The three Cayman Islands lie just west of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea. Most of the 56,000 inhabitants live on Grand Cayman, where ramshackle housing developments and an untidy jumble of electric lines blight the capital, George Town.
The major tourist resort is Seven Mile Beach, lined with a continuous row of beach bars and multi-story hotels. When several cruise ships come into harbor together, disgorging thousands of passengers, it is time to flee to the quiet outer beaches or the two smaller islands of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.
All three islands may be well known as tax-free, financial hideaways but there are very few conspicuous displays of wealth and daily life seems focused on the simpler things in life. Given the Caribbean attractions of sun, sea and sand, it comes as no surprise to learn that 18,000 people, or half the working population, actually work in the tourism sector.
T-shirts, shorts and beach sandals are an egalitarian costume for rich and poor alike. Days are spent swimming, snorkeling and diving, or just relaxing by the pool, while evenings start with a drink or two at a beach bar watching the sun go down. I pass my nights with leisurely meals at one of the many restaurants, before retiring to a beach bar where laid-back divers from all over the world talk shop, philosophy and nonsense until the early hours.
The chief appeal for non-cruise visitors is the coral reefs starting close to shore amid clear waters that result from the lack of rivers bringing sediment off the land. With visibility down to 30 meters or more, and the variety among the three different islands, you have one of the world’s top dive destinations. The tourist board claims there is a different dive for each day of the year and who is going to start an argument about that – or anything else – in the laidback Caribbean?
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