Cayman Islands

Part of an underwater mountain range that runs between Cuba and Belize, the Cayman Islands is comprised of three islands – Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. All are coral outcrops encircled by rich coral reefs and striking walls near the shoreline.

The largest island, Grand Cayman, is more commercially developed and has a more cosmopolitan feel to it. Nightlife, varied restaurants and outdoor excursions are plentiful. However, you can still carve out quiet time in the less developed east end of the island.

Upon seeing the Cayman Islands during his last voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus named them “Las Tortugas” because of the large number of turtles he noted. At the Cayman Turtle Farm, Cayman’s largest land-based attraction, you’ll appreciate Columbus’ naming choice. Home to over 16,000 sea turtles, this farm provides visitors a first hand look at these endangered species being successfully raised for preservation.

Stingray City remains a popular pastime for visitors to Grand Cayman. Snorkeling around and feeding these graceful creatures is most likely on everyone’s bucket list.

Lazing on one of Grand Cayman’s pristine beaches is always an option – particularly if it’s Seven Mile Beach. Often rated in the top most popular Caribbean beaches, its turquoise, crystal waters and white sand combined with coral reefs brimming with active marine life beckon snorkelers.

Regarded as one of the premier diving spots in the world, the Caymans offer an unparalleled experience, as these islands are actually tips of underwater mountains. Plunging more than 6,000 feet, Grand Cayman’s North Wall provides magnificent wall diving. You’re likely to spy sea turtles and spotted eagle rays here, too.

Don’t dive? You can still experience the wonder of the deep in the Atlantis submarine. A guided tour reveals coral, sponges, and ample marine life – and you won’t even get wet. You can also take a ride on the Nautilus, a semi-submersible sub. After gliding along the reef, your onboard diver attracts fish with food. Passengers can opt to snorkel among all their finned friends that show up to eat.

Above ground excursions are plentiful, too. Bargain hunters should tool around George Town for great duty-free shopping. For unique finds, look for the local artisans who set up shop around town.

Cayman Brac, the “middle” sister (at least in size), boasts rugged topography ideal for outdoor adventurers. On land, explore along extensive hiking trails, limestone caves, and distinctive sinkholes. In addition, birdwatchers can check more than 200 species off their list. Don’t miss what waits below, though. Wall dives, shallow diving, and wreck diving reveal boundless marine life.

The more than 2,000 rock iguanas that call Little Cayman home probably outnumber the island’s human residents. That makes this island perfect for couples and honeymooners who want to truly escape.

Divers should spend time in Bloody Bay Marine Park. Because the island isn’t as widely visited as others (no extensive fishing or diving), the ecosystem here really thrives. Also, Little Cayman is home to the Booby Pond Nature Preserve, where more than 20,000 Red Footed Boobies reside. (We challenge you to read that sentence without laughing.) Add to the above empty beaches, bike-able terrain, and incredibly friendly locals.

You’ll want to plan your trip around May, June, or July. Hotel rates drop then, so your money will go a bit further.

The Cayman Islands rank high on several “most visited” lists. It should top your list of places to visit as well. There’s so much to love about the Caymans. You can’t go wrong with a vacation here.