at a nominal cost.
Grand Cayman Bus Costs
Costs during the day vary from $2.50USD (CI$2) to $4.00 (CI$3.50), though some of the really long routes cost $6.00 (CI$5.00). Friday nights some routes do go up. You can pay the driver when you get on the bus, during the drive, or when getting off - they don't seem to have a preference.
Keep in mind that they only accept cash - though they're happy to take US dollars or Cayman Island dollars. Bring small bills, because they can only provide limited change, and it may not be in the currency you prefer.
Things to Keep in Mind
We love exploring without a set goal, but have some sort of plan. While they'll drop you off where you'd like, the bus can't stop "back there" when pass by something that looks neat. Also, realize that locals take these buses to work, school, shopping, etc - so they can (and do) fill up. When this happens it's easy to find another bus within a couple minutes but if you have a large group or a family you want to keep together, then a private car ot taxi may be the way to go. Finally, as we mentioned, Grand Cayman is a safe and friendly place, so ask the locals for tips, find new places, and enjoy the natural beauty, however you choose to cruise.