Accommodations are mostly in small lodges, many of which offer meal and dive packages. The meal packages are a good idea; the chefs in most places create wonderful dishes with often limited resources.
The bar at Pirates Point typifies the fun, funky sensibility of the dive set, who adorn their favorite resorts with painted stones and driftwood. Here you’ll find an idiosyncratic, imaginative gallery of mobiles, painted sandals, coconut fronds, and found art. An old oar fashioned into the likeness of a Caymanian lizard might read “Texas Roadkill Dive Club”; sculpted penguins say “We don’t know how we got here but we know we’re not leaving.” Founder Gladys Howard created an annual competition for best creation, with prizes including free stays. The staff provides brushes, paints, and a hot-glue gun; guests canvas for raw materials on the shore. One recent winner was a lionfish created from palm fronds and sea sponges.
Recommended Hotels and Resorts
The Club.…Rental. These ultramodern, luxurious, three-bedroom condos are Little Cayman’s nicest units, though only five are usually included in the rental pool. Each comes fully equipped, from kitchen to bedroom, with Italian marble, Turkish tiles, etched-glass doors, elegant accents such as arches and crown moldings, state-of-the-art gadgetry from rainfall showerheads to flat-screen TVs, upscale furnishings such as four-poster beds, and patios or balconies with scintillating water views. The complex has an outdoor pool with waterfall and Jacuzzi along the beachfront, as well as a dock with inviting hammocks. Guests can use the amenities and sign up for a meal plan at Little Cayman Beach Resort, under the same ownership; it’s about a five-minute walk from the Club. Some residences can be locked off into one- and two-bedroom units. Pros: luxurious digs; lovely beach; hot tub. Cons: housekeeping not included; rear guest bedrooms dark and somewhat cramped; handsome but heavy old-fashioned decor. | Rooms from: $311 | South Hole Sound, Little Cayman | 345/948–1033, 727/323–8727, 800/327–3835 | www.theclubatlittlecayman.com | 8 condos | No meals.
Little Cayman Beach Resort.…Resort. This two-story hotel, the island’s largest, offers modern facilities in a boutique setting. The stylishly contemporary rooms include flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations, curved shower rods, malachite-and-marble accents, carved Honduran hardwood furnishings. They overlook either the pool area or the ocean (the latter are quieter, especially the 300 block, farthest from the occasionally raucous Beach Nuts Bar, where divers congregate at 5 pm to watch the day’s top high-definition videos). A full-service spa offers massages using mostly marine-based ingredients, as well as hair and nail treatments. The Mermaid Boutique is the island’s most upscale shop. Meals, which have greatly improved under Executive Chef Anthony Pizzarello, are generally served buffet-style. Diving packages represent excellent value. The resort is gradually upgrading various areas and experimenting with eco-friendly practices such as using green-approved organic chemicals. But island warmth remains: it’s family-run by Brackers, the children of beloved Linton “Mr. T” Tibbetts, an inspiring self-made millionaire who was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for his passionate efforts to promote tourism while preserving Caymanian heritage. Pros: extensive facilities; fun crowd; glorious LED-lighted pool; top-notch bone- and deep-sea fishing. Cons: less intimate feel than other island resorts; tiny patios; fee to rent bikes. | Rooms from: $399 | Blossom Village, Little Cayman | 345/948–1033, 800/327–3835 | www.littlecayman.com | 40 rooms | Multiple meal plans.
Pirates Point Resort.…Resort. Comfortable, recently renovated rooms and fine cuisine make this hideaway nestled between sea grape and casuarina pines on a sweep of sand one of Little Cayman’s best properties. There are 11 bungalow-style rooms, some air-conditioned, others swept by crosswinds through louvers. Walls duplicate the soft colors of a Caribbean dawn; floors and furnishings are immaculate. In true Caribbean getaway tradition, TV is banished to the main cottage (where Wi-Fi is available). You’ll likely become fast friends with effervescent owner Gladys Howard, whose down-home welcome belies her upscale meals (ask to hear anecdotes of her studies with Julia Child, James Beard, and Jacques Pepin). She still watches the kitchen staff like a hawk while finding time to host weekly champagne parties on the verandah of her adjacent home and play dominoes after dinner. Somehow Gladys always wins, slamming tiles down with classic Caribbean vigor. Weekly stays (preferred) represent huge savings, especially the dive packages, which include an open bar; guests who are not on dive packages just get wine with dinner. Pros: fabulous food; fantastic beach; dynamic dive program; fun-loving staff and owner. Cons: everyone respects honeymooners’ privacy, but this isn’t a resort for antisocial types; tasteful rooms are fairly spare; occasional Internet problems. | Rooms from: $484 | Pirates Point, Little Cayman | 345/948–1010 | www.piratespointresort.com | 11 rooms | Closed Sept.–mid-Oct. | Multiple meal plans.
Southern Cross Club.…Resort. Little Cayman’s first resort was cofounded in the 1950s as a private fishing club by the CEO of Sears-Roebuck and CFO of General Motors, and its focus is still on fishing and diving. The adventure and barefoot elegance motifs are struck in the semi-open lobby with African masks, trophy game fish, hand-painted cabinets, and a magnificent indoor-outdoor bar. Psychedelically hued duplex cottages sit on Little Cayman’s most spectacular white-sand beach, with views of the uninhabited Owen Island and romantic private outdoor showers. Rooms feature vivid colors, local art, bamboo accents and hardwood furniture, including several four-poster beds. Some have separate living rooms and indoor-outdoor showers; the newest incorporate ecologically sound aspects such as gray-watered gardens and solar-heated water. Dive services are superb—set your gear up once and the rest is done for you during your stay. Creative mixologists hold sway at the delightful bar, and the food is exceptional, served in various venues, including an air-conditioned split-level dining room with panoramic views. The resort was Green Globe certified in 2010.<semi-b> </COMMEN Pros: barefoot luxury; complimentary use of kayaks and snorkel gear; splendiferous beach; international staff regales you with globe-trotting exploits. Cons: not child-friendly (though families can rent a separate cottage); Wi-Fi promised but still not available in some rooms, with spotty signal otherwise. | Rooms from: $704 | South Hole Sound, Little Cayman | 345/948–1099, 800/899–2582 | www.southerncrossclub.com | 12 suites, 1 2-bedroom cottage | Closed mid-Sept.–mid-Oct. | All meals.