On the Culture Front: Uncovering Quiet Charms on Grand Cayman

The Cayman Islands are surrounded by improbably clear turquoise water and the softest sand one could hope to sink his feet into. I first came to the island a few years ago for a friend's wedding, but was battling a rough cold, so the weekend (save for hand-rolled Cuban cigars and free-flowing Johnny Walker Blue Label) was a bit of a blur.

I found myself back on Grand Cayman in December when I was doing a profile for the Financial Times. The trip couldn't have come at a better time. New York was cold and dark, and I was itching for sun. A three-plus hour flight and a stroke of Déjà vu landed me at the Westin, just like I had for my buddy's wedding. The resort has a bit too much of a Club Med feel for my tastes, but it is on Seven Mile Beach, and lounging in one of their cabanas was one of the trip's highlights. There's something unquantifiably great about waking up from a long nap, and then realizing that you're on the beach.

When I pealed myself off the beach, I discovered the less-touristy charms of the East End. On a particularly memorable night, we went kayaking in a bioluminescent bay where we saw a myriad of creatures lighting up the dark sea as they moved through the water. The solitude of the night heightened the beguiling beauty of the unadulterated nature. Not too far away, blue Iguanas roam freely through a nature reserve.

At the eastern most point of the island, Vivine's Kitchen serves locally-sourced Caymanian comfort food like fish and fritters and conch stew. The prices are on the cheap side of reasonable and the view from this no-frills shack are stunning. To really experience Cayman though, you need to get in the water or at least on it. The island is surrounded by coral reefs that regulate the waves and keep the water calm. On my last day, we hired a catamaran for a day of sun bathing, snorkeling, swimming and jet skiing. The later was a first for me. I've driven boats before, but the feeling of hopping across waves on such a compact machine made the vast world, if only for a few minutes, seem utterly reachable.