As the plane banks steeply over Grand Cayman it delivers its calling card—a natural wonder. Down below is a 35-kilometre-long dipper of land, girdled by a zigzag of coral. No sooner do the wheels touch down than the overhead bins disgorge duffle bags loaded with sunscreen and diving gear.
You will see them everywhere—divers—suited up on the “dive-’til-you-drop” boat trips that motor away from Seven Mile Beach. Bragging of 365 dive sites, the Cayman Islands are not only one of the planet’s Top 5 diving hubs, but also claim to be the Caribbean birthplace of the recreational diving industry.
The reasons are obvious—Grand Cayman’s clean waters are due to its end-of-the-world location, and its deep wall diving occurs because these islands are actually mountaintops, ragged leftovers from some submerged chain.
Non-divers can also slake their lust for adventure with a bike ride past the turtle farm or a kite surf session at Barkers Beach. Or, join a nighttime bioluminescence kayak tour off Rum Point.
Get high—150 m high—on a parasail tour with your amour before you go for a sunset horseback ride along the beach. Cap that off with a carnivore’s candlelit dream, dished up under the stars at Ritz-Carlton’s oceanfront resto, 7 Prime Cuts & Sunsets.
Topping the family fun-o-meter is a boat trip out to Stingray City where several dozen Atlantic southern stingrays will glide their velvety bodies right up—and over—you. Next on the kid-friendly roster is a jaunt to the Cayman Turtle Farm, which has released some 31,000 turtles into the wild since its inception in the 1980s. This vast park has a breeding pond, a hatchery, touch tanks and other areas full of loggerheads, hawksbills and green sea turtles. New is its waterslide and impeccable beach area at Breaker’s Lagoon that allows you to swim up to glass walls and peer into a tank full of sharks. Nearby is the Cayman Motor Museum, home to an original 1966-era Batmobile, one dozen gleaming red Ferraris, Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spiders and more—way more.
Sun and sand are good, but they’re even better when you find them in a sleepy palm-fringed cove at Rum Point (the antithesis to the busy Seven Mile Beach). Order something frosty and loll away an entire day with a book in a hammock.
Sure, there were crocodiles and turtles galore when Christopher Columbus anchored here in 1503, but who—several centuries later—was William Eden and why did he build a slate-roofed “castle” at Pedro Point? Discover the people and this island’s democratic beginnings on a tour of Grand Cayman’s first national landmark, which has served as a courthouse, jail, plantation home and hotel.
Want a drastic change of scenery? Hop over to Little Cayman Island where 1,000 rock iguanas outnumber the resident population of 170 friendly folks. With a seriously laid-back vibe, the sport of choice is diving and frigate bird watching at Booby Pond Nature Reserve.