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What's the Difference Between the Three Cayman Islands?

March 31, 2014 at 12:46 PM | by | ()

It is said that Christopher Columbus first referred to the Cayman Islands as "Las Tortugas" due to the large population of sea turtles living in the area. The current name also comes from Columbus, who used the Carib word for marine crocodiles, caiman, to describe the large population of rock iguanas that call the islands home.

Today, the three islands are under British control and rely on tourism for a large portion of their economy. Although they are separated by only 90 miles at their maximum distance and all known as scuba diving destinations, the islands maintain pretty distinct personalities, and the correct one for you depends on the type of trip you hope to have. Below, we break down the main differences between Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac.

Grand Cayman

Those seeking the typical Caribbean experience need to look no further than the 76-square mile Grand Cayman, which is known for its white-sand Seven Mile Beach that's filled with resorts and very much catered to tourists. If your travel plans don't go further than putting your toes in the sand, there's no reason to journey on past Grand Cayman. That's not to say you can't find a little adventure or culture. Make sure you try some turtle, and if you want to swim with stingrays, check out Stingray City, where we took the above photo. It is admittedly touristy and the epitome of mass tourism, but it is great for families and those looking to get extra up close and personal with marine life.

Little Cayman

Little Cayman was summed up in an article by our sis HotelChatter that featured a hotel with no keys for its rooms. The 10-square mile island has only 200 inhabitants, and if you've come to Little Cayman, you've come to completely escape reality, to scuba dive and to swing in hammocks, to grab some dinner and a beer before putting your feet up. There's not much going on otherwise, and that's exactly the island's claim to fame. Other than scuba dive, the most active thing you might do is go for a bike ride. This island is for those who want to avoid the crowds of Grand Cayman but still want a traditional Caribbean vacation in the sense of vibe and scenery.

Cayman Brac

At just over 12-square miles, Cayman Brac offers the most diverse landscape of the three islands, its limestone cliffs (called "The Bluff") rising up a few hundred feet above sea level at certain points. The feature makes it one of the few Caribbean rock climbing destinations, but do understand that this comes at the expense of sandy beaches. Most of the coastline is rocky and without sand, so although most hotels will have a reasonably-sized beach, this is not exactly the island for someone looking to spend their time sunbathing.

That said, the lack of sand provides other opportunities. The photo above is from when we walked the shores of The Bluff and collected Caymanian sea salt from the deposits in the rock. The limestone also supports easily-accessible caves with historical and practical roots that go beyond their impressive formations. For example, many were used as hurricane shelters in the past, the most famous being Rebecca's Cave that today contains the grave of a young girl who perished during a storm back in the 1930s.

Regardless of which island you choose (maybe all three?), remember you can drink free rum punch the entire trip if you fly with Cayman Airways.

[Photos: Will McGough]

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