Grand Cayman

GRAND CAYMAN has all the Caribbean musts—beach, snorkelling, marine life, sunsets…and enough food and drink to warrant an annual festival.

Ensconced beachside, on an alabaster swath of sand guarded by elegant hotels, stretching 10 km along Grand Cayman’s west coast, nuzzled by waters so clear you can see starfish on the bottom, I wonder how I’m going to fill tomorrow.

Right now, entertained by a perfect sunset (one of the Caribbean’s best), I don’t feel like doing anything, though tonight it’s fine dining at Abacus at Camana Bay (camanabay.com), a modern town centre boasting boutiques and other fine dining options beside the water. Wherever I dine, I’ll be sated: many consider the Cayman Islands the Caribbean’s culinary capital. It’s also home to the annual Cayman Cookout festival with renowned host, Chef Eric Ripert (this year it’s on from January 12–17, @caymancookout).

Tomorrow’s first stop, I decide, will be a helping of history. Pedro St. James (pedrostjames.ky) is both refurbished 17th-century great house and host to an interpretive centre worthy of Disney World. I’ll stroll here by the sea amid stands of banana and mahogany trees, tour the outdoor kitchen and then explore the furnished house itself.

Then maybe bond with nature. Welcome to the Cayman Turtle Centre (turtle.ky)—combination wildlife sanctuary, turtle hatchery and theme park—where I’ll learn about efforts to save the sea turtle, pet these huge animals and maybe even swim with them. Or maybe I’ll just cross the road and swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Discovery.

Or I’ll get really close to nature—and bond with the sea. Maybe book a catamaran tour to Stingray City (stingraycitytrips.com), snorkelling with those graceful creatures—or take a side trip to Starfish Point where I stand in water up to my waist as the stingrays wheel and soar between my legs.

Then it’s time for some R and R. Make for Rum Point (rumpointclub.com). Stake out a claim in the shade near a congregation of pastel-painted picnic tables; do frosty Caybrew beers at Wreck Bar, once rated among the world’s top-50 beach bars. Go for a swim in bathtub-warm waters.

After some downtime, maybe I’ll take things up a notch: the Cayman Islands are considered among the world’s best dive destinations. I’ll take a lesson in the pool at the Westin Grand Cayman (westingrandcayman.com), then out on—or in—the water. Maybe I’ll dive Babylon or Ghost Mountain.

We’ll stop en route back to our hotel and be mesmerized by the beauty and might of the Caribbean at Blow Holes. Then, it’s home James, for ringside seats to another spectacular sunset , the perfect finish to another perfect Grand Cayman day. — Mark Stevens

To discover even more activities to round out perfect stay here, go to visitcaymanislands.ca.