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World-class diving, intimate resorts, and a decidedly unpretentious atmosphere make Little Cayman one of the most relaxing vacation spots in the world. While it’s big sister, Grand Cayman, is certainly worth a trip, there’s a particularly off-the-beaten-path vibe about the roughly 10-square mile island of Little Cayman. Maybe it’s because the runway doubles as the island’s main road, the airport doubles as the fire department, and you’re just as likely (perhaps more likely) to see an iguana as you are to see a local.
Let’s start with the airport, Edward Bodden Airfield: the two-room building is about the size of a very small, quaint post office. There is one runway (the aforementioned main road), so it’s pretty much impossible to miss your plane, and it’s conveniently located next to the aptly-named Hungry Iguana—the only full-service restaurant on the island—which offers a mean Mudslide at the bar. (This cocktail alone is reason enough to travel to the Caribbean; it’s like a spiked chocolate milkshake).
The atmosphere of Little Cayman is one of undiscovered charms and secluded paradise. The moment you step off the plane, you’ll think: I’ve found something really good—something that not too many people know about. And relatively speaking, it’s true: Little Cayman, the smallest of the three islands that make up the Cayman Islands, is home to some 200 year-round residents. While it’s not necessarily a secret, especially among the serious diving community, it feels mostly undeveloped and untouched by the type of tourism that abounds on larger, more well-known Caribbean islands. Locals are friendly, it’s hard to go more than a few steps without encountering wildlife, the white sand that encircles the little island is pristine and uncrowded, and Bloody Bay Marine Park is known to many as the “mecca of the Caribbean.”
When it comes to accommodation, there are only a handful—around 15—full-service resorts, but that’s sort of nice; it makes choosing one a relatively simple process, and it’s also pretty tough to go wrong. Little Cayman Beach Resort is popular with the diving crowd. The resort offers the likes of on-site reef divers that provide “valet style diving,” a nature spa, wireless Internet (not all resorts have this amenity), and 40 intimate rooms. For all-around luxury and award-winning all-inclusive accommodations, Pirates Point Resort fits the bill, boasting a stunning property situated on seven acres of pristine sand. Those looking for a more unplugged getaway will appreciate the Southern Cross Club, which only offers WiFi in the main clubhouse. The 14 ocean-facing bungalows are brightly colored, there’s a charming full-service tiki bar next to the freshwater pool, and the resort perches along 900 feet of pink-and-white sand, facing the uninhabited Owen Island—perhaps the gem of Little Cayman.
It's spots like little Owen Island, which feels like a treasure island a la Pirates of the Caribbean, that make Little Cayman such a veritable paradise. You can kayak out to this little island and have the entire thing to yourself (I did, for three hours)—you pick up conchs, fallen coconuts, and watch shimmery schools of fish dance in the crystal-clear waters. Of course, the biggest draw for divers is the famed Bloody Bay Coral Wall, a marine park and one of the world’s best dive walls made up of nearly 1,000 feet of vertical coral. Beautiful fish and numerous bioluminescent creatures call this wall home, which was supposedly named for historic pirate battles.
As the island is located 80 miles northeast of Grand Cayman, no ferries travel to Little Cayman. To reach the island via plane, you can book a flight to Grand Cayman, and from there out to the little island—four flights land on Little Cayman daily (about 30-40 minutes in the air). If you have a night or two on Grand Cayman, a stay at the The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman or the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, both American Express Fine Hotel & Resort properties, will get you feeling relaxed even before you set foot on Little Cayman.