Cayman Islands: Hawksbill Turtle
Hawksbill turtles are common dive partners in the Cayman Islands.
A scuba rite of passage, the Cayman Islands offers a lot in terms of shore diving and experiences well suited to the newly minted diver. Beyond that, there’s a reason so many Cayman instructors are lifers — the walls, wildlife and tec resources consistently deliver. Topside, it’s sophisticated, sating even the most refined tastes: on the plate, in the glass and at the shops.
For the Wall Diver
The topography is pure drama: sheer walls, narrow swim-through sand-chute canyons, grottoes, overhangs and more. Add to that the adrenaline of good timing — perhaps delivering a chance encounter with a passing hammerhead, ray or other pelagic cruising the open blue. These sites are typically advanced, but beginners aren’t excluded so long as they eagle-eye their depth gauge; the ridiculously clear water deceives, leading divers to think the water is shallower than it is.
For the Continuing Education Diver
Pack your curiosity: There are few better places to bag new underwater skills. Several onisland photo pros can help get you started, or show you how to adapt your technique, whether shooting macro or wide-angle, or capturing behavior. The 2011-sunk USS Kittiwake — a 251-foot-long submarine-rescue vehicle — is an asset for those looking to learn penetration skills. Tec divers and those wishing to join their ranks will appreciate affordably priced blended gases, and the availability of toys like rebreathers and scooters.
For the Beach Lover
Technically, Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach is only 5.5 miles — but that’s still a lot of oceanfront real estate, home to shore dives, parasailing operators and packed-around-the-clock bars. Because it is such a wide stretch, sunbathers can spread out and avoid feeling crowded. On Grand Cayman’s Northside, Rum Point provides a show of kiteboarders (or try it yourself!); finish the day with a few frozen cocktails. On Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, expect solitude and serenity.
For the Night Owl
Luckily, Grand Cayman is popular enough among divers that afternoon dive trips are standard — a good thing for those who like night life. Don’t miss happy hour: The drink specials help offset the currency difference, and the sunsets will surely spark envy among your Facebook friends. Plus, at places like My Bar, Lone Star Bar & Grill, and Macabuca Oceanside Tiki Bar & Grill (especially on Monday nights for all-you-can-eat barbecue), you’re likely to strike up conversations with locals if you try even just a little bit.
For the Foodie
Those with adventurous appetites will appreciate the range of cultural influences on this island’s cuisine. For intimate ambience, try Calypso Grill, overlooking the North Sound, and order the lionfish ceviche if available. At the Ritz Carlton, Blue by Eric Ripert offers five tasting menus focusing mainly on local seafood; the Lightly Cooked experience features treats like rack of lamb for those preferring turf to surf. For many of the smaller, upscale establishments, reservations are recommended