Discovery Day in the Cayman Islands is celebrated annually on the third Monday of May.  

This National public holiday recognises the discovery of the sister Islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman by Christopher Columbus on 10th May 1503, when his ship was blown of course during his fourth voyage to the Americas, causing them to sail past the uninhabited Islands.  It is believed that the Islands were likely seen prior to this but, by officially noting them and naming the islands Las Torgugas, after the abundance of turtles that were seen there, Columbus was subsequently given credit for discovering the Islands. 

Over time, the first settlers came to inhabit the Islands, some said to be pirates together with people who had been shipwrecked throughout the years and visitors who decided to stay. 

In the mid-16th Century, Las Torgugas became the Caymanas, named after the crocodiles that inhabited the Islands at that time.  Although crocodiles no longer occupy the Islands, they left a lasting impression with the original name for the three islands Caymanas, becoming the Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman).  

In 1670, the Islands became part of the British Colony of Jamaica.  When Jamaica was granted independence in 1962, the Cayman Islands chose to remain under British dependency and, remain so, to date.

Today, Discovery Day is observed as a public holiday when Caymanians come together to reflect on the history of the Islands, celebrating over 500 years of culture and tradition.

What better time to enjoy the true flavor of Cayman and embrace the history of Cayman’s Caribbean cuisine?  Click here to view our guide to Caribbean restaurants so you can make your reservation for this Discovery Day long weekend! 

Discovery Day also marks the Islands’ National Day of Preparedness to advise residents to prepare for the season ahead.

By Juliette Heath

Juliette Heath is a Caymanian foodie, weddings and events planner, and author of kids’ books.