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Cayman Islands

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Ringed by coral reefs and pristine azure waters, the three islands that comprise the Cayman Islands are a marine paradise in the western Caribbean. You can swim with stingrays in sparkling shallows, dive amid rainbow-hued fish along coral reefs, or simply plunk yourself down on one of the islands' white-sand beaches with a rum punch in hand. The Caymans have a well-developed tourism infrastructure, offering a range of lodgings, from funky West Indian cottages to luxury resorts, and diverse dining options.

Beaches

A curling stretch of powdery white sand, Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman is picture-postcard beautiful; it's fringed by shady casuarina trees and blissfully free of litter and beach hawkers. Grab snorkel and fin and head to Rum Point, a secluded spot whose clear waters teem with rainbow-hued fish. Point of Sand, at the southeastern tip of Little Cayman, has luminescent pink sand -- on many weekdays, you're likely to have the beach all to yourself.

Things to Do

Take a walking tour of the historic capital city, George Town, with the National Trust. Visit the Cayman Islands National Museum, to learn about the cultural and natural history of the island. You don't need any special skills to take part in the national sport of the Caymans: fishing. Blue marlin, wahoo, dolphin, and tuna await those who cast their lines. This is one of the Caribbean's top diving destinations, with more than 200 scuba diving sites scattered throughout the islands.

Eating and Drinking

Chow down on locally caught fish at a waterside shack or indulge in a five-course meal in an upscale restaurant. For a taste of island cuisine, sample a bowl of conch chowder, a hearty tomato-based soup made with sweet peppers, onions, and a smidgeon of salt pork or bacon. The charming waterfront Calypso Grill is a local favorite for its marinated conch and Cuban-style shrimp. Hemingway's, serving paella, crab cakes and the catch of the day, has garnered international accolades.

Nature

Stroll the 200-year-old, 2-mile Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman, which slices through a dry subtropical forest. Here, you'll find a native mangrove swamp, tall mahogany trees and royal palms and birdlife that includes the Caribbean dove, the Cuban bullfinch and the Grand Cayman parrot. The Cayman Turtle Farm is the protected habitat of thousands of green sea turtles, an endangered species. Enter a mesh-enclosed area where butterflies from all over the world fly freely at the Butterfly Farm.

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