• Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/timandkris/2646248339/">Beach shot II</a> by

Little Cayman

The smallest, most tranquil of the Cayman Islands, Little Cayman has a full-time population of only 170, most of whom work in tourism. This 12-square-mile (31-square-km) island is still unspoiled and has only a sand-sealed airstrip, no official terminal building, and few vehicles. The speed limit remains 25 mph (40 kph), as no one is in a hurry. In fact, the island's iguanas use roads more than residents; signs created by local artists read "Iguanas Have the Right of Way." With little commercial development, the island beckons ecotourists who seek wildlife encounters, not urban wildlife. It's probably best known for its spectacular diving on Bloody Bay Wall and adjacent Jackson Marine Park. The ravishing reefs and plummeting walls encircling the island teem with more than 500 species of fish and more than 150 kinds of coral. Fly-, lake-, and deep-sea fishing are also popular, as are snorkeling, kayaking, cycling, and hiking. And the island's certainly for the birds. The National Trust Booby Pond Nature Reserve is a designated wetland, protecting around 20,000 red-footed boobies, the Western Hemisphere's largest colony. It's just one of many spots for avian aerial acrobatics. Pristine wetlands, secluded beaches, unspoiled tropical wilderness, mangrove swamps, lagoons, bejeweled coral reefs: Little Cayman practically redefines escape. Yet aficionados appreciate that the low-key lifestyle doesn't mean sacrificing high-tech amenities, and some resorts cater to a wealthy yet unpretentious crowd.

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