Destinations: Cayman Islands
This trio of islands offers a pleasingly relaxing pace, and undersea beauty that charms both novice and expert divers. Like three brilliant siblings, Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman each has its own character while sharing familial traits. A British Dependent Territory, the islands derive their names from Caiman, a genus of crocodile that used to roam this part of the Caribbean. Today, the trio is a hot vacation spot where you can land in the middle of the action on Grand Cayman or head to smaller, less-traveled islands for diving and bird-watching. About 480 miles south of Miami, Grand Cayman is the largest island at 76 square miles, and a noted banking center with more than 500 international banks represented, including nearly every one of the top 50 in the world. But most vacationers are here for the famous Seven Mile Beach (really only 5 1/2 miles long), with George Town, the capital and commercial center, at one end. Though luxurious hotels, condos and high-rises fill the oceanfront, the gorgeous wide beach has plenty of room to spread out. The rest of Grand Cayman can be toured easily. You can rent a scooter and cruise through George Town, or head to East End for more natural beauty and a glimpse of the island's original settlement. At the Pedro St. James Historic Site, you can tour a restored three-storey early 19th-century great house and outbuildings, with traditional 'grounds' planted with pineapple and banana. Grand Cayman's Q. E. II Botanic Park features areas like the Floral Colour Garden (flowering plants and shrubs, succulents and cacti arranged by color) and orchid and butterfly sections. If you want more waterfront seclusion than Seven Mile Beach, try the beaches at Smith Cove in the southwest or Old Man Bay in the north. Peace and Parrots For a little more peace and quiet, take a 45-minute flight to Cayman Brac ('Brac' is the Gaelic word for 'bluff'), about 90 miles northeast of Grand Cayman. Only about 1,000 residents live on the island, which is just 12 miles long and a mile wide with a distinctive limestone cliff rising to 140 feet on the eastern end. Divers find plenty to keep them busy, including the only dive-accessible Russian warship in the Western Hemisphere. Cayman Brac also is home to nearly 200 species of birds, including the endangered Cayman Brac parrot. For even more seclusion, take a launch to Little Cayman, just five miles from Cayman Brac. Fewer than 100 people live there year-round, and the bonefishing and diving are spectacular. There's little to do but curl up in a hammock or explore under the water, where more than 50 walls, wrecks and other dive sites teem with tropical fish and coral. Scuba, Scuba and More Scuba With underwater visibility up to 100 feet, the No. 1 sport in the Caymans is scuba diving, and Grand Cayman is an ideal place to take a lesson. With as many as 40 scuba outfitters, the island has plenty of experts available to share the delights of underwater exploration with adventurous students. Spectacular shipwrecks, vast coral reefs, dramatic walls and stunning drop-offs offer countless options to get wet. Veterans have their favorite spots, but nearly everyone is jazzed at the Great Wall just off North Cayman and the Bloody Bay Wall on Little Cayman. Novice divers can get certified or just take a day course at many of the resorts to certify them for shallow dives. For beginners, some resorts offer Snuba, a cross between scuba diving and snorkeling: You're tied to an inflatable raft that holds your oxygen tank so you can experience shallow scuba diving without certification. For easy snorkeling, try the famous Stingray City in North Sound, where you usually can find from 30 to 50 rays in just 12 feet of water. You can hold and feed the rays in water as shallow as 3 feet on a sandbar just a half-mile from the shore. Eden Rock and Devils Grotto are two other popular snorkeling sites. Above the water, visitors enjoy the Cayman Turtle Farm on West Bay Road, home to more than 16,000 endangered green sea turtles that are raised both for their edible turtle meat and to be released into the Caribbean. A Dash of Sophistication Both residents and visitors enjoy the niceties in life, and the Cultural foundation provides many outlets. The Harquail Theatre is home to many theatrical productions. Every April, Cayfest, the Cayman Islands Arts Festival, showcases dance, theatrical performances, crafts, art exhibitions, photography, song-writing and short story competitions on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. Grand Cayman is a busy cruise port, so there's plenty of duty-free shopping. Boutiques offer a range of items, from fine European fashions to artisan crafts such as the renowned Caymanite jewelry. You'll also find wood carvings, Caymanian-style birdhouses, pepper sauces, tropical fruit jams, honey and an interesting selection of antique and treasure coin jewelry. Dining can be a grand affair, you'll find everything from five-star dining to fried fish. Look for local restaurants serving conch, lobster, grouper and jerk chicken - it's often inexpensive and delicious, and served with plantains, breadfruit, yams, cassava, peas 'n' rice and other West Indian side dishes. Nightlive Discos. Live Music. Nightclubs. Dinner/Dances. Cinemas. Theaters. Comedy Club. Café. Occasionally gospel concerts & concerts by top reggae, country & rock bands. Airlines Air Canada. American Airlines. Cayman Airways. Delta. Island Air. JetBlue. Rollins Air. United. US Airways. WestJet. Airports: Owen Roberts International Airport (GCM) serves Grand Cayman. Charles Kirkconnell International Airport is on Cayman Brac. Edward Bodden Airstrip is on Little Cayman. Little Cayman has no customs or immigration, so no international flights stop there. Entry Requirements In order to ensure that you have a hassle free experience when passing through our borders, please have the following forms completed on your arrival; immigration card (will be provided by airline staff), proof of identification, and customs declaration card (will be provided by airline staff). American citizens entering the Cayman Islands will require a valid passport. Canadian citizens Do Not Require passports, but must present proof of Citizenship. Cruise passengers entering the Cayman Islands are not required to have a Visa. Activities Grand Cayman white sand beaches; dive and snorkel sites; Marine trips; Atlantis Submarine; SeaWorld Explorer Semi-Submarine; Nautilus Semi-Submersible Submarine; Jolly Roger cruise excursions; Turtle Farm; Conch Shell House; Hell in West Bay; Blow Holes in East End; National Museum; Stingray City (snorkeling or diving) dept 4 to 12 ft; Tortuga Rum Factory; Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park; Mastic Trail; Pedro St. James; Rum Point; Cayman Islands Brewery; Yacht Club; Blue Tip, Britannia Golf Course and the North Sound Golf Club courses. Cayman Brac - Bluff; Caves; Honeymoon Cottage; Museum; NIM Things; Parrot Reserve; M/V Capt. Keith Tibbetts (diving or snorkeling site); Brac Nature Trails. Little Cayman - Booby Pond Nature Reserve; Museum; National Trust House and Bird Sanctuary; Owen Island; Point O' Sand Beach; Salt Rocks Dock; Tarpon Lake; Bloody Bay Wall and Jackson Marine Parks (diving and snorkeling sites). Marriage Requirements A special license may be granted by the Governor for non-resident couples. Proof of identity, a passport or birth certificate, the Cayman Islands embarkation/disembarkation cards are required. Also certified copies or original divorce decrees or death certificates if applicable. License Fees: CI$150.00 plus a $10.00 postage stamp (Stamp Duty) or US$200.00 or CI$160.00.
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