It's the Caribbean, but on a docked ship or at the airport you're still whiffing recycled air. It's simple enough to get back into the salty ocean breeze. Besides, rum never tastes right without sand stuck to the bottom of the glass.
Edible Rum (To Go—WALK, TAXI: 2 HOURS The immigration line should be a snap, leading to a 10-minute cab ride to the George Town waterfront. I head for Corita's Copper Kettle, a local joint tucked on a back street, for Corita Mendoza's farm-grown turtle stew. In town I'll grab a few Tortuga rum cakes (named for the Caymans' original ID) from the branded store and a bottle of the banana rum.
Airport or Here?—CAR: 2 HOURS The beach at Rum Point is maybe 30 minutes from the airport and is one of the most tranquil spots on Cayman. You won't see cruise ships — just a few travelers who found the place because of a local tip.
Comb One More Beach—TAXI: 4 HOURS Most of the famed Seven Mile Beach has become too developed for me. It's easy enough to avoid the crowds there and the congestion where the cruise ships wait by taking a taxi to Calico Jack's, a true-to-form beach bar that stands by itself along a quieter stretch. It has all the necessary supplies for beach time, and Marty, the manager, is a fun drinking buddy. Though if there's a cruise ship in port, it'll likely be busy. If so, grab something to go, and walk north about a hundred yards. All the while remembering, you could be sitting in a coffee shop back at a terminal.
Matchless Meal—TAXI: 4 HOURS Best send-off is at Michael's Genuine on the North Sound. I think I know why chef Michael Schwartz won a James Beard Award: The grilled Fudge Farms pork chop with braised local callaloo and mango chutney.
Genuine Cayman—CAR: 6 HOURS Duck into Pure Art Gallery in an unassuming bungalow and buy a piece of the Caymans — the Caymanite, jewelry made from stone only found here. Afterward, grab a rum drink at Sunset House (right).
A Little-Known Beach—CAR: 6 HOURS Six hours leaves plenty of cushion to explore, ideally with a rental car. (Oddly, there aren't any agencies in the airport itself; they're all across the street.) Then you can discover a Caymanian secret: the little beach at Smith's Cove. There are reefs to snorkel and placid water, and it's never crowded. This is a personal favorite.
A Mini Getaway—CAR: 8 HOURS The island's east end isn't particularly scenic, but the local restaurants and sleepy towns dotting the coastal road are a nice contrast to the western side. The drive winds north to Rum Point, which I think is an apt name. I like to order lunch under the casuarina trees, then wade into the sandy shallows.
Unforgettable—CAR: 8 HOURS Miss Nell Connor, 89, sits under a shade tree next to the Lighthouse Restaurant, weaving thatch baskets. They may cost a few dollars, but her stories are worth every penny.