(LifeWire) - Welcome to the Cayman Islands
Collectively known as the "three sisters," Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac comprise the Cayman Islands. This British territory is perhaps best known as an offshore financial haven, while its diving is among the best in the world. The annual Pirates Week Festival in November is an especially good time to visit with children, but the Caymans' lovely beaches make for a perfect family vacation year-round.
Visitors have the option of flying into Grand Cayman's Owen Roberts International Airport or Cayman Brac's Gerrard Smith Airport. The direct flights originate in a handful of North American cities (primarily Miami, but also Charlotte, Newark, Atlanta, Detroit and Toronto) and land in Grand Cayman; international flights to Cayman Brac usually come from Miami. Connecting flights from London to Grand Cayman are also available. Little Cayman has an airport as well, but it's primarily served by inter-island flights.* The airports on all three islands are just minutes from most resorts.
How's the Beach?
In a word, beautiful. Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach is a very popular but unspoiled stretch of fine white sand. You'll have to head up to the northern section, where there are fewer resorts, to break away from the crowds, but the swimming and snorkeling are great along the way. If you rent a car to explore the island, you can travel the entire coast and find satisfying sands everywhere you look.
Little Cayman also has excellent beaches with calm waters for wading and snorkeling; Cayman Brac's beaches, however, are less desirable for sunbathing.
Grand Cayman draws most families; besides receiving the majority of the direct flights to the Cayman Islands, it also has the most amenity-packed resorts. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman cater largely to divers and those seeking seclusion, but there are options for adventurous families who seek deep waters and peace, too. Some choices:
The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman: Located on Grand Cayman's gorgeous Seven Mile Beach, this property sets the standard for luxury on the island. The "Ambassadors of the Island" program by Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of Jacques-Yves, provides a rich educational experience for ages 4 and up (including adults). The resort includes a restaurant by Le Bernardin chef Eric Ripert, a Greg Norman-designed golf course and a La Prairie spa.
Westin Casuarina Resort & Spa: Another Seven Mile Beach property, this full-service resort has a Westin Kids Club (ages 3 to 12) and "Heavenly Cribs" to match the brand's signature "Heavenly Beds."
Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort: This property offers a Seven Mile Beach location at a more moderate price without skimping on valuable amenities. The spa, nearby golf courses, several restaurants and the Camp Coconut Kids' Club (ages 5 to 12) will keep the entire family busy.
Brac Reef Beach Resort: One of the very few all-inclusive options in the Caymans, this divers' draw makes up for the lack of a formal children's program with a comprehensive list of activities - everything from local cave explorations to karaoke nights - that appeal to all ages. Babysitting can also be arranged in advance.
Little Cayman Beach Resort: This is your best bet for a full-service resort on Little Cayman. There's no formal children's program, but there are plenty of outdoor activities and a game room.
Attractions & Fun Outings
Diving is the name of the game in the Cayman Islands. Your resort will be able to hook you up with an operator if there isn't an on-site dive shop. A particularly family-friendly outfit is Divetech, which offers snorkeling programs for children ages 5 and up and scuba diving lessons for ages 8 and up. You'll have access to great diving off Grand Cayman (check out Stingray City) and Cayman Brac, but dedicated divers will want to head to Little Cayman's Bloody Bay Marine Park - it's world-famous for good reason.
Stingray City -- an area of shallow sandbars where you can feed, hold, swim and take pictures with the rays -- is a top attraction for families. Many tour operators take visitors to Stingray City; some add a snorkeling stop and other activities on the tour.
For a break from the surf on Grand Cayman, visit Boatswain's Beach, a marine park with giant green sea turtles, that also has a nature trail and a Caribbean bird aviary; and Pedro St. James, known as the "castle" by locals and a beautiful setting in which to learn about the islands' history. Cayman Brac's caves are worth exploring with older kids who won't be fazed by the bats.
More about the Cayman Islands for Families
- See more Cayman Islands' Fun for Families: turtle farm, butterfly farm, Atlantis Submarine ride, Cayman Brac Family Week....
- For resorts and major attractions, always check recent visitor comments at a site such as TripAdvisor.com.
*Photo courtesy of Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.
*Always check destination websites for updates!