The only parasailing in the Cayman Islands is offered along Seven Mile Beach. Soaring high above the waves can be thrilling. Prices for parasailing average about $45.
Abank’s Watersports & Tours, Ltd. . s 345-9451444
Aqua Delights………………………………….. s 345-945-4786
Kirk Sea Tours and Watersports… s 345-9497278
Parasailing Professionals………. s 345-916-2953
Red Sail Sports…………………….. s 345-949-8745
Honey Suckle Trail Beach Rides (s 345-947-7324 or 916-5420), offers rides for both experienced and
new riders with special attention given to children. Both western and English saddles are available, as are a variety of horses from thoroughbred to quarter horse. Guided trail rides and sunset rides are popular.
Experienced and new riders can enjoy beach rides with Pampered Ponies (s 345-945-2262 or 916-2540, fax 345949-8813, www. ponies. ky). The operator offers early morning as well as romantic sunset beach rides. Moonlight excursions are especially popular, and private trips are also available.
Horseback in Paradise with Nicki, (s 345-916-3530 or 945-5839) offers guided 90-minute trips along quiet trails, in groups of no more than four. No children under 12 are accepted; transportation to the departure site is included.
Although George Town may be the capital city, it is by no means just a business center: here it’s just as appropriate to don a mask and tank as a three piece suit. The waters off George Town are protected as a marine park and boast numerous dive sites. For a complete list of dive operators on Grand Cayman, see Where Are the Adventures?, page 89.
Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto: Eden Rock Dive Shop on South Church Road is the entry point for one of George Town’s most popular dive sites. Eden Rock and the Devil’s Grotto, located about 150 yards from the shore, are shallow dives but unique. Both are labyrinths of grottos running out from the shore. Eden Rock is popular not only with divers but also with snorkelers who enjoy the easy entrance and a view of the tunnels and often large tarpon. Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto have a depth of 30-50 feet.
Parrot’s Reef: Parrot’s Reef and, beyond that, Sunset Reef, are dive sites filled with marine life. They are just yards from shore. Parrot’s Reef has a depth of 30-60 feet.
The Wreck of the Balboa: The hurricane of 1932 accounted for the wreck of this freighter, which today lies 25 to 40 feet below the surface. Some of the ship remains intact, but other parts were blown away to clear the traffic channel. This is a popular night dive because of the depth (and because this site sits right in the George Town Harbour waterway, which is busy during the day). Rich with marine life from corals to sponges to brilliant parrotfish, this is one of Grand Cayman’s top dive sites.
Soto’s Reef: This reef lies just offshore from the Lobster Pot (see Where to Eat, page 160). Ranging in depth from five to 35 feet, the reef is dotted with coral formations.
The Black Forest: Beautiful black coral and waving gorgonians make this site indeed seem like the Black Forest. Located at 60 to 100 feet, this wall dive is just off the island’s southwest point, but isn’t accessible as a shore dive.
Smiths Cove: Although often considered a snorkel site, Smiths Cove (off South Church Street just south of George Town) is an easy shore dive as well. The reef starts just a few feet from the surface and divers can also explore the West Wall from this location.
Wreck of the Cali: Located in just over 20 feet of water about 100 feet offshore, the Cali is a shallow dive recommended for beginners. Experienced divers can save the Cali for departure day, when they can’t scuba dive; the site offers a great snorkel experience and is a good way to finish off your Cayman vacation.
If you’d like to introduce your children to the joys of scuba diving, you might give SASY (Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youths) a try. This program, operated by Red Sail Sports, was developed by a Cayman father for his children. It allows young divers to breath from a continuous air supply and has buoyancy compensator to keep children floating safely near the surface. For more about this program, see page 124. Units are available for use at Red Sail Sports (www. redsail. com) locations at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman (s 345-949-8745), Westin Casuarina Resort (s 345-949-8732), and Marriott Grand Cayman (s 345949-6343).
INTERNATIONAL SCUBA DIVING
HALL OF FAME
In March 2000, the Cayman Islands established the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame with 19 inductees who have made a significant contribution to the world of recreational scuba diving. The Hall of Fame is temporarily located in the Port Complex in George Town and is a member of the International Association of Sports Museums and Halls of Fame.
■ Lloyd Bridges (US): star of the television show Sea Hunt and responsible for introducing many viewers to the world of scuba diving.
■ Jacques-Yves Cousteau (France): the best – known aquatic explorer in the world, Cousteau co-invented the aqualung and served as a television personality and expert on the world of marine life.
■ Ben Cropp (Australia): following his career as a spearfisherman, Cropp went on to work in the film industry and was known for his shark hunting. He later became an underwater cameraman, director, and producer.
■ E. R. Cross (US): compiled the world’s first scuba diving safety training manual for sport divers.
■ Dr. Jefferson C. Davis, Jr. (US): one of the pioneers of dive medicine, Davis helped developed hyperbaric medicine and is known for the treatment of decompression sickness.
■ Gustav Della Valle (Italy): founder of ScubaPro, Della Valle introduced markets around the world to the equipment of scuba diving.
■ Sylvia Earle, PhD (US): recordholder for solo diving and the world’s deepest woman diver, Earle is also the author of Sea Change, a 1995 book.
■ Bernie Eaton (UK): publisher and editor-inchief of Diver, the UK publication with the largest circulation in the world of scuba diving.
■ Emile Gagnon (France): co-inventor of the aqualung with Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
■ AlGiddings (US): underwater director and cinematographer, Giddings has been awarded three Emmys.
■ Hans and Lotte Hass (Austria): With over 100 films on the submarine world, this pair have made contributions to the world of underwater photography, films, and science.
■ Jack Lavanchy (Switzerland): president of PADI Europe, Lavanchy popularized recre
ational scuba diving through Europe and North Africa.
■ Jack McKenney (Canada): one of the top underwater wildlife photographers and film producers, McKenney served as editor of Skin Diver.
■ Bob Soto (Cayman Islands): Soto brought recreational scuba diving to the Cayman Islands in 1957.
■ Ron and Valerie Taylor (Australia): first known for their spearfishing, the Taylors became known as filmmakers, working on films such as Jaws, Jaws II and The Blue Lagoon.
■ Al Tillman (US): founder ofthe National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI).
■ Stan Waterman (US): winner of five Emmy awards, Waterman is also known for his work in underwater films as director and producer.
Snorkelers will find a good spot just south of Smiths Cove Park, along South Church Street. This free park has good snorkeling along the rocks on its north side; covered picnic tables and plenty of shade make it a popular lunch site. Eden Rock is also frequented by snorkelers. Another favorite is Soto’s Reef, sometimes called Passion Reef. One of the top snorkel destinations is the wreck of the Cali (see above).
Brac Aquatics Ltd., s 800-544- BRAC, 345-948-1429. For over 20 years this operator has offered dives for all levels. Three dives are run daily with a 14-diver maximum. PADI and NAUI affiliated. There’s also a photo center with camera rentals, film processing, and video postproduction services.
Reef Divers, s 800-433-DIVE, 345948-1642, www. bracreef. com. At Brac Reef Beach Resort, this dive service includes a full photo and video center. Three dives daily; 20-person maximum. PADI, TDI, and SSI affiliated.
©2007 HUNTER PUBLISHING, INC
The wreck of the MV Captain Keith Tibbets can be enjoyed by snorkelers, as it is located just a short swim off shore. The wreck sits in 50-100 feet of water and is already home to a good selection of marine life. Snorkel trips run about US$15-$30 per person.
Scuba operators generally do two dives per day, and some will make their afternoon dive a shallow one that can accommodate snorkelers; check with the scuba operators listed above for details. Other snorkel operators include Shelby Charters, s 345-948-0535; Barefoot Watersports, s 345948-1299; and Condor Watersports, s 345-948-1226.
For all the glitz of Seven Mile Beach and the high finance of George Town, the land east of the capital city is simple and countrified, charming visitors with a true Caribbean atmosphere. Condos are few and far between, sandwiched instead by miles of unimproved land and small Caymanian cottages. Cattle graze in the fields, beaches stretch for miles without a watersports operator in sight.
East of George Town lies the bulk of Grand Cayman. A single road leads along the South Sound to the communities of Spotts and Savannah, home of Pedro St. James Historic Site.
Farther east lies Bodden Town (the original capital city of the Cayman Islands), and miles of land unchanged by progress. This main highway changes names continually – it’s called Jackson Road, Poinciana Road, Shamrock Drive, Church Street, Eastern Highway, A2, A3, A4, and more. Just stay on the main road and continue east; you won’t get lost.
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
The highway winds past several good swimming areas, including a public beach in Spotts and another in Breakers. Just past Breakers, you’ll have a choice: continue east to the
easternmost portion of the island, or turn north. If you turn north on Frank Sound Road, you’ll pass the Mastic Trail and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, both excellent attractions for those interested in the flora and fauna of the island. The road continues to Old Man Bay and meets up with the main road again along the northern stretch of the island.
If you don’t turn north on Frank Sound Road, you can follow the main road alongside some of the most rugged shoreline on Grand Cayman. Just before the road begins its northern turn on the easternmost stretch of the island, it passes an attraction called the blowholes, where the sea spews forth between the rocks with each wave.
Continuing east toward the sea you’ll see the sites of two of the island’s most famous shipwrecks: the Wreck of the Ten Sails (1794) and the Cumberland Transport (1767). Pull over at the Wreck of the Ten Sails Monument in the community of Gun Bay.
In this region, even non-divers can see the remains of another shipwreck sticking right out of the water. The Ridgefield, a former WW II ship, wrecked at this site on December 1962.
Turning north, the road continues past a largely undeveloped stretch of island covered in dense, low-growing woodland. The easternmost reaches are treasured by windsurfers, who seek out this point for its stronger winds. Traveling on either road, you can reach the north side and turn back west to Rum Point, a remote but active area filled with opportunities for watersports and dining. This is definitely the most “happening” spot east of George Town, a miniature version of Seven Mile Beach (without the hotels). South of Rum Point lies Cayman Kai, one of the most lavish residential areas in Grand Cayman. This peninsula is lined with expensive homes and villas.
“Going country” or “going to the tropical side”
means a trip to theEastEnd residentialsection.
The Mastic Trail, Frank Sound Road, 345-9456588. The 200-year-old Mastic Trail, a former footpath used by locals to herd cattle from the North
©2007 HUNTER PUBLISHING, INC
Governor Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary Queen Victoria Monument; Old Fort; Wader’s Cemetery; Stingray Brewery Pedro St. James Historic Site; Old School house; Bat Cave Drummond’s Wall, Guard House, Gun Square;
5. Meagre Bay Pond
6. Mastic Trail
7. Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
8. Blow Holes
9. Old Beacon; Wreck of the Ten Sails Monument
10. Salina Reserve
11. Kaibo Yacht Club
Public Beach Access
Side to the south coast, has been renovated and is open for guided tours through a two-million-year-old woodland area. The trail is a project of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands and winds through the Mastic Reserve.
The two-mile trail travels through swamps, woodland, and farming areas, with changing fauna and flora along the way. One of the most interesting places is a region filled with fine red soil called “red mold.” The dirt contains minerals found in the ancient rocks of Africa and scientists believe that, through the years, dust from the Sahara Desert blew across the Caribbean and accumulated here (it’s not uncommon for hazy days to be attributed to sand blowing off the distant desert).
Many visitors experience the trail with the expert guidance of Silver Thatch Excursions The Mastic Trail (® 345-945-6588, fax 345-949
3342, silvert@hotmail. com). The company’s founders, Geddes and Janet Hislop, identify birds along the way, often sighting the Grand Cayman parrot, Caribbean dove, West Indian woodpecker, Cuban bullfinch, smooth-billed ani, and the colorful bananaquit.
The hike also travels past 100 different types of trees, including black mangroves that grow from the brackish water, elegant royal palms, and tall mahogany trees. Fruit trees, first planted by early residents, include mango, tamarind, and calabash. Orchids bring color to the trees during the spring season, probably the best time of year to experience this eco-tourism attraction. Look for the wild banana orchids (the Grand Cayman version has cream-to-white blossoms with purple lips, and the variety seen on the sister islands is pale to bright yellow with a purple center).
The walk takes in several environments – from the mangrove swamp to dry woodlands to an ancient forest – as it travels south to north. The forest contains over 100 species
of trees and 550 other plant varieties. The trail was named for the mastic tree, once used by islanders for its lumber. Today, a tall mastic tree can still be seen at the halfway point of the trail.
Reservations, which may be made via e-mail, are required for all tours and must be made 24 hours in advance. There is a minimum of two persons per tour; groups of four or more receive a 10% discount. Participants on all tours are provided with snacks, including traditional Caymanian foods and beverages.
The purchase of the ancient forest seen along the Mastic Trail is just one project of the National Trust. Today the development plan includes protection of the Central Mangrove Wetland, 8,500 acres that flood during the wet seasons and are an important part of the natural Grand Cayman landscape. Over 7,000 acres of this wetland are privately held. To preserve this region, the National Trust is working to acquire parcels of the wetland and to conserve the region, which is home to whistling ducks, parrots, snowy egrets, and hickatees. The National Trust is encouraging donations for this project and can be reached at the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, PO Box 31116 SMB, Grand Cayman; s 345-949-0121.
To reach the Mastic Trail, take Frank Sound Road north. Just past the fire station, take the first road left. Stay left and follow that dirt road 0.7 mile across several cattle guards (if you head north on Frank Sound Road and reach the Botanic Park, you’ve gone too far). A small parking area beside the Mastic Trail sign marks the trailhead. It can be hiked without a guide, although plants are not marked and the trail is not a loop, so plan to turn around and retrace your steps.
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, Frank Sound Road, s 345-947-3558, www. botanic-park. ky. This is one of the best attractions on Grand Cayman, both economically and educationally. The park’s main features are the Woodland
Trail, the Heritage Garden, and the Floral Colour Garden. Each offer distinct experiences. The trail emphasizes Cayman flora and fauna in a natural setting, while the gardens showcase tropical plants from around the globe in a beautiful setting.
The Woodland Trail, just under a mile long, is a must-see for anyone interested in Cayman plants. Budget at least half an hour for the walk. More time will allow you to read the informative exhibits and look for turtles in the swampy undergrowth. Stop and listen for the call of a Cayman parrot in the trees.
The trail winds through several types of environments. One of the wettest is a swamp filled with buttonwood, one of the few trees that can live with its roots continually submerged in water. The swamp provides humidity for bromeliads and orchids. On the other end of the spectrum, cactus country illustrates the dry regions of the Cayman Islands, and it’s home to large century plants (agave) and cacti. One habitat is similar to that found on Little Cayman and includes flora found on the tiny sister island.
Birders should bring along binoculars for this walk. Commonly seen species include the Grand Cayman parrot, the northern flicker, vitelline warbler (a small yellowish bird found only in the Cayman Islands and on Swan Island), the zenaida dove, and the bananaquit.
Butterflies are another common sight. The caterpillars of the Cayman swallowtail (Papilio andraemontaibr) feed on lime trees; the white peacock (Anartejatrophaejamaicensi$ is the most commonly spotted along the trail.
Watch the shadowy undergrowth and you may spot some of Grand Cayman’s most reticent residents as well. The agouti (Dasyprocta punctata), a shy rodent, is occasionally seen. Other residents include the hickatee (Trachemys decussata), a freshwater turtle found in the brackish ponds of the Cayman Islands and Cuba. The Grand Cayman blue iguana (Cyclura Nubila Lewisi) or the Cayman anole lizard (Anolis conspersus), with a blue throat pouch, are also seen. Grass snakes (Alsophis cantherigerus) feed on frogs and lizards, but are harmless to humans.
After a walk along the Woodland Trail, take time to visit the beautiful showplace gardens (see Sightseeing, page 183). The park is open 9 am to 5:30 pm daily. Admission is US$7.50 for adults, US$5 for kids 6-12, and children under age six are free.
Silver Thatch Excursions, s 345-945-6588, fax 345-9493342, silvert@hotmail. com or george@earthfoot. org, also offers guided hikes through the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park along either an historic or an environmental route. Both routes include admission to the Botanic Park.
The Sunrise Family Golf Centre, s 345-947-GOLF, fax 345-946-0508, Sunrise1@candw. ky, is an executive walking course located nine miles east of George Town. The family-oriented facility includes a clubhouse with a pro shop, putting green and a driving range. Fee for nine holes is CI$17 (about US$21) or 18 holes for CI$25.50 (about US$32); juniors pay CI$10 (US$12.47). Clubs and pull carts are available for rent.
If you are bringing young family members to live in the Cayman Islands, you’ll soon learn that the mandatory education system is much like the British. Children of non – Caymanians are charged a fee, ranging from CI$150 per term for primary schools to CI$210 per term for high school. Several private schools are also located on Grand Cayman.
Cayman Preparatory School. . . n 345-949-9115
Grace Christian Academy…… n 345-945-0899
St. Ignatius Preparatory Schooln 345-949-9250
Triple C School…………………………………………. n 345-949-6022
Truth for Youth School……………………………… n 345-949-2620
Grand Cayman also offers limited higher education opportunities. The International College of the Cayman Islands (n 345-947-1100) offers degrees in accounting, business administration, banking, and other topics. The Community College of the Cayman Islands (n 345-949-9580) offers classes on a variety of topics.
Seven Mile Beach boasts the lion’s share of accommodations in the Cayman Islands. You’ll find both luxury resorts and budget accommodations, lavish condominiums and economical motels. Not all accommodations are on the beach itself, but, with public beaches throughout, none are more than a few minutes’ walk to the water.
Comfort Suites and Resort, West Bay Road, s 345-945-7300, fax 345945-7400, comfort@ candw. ky, www. cayman – comfort. com, $$. This allsuites hotel is a good choice for those with an eye on the budget. A favorite with families, it features one – and two-bedroom units, each with two phone lines, a full kitchen, and a family atmosphere. Rooms are carpeted and cozy, each decorated in cool colors and opening onto enclosed hallways.
Guests enjoy a free continental breakfast each morning as well as use of a fitness center, pool, pool bar, restaurant, dive shop, and guest laundry.
Courtyard by Marriott
Grand Cayman Courtyard by Marriott, 1540 West Bay Rd. across from the Public Beach, s 800-321-2211, 345-946-4433, fax 345-946-4434, www. mar – riott. com, $$. If you traveled to Grand Cayman several years ago, you’ll be familiar with this property as the Holiday Inn (not the original Holiday Inn that was torn down to make way for the Ritz – Carlton but the subsequent Holiday Inn). Located on a northerly stretch of Seven Mile Beach (actually across the street from the beach), the 174-room, five-story hotel offers fairly standard rooms with coffeemaker, iron, high-speed internet access (wired in the rooms but both wired and wireless in the public areas), a refrigerator, and cable TV as well as a pool and, of course, the beach across the street. The day starts with a hot breakfast buffet (for additional fee) at the Mangrove Cafe which is also open for dinner; the hotel’s other dining option, the Sea Grape Cafe, is located on the beach and open for lunch only.
Marriott Beach Resort
Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort,
389 West Bay Rd., s 800-223-6388, 345949-0088, fax 345949-0288, www. ma – rriott. com orwww. mar – riottgrandcayman. com , $$. Located two miles from George Town and about four miles from the airport, this convenient property (formerly the Radisson) sits on a beautiful stretch of Seven Mile Beach. In 2006, this property underwent a $15 million renovation and redesign; the public areas and guest rooms are now done in sophisticated
Caymanian colors. All guest rooms are now smoke-free. Rooms and public areas feature high-speed wireless internet connectivity. Oceanfront rooms have private balconies with good beach views and are worth a somewhat long walk to the elevators in this 309-room hotel. The hotel’s La Mer Spa, which features YonKa therapy, was expanded and now includes four large treatment rooms and a couple’s suite with Jacuzzi.
For families with kids, the resort offers a kids’ night for a $25 fee which includes dinner, arts and crafts projects, and a movie; the program is for ages 5-12. Arts and crafts options are also available during the day for a minimal fee; there’s also a treasure hunt scheduled for some days. Babysitting is available. The hotel’s four restaurants and bars were renovated as well. Options now include Solana on Seven Mile Beach for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Red Parrot (which offers a breakfast buffet as well as evening steak and seafood option), a beach bar, and a lounge. The beach has been rejuvenated with the addition of $250,000 in reef balls which protect the beach sand as well as draw marine life, enhancing the snorkeling opportunities. Facilities include a freshwater pool and hot tub, dive shop, snor – keling, jet-skiing, kayaking, waterskiing, and shopping arcade.
Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman
Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman, West Bay Road, 800233-1234, 345-949-1234, fax 345-949-8528,
www. hyatt. com, $$. One of Grand Cayman’s most beautiful resorts, the Hyatt is located on both sides of the road. It has a private beach club with full watersports facilities. You may recognize parts of this resort from the movie The Firm (it’s where Gene Hackman and Tom Cruise stayed).
The first look that many visitors had of Grand Cayman was in the 1993 movie The Firm, starring Gene Hackman, Tom Cruise, Holly Hunter, and Jeanne Tripplehorn. The film included 350 local Caymanians as extras and prominently featured sites around the island.
Many of the scenes were shot at the Hyatt Regency. The pool bar, the garden, Loggia Lounge, the front drive, and other spots around the property were included in the film. Except for Tom Cruise, who rented a private home, the stars stayed at the Hyatt Regency and Britannia Villas. The crew members were stationed down at the Sleep Inn and George Town Villas, and the Paramount offices were set up in what’s now the Clarion Grand Pavilion. Other locations that appear in the movie include:
Cheeseburger Reef: Check out the characters of Avery and Mitch scuba diving this shallow west coast site during their first stay on the island (Hackman and Cruise actually did the dive shot themselves. Bob Soto’s Diving Ltd. provided the watersports services for the film and their Holiday Diver custom dive boat was repainted as Abanks Dive Lodge).
George Town: The intersection of Harbour Drive and Cardinal Avenue was the location of a phone booth that the Gene Hackman character uses as Mitch (Cruise) first sees the Abanks Dive Lodge advertisement.
Abanks Dive Lodge: This set was constructed on North Sound in Newlands. The site is still standing. Hyatt Regency Aquas Pool Bar: The Jeanne Tripplehorn character surprises Avery (Hackman) at this bar.
Movie buffs, enjoy!
Hurricane Ivan caused substantial damage to the original part of the hotel which remains closed at press time.
A $15 million addition on Seven Mile Beach welcomes guests. This section offers 53 luxury beachfront suites, including 44 one-bedroom and nine two-bedroom units. These suites feature a separate living room with a dining area, wet bar, work station with two phone lines and upgraded amenities. All suites have sea views, and are served by a dedicated concierge.
The complex highlights a landscaped pool area with bronze sea turtle sculptures, waterfalls, and three freshwater pools with mosaic tile designs of stingrays and other marine life. The Hyatt also offers one of the island’s most extensive children’s programs. “With our Camp Hyatt program, children enjoy more than just fun activities,” noted Doug Sears, general manager. “They also learn about a new place, its local flowers, animals, art and history.” Activities range from nature walks to spot the island’s blue iguanas and parrots to visits to the Turtle Farm to shell painting. The 1,800- square-foot Caymanian-style Camp Hyatt House includes a playground, interactive computer games, and a big-screen television for movie viewing. Some activities incur an additional charge. The resort also offers cribs and babysitting services.
Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, West Bay Road, s 800241-3333, www. ritzcarl- ton. com, $$$.
One of the island’s most anticipated resorts, the $500 million Ritz – The Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman
365 elegant rooms and suites. The hotel offers many room types; the lowest priced are the Waterway rooms located on the North Sound side of the property; these rooms include a terrace and either two queen beds or a king bed with loveseat sofa. Oceanfront rooms are the second category with views of the sea as well as the terrace and same bed configuration. Slightly more expensive are the Waterway Club Rooms with the same view as the Waterway rooms but with Club Level amenities including access to the Ritz – Carlton Club lounge that offers five food presentations per day. Another club level access is the Ocean Front Club Rooms. The property also offers suites and two – and three – bedroom accommodations in The Reserve, private oceanfront units.
Eric Ripert of New York’s Le Bernardin has created both Blue by Eric Ripert for fine seafood dining and the more casual Periwinkle by Eric Ripert for alfresco dining. Other dining options include an oceanfront cafe called 7 (which in the evening becomes 7 Prime Cuts & Sunsets). The Silver Blue by Eric Ripert Palm offers light fare
(including caviar, of course) along with champagne and wine while Bar Jack keeps guests hydrated at poolside. Guests also have access to 24- hour room service.
The resort includes Blue Tip, a Greg Norman-designed 3,515-yard, par 36 golf course,. The facility also includes a pro shop, private and group instruction, and rental equipment. The resort is also home to a Nick Bollettieri tennis center (Nick Bollettieri has instructed Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova). For a little less activity, there’s also a 6,000-square-foot shopping emporium with duty free shopping.
For families, the Ritz-Carlton offers a unique children’s program: Ambassador of the Environment by Jean-Michel Cousteau. Created by Jean-Michel Cousteau and the Ocean Futures Society, the program offers environmental activities for children from four to 18. The program is centered on the 2700-square-foot Heritage House, built like a traditional Caymanian cottage. Here the Ambassadors Lab features a simulated coral reef that also serves as an interactive mural, video microscopes, digital cameras, computers, and more. The program is led by naturalists; water activities are led by lifeguards. Activities include visiting Stingray City, creating mangrove-themed art, exploring the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, photographing local species, stargazing, and more.
The hotel is also home to Silver Rain, a La Prairie Spa created specifically for the resort. The $10 million spa has 17 treatment rooms and adjoins a full-service salon and fitness center.
Sunshine Suites Resort Grand Cayman, 1112 West Bay Road, S 877-786-1110, 345-949-3000, fax 345-9491200, www. sunshine – suites. com, $. When we first heard about this new resort, we didn’t think we’d be impressed. After all, it’s not located on Seven Mile Beach. Then we had a look at it and changed our minds: this is a great spot for travelers with an eye on their pocketbook who still want to be right in the heart of the action.
For travelers with an eye on the budget, Sunshine Suites Hotel provides hotel accommodations in the heart of Seven Mile Beach without the high price of beachfront hotels and condos. Located across the street from the beach and adjacent to The Links at Safehaven golf course, this all-suites hotel has a lot to offer cost-conscious travelers. This resort combines the atmosphere of a resort with the pricing of a motel. The hotel has few recreational features of its own but is surrounded by attractions within walking distance including golf and Seven Mile Beach. Sporting a Caribbean look with lemon-colored guest room blocks built around a central pool, the hotel has a casual and relaxed atmosphere. Sunshine Suites Hotel is often quiet during the day as guests explore the island, enjoy the beach, or play a round of golf.
The hotel is composed of 130 suites in three categories: for two persons, 38 studio suites offer one queen bed, 29 deluxe suites, for up to four guests, have two queen beds. The hotel also has 60 one-bedroom suites, each with a separate bedroom with a king sized bed; the living room contains a queen sized sofa sleeper. Rooms are decorated in bright Caribbean colors, and white tile floors lend a sunny look to the large suites. All include fully equipped kitchens with a coffee maker, complimentary coffee and tea, stovetop, all cooking and eating utensils, and a microwave. All rooms also include 34 channel cable TV, individually-controlled air conditioning, ceiling fans, and baths with aromatherapy products. A complimentary breakfast buffet is available at poolside.
Business travelers find several work-friendly features in the rooms including dual dataports, a well-lit workspace, and private voice mail. The hotel includes a business center with photocopy, computer, and fax facilities. Other guests facilities include a guest laundry with coin operated washers and dryers, safety deposit boxes, irons/ironing boards, and hair dryers.
Guests will find that a limited housekeeping plan is available. The plan includes one full housekeeping service at the mid-point of a guest stay of four nights or more. Guests who stay seven nights or more receive full housekeeping service every three or four days. Towels and linens can be exchanged at any time. Daily housekeeping service is available for an additional fee of $15 per day.
On-site recreation includes a freshwater swimming pool with locked storage area for scuba gear; rinse tanks are available for washing wetsuits and equipment. The closest recreational facility is The Links at Safehaven, located adjacent to the hotel. Guests have membership privileges and are offered a discounted rate at the 18-hole golf course. The hotel is not located on the beach; guests must cross West Bay Road for beach access using a public beach access path directly across from the property. Beach towels and beach chairs are available at the front desk for guest use. Guests also have complimentary use of the World Gym nearby.
For guests who would like to prepare meals, Foster’s Supermarket is located in The Strand Plaza, about a 10- minute walk from the hotel. Along with kitchen facilities for preparing meals in rooms, the hotel now offers two outdoor
picnic areas with a gas barbecue grill.
Westin Casuarina Resort, West Bay Road, s 800-228-3000, 345945-3800, fax 345-9495825, www. westin. com or www. westincasua – rina. com, $$$. This luxurious hotel is built on a strip of beach bordered
by willowy casuarina trees. The hotel has 340 guest rooms, most with breathtaking views of the sea from their balconies. It has the feel of a conference property, with a slightly dress-up atmosphere in the main lobby. Facilities include beachfront, casual and fine dining restaurants, pools, whirlpools, tennis, fitness facilities, beauty salons, masseuse and masseur. Rates are high, as would be expected in a resort of this caliber.
The Westin Casuarina Resort is also home to the Westin Kids Club. Upon check-in, families receive a Westin Kids Club sports bottle (or, for families with young children, a tippy cup), which can be filled with complimentary beverages at mealtimes. Young visitors also receive coloring books and bath toys; special amenities are also available for infants. Parents receive safety kits with adhesive bandages, electrical outlet covers, identification bracelets, and a list of local emergency phone numbers. Jogging strollers are available upon request at no additional cost. Whenever possible, guest rooms are set up in advance with high chairs, cribs and other items as appropriate.
The casuarina trees found along the Westin’s beach have long been used by fishermen offshore to get their bearings.
o°° Atlantis Adventures offers the Atlantis XI subma – * rine and Atlantis Deep Explorer research vessel (Harbour Drive, s 800-887-8571 or 345-949-8571, web www. atlantisadventures. com). If you’re curious about what lies below the water’s surface, the 48-passenger Atlantis XI is the perfect way to have a peek at Grand Cayman’s underwater world. Swimmers and non-swimmers
alike enjoy safe, air-conditioned, comfortable travel to 100 feet below the surface aboard the Atlantis on either the Expedition or the Odyssey adventure, with a narrated view of coral gardens, sponge gardens, the undersea wall, and more.
You can buy tickets at the headquarters located just south of the cruise ship terminal on Harbour Drive in downtown
George Town. Tours operate six days a week. The dive takes 50 minutes, but the total tour time is one hour and 40 minutes. You’ll board an open-air boat and travel out to the dive site just off George Town’s shore. On the sub, bench seating runs along the length of the vessel, and all visitors have a porthole from which to enjoy the underwater scene.
After viewing the marine life, don’t be surprised to see some human life forms approaching the submarine – these are the Atlantis divers. Wearing armored wetsuits to protect against fish nibbles, these divers feed clouds of hungry fish and provide good photo opportunities.
Bring along your camera on this fascinating tour, but, if you are shooting film, load film with an ASA rating of 1000. Your flash is useless in the confines of the sub because it will reflect off the portholes. The ASA 1000 film is fa. st enough to capture the colorful ima. ges you’ll witness without using afla. sh.
Atlantis also offers a night dive, a great opportunity to really see the fantastic colors of the coral reef and its inhabitants.
A new adventure from Atlantis features a longer dive during which guests view scuba divers feeding fish; this cruise is priced at US$82 per person.
The company also offers a one-of-a-kind experience on their submersible research vessel, Atlantis Deep Explorer. Plunging down to a depth of 1,000 feet, the 22-foot sub carries two passengers and a pilot and is the only one of its type open to the public. Several times a day, the yellow vessel plunges down the Cayman Wall to depths far beyond the range of sports scuba divers.
The vessel has a large, three-foot-diameter convex window and the passengers sit side by side in front of this viewport. The view varies with the depth: from 200 to 400 feet below the surface are colorful sponges and corals in what’s termed the “sponge belt.” Hundreds of sponges blanket the vertical wall in forms ranging from 20-foot-long orange rope sponges to gigantic barrel sponges. From 650 to 1,000 feet, living formations give way to limestone pinnacles that house deep – sea creatures, such as stalked crinoids, porcelain corals and glass sponges. Termed the “haystack” zone, the haystacks or limestone blocks stand over 150 feet tall. Here, light no longer penetrates the sea and the research sub illuminates the dark water with powerful lights. The highlight of many trips is a visit to the Kirk Pride, a shipwreck that sits on a ledge at 800 feet. This 180-foot freighter sank in a storm in 1976 and its fate was unknown until the wreck was discovered by an Atlantis research submarine in 1985. Tickets are US$295-395 per person (depending on type of dive). Five dives are scheduled each day, Monday through Friday. The tour last about an hour, and advance reservations are strongly recommended.
AUTHORS’ NOTE: No children under three feet tallarepermittedon these subs.
Nautilus. The Undersea Tour, s 345-945-1355, nautilus@ candw. ky, www. nautilus. ky. This cruise provides a one – hour tour aboard an 80-foot semi-submersible vessel to view the rich marine life of the bay. The sub goes out about three-quarters of a mile offshore and gives visitors a chance
to view two shipwrecks and to watch a diver feed a variety of tropical fish. Travelers sit in a glass hull six feet beneath the surface but can go up on deck anytime during the trip. Tours depart from the dock at Rackham’s Pub on North Church Street.
The semi-submarine Nautilus
The Nautilus also offers the two-hour Captain Nemo’s Adventure Tour, which begins with the one-hour undersea trip. The vessel then moors over a wreck or reef and visitors can walk about above or below deck, swim or snorkel. The afternoon tour is priced at $39 for adults, $19 for children.
Seaworld Explorer, South Church Street, s 345-9497700. Not a true submarine but actually a glorified glass – bottom boat, the Seaworld Explorer sits next to the Atlantis submarine. It is a good option for those who might feel a little claustrophobic about a submarine adventure, since it does not actually submerge. Visitors descend into a glass observatory and view marine life as well as two shipwrecks. The Explorer travels to the Cali, a schooner that hit the reef in 1944, and the Balboa, a freighter from Cuba destroyed by a hurricane. Today, the wrecks are encased in corals and filled with fish life. Tours last one hour.
Another option is the Bubble Sub, an operation that takes just two people at a time down to 50 feet beneath the surface. A scuba diver who is located outside the bubble pilots the bubble-like vessel, which gives you a 360-degree view of the sea above and below you. For more information, call s 345-916-DIVE or visit www. bubblesub. com.
Good underwater photos are the best souvenirs divers and snorkelers can bring home. If you’re serious about underwater photography, consider a class taught by George Town’s Cathy Church. Cathy Church’s Underwater Photo Centre and Galleries also offers E6 film processing, underwater camera rentals, and Nikon repair. Open daily at Sunset House Hotel. For information, s 345-949-7415 or visit the center’s web site at www. cathychurch. com.
Another option is Cayman Camera, Ltd., 32 Goring Avenue, George Town, s 345-949-8359. This shop sells underwater camera gear including inexpensive disposable cameras.