Searching For Adventure On Grand Cayman’s Sister Islands
Most visitors to the Cayman Islands spend the majority of their time on Grand Cayman and make daytrips to Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. Though the smaller Caymans lack most of the conveniences and the luxurious surroundings of Grand Cayman, there is plenty to explore. If you are a scuba diver or outdoor enthusiast, you won’t be disappointed in what you find on the smaller islands. Tourists looking for relaxation will be greeted by peaceful beaches and incredible scenery. When you visit Grand Cayman, make sure you pay a visit to the rest of the family.
Deriving its name from the crocodile-like caymans Christopher Columbus thought he found upon his visit in 1503 (they were, in fact, iguanas) and the “brac” (Gaelic for “bluff”) that traverses the island’s center, Cayman Brac is the favorite day trip for visitors staying on Grand Cayman. Accommodations are hard to come by on this small island of 1,600 residents, but fun is never in short supply. Courtesy of the pristine natural beauty and some truly unique geography, Cayman Brac has come to be known as one of the world’s most distinctive scuba diving and rock climbing destinations.
Though Cayman Brac is just over 14 square miles, the waters surrounding the island are overflowing with excellent scuba and snorkel sites. Just a short boat ride from shore you will find Greenhouse Reef and Radar Reef, two sites with varying depths that can be enjoyed by divers of all skill levels. As depths at most of the coral reefs surrounding Cayman Brac are between 20 and 60 feet, snorkelers will also have no trouble seeing the sites in the crystal clear water. Though the reefs are certainly spectacular, adventurous divers from across the world come to Cayman Brac to experience the wall dives. Ranging in depth from 70 to 100 feet – with some walls extending much deeper – these sites offer an underwater experience unlike any other. Cayman Brac also boasts one of the most entertaining wreck dives in the Caribbean, the 330-foot Captain Keith Tibbetts that was intentionally sunk in 1996. In all, there are more than 70 distinct dive sites surrounding Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
In recent years, rock climbing has begun competing with diving for the interest of Cayman Brac’s visitors. Starting at the western shore, the bluff that gave Cayman Brac its name rises gradually from sea level to an imposing 140-foot rock wall at the eastern shore. To date, seven major sections of the bluff’s eastern end have been bolted for climbers. In many cases, these climbs must be reached by traversing picturesque trails with excellent views of the Caribbean or by repelling down the bluff to sea level. Climbers should try to visit the Wave Wall – a climb that begins amongst crashing waves and ascends the overhanging bluff – and Dixon’s Wall – a site that is reached by cutting through the backyard of one of Cayman Brac’s most interesting and knowledge inhabitants.
If climbing and diving don’t strike your fancy, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy Cayman Brac’s unspoiled environment. Hiking trails wind throughout the island – especially along the central bluff – and most can be traversed by inexperienced hikers. Along the way, you can observe an incredible diversity of plant and animal life and explore some of the caves that many believe were used by pirates as hideouts and safe keeping for stolen treasure. To complete your visit to Cayman Brac, take a ride to “the end of the road” and admire the dramatic rock walls and pounding surf at the island’s southeastern point.
Five miles to the west of Cayman Brac, a mere 100 inhabitants quietly reside on one of the most peaceful islands in the Caribbean. What Little Cayman lacks in activities, it more than makes up for in pristine, white sand. As a result, the most popular site on Little Cayman is Point ‘o Sand Beach – an expansive stretch of sand known as one of the best beaches in the Cayman Islands. One of the most popular methods of reaching Little Cayman is by charter boat from Cayman Brac. Landing right at Point o’ Sand, these boat trips typically provide lunch and snorkeling equipment. Scuba enthusiasts should definitely visit Little Cayman’s famous Bloody Bay Wall, a shallow reef that drops off sharply into colorful world of sponges, sea anemones, turtles and tropical fish.
While Little Cayman is best visited by boat, Cayman Brac must first be reached by air as the smaller Caymans are located approximately 90 miles east of Grand Cayman. However, these short and affordable flights – typically only 15-45 minutes depending on the type of aircraft – depart four times a day from Grand Cayman. In the evening, it is just as simple to catch a return flight back to your resort on Grand Cayman.