1074 the Caribbean, the bahamas, and bermuda
i g u a n a s , S t i n g r a y s , a n d B l o o d y B a y Wa l l
ayman, a mostly flat British Crown Colony that consists of Grand Cayman,
Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac, sits atop an ancient undersea mountain
chain. On the surface, the translucent turquoise waters are serene, but just
below you’ll find dramatic walls and drop-offs Grand Cayman’s famous Seven Mile Beach
only feet from shore, like an underwater Grand on the west side of the island is a gorgeous
Canyon. It’s one of the world’s best dive sites, stretch of white sand lined with condos and
with an astonishing diversity of underwater life plush resorts. With swimming-pool calm
residing among coral-encrusted reefs and waters, it’s the perfect beach for nonswimmers.
walls. The finest site in the area, though, is the The most luxurious accommodations can
6,000-foot plunging coral garden known since be found at the family-friendly Ritz-Carlton
pirate days as Bloody Bay Wall, off Little Grand Cayman—kids can learn about reef
Cayman’s north shore. Snorkelers can experi- protection through Jean-Michel Cousteau’s
ence the top of the wall, and divers who go deep Ambassadors of the Environment program
can explore the gorge, which teems with sea while parents indulge in the pleasures of a
fans, anemones, and tropical fish. Greg Norman–designed golf course and a La
Twelve-square-mile Little Cayman is rela- Prairie spa. Blue by Eric Ripert (chef of
tively undeveloped and reigns popular among Manhattan’s Le Bernardin; see p. 848) serves
naturalists. Iguanas far outnumber the 100 caught-that-day yellowfin tuna and seafood
full-time human residents, and a colony of specialties. Go in January to meet Ripert (and
20,000 red-footed boobies populates the some fellow celebrity chefs), who hosts the
Caribbean’s largest bird sanctuary. Little Cayman Cookout, a celebration of Cayman and
Cayman is also famous for Texas-born Gladys global cuisine on the beach.
Howard—a student of Julia Child’s—who When the sun goes down, Seven Mile
caters to guests’ every diving and dining need Beach is where you want to be. The Reef Grill
at her beachside inn, Pirate’s Point Resort. is fun and casual, serving fresh local seafood
She also offers a custom-built dive boat with a prepared with an innovative twist. Drift over to
staff of experienced instructors. the cozy lounge when the soca and calypso
Grand Cayman is larger (though still just 22 music start to heat up the night.
by 8 miles) and more cosmopolitan. And while Visitor info: www.caymanislands.ky.
tourism is more developed here, it’s still wel- pirate’s point: Tel 345-948-1010; www
comingly mellow. Offshore attractions include .piratespointresort.com. Cost: $500, inclusive;
diving (over 100 sites) and Stingray City, a spot diving extra. ritz-carlton: Tel 800-542-
where throngs of sociable large-winged marine 8680 or 345-943-9000; www.ritzcarlton.com.
creatures eat from your hand (the famous Cost: from $299 (off-peak), from $569 (peak);
“stingray kiss”). Even though it’s a 25-minute prix-fixe dinner at Blue $110. reef Grill:
boat ride from shore, the transparent waters are Tel 345-945-6360; www.reefgrill.com. Cost:
shallow—3 to 12 feet—and perfect for both dinner $50. Best tiMes: early May for
divers and snorkelers. Carnival Batabano; Dec for Jazz Fest.