Sunset House, Grand Cayman
Put your reg in your mouth, close your eyes and click your fins twice. When you open your eyes you'll have been transported to Sunset House on Grand Cayman. Many divers eventually make their way to this venerable diver institution. It's been on the essential diver path since the beginnings of recreational diving. And there's a very good reason that the PADI Diving Society holds the annual Total Submersion event here. Everything about the place makes it not only easy, but also desirable to stay wet. There's an enticing reef just offshore of the resort with its very own mermaid; an island encircled by a wagon train of more than 220 renowned sites; and warm, clear and virtually current-free waters. It's almost impossible to resist the primal urge to don your gear and go exploring even before you've unpacked. I'm sure they'll even watch your bags at the top-notch on-site PADI 5-Star Gold Palm dive shop, Sunset Divers.
I personally make an annual pilgrimage to Sunset House. I feel instantly at home. The rooms are comfortable, and the ocean views are, as the advertisement says, priceless. Also, I'm a big advocate of exploring a place until I can begin to understand its essence. I like to overindulge in sites I've enjoyed on previous trips.
There's nary a bone of "been there, done that" in me. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I'm more of a "been there, that was cool, let's do it again" kind of traveler. On a recent trip, I visited Stingray City, Big Tunnel, Trinity Caves, Bonnie's Arch, Sandchute, Orange Canyon, the Oro Verde and a dozen sites in between. I've been to every site numerous times, but each time I explore them something new is revealed, which is the true magic of the Cayman Islands. And, the Mermaid dive off Sunset House holds the same embrace over me. I'm off for a visit almost as soon as I arrive at the resort.
For photographers, there's probably the most famous teacher of underwater photography on the planet, Cathy Church, right on the premises. And no reasonable diver enclave worth its salt would be without a world-class watering hole. Sunset House's My Bar has been featured in the annuls of dive journalism forever, and on Friday nights every mover and shaker on the island shows up to rub elbows, watch the sun set and eavesdrop on the constant flow of dive tales that fill the air.