When diving friends opened the Southern Cross Club in 1958, Little Cayman, the smallest of the three islands that make up the British colony, had a population of just three people. Fourteen stilted cottages, painted turquoise, pink, or yellow, some with private porches and outdoor showers, sit on a white-sand, palm-studded beach. Today, the 10-square-mile island still feels deserted, with fewer than 200 permanent residents. Rooms lack WiFi and TVs (and even locks) but they look out over South Hole Sound, whose seclusion will appeal to nature-loving guests.
The main clientele are fishing enthusiasts (bonefish, tarpon) and divers, who come from around the world to experience the thrill of Bloody Bay Wall and dozens of other pristine sites.
Dive destinations range from sheer drop-offs, thousands of feet deep (the government limits dives to 100 feet), to shallow coral bowls suitable for novices and snorkelers. The resort dive boat is anchored at a beach pier, giving snorkelers access to the nearby fringing reef as well.
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Just 10 miles long and one mile wide, Little Cayman is one of the least developed islands in the Caribbean, a cult destination for divers yet free of mass tourism hallmarks. Turtle grass covers the shallow seabed immediately in front of the cottages; the water is gin clear, and kayakers will spot bonefish, snapper, jacks, barracuda, mullet, stingrays, and tarpon. Owen Island, a few hundred feet offshore, is a deserted picnic and sunbathing spot. The island proper has just three other small dive hotels and one small town with a single, expensive grocery store (pack essentials, including sunscreen, insect repellent, and anti-itch treatments for mosquito and no-see-ums). It’s possible to visit a reserve for rare seabirds, plus the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, where biologists will discuss the regionwide problems of lionfish overpopulation and coral bleaching. Many divers head immediately for Bloody Bay Wall and Jackson’s Bight, but the island sites are inexhaustible. An hour away, off Cayman Brac island, the M/V Keith Tibbetts, a Soviet-era destroyer sunk in the 1990s, shelters a population of giant groupers. Despite the plethora of dive sites, the island has just one true swimming beach, Point O Sand, with a deep, sandy bottom; it’s accessible from the resort by bike or kayak.
Need to Know
Rooms: 14 bungalow rooms. From $1,595 per person for five nights. Check-in: Check-in and check-out times are based on island flight schedules. Dining options: The resort’s all-inclusive rates cover three multi-course, Caribbean-inflected meals whose ingredients change daily. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style. A la carte dinners feature locally caught seafood. Guests can dine in their rooms, in an air-conditioned dining room, in a screened outdoor dining pavilion, poolside, or at private candlelit tables on the beach. The Loggerhead Bar serves all-day snacks. Spa and gym details: There is a small outdoor pool. No gym or spa, but the hotel has bikes and kayaks for guests and operates a kitesurfing school and the island’s only flats and deep-sea game fishing program.
Who’s it best for: Divers and guests who want to disconnect from the world; those who prefer to go barefoot; guests happy to spend a day in a hammock or kayak. Our favorite rooms: Rooms 9 through 13 are new bungalows with large porches overlooking the beach. The Honeymoon Suite, set apart on the eastern edge of the property, offers the most seclusion. Lonely island: For total seclusion, kayak over to unpopulated Owen Island, a few hundred feet off the hotel beach.