Cayman Islands . . Three times as nice . . .
The Cayman Islands is more than just a dive centre. With great cuisine, wild wildlife, amazing landscapes and beaches to die for, you may not find time for the deep blue sea . . .
As value offers go, it’s hard to beat: three for the price of one. I’m talking about Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman (collectively known as the Cayman Islands) not this week’s special offer down the aisle of the local supermarket.
A vacation to Cayman usually follows the decision to go diving: the islands attract divers and snorkelers from around the world eager to go deep in search of the underworld paradise found off the shores of any of the three islands.
But before you dip your toe into the water, it’s worth knowing a little about the place. The islands were colonised from Jamaica by the British during the 18th and 19th centuries and today it remains with the administrative hands of the British. Lying half way between Cuba and Honduras and to the north-west of Jamaica, Caymans has also become a veritable safe house for treasures of a more prosaic kind when compared with the natural treasures on show: with no direct taxation, Cayman is a thriving offshore financial centre.
More than 40,000 companies are registered in the Cayman Islands, including almost 600 banks and trust companies; banking assets exceed $500 billion and a stock exchange was opened in 1997. It is little wonder then that Caymanians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world.
But these pretty sandy white blots in the azure expanse of the Caribbean Sea suffered a brutal battering recently when Hurricane Ivan came to visit. Nature’s unwelcome guest left the islands devastated, but they have shown remarkable resilience and have already made spectacular progress in their rebuilding programme. Already most, if not all, of the facilities are up and running and functioning just fine.
The main island of Grand Cayman is arguably the dive given that it has more than 250 dive sites and offers a variety that is unmatched anywhere in the Caribbean – or even the world. You’ll find sponges, corals in a dazzling kaleidoscope of colour, shallow reefs, fishes, deep walls, wrecks . . . and much more. Grand Cayman is also where you will find the world’s best 12-foot dive, the legendary Stingray city: a place where stingrays and yellow-tail snappers gather in large numbers.
Snorkelling, too, is an activity that should not be forsaken at the expense of dives. Snorkelers can see a fantastic array of tropical fishes, shallow wrecks and spectacular coral.
And if you don’t want to dive:
The diving is so breathtakingly spectacular on each of the three islands that it is easy to forget that the Caymans have a treasure chest of other stuff going on. Walking and hiking are big activities, or why not take the maritime heritage trail, a gentle drive around the three islands, routes that were developed especially to take in historical, educational and recreational sites of interest. There are 16 drives in all and each one was developed to show off the islands’ hidden side. For more information contact the Cayman Island Department of Tourism on +44 020 7491 6962 or visit the website at www. Caymanisland.ky/europe.
On Cayman Brac you will find jagged cliffs, caves and an abundance of flora and fauna that dominates the most easterly of the Cayman Islands. Brac, which means Bridge in Gaelic, is only 13 miles long by one mile wide. It is small, perhaps but big enough for bird, marine and reptile life.
Understandably, there are strict conservation laws governing Brac, especially as it serves as a stop-off point for the 200 species of birds on their seasonal migratory journey.
The best time for bird watching is between April and October when you’re likely to spot the endangered Cayman Brac Parrot; as well as up to 60 other species of bird.
Where to Stay
The Western Casuarina Resort is found on the exquisite Seven Mile Beach and has 343 luxury rooms, lush tropical gardens with waterfalls, and swim-up pool bar, 24-hour room service and luxury spa.
Plantana Condominiums are situated along the same stretch of beach as the Westin Resort and boast ocean view rooms with some non-smoking.
The Ritz-Carlton’s newly built 366 room hotel with condos, brings a touch of glamour to the already glamorous list of accommodation on the island. It has its own nine-hole golf course designed by Greg Norman, a health spa, five restaurants and a fitness centre.
Courtyard by Marriott Grand Cayman.
The 232 Ocean View and Island View guest rooms feature free high-speed internet access, refrigeration, satellite TV, coffee and tea service with either one King size bed or two double beds.
Wine & Dine
You are spoilt for choice here. Try the Westin Casuarina Resort’s restaurant for first class cuisine.
www. cafedelsol.ky Tel: +345 946-2233
Cafe Del Sol’s late hours make it a great alternative to the bar scene. Funky chairs, tables and couches occupy the ground floor where you can enjoy coffees, fruit smoothies, blended frappes, mega muffins, gourmet sandwiches and more than 10 types of cheesecake.
Chicken! Chicken! is a genuine Caribbean specialty house featuring delicious Caribbean wood roasted chicken, a wide variety of fresh vegetables and salads and homemade Caribbean style cornbread. Tel: +345 945 2290.
Language – English
Currency – Cayman Islands Dollar
. . . now visit The Cayman Islands
& Find Your Dream escape