First Non-Stop Flight From LAX To The Cayman Islands Arrives

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Californians don’t go to the Caribbean. Sure, some do—but why do millions of Californians tend to face west towards Hawaii instead of east when they seek sultry tropical sunsets?

The short answer is that geography has been destiny. Going to Maui, Oahu or the Big Island is just a five-hour non-stop flight from Oakland, SFO or LAX. But to visit the Caribbean, Californians have to fly to New York or Miami for a layover or a stayover. Then they need to wait for another flight to their chosen Caribbean destination. A full day of travel each way can kill a week’s vacation.

That is, until now. The game-changer is a new non-stop flight from Los Angeles to the Cayman Islands. Cayman Airways launched non-stop service from LAX to Grand Cayman on November 6. The new service has also been described as the first nonstop from California to the Caribbean. “You can see the sun rise in Los Angeles and see it set in Grand Cayman.”

The distance is less than one might think. The new nonstop flight cuts across Mexico and the Gulf to Grand Cayman, covering 2,481 mi. By contrast, the distance from Los Angeles to Honolulu is 2,560 miles.

Cayman Airways will be flying the route on a weekly basis. The airline has a fleet of four Boeing 737-800 aircraft, each with 144 coach-class and 16 business class seats. “It’s closer and quicker than Hawaii,” Paul Tibbetts, executive vice president of Cayman Airways, told me.

Cayman Air round trip coach fares will initially range from around $400 to $600. The all-leather, all power wider seats in business class fares will cost from $800 and up. Wherever you sit, Tibbetts added, there will be free “Rum punch for all!”

Cayman Air is also working with Expedia to help travelers put together packages. The Caymans have a number of five-star hotels as well as villas and other accommodations. The hotels include the Kimpton Seafire, Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort, Hampon by Hilton Grand Cayman and the Hyatt Regency.

A British overseas territory, the Cayman Islands are about 500 miles south of Miami, 180 miles south of Cuba, and 195 miles northwest of Jamaica. The islands have an average temperature range from about 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The population is about 68,000.

The Caymans were ‘discovered’ by Christopher Columbus on his fourth trip to the New World in 1503. He named them Las Tortugas after the area’s many sea turtles, which were avidly hunted to feed sailors.

Yet by 1530, the islands were referred by the name Caymans, after the Carib Indian word for the marine crocodile that was reported to frequent the seas. Sir Francis Drake and his fleet of 23 ships visited the islands on his 1585-86 voyage. He reported seeing "great serpents called Caymanas, like large lizards, which are edible."

The great lizards may be gone, but the turquoise, warm ocean remains, teeming with marine life. Boat and snorkeling tours are one of the most popular activities at spots like Starfish Point, Stingray City and Coral Garden.

At Stingray City, visitors can actually swim with the giant sea creatures. The water is warm and clear, and the sunsets are spectacular, as I recall from a visit years ago.

Golf, shopping, and rum tasting tours are among onshore activities available to travelers. The Caymans are also noted for fine dining.

In addition to “the best snorkeling int the world,” spokespeople extolled the friendly people of the Caymans. One plugged, “Our beautiful women and drinks that make you tingle.”

In addition to tourism, Cayman authorities are optimistic the new flights will bring additional business revenue. The islands are already a financial center for offshore banking.

Tourism and business interests are interested in increasing revenue from Hollywood, such as films, TV shows, commercials, and music videos.

Several recent films were shot there, including a comedy called Blue Iguana, Bob Saget’s last film. At the launch event, the Hon. Kenneth Bryan, Minister for Tourism & Transport announced that the Caymans will be offering production incentives for filmmakers in 2023. There may also be special airfare rates for location scouts and producers. “In the Cayman Islands, we believe in red carpet, not red tape.”

Bryan pretty clearly understands the Cayman’s competition for Californians. He threw the gauntlet down, inviting the crowd at the launch event to enjoy “shorter flights with better beaches and better people than your favorite spot in Hawaii. Come and have the time of your life.”

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