Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Photo: alexanderhotelcayman.com
Photo: alexanderhotelcayman.com

Ah, the Cayman Islands. Grand Cayman is known for its high-end shopping, restaurants, and hotels. Little Cayman has some of the best scuba-diving spots in the Caribbean. While Cayman Brac has . . . wait, why do people go to Cayman Brac?

Cayman Brac is the often-forgotten Cayman Island. The 12-mile-long island is located 90 miles east of Grand Cayman and only seven miles from Little Cayman. There are no cruise ships, spring breakers, or even traffic here. Fewer than 2,000 people call the island home. The friendly Brackers, as they call themselves, grow exquisite gardens and don’t lock their doors. And while beautiful beaches and quiet diving spots may lure you to the island, it’s the hiking trails that will amaze you.

Brac is the Gaelic word for bluff, which is what runs through the middle of Cayman Brac and gave the island its name. The limestone bluff, which ascends from the west end of the island, looks like a giant ramp. It’s full of coral formations from when the island was underwater. Erosion has created caves in the porous limestone. Fruit bats cling to the caves’ rooftops. The National Trust Parrot Reserve protects endangered Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman parrots. While the views are breathtakingly dramatic.

Photo: alexanderhotelcayman.com
Photo: alexanderhotelcayman.com

The Lighthouse Trail is at the east end of the bluff. The hike is steep and uneven, but it’s totally worth it. Pass Peter’s Cave, which Brackers used as a hurricane shelter. Stop for a water break and panoramic views of Spot Bay at Peter’s Outlook. Walk by cacti, aloe, and brown boobies nesting on precarious ledges. Finally reach the two lighthouses (one historic) at the top of the 140-foot bluff. The lighthouses are a bit of a disappointment, but the views more than make up for them. You feel like you’re on top of the world looking across the bluff and down into the Caribbean Sea.

Bird lovers should head to the Westerly Ponds on the western side of the island. Viewing platforms overlook the wetlands, where hundreds of species of birds nest. West Indian whistling ducks, pied-billed grebes, black-crowned night herons, and gull-billed terns are only a few of the birds you might see fishing in the lagoons, while merlins and peregrine falcons hunt the waterbirds themselves. Just don’t forget your binoculars.

The West End Point Overlook, at the western tip of the island, is also popular with bird watchers, though sunset is the real reason people arrive every evening. After a long day of hiking, it’s time to relax, enjoy the sea breeze, and look at Little Cayman in the distance. You might even see the green flash as the sun drops over the horizon. There’s no way you’ll ever forget this little island now.

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