The axiom that Cayman is a year-round outstanding vacation spot holds true when it comes to its wide range of festivities too. From culinary delights, pirate invasions, to Carnival-style celebrations, Cayman’s varied calendar holds something for everyone. And don’t miss KAABOO, an exciting new addition to the list bringing renowned names in music and comedy. Here are just some of Cayman’s not-to-miss annual highlights.
One of Cayman’s longest-running festivals, Taste of Cayman Food and Drink Festival is held every January and highlights Cayman’s vibrant culinary scene.
Now in its 31st year the festival, organised by The Cayman Islands Tourism Association, is held on Camana Bay’s Festival Green and offers an evening rich in great eats alongside a celebratory atmosphere.
“The festival is unique in that there is something for everyone, with more than 40 restaurants, bars and vendors offering everything from delicious ice-creams to grown-up cocktails, street food to gourmet masterpieces,” says Kirsty MacGeoch, communications manager for Taste of Cayman.
Alongside a selection of delicious fare, guests also enjoy live musical entertainment, cooking demonstrations, the ever-popular Amateur Chef Cook-Off and heavy cake competition, all capped-off with a stunning firework show.
“We are proud to create an event which brings the whole community together to celebrate our varied culinary offerings, which have earned Grand Cayman the title of the culinary capital of the Caribbean,” Kirsty adds.
Once a year in January, some of the world’s most renowned celebrity chefs gather in the Cayman Islands, courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
The week-long celebration features a dynamic calendar of sell-out culinary events, offering gourmands the opportunity to rub shoulders with food and drink experts while savouring dishes prepared by some of the world’s most celebrated chefs.
The four-day event includes a series of cooking demonstrations, exclusive tastings and dining events, local food tours, and unique epicurean adventures. In celebration of the spirit of the Caribbean, most events take place in scenic locations across Cayman’s many beaches.Image credit: Rebecca Davidson
“Cayman Cookout is truly an experience like no other in that guests experience a sense of camaraderie with the chefs,” says Maria Pineda, communications manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. “They’re right there next to you enjoying great food and drinks, chatting with friends, and attendees have the opportunity to interact with them in a casual and friendly setting.”
The roster for Cayman Cookout 2019 will feature host Eric Ripert accompanied by José Andrés, Andrew Zimmern, Emeril Lagasse, Yannick Alléno, Dominique Crenn, Amanda Cohen, Emma Bengtsson and Nancy Silverton. Events are individually ticketed.
Camana Bay and Slow Food South Sound team up to bring you Slow Food Day, an easygoing festival focused on the principles of Slow Food, a global organisation which promotes local food and traditional cooking.Bringing together local farmers and chefs alongside international talent, the event offers guests a delicious experience aimed at showcasing the richness of local produce. The event line-up includes the popular family orientated Farm-to-Table Tasting Market, the Harvest Dinner, an extravagant dinner held under the stars, in addition to a series of workshops and culinary demonstrations.
“Recognising and encouraging the use of local ingredients is good for just about everyone for many reasons,” says Alan Markoff, president of Slow Food South Sound. “It supports local farmers, so it’s good for them. It reduces the carbon footprint of the food we eat, so it’s good for the environment. Fresh produce is more nutritious; produce loses vitamins as it ages. Finally, fresh produce simply tastes better.”
Also, what’s a great meal without the chance to meet a few friends? Through events like the Harvest Dinner, which seats guests together across a series of elongated tables, Slow Food Day seeks to transform food back into a social experience.
“Historically, dining was an event where people sat around a table not just to eat, but to socialise as well,” Alan says.
Each year, the day features a different guest chef, with past guests including notable experts such as Clare Smyth, Edward Lee, Mike Lata, Jonathan Waxman, and Caymanian Jack Barwick.
Carnival traditions extend around the world, and the Cayman Islands is no exception. Since 1983, the streets have played host to Cayman Carnival Batabano during the first week of May.As the official national carnival of the Cayman Islands, Batabano aims to celebrate Cayman’s culture and heritage even as it adopts the traditions of others. In a nod to Cayman’s turtling past, the festival takes its name from the tracks made by sea turtles in the sand as they come ashore to lay their eggs.
The highlight of Batabano is the popular street parade, an event for which the entirety of West Bay Road, from Public Beach all the way to the shops of George Town, is closed-off to make way for a flurry of extravagantly costumed masquerade bands, dancers, and music trucks.
“This day is about the unity on the road,” says organiser Donna Myrie-Stephens. “It’s about everyone together in one joyous stream, all dancing to the same beat. About forgetting what bothers us and enjoying the euphoria of the carnival vibes.”
For 16 years, the island has also held Junior Batabano, which last year saw more than 450 students from both private and government schools participating.
The celebrations close out with The Last Lap, where participants dance until midnight along the streets of Cayman’s capital.
One of Cayman’s premier annual festivals, Pirates Week has stood the test of time. This swashbuckling festival recently celebrated its 40th year, offering an entertaining and fun-filled range of events for children and adults alike, spread across all three islands.Image credit: Wil Bignal
Held every November, guests don their best pirate garb and participate in a packed line-up of events including street parades, pageants, competitions, sporting events, food festivals, live musical entertainment, cultural demonstrations, fireworks, and a whole lot more.
One of the most eagerly anticipated events is the Landing Pageant, a mock pirate landing, featuring two colourful pirate galleons which sail into George Town Harbour. Pirates “invade” the town and take the Cayman Islands’ governor “hostage”.
“Over the 11-day celebration across the three islands, Pirates Week showcases the local districts with their unique charm and diversity, their people and traditions, as well as the Cayman Islands’ unique attractions, says Melanie McField, executive director of Pirates Week, “and with a variety of activities, it’s accessible to the entire family.”
Launching February 2019, KAABOO is topped to become one of Cayman’s biggest events and is sure to be a hit with residents and visitors alike.Descended from the annual festival of the same name held in Del Mar California, U.S., Cayman’s KAABOO continues the tradition of bringing a high-class, multifaceted experience with world-renowned musicians and more.
“Beyond a host of top-tier musical performances, KAABOO Cayman also promises to please guests with our Five Senses Under the Sun experience, which includes world-class contemporary artwork, internationally known comedians, delectable culinary offerings, and personal spa indulgences,” says Jason Felts, KAABOO’s chief brand officer.The Cayman Islands will create their own unique mark on this beloved event, set against the exhilarating backdrop of famed Seven Mile Beach. 2019 also sees the launch of KAABOO Discovers, an initiative where local musicians compete for a spot on the stage.
Featured musicians include The Chainsmokers, Duran Duran, Zedd, Blondie, Counting Crows, Flo Rida, Bryan Adams, Jason Derulo, Margo Price, and Los Lobos, while the comedy line-up consists of Alonzo Bodden, Darrell Hammond, David Spade, Jenny Slate, Natasha Leggero, Tom Green, and Wanda Sykes.