The Sister Islands; Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, are best known for their tranquil atmosphere and outstanding diving. Lying some 90 miles northeast of Grand Cayman, these tiny islands are in some senses a world away from the modernity and sophistication of their larger sister. This is where you will find the essence of a “laid back Caribbean lifestyle”: islands with one road, one bank and more iguanas than humans; places where you can slow right down and revel in the absolute peace of a tropical island paradise. With tiny populations (approximately 1,500 for the Brac and about 100 for Little Cayman) and incredibly friendly people, you will find that complete strangers wave as you drive or walk past and always greet you with a cheery “Good Morning!” or “Good Afternoon!”.
CAYMAN BRAC - ABOUT THE ISLAND
The most easterly of the Cayman Islands, the Brac is 12 miles long and just over a mile wide. Early Scottish fishermen who settled here gave the Island its name; Brac being Gaelic for bluff, named after the limestone ridge that runs down the centre of the Island reaching an elevation of 140ft at the eastern end – the highest point on all three islands.
The 1,500 friendly Brackers share their island with over 200 bird species and numerous iguanas. The dramatic scenery and rugged terrain boasts a plethora of hidden caves, winding trails, a unique cultural history and is ideal for a number of outdoor land–based activities, in addition to the superb diving which it is famous for.
There are no ferries operating between the Islands, so access is by air only. Cayman Airways and Cayman Airways Express (345) 949 2311 operate several flights daily to and from Grand Cayman and between Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. There are also direct flights to Cayman Brac from Miami.
There are no buses on the Brac so you may want to hire a car to explore the Island. Hotels and resorts often supply complimentary bikes and cycling is a great way to get around the south shore (which borders the Bluff), particularly for days when you are exploring caves and trails, as you will be off the bike and on foot for at least half the time.
Navigating is easy: main roads run along the north and south shores, with a few secondary roads crossing from one side to the other, but it is not possible to drive all the way around the Island. Please see the Information section for details on taxis and car rentals.
MONEY & BANKING
There is just one bank on Cayman Brac with one ATM. Debit cards, Visa, Master Card and Discover are accepted at most establishments, but few accept American Express.
Visitors have a choice of accommodation on Cayman Brac ranging from resorts to condos, guest houses and rental villas.
• Brac Caribbean Beach Village
www.866thebrac.com (345) 948 2265
• Brac Reef Beach Resort
www.bracreef.com (345) 948 1323
• Carib Sands Resort
www.866thebrac.com (345) 948 1121
• Cayman Breakers
www.caymancondosonline.com (345) 948 1463
• Le Soleil d’ Or
www.goldensuncayman.com (345) 948 0555
• Sea Dreams Villa
www.seadreamvilla.com (345) 948 0518
EATING & DRINKING
The larger resorts all have restaurants that are open to non-guests. The restaurants at the Brac Reef Beach Resort and The Captain’s Table, next to Carib Sands are popular. If you want to sample some good wholesome local food, particularly seafood, try Paradise Creations, La Esperanza or Star Island Restaurant.
THINGS TO DO - CAYMAN BRAC
• Outdoor Enthusiasts will find plenty of activities to keep them occupied on the Brac. Get hold of a Nature Tourism brochure (available at the airport, car rental agencies and hotels) for information and details on all manner of outdoor activities.
• Free Guided Tours of Cayman Brac are available Monday to Friday through Nature Cayman, a government initiative designed to promote the natural wonders of the Island. Tours last three to four hours and will cover all the main points of interest on the Island, but can be tailored to your specific interests. To book a tour call (345) 244 4420 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Hike at least one of the 35 marked trails while you are on the Brac. Trails take you through wetlands, forests, over the Bluff and to historic landmarks. Trails are well marked so guides are not necessary. Hikes are graded from easy to rough and ceramic signs at the roadside mark the start of the trails. Sturdy footwear is recommended as is sunscreen and water.
• Explore the Caves of the Island. There are numerous caves you can visit and yet more to be discovered, their entrances being concealed by dense vegetation. In days gone by the caves were used by pirates to stash their treasure chests, and more recently, residents took shelter in the caves during hurricanes. Check out the stalactite and stalagmite formations in the Great Cave, enjoy views of Spot Bay from Peter’s Cave or learn about the grim history of Rebecca’s Cave.
• Bird Watching is particularly good from October to April when migrating birds pass through in search of fresh water and warmer weather. With some 200 species of full and part time resident birds, the Island is an ornithologist’s paradise. Land birds you may see include the rare Cayman Brac parrot, the red–legged thrush and the West Indian whistling duck. There are also five seabird colonies. The 310 acre Brac Parrot Reserve was established in 1990 to protect the Brac’s endemic parrot and various other species of bird. A two mile trail through the reserve offers the chance to see some rare species.
• Rock Climbing enthusiasts have rated Cayman Brac one of the top ten exotic climbing destinations worldwide. Seventy-five routes are available with bolts in place for climbers, who can abseil from the top of the bluff down to the sea and then climb back up again. Getting to the sites is a challenge in itself and most routes are only suitable for experienced climbers. For more information on climbing on the Island call (345) 948 2222.
• Go Fishing in the deep offshore waters or in the shallows. In the pristine waters teeming with reef and game fish, keen anglers can go shore fishing for tarpon or deep sea fishing for wahoo, mahi mahi, blue marlin and tuna. Check your hotel information booklet for charter information. There are several fishing tournaments throughout the year. For a quick boat trip across to Little Cayman to enjoy flyfishing, call local Brac guide Joseph Bodden (345) 948 1518.
• Rent a Kayak and take a leisurely paddle around the calm waters off the south coast for a bit of tranquil shoreline exploration and a view of the Island from a different perspective. Kayaks can be rented at the Brac Reef Beach Resort for CI$8 per hour.
• Lie on the Beach and read a book, take a nap or beachcomb. Although the shoreline is predominantly composed of limestone, there are a few sandy beaches along the south shore, the best of which is probably Public Beach. You will also find sandy beaches in front of the Brac Reef Beach Resort, the now defunct Divi Tiara resort and Carib Sands, although the swimming is not great as the water is shallow and rocky.
• Snorkelling is better off the north shore, weather conditions permitting. Try the site at Buccaneer’s Inn, at the end of Robert Foster Lane, where there is a ladder in place to access the water and the unfinished Barcadere has created a salt water swimming pool. Only strong swimmers are advised to venture out into the open sea from there. Radar Reef in Stake Bay is a good snorkel and shore dive. You can also try Handcuff Reef, across from the police station in Creek. Keep an eye out along your drive for beach rocks painted red with white lettering which indicate prime shore diving spots. The Sister Islands Tourism Association (SITA) has a useful Shore Diving Guide that is available at dive shops and gift shops for US$20.
• The Diving on Cayman Brac on Cayman Brac is some of the best in the Caribbean with walls, drop offs, patch and finger reefs and the wreck of the MV Captain Tibbetts, a 330ft Russian warship to explore. The sea is pristine, visibility is excellent and marine life abundant. There are two dive shops, Reef Divers at the Cayman Brac Beach Resort (345) 948 1642 and Brac Scuba Shack (345) 925 3215. They also run dive trips to Little Cayman on request.
• Spa Treatments are now available from The Beach Spa (345) 925 2772 and the Tropical Touch Day Spa at the Cayman Brac Beach Resort (345) 948 1323.
• Pioneer Bakery is well known throughout the Cayman Islands for its delicious Round Bread, which is baked fresh daily. Stop by around 11am to sample fresh out-of-the-oven goodness! (345) 948 0519.
• Heritage House is a historic home and was once a tannery. They host a number of cultural activities including a craft market that sells locally made products such as jewellery, silver thatch items, plants, food and more. The market is held weekly at the Cayman Brac Beach Resort, from 4-6pm on Thursdays. Craft-making sessions are also held where local artisans go to hotels and resorts to teach visitors traditional craft making techniques such as Silver Thatch weaving. For further information on these activities call (345) 948 0563.
• The Cayman Brac Museum is the oldest museum in the Cayman Islands. Exhibits on turtling, ship-building and other traditional occupations illustrate the way of life on the Island in years gone by. The current display features the catastrophic story of the ’32 Storm when the eye of the storm passed over Cayman Brac. The display contains images of survivors and quotes from those who lived to tell of the events. Artefacts which survived the storm can also be seen on display.
LITTLE CAYMAN - ABOUT THE ISLAND
Ten miles long and a mile wide, Little Cayman is truly little: the airport, post office and fire station are all housed in one building, there is one shop and one bank on the Island, and with a permanent population of about 150 people, humans are vastly outnumbered by birds and iguanas.
A genuine island hideaway, you cannot avoid slowing right down, resetting your watch to true “island time” and enjoy doing a whole lot of nothing. One of the last undeveloped islands in the Caribbean, Little Cayman offers peace, relaxation and unspoiled natural beauty on land and underwater. For those that want to explore its unspoiled surroundings after a few days of resting in a hammock with a book, there are secluded beaches, numerous lagoons, mangrove forests, salt ponds and tropical forests strewn with orchids. For the diver the sea holds a plethora of world class dive sites.
The smallest of the Cayman Islands, Little Cayman was the first to be settled by turtle fishermen in the 1600s, although it was not until 1833 that permanent settlers established Blossom Village. By the early 20th century, several hundred people earned their living trading in phosphate ore, coconuts and marine rope. The great hurricane of 1932 caused much destruction and in the wake of it many people left. By the late 1950s, the population was down to a mere 12 souls.
Cayman Airways Express fly to Little Cayman from Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman several times a day.
One main road circles the Island, hugging the coast so you may want to hire a car, SUV or scooter to explore. Alternatively, many of the resorts have complimentary bicycles available, although it is unlikely that you will rent anything for more than a day as your resort will pick you up from the airport. Take it slow – iguanas have the right of way on the roads and have their own crossings, (you will see signs indicating this), and anyway the speed limit is a gentle 25mph. Points of interest are sign-posted along the way so stop to explore frequently and enjoy views of the largely undeveloped coast and the Caribbean Sea.
MONEY & BANKING
There is one bank, Cayman National Bank, which does not have an ATM and it is open on Mondays and Thursdays only. Visa and MC credit and debit cards are widely accepted, but AMEX less so. AMEX holders should ensure they have sufficient cash to cover costs where their cards are not accepted.
There are four hotels and resorts on Little Cayman along with villas, condos, guest houses and bed and breakfasts available. Also please visit www.itsyourstoexplore.com for a full list of the different accommodation options to be found on Little Cayman.
• Cayman Villas
They have the largest portfolio of villas and condos on the beach in Cayman.
(345) 945 4144
• Little Cayman Beach Resort
(345) 948 1033
• Pirates Point
(345) 948 1010
• Southern Cross Club
(345) 948 1099
• Paradise Villas
(345) 948 0001
• Little Cayman Beach Resort
(345) 948 1033
EATING & DRINKING
The Hungry Iguana at Paradise Villas is the only à la carte restaurant on the Island. For a buffet–style spread try Birds of Paradise at Little Cayman Beach Resort. Alternatively, the restaurant at Pirates Point serves a set menu which changes daily and the food is very good. Visitors who are not staying at the resort must reserve before noon. There is also a small grocery store in which you can buy the basics (and a multitude of frozen goods) but most people staying in private cottages will bring a cooler full of fresh food with them from Grand Cayman.
THINGS TO DO - LITTLE CAYMAN
• Relax! There are few places in the world that invite you to relax as completely as Little Cayman. Find a hammock under a palm tree, grab a book or just sway gently in the breeze, listen to the sound of the sea, and enjoy not having to do a thing. Once you have completely unwound, you will be surprised at the number of things there are to see and do on such a small island.
• Discover Unspoiled Beaches Over a dozen white sand beaches are dotted around the coast and you will easily spot them as you drive around the Island. The prettiest of these is Point of Sand, a shifting cape of pink sand at the eastern end, protected by a barrier reef. Great for swimming and snorkelling, but do be aware of currents, and don’t swim after dusk.
• Owen Island is a picture–perfect island idyll. This tiny uninhabited islet, surrounded by white sand and the clearest blue water lies about 200 yards offshore on the south shore. Kayak or take a boat over – or if you are feeling energetic you can swim – and spend a day on your own desert island. A real Robinson Crusoe experience! On the north shore you will also find Bloody Bay Beach, the access point for snorkellers and shore divers to reach the famous Bloody Bay Wall.
• Snorkel some of the best sites in the Caribbean. Swim out over the famous drop off at Bloody Bay Wall and peer over the underwater precipice into the deep blue abyss. Jackson Bay and Preston Bay also offer excellent snorkelling. These sites are exposed however, so only strong swimmers should attempt them, and only go out if the weather is calm.
• Dive the world famous walls of Little Cayman. Sheer drop offs, starting in as little as 18ft, exceptional visibility and abundant marine life, coupled with the charm of the Island topside, have made Little Cayman a diving Mecca. Most famous is Bloody Bay Marine Park and Jackson Wall on the north side, although the dive sites on the south side are equally pristine and impressive.
• Go Fishing Offshore, sports fishing, bone fishing, fly fishing and tarpon fishing are all world–class, and experienced guides are available at Little Cayman Beach Resort and Southern Cross Club. Mamm’s, (345) 926 0104, also offers deep sea and bottom fishing from their boat, as well as night fishing and shore fishing.
- Tuna, wahoo, mahi mahi and occasionally marlin are caught year–round. The drop–off is so close to shore that little time is spent getting to the site, and maximum time in spent actually fishing.
- Bone–fishing is an exciting sport that can be done in the flats of South Hole Sound, almost directly in front of the resorts in this area. Fishing is on a catch and release basis and guides will usually take you out on a half day trip.
- Fly Fishing for permit, bonefish and tarpon in the flat inshore waters is particularly good in Little Cayman.
- Sports fishermen will enjoy trying to catch tarpon. These notorious fighters live in Tarpon Lake, an inland lake where a school of tarpon have been trapped since a storm cut off access to the sea. Tarpon fishing usually takes place at sunrise and sunset, and a revive and release policy is in effect.
• Rent a Kayak and explore the mangroves or paddle your way out to Owen Island and spend the day beachcombing and swimming from this uninhabited island.
• Ride a Bicycle Set off late in the afternoon for a gentle bicycle ride, (hotels usually offer them to guests, free of charge), and follow 8 mile loop around the Island. Stop along the way at wildlife viewing stations or at a sunset viewing point. Take lots of water or even pack a snack for a picnic at one of the many unspoiled beaches along the way.
• Go Bird Watching Thousands of migratory birds pass over Little Cayman and many make this Island their home, due to the many ponds and numerous wetland areas. The National Trust’s Booby Pond Nature Reserve, home to the largest breeding colony of Red-footed Boobies in the Western Hemisphere, is a 200-acre site of international importance. 20,000 Boobies breed here, as does a large colony of magnificent frigates. Take advantage of the Trust’s viewing deck that is equipped with telescopes, to watch the herons, ducks, warblers, plovers, sandpipers and other birds dip and dive. Call the National Trust on (345) 948 1077 for more information.
• Take a Hike along the Salt Rock Nature Trail, an historic right of way between Blossom Village and the north shore. Along the way, keep an eye out for birds, iguanas, butterflies and orchids.