One of the finest beaches in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach (technically, the beach is named West Bay Beach, but everybody calls it Seven Mile Beach) is a haven of white, white sand, Australian pines, and palm trees, stretching all the way from George Town to Long Point. It tends to be crowded near the big resorts, but the beach is so big that you can always find room to spread out your towel.

Because the beach is on the more tranquil western side of Grand Cayman, the water is generally placid and inviting with no significant tide, making it ideal for families, even those with small children. A sandy bottom slopes gently to deep water. The water is great for snorkelers and swimmers of most ages and abilities, and it's so clear that you can easily see what's swimming around underwater.

Along the stretch of the beach, from one end to the other, are hotels and condos. The beach hotels have bars and restaurants open to nonguests, and most of these hotels also have watersports kiosks where you can book parasailing and windsurfing excursions or rent snorkeling equipment. Independent watersports concessions, including places to rent snorkeling gear, boats, windsurfers, WaveRunners, paddle cats (inflatable kayaks), and aqua trikes (floating tricycles), can also be easily found along the beach.

Of all the bars and restaurants strung along Seven Mile Beach, one of the friendliest is the Beach Club Colony Hotel & Dive Resort, West Bay Road (tel. 345/949-8100), which welcomes nonguests. The modern Caribbean restaurant is open daily from 7:30am to 9pm and the beach bar is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 12:45pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 11:45pm. A special offer here is a certified boat-diving package costing US$95 per person, which includes a two-tank boat dive. The on-site dive shop is open daily from 7am to 5pm.

Grand Cayman does have a number of minor beaches, although they pale in comparison to Seven Mile Beach. Visit these if you want to escape the crowds. Beaches on the east and north coasts of Grand Cayman are good -- filled with white sand and protected by an offshore barrier reef, so waters are generally tranquil.

Just to the north of Seven Mile Beach, Cemetery Reef and its public beach are good spots for snorkeling. Cemetery Beach -- at the southern tier of Boggy Sand Road -- is reached by following the cemetery that's located opposite the fire station on the northern tip of West Bay Road.

Smith Cove Public Beach is located between Coconut Harbour and Cayman Coves, on the west side of George Town. Contrasting completely with the glitz and glitter of Seven Mile Beach, this attractive sandy strip is small but top-notch. It's a good spot for snorkeling and a nice venue for a picnic beneath the shade. Changing facilities and bathrooms are available on-site.

Rum Point lies 40km (25 miles) north of George Town, on North Sound along the northern coast. There's a fairly good beach here, though it happens to be one of the most remote. Calm, clear waters and tree shade make this an excellent spot for swimming. The beach has changing facilities, public toilets, and showers. On-site is the Wreck Bar & Grill, in case you want a drink. Our favorite time to visit is Sunday, when locals stop by in their boats and bring a gregarious and animated atmosphere to the bar. On-site watersports activities are run by the reputable Red Sail Sports .

One of our favorite beaches is on the north coast, bordering the Cayman Kai Beach Resort, directly to the southwest of Rum Point. This beach is a Caribbean cliché of charm, with palm trees and beautiful sands. You can snorkel along the reef to Rum Point. The beach is also an ideal spot for a Sunday-afternoon picnic. There are bathrooms and changing facilities.

The best windsurfing is found in the East End, at the beach near the settlement of Colliers, reached along Queen's Highway and lying near Morritt's Tortuga Club.

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.