Scuba divers love Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands. It’s actually the top of an underwater mountain; its side known as the Cayman Wall plummets straight down for 150m (490 ft.) before becoming a steep slope that falls away for 1,800m (5,900 ft.) to the ocean floor. Scrubby Grand Cayman and its sister islands (Cayman Brac and Little Cayman) boast more than their share of upscale private homes and condos, thanks to the tiny nation’s lenient tax and banking laws, meaning that the restaurants are better here than in many other parts of the Caribbean (so splurge on lunch). Grand Cayman, a British Colony, is also popular because of its laid-back civility so civil that ships aren’t allowed to visit on Sunday. You cruise will anchor off of George Town, the colony’s capital and commercial hub. top draw In the waters off Grand Cayman’s northwest tip, Stingray City (www.stingraycitycaymanislands.com ) attracts from 30 to 100 relatively tame stingrays to swarm around visiting snorkelers. for nature lovers On Grand Cayman’s northwest coast, the Cayman Turtle Centre (www.turtle.ky ) supports the breeding activities of the endangered green sea turtle. The farm is now part of a marine park called Boatswain’s Beach, which has a snorkeling lagoon, a predator tanks, a tank for dolphin swims, and other mostly marine-oriented displays. top beach Though it’s lined with condominiums and plush resorts, Seven-Mile Beach, which begins north of George Town, has sparkling white sands with a backdrop of casuarina trees, and is known for its array of watersports and translucent aquamarine waters.
When shopping, be aware that some items sold may not be allowed by U.S. Customs. You might be eyeing that gorgeous piece of black-coral jewelry, for instance, but laws prohibiting the trade in endangered species make it illegal to bring many products made from coral and other marine animals back to the United States. (Remember, corals aren’t rocks, they’re living animals a single branch of coral contains thousands of tiny marine invertebrates called polyps.) Sea turtles, too, are highly endangered, and sea horses and conch (yes, the ones you eat in restaurants), while not yet globally protected by law, are currently threatened with extinction. The shopkeepers selling items made from these creatures probably won’t tell you they’re questionable from a Customs standpoint, but the Customs agent sure will, and may fine you or, at the very least, confiscate the item if he catches you with it. Better to buy a cheap underwater camera and take pictures of these beauties on a snorkeling expedition you get the memories, the evidence, a little exercise, and good karma to boot.
Cuban cigars used to be prohibited by U.S. Customs, but that restriction was lifted in late 2016. So feel free to buy, puff, and enjoy just don’t tell your pulmonologist.