• Photo: Lhb1239 [Attribution-ShareAlike], via Wikimedia Commons

Cayman Brac

Cayman Brac is named for its most distinctive feature, a rugged limestone bluff (brac in Gaelic) that runs up the center of the 12-mile (19-km) island, pocked with caves and culminating in a sheer 140-foot cliff at its eastern end. The Brac, 89 miles (143 km) northeast of Grand Cayman, is a splendidly serene destination for eco-enthusiasts, offering world-class birding, scuba diving, bonefishing in the shallows or light-tackle and deep-sea angling, hiking, spelunking, and rock climbing. With only 1,800 residents—they call themselves Brackers—the island has the feel and easy pace of a small town. Brackers are known for their friendly attitude toward visitors, so it's easy to strike up a conversation. Locals wave on passing and might invite you home for a traditional rundown (a thick, sultry fish stew) and storytelling, usually about the sea, turtle schooners, and the great hurricane of 1932 (when the caves offered shelter).

Brackers are as calm and peaceful as their island is rugged, having been violently sculpted by sea and wind, most recently by Hurricane Paloma, which leveled the island in 2008 (locals quip that all 18 churches—but no bars—sustained significant damage).

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