Come to Cayman Brac for spectacular outdoor activities rather than man-made attractions. Scuba divers flock here in droves, and everyone -- from singles to families -- loves the beaches.
Because diving on Cayman Brac is lauded as some of the best in the Caribbean, divers from all over the world, both experienced and beginner, come here. Seas are usually calm and the best dive sites lie only a 5- to 20-minute boat ride offshore.
In all, there are about 50 prime dive sites, geared to all levels of divers. The most dramatic is the wreck of the frigate Captain Keith Tibbetts, which was deliberately sunk in September 1996 after being brought over from Cuba. This 99m (325-ft.) former Russian frigate lies 180m (591 ft.) offshore in northwest Cayman Brac, its bow resting in 34m (112 ft.) of water, the stern just 17m (56 ft.) below the surface. During the Cold War era, this ship was part of the old Soviet fleet sent to Cuba. After the fall of the Soviet Republic, the ship was abandoned for 3 years before it was purchased by the Cayman Islands to turn it into a site of marine conservation. Today it has become a habitat for abundant marine life. Divers can swim through its trio of upper decks, keeping company with everything from four-eyed butterflyfish to batfish.
Reef Divers, South Side (tel. 800/594-0843 or 345/948-1642; www.bracreef.com), is affiliated with the previously recommended Brac Reef Beach Resort and is the island's most visible and recommended dive operator. Divers' magazines consistently rate this outfitter as offering the best wall diving and wreck diving on Cayman Brac. Reef Divers' fleet of dive boats, with a complete inventory of tanks and scuba gear, ranges from 13 to 14m (43-46 ft.). A one-tank dive costs US$65, a two-tank dive US$95, and a three-tank dive US$125. Snorkeling trips are also possible for US$25 for a half-day and US$35 for a full day. Rentals of wetsuits, masks, fins, and snorkeling equipment, among other gear, are available. After discussing your interests, the dive operator will guide you to dozens of different sites.
Fishing is another reason many visitors come to Cayman Brac: The fishing here rivals that of the waters surrounding Little Cayman. Bonefishing inside the reef along the coast to the southwest is especially rewarding. Catches around the island include wahoo, sailfish, marlin, tuna, grouper, and snapper.
Indepth Watersports (tel. 866/396-8704 or 345/948-8037; www.indepthwatersports.com) has fishing charters for US$600 per half-day or US$1,000 for a full day for up to eight fishermen.
Hiking is becoming more and more popular on Cayman Brac, enough so that the Cayman Brac Tourist Office now has free printed guides to the best hikes on the island. Trails, though not always well maintained, are indicated by white "heritage markers." In all, some three dozen marked trails wind their way across the island. Some are easy to reach and hike, while others require more skill and experience. The following recommended hikes are moderately difficult.
Some of our favorite trails include West End Point Overlook, starting on South Side Road, west of the Brac Reef Beach Resort. The ideal hike for bird-watching is at the far western point of Brac. Islanders also claim, and with good reason, that you have the best view of sunsets here. Locals watch for the "green flash" of light as the sun goes down.
Another good trail to follow is Westerly Ponds, South Side Road, across from the Brac Reef Beach Resort. The two ponds along this trail are the best spots for observing the life of wetland fowl. Boardwalks cut across the marshes, with small viewing sections.
The Lighthouse Trail, taking 3 hours, starts at Spot Bay in the East End of the island. You'll approach the beginning of the trail by walking along Spot Bay Road, then follow the trail up the northeast face of the Bluff. On the way, you'll pass the entrance to Peter's Cave, used in olden days as a hurricane shelter. As you continue hiking, you will come to a spot dubbed Peter's Outlook by locals, with a panoramic sweep across Spot Bay. There are two lighthouses in this area, one modern and the other from the 1930s.
The best nature trail on Brac is the Parrot Reserve in the center of the island, which is perfect for self-guided tours. The trail meanders for 1.6km (1 mile), taking hikers through the heart of the reserve, which is a visitor's best chance to see the endangered Cayman Brac parrot. Trails are always open and there's no fee to enter. You must, of course, bring your own provisions, including plenty of water. This preserve is reached along Major Donald Drive (sometimes called Lighthouse Rd.), a 9.7km (6-mile) dirt road leading to cliffs. From this vantage point on the Bluff, the best view of North East Point is spread before you. Many hikers come here to take in the most dramatic sunrise in the Cayman Islands.
Cayman Brac has a series of caves that are open for exploring. While the island does not offer organized spelunking excursions, you might seek advice at the tourist office at the time of your visit to see if any spelunking excursions are being organized, if you wish to explore the caves with a group.
Peter's Cave, on the Lighthouse Trail in the East End, is mammoth, with tunnels leading off in several directions. Rebecca's Cave lies off South Side Road, near the Carib Sands Beach Resort, and is well marked. It's the best known of Brac's caves, and takes its name from a young child who died here during the disastrous hurricane of 1932 that destroyed the island. Rebecca's tomb can still be seen in the middle of the cave.
Bat Cave takes its name from its inhabitants, several species of which can be seen hanging from above if you shine your flashlight up to the roof. Most of the bats you'll see here are Jamaican fruit bats. The bats emerge in the evening to fly about, usually after 9pm. Bat Cave is on the south side of the island and is marked by signs.
A final cave, Great Cave, stands 1.6km (a mile) or so from the lighthouse that designates the easternmost point of the island, at the top of the Bluff. Filled with stalagmites and stalactites, it is one of the most interesting caves to explore, although a bit eerie. The terrain is dry and rocky, with plenty of sharp, loose rocks. Wear long pants and sturdy shoes, preferably with ankle supports, for scrambling around underground.
The best tennis court on the island is found at the previously recommended Brac Reef Beach Resort, South Side (tel. 345/948-1323). The court is open to nonguests at the cost of CI$6.25 per day. The court is open daily and is also lit for night play.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.