Grand Cayman is one of the most prosperous islands in the region, thanks to its banking and other industries, but as with Bonaire, it’s the lure of world-class diving that attracts many of its visitors. The underwater terrain here is a mix of Bryce and Grand canyons, with enormous cliffs and dramatic spires, not to mention caves and arches, all covered with yellow, purple, and pink coral. The very names of the 200-plus dive sites tell you a lot about what lies beneath the sea: Japanese Gardens, Babylon Hanging Gardens, The Maze, Grouper Grotto and North Wall. There’s easily accessible shore diving, too, at Devil’s Grotto and Turtle Reef. And the most famous of Grand Cayman’s dive sites? That would be Stingray City. Just three to 12 ft. deep, it’s often named as the best shallow-water dive on the planet.
The best-known live-aboard boat in the Caymans is the Cayman Aggressor IV, but there are plenty of options for folks staying on land, which is (after all) what most people do. Ambassador Divers, Dive Tech, Ocean Frontiers, and Sunset Divers are just some of the many good dive operators here; Red Sail Sports has well-designed offerings for children as well as for adults.
Back on terra firma, the Caribbean Club, Pirates Point Resort, the Reef Resort and Southern Cross Club—on Little Cayman—offer luxurious facilities, excellent cuisine, and plenty of diversions. The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, lives up to its name with luxurious guestrooms, a menu that’s overseen by star chef Eric Ripert, a superb spa, superior children’s programs, tennis facilities overseen by Nick Bollettieri, and a golf course designed by a shark whom most divers never encounter: Greg Norman.
All this is a reminder, of course, that there’s plenty for non-divers to do on Grand Cayman. Pedro St. James Castle, built in the 1700s, evokes colonial life in its every detail; Pampered Ponies offers horseback riding along the beaches, Atlantis Submarine gives non-divers a good look at what the scuba crowd sees, and Stingray City is as easy to snorkel as it is to dive. But the most surprising attraction on Grand Cayman Island? The Cayman Motor Museum, with 80 or so exquisite antique and classic cars.
BEST TIME TO GO: November through May
FUN FACT: Grand Cayman Island ain’t just diving; Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is a must-see
GETTING THERE: Delta flies from Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis to Grand Cayman
ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport
CURRENCY: Cayman Islands dollar
MUST-TRY LOCAL FOOD: The blackened mahi-mahi sandwich with jerk mayo at Coconut Joe’s, on Seven Mile Beach
BEST BUYS: Artifacts in George Town sells authentic antique maps and Spanish pieces of eight