How to get there & Where to stay
Cayman Brac was hit hard by Hurricane Paloma in early November last year, and although the island is still getting back on its feet, it makes a great weekend getaway.
Divers, hikers, climbers and those just looking for a relaxing break can still find plenty to do on this 14-square mile island.
If you’ve never been to the Brac before, hire a car and take a drive around the sleepy roads of the island, which is just 12 miles long and 1.5 miles wide.
It’s easy to find your way around, as basically the road system is shaped like the letter H, with the centre band running across the top of the Bluff and linking up the other two roads.
After driving along Grand Cayman’s busy, entirely flat roads, it makes a nice change to experience hills – well, one hill: the imposing 140-foot-high Bluff.
Along the drive, you’ll see few cars on the road, but some interesting architecture along the way. A surprising sight for many first-timers, or for those who don’t go beyond the west end of the island, is the Bubble House, an egg-shaped house by the sea side. It looks entirely out of place, but strangely at home. The house lay unfinished and abandoned for years, but is now occupied.
The island is also home to the Caribbean’s smallest synagogue, the Temple Beth Shalom on the grounds of Walton Mango Manor in Stake Bay. George Walton built it for his wife Lynne in 2006.
For the energetic, there are wonderful nature walks along the Bluff and if exploring caves appeals to you, there are plenty of them here, including Rebecca’s Cave, Bat Cave, Great Cave, Peter’s Cave and the Halfway Ground Cave.
And then, there’s the climbing. Parts of the east end of the Bluff have been bolted and provide exciting climbing opportunities.
The popular Brac Reef Beach Resort was destroyed in Paloma, and while the rebuilding of the hotel continues apace and is tentatively scheduled to re-open in December, its bar and dive shop are open for business.
Cayman Brac has some of the best diving in the world, and Mick Maher at the Reef Divers at the Brac Reef Beach Resort is on hand to take divers out on one of the company’s five dive boats.
He admits business is slow right now, partly because many people don’t realise that the place is open.
Maher can take divers out any day of the week. Two-tank morning dives cost $85, a one-tank afternoon dive is $55, or you can do a full day three-tank dive of $105.
He recommends the 330 ft. M/V Captain Keith Tibbetts, a Russian-built Cuban naval frigate sunk off the Brac’s northwest coast in September 1996. Other popular dive sites are the Shoots on the north side and the Anchor Wall on the south side.
Another dive site is the Lost World of Atlantis. Created by Foots, an American-born artist living in Cayman Brac, the site boasts dozens of statues built and sunk by Foots.
His statues can also be seen on land, lined up on the roadside beside Stake Bay Cemetery before being sunk.
For food and drink the Reef Beach Resort and the Captain’s Table can be relied up on to provide good food, drink and company.
Accommodation was scarce on Cayman Brac after Paloma as the storm wrecked so many properties but that changed in July when the Alexander Hotel opened its doors.
Other accommodation is available at Walton’s Mango Manor, Breakers, Carib Sands, and La Esperanza. Rentable condos are also opening up as repairs are carried out. It’s best to phone around and book somewhere to stay before you land on island.
To find out a bit about the history of the Brac, visit the Cayman Brac Museum. It is open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm. With few tourists on the island currently, the museum no longer opens at weekend, but curator Lisa McFarlane says once business picks up, it may return to opening on Saturdays. WH