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To Hell and Back on a Bus

Updated on April 2, 2013

An Odd Name that Stuck

Upon disembarking from a cruise ship docked in the harbor of Georgetown, capital of the Cayman Islands,  passengers are greeted with a sign introducing Grand Cayman as the Haven of the Caribbean which is an apt description.

It is then somewhat surprising to then look at a map and discover, a few miles north of Georgetown a place named Hell

It is not uncommon for the original settlers of an area to come up with an odd, but very descriptive, name for their new settlement.  Over time, as the community grows and becomes more developed, civic and business groups, like Chambers of Commerce, usually lobby for a more conventional name to replace odd names.  After all, who wants to move to or do business in a place named Hell?

Sign on Georgetown dock Welcoming tourists to Grand Cayman the "Haven of the Caribbean"
Sign on Georgetown dock Welcoming tourists to Grand Cayman the "Haven of the Caribbean" | Source
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's Jewel of the Seas at anchor in Georgetown Harbor
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's Jewel of the Seas at anchor in Georgetown Harbor | Source
A Strange Name for a place located in the "Haven of the Caribbean"
A Strange Name for a place located in the "Haven of the Caribbean" | Source

I Wanted to Find the Story Behind the Community's Name

I first heard about the town of Hell from a table mate during dinner on the ship on which we were cruising.  Frank and his wife had visited Grand Cayman years before and he mentioned both Hell and a turtle farm. 

I was immediately intrigued, figuring that there must be a story associated with the naming of Hell.

Knowing that Grand Cayman was a British West Indian Island and that many of these islands had first been used a bases by buccaneers and pirates it was not surprising that a community would be named Hell


Buccaneers were private British sailors (and sailors of other nations as well) who made a living attacking Spanish shipping.  With Britain being almost constantly at war with Spain in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the British crown frequently issued Letters of Marque which allowed buccaneers to legally, as far as the British were concerned – the Spanish still considered them to be pirates,  attack Spanish shipping.  


Pirates, on the other hand, were those who had crossed the line and made their living attacking any ship that appeared to carry valuable cargo.

These were rough men who had no interest in maintaining a community's image so, in addition to names like Bloody Bay and Rum Point, it was no surprise to discover a place named Hell


I immediately began thinking about how to include a visit to Hell during our ship's scheduled ten hour stop in Georgetown on Grand Cayman Island.  There was a story here and I wanted to hear it.

Hell Turned Out to be Located not far From Where Our Ship Docked

As luck would have it, Hell, like Georgetown, is located on the west end of this approximately 22 mile long island and is only a few miles north of Georgetown. 

Better still, the municipal bus headquartered in Georgetown serves the entire island and the fare for most destinations is only U.S. $2.50. 

Finally, and best of all, Hell is just north of the Boatswain's Beach / Cayman Turtle Farm which both my wife and I planned to visit.

Views of the Old Hell Post Office

Sign on building in Hell
Sign on building in Hell | Source
Building in town of Hell, Grand Cayman Island
Building in town of Hell, Grand Cayman Island | Source
Building housing original Hell Post Office in town of Hell on Grand Cayman Island
Building housing original Hell Post Office in town of Hell on Grand Cayman Island | Source

The Name Comes from the Rock Formation and Not its Location

Hell is best described as a hamlet or a little unincorporated community.

It has its own post office and is thus the address for the surrounding community.

It's name comes not from it being a hellish place to live in the past or present but, rather from the large field of limestone behind the post office.

Formed and built up by the decayed shells and bones of ancient marine creatures and then, over eons, carved into a field of jagged shapes many of which look like fiery gray flames.

Looking over the field one can easily envision a fossilized section of the flames of the real Hell.

Upon arriving in Hell, one first notices a small red building with yellow lettering sitting in a small parking lot. The lettering on the building and on the signs in the parking lot welcome visitors to Hell and informs them that this is the original Hell Post Office.

Signage on the building also informs visitors that stamps can still be purchased here along with souvenirs.

However, business must be slow in Hell as a small sign on the door informs visitors that, effective March 18, 2008, the original Hell Post Office would no longer be open on Saturdays and we were visiting it on a Saturday.

A view of the rock formations that give Hell its name
A view of the rock formations that give Hell its name | Source
Platform behind the Old Hell Post Office for viewing the rocks
Platform behind the Old Hell Post Office for viewing the rocks | Source
Another view of the rock formations
Another view of the rock formations | Source
Official Hell Post Office
Official Hell Post Office | Source

Looking at the Rock Formation One can Easily See how Hell Got its Name

Just behind the parking lot are a couple of wooden platforms with which visitors can view the strange rock formations that give the place its name.

There is no charge to view the rock formations and I suspect the limestone field behind the building is public rather than private land.

It is also protected with no entering of the field allowed and definitely no removing of the rocks.

While the ban on physically entering the field is for preservation reasons, there is also a common sense safety reason in that the jagged, and often sharp, rocks offer ample opportunity for bodily damage ranging from cuts and sprains to broken bones or worse.

Hell is a Small Community

The bus dropped us off at the old Hell post office and given the vegetation, one could easily conclude that this and the rock field behind it was all there was to see in Hell.

However, going past the narrow row of trees on the far side of the parking lot, one comes to another parking lot in front of what is called the Official Post Office with three souvenir shops.

The official government Hell Post Office was closed but the three souvenir shops next to it were open and had stamps to sell to those wishing to mail, with a post mark from Hell, the post cards they purchased in the shops.

Like the Original Hell Post Office, the official Post Office has a place in the rear to view the rock formations.

Just beyond the Official Hell Post Office is the Club Inferno which is apparently only open at night.

Beyond the rock formation and its adjoining two post offices, club, souvenir shops and service station is a quiet little bedroom community of neat homes and no reference to Hell beyond the name of the street on which they are located.

The bus that brought us back from Hell - the Grand Cayman municipal bus system is made up of Toyota Minibuses
The bus that brought us back from Hell - the Grand Cayman municipal bus system is made up of Toyota Minibuses | Source

One Can See All of Hell in an Hour or Less

The buses run every fifteen minutes which is enough time to see the rocks and take a few pictures.

Or, for those who wish to browse the souvenir shops and take a stroll down Hell Rd. an hour in Hell is more than sufficient.

Location of Hell in Relation to Georgetown on Grand Cayman Island

A
Grand Cayman, Georgetown, Cayman Islands:
George Town, Cayman Islands

get directions

Georgetown, capital of the Cayman Islands

B
Hell Road, West Bay, Cayman Islands:
Hell Road, West Bay, Cayman Islands

get directions

Town of Hell, Grand Cayman Island

A Tour of Hell

Hell Road, Grand Cayman Island
Hell Road, Grand Cayman Island | Source
Hell Service Station
Hell Service Station | Source
Sign in Old Hell Post Office Parking Lot
Sign in Old Hell Post Office Parking Lot | Source
Picnic tables in back Old Hell Post Office
Picnic tables in back Old Hell Post Office | Source
Entrance to the rock viewing area
Entrance to the rock viewing area | Source
The Devil on the viewing platform
The Devil on the viewing platform | Source
Some of the rocks that gave Hell its name
Some of the rocks that gave Hell its name | Source
The Devil in the rocks
The Devil in the rocks | Source
Another view of the rocks with Sea Grapevine in corner
Another view of the rocks with Sea Grapevine in corner | Source
Sign in Parking Lot of Old Hell Post Office
Sign in Parking Lot of Old Hell Post Office | Source
Sign in parking lot of Official Hell Government Post Office
Sign in parking lot of Official Hell Government Post Office | Source
Close up of the rock formations in Hell
Close up of the rock formations in Hell | Source
More views of rock formations that make up Hell
More views of rock formations that make up Hell | Source
More views of Hell rock formations
More views of Hell rock formations | Source
Small souvenir shops next to Official Government Hell Post Office
Small souvenir shops next to Official Government Hell Post Office | Source
Another view of the small souvenir shops next to Post Office in Hell
Another view of the small souvenir shops next to Post Office in Hell | Source
Hell's Club Inferno
Hell's Club Inferno | Source
My wife at entrance to Club Inferno in town of Hell, Grand Cayman Island
My wife at entrance to Club Inferno in town of Hell, Grand Cayman Island | Source
Hell's Club Inferno
Hell's Club Inferno | Source
Looking Down Hell Rd in Hell, Grand Cayman Island
Looking Down Hell Rd in Hell, Grand Cayman Island | Source
A white egret on a resident's lawn in Hell, Grand Cayman Island
A white egret on a resident's lawn in Hell, Grand Cayman Island | Source
Souvenir Tee Shirt from Hell
Souvenir Tee Shirt from Hell | Source

Comments

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    • gramarye profile image

      gramarye 

      8 years ago from Adelaide - Australia

      Love this story - thanks Chuck, I'll put Hell on my list of places yo visit!

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      HubCrafter - thanks for the comment.

      That's quite a story you told. You must have some family.

      As for the trip to Hell, my wife Bella and I took that bus ride alone. Our dinner table companions on the ship told us about Hell, but they had been there on a previous visit to Grand Cayman so they went off together to explore other parts of the island while we took the bus to the Turtle Farm and Hell.

      By the way, the picture you referred to was my profile picture which was taken on a previous trip to a different place. If you look at it closely, you will notice that I do have all my hair and that white spot is the sun reflecting off of it. As I have to keep reminding my children, it is my birth certificate, not me that is aging.

      Thanks again. I appreciated your story.

      Chuck

    • HubCrafter profile image

      HubCrafter 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Hi Chuck:

      I've got some relatives that must have been on the same trip with you. Hawaiian shirts, white knobby knees and red rouge cheeks? Married to two white-haired men with dark sunglasses... a crop of skin that starts at the forehead and meets their neck at the sunburn line?

      A couple of dips short of a swimmin hole? Yup. That's my gene pool.

      Linda and I saw the folks at New Years. They said the Ball almost hit them at midnight.

      It was quite a story. A long time later, my aunt explained... she stepped on a piece of glass and she called Onstar for emergency services. Her Cadillac called back to say it wasn't a real emergency. That's what she really meant when she said her Caddy turned into a pumpkin. Folks came running out of the ballroom when she hollered. Some older man tripped over her, lying there in splintered agony.

      They made up. She called him her prince charming.

      My uncle checked my aunt for prints... to see if the man was wanted.

      Anyway. They are the ones who claim to have gone to Hell and back.

      Hope you didn't meet them. My insurance agent did. Guess he's not as Progressive as the rest of the company. Linda got mad. We needed to check our rates anyway.

      Now we're in Good Hands. And we promised not to introduce him to the relatives.

      HubCrafter

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Chuck, You took a lot of great pictures. The last time we went to the Cayman Islands we took the tour and went to Hell. We were curious and the rock formation were interesting, but going to Hell once is enough.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      A great article Chuck, I have also be to Georgetown but but never hell. I think there is a place in Cayman to climb this waterful the slide down it into a pool. I was fun. Thanks

    • hafeezrm profile image

      hafeezrm 

      8 years ago from Pakistan

      This is a nice investigating reporting. Thanks Chuck for sharing your findings.

    • profile image

      drbj00 

      8 years ago

      I've had the pleasure of visiting Hell, too. Very accurate and picturesque description, Chuck. Enjoyed it.

    • Carol the Writer profile image

      Carolyn Blacknall 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Sounds unique. Amazing how few people leave the tourist places and try something different.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      I wouldn't mind a short visit to Hell! Nice job as usual.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      8 years ago

      Interesting hub, Chuck. I've been to Georgetown, but never Hell!

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