Pop quiz! Name a place where crystal blue waters quietly lap against secluded stretches of beach. Found an answer? Good. Now name one also blessed with an aquatic paradise, allotting freedom to swim with stingrays in their natural habitat. Getting harder?
Also make sure your answer has space for sailing on a pirate ship, dining on international cuisine prepared in a converted plantation, travel in a private sub, and for good measure, provides a place for your skateboarding children? Drawing a blank? The answer my friends is the Cayman Islands.
Don't feel bad, most people fail this quiz, and it's lucky for you and your companions they do. Their ignorance provides visitors carte blanche to enjoy the supreme advantage gleaned by sampling a tropical paradise, unspoiled by the typical trappings of an overpopulated tourist destination.
Located in the Caribbean, the Cayman's are made up of three separate islands, Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. A 480 mile jaunt from Miami, and roughly 150 miles south of Cuba and 180 miles west of Jamaica, the Caymans are centrally poised to release your inner Ponce De Leon. The islands are actually in such close proximity to Cuba and Jamaica that an extended stay is always recommend to promote inter-island relations. However, the subtle charm possessed by the Cayman's people and its landscape is enough for me to vote the Cayman's as a true pearl of the sea.
Georgetown, the capital city, is the hub of visiting activity for Grand Cayman, yet never makes you feel the least like a tourist. You also won't be accosted for money or be faced with extreme poverty, which can happen on other islands. Unlike some of its Caribbean counterparts, the Cayman's Islands are blessed with a flourishing economy. Adding this element to your island vacation propels a positive climate devoid of the socio-economic negativities sometime associated with Caribbean vacations.
Surviving for years under British rule the Cayman's have prospered due to their ability to act as a tax shelter to foreign transplants, ex-pats, and rock stars. Local folklore gleans the status was granted when Henry V shipwrecked here and was saved by the Caymanian people. Blessing the island for the rescue, they were granted duty free status. (For those of you weighing retiring to Florida or socking away money in a foreign account on a 22 mile wide island in paradise, well the choice is yours, but I know where my IRA is going!)
The feeling that life is simply better in the Caymans are immediately brought to the forefront the moment you encounter anything remotely Caymanian. From the congeniality of Cayman Airways, to the hospitality of the Westin, or the Courtyard Marriot, the warmth of the island is endless.
In fact, the difference in the air of the Caymanian people is almost palatable. From the moment I switched my plane from my traditional airlines to Cayman Airways, I felt the tension of domestic flight transcend to the sheer delight only associated with a carrier wanting to exude the loving personae of their home island.
The difference between carrier services wasn't even night and day. A more accurate depiction is the stretch between driving in the in the right lane in a 4 speed without a piston firing versus budding up with the Martins, borrowing a ride for the weekend and cruising the autobahn unlimited tank of gas "“ or at least getting petrol at 1984 prices.
Written and top Photo by Neftalie Williams
Look for more writings about the Cayman Islands by Neftalie in the coming weeks
For more on Caribbean at ITKT