Cayman Islands

Writer Bob Morris caught his first bonefish in the Cayman Islands - a memorable accomplishment. "I"d been bonefishing in the Bahamas a few times without any luck," says Morris, "They"re tough to catch, especially on a fly rod." This time, he caught four bonefish in just over an hour, though he admits to having lost a few.

Morris suggests a slow immersion into the Caymans: Start on Grand Cayman ("tropics lite," he calls it); then head to Cayman Brac for strange geography and few tourists; and end up on Little Cayman ("a diving and fishing paradise"). A Florida resident, Morris contributes to National Geographic Traveler, the Robb Report, and Bon Appétit.

Photographer Michael Moore also caught his first bonefish off Little Cayman. "I"ve photographed bonefishing many times, but I never tried it myself," he says. "It took only ten minutes to hook one, but it took another seven minutes to pull it in; it put up a good fight."

At Stingray City, Moore saw close to 30 stingrays; the biggest were four feet across. "They"re like puppy dogs," he says. "They like to be petted."

A resident of Southern California, Moore also shoots for National Geographic Adventure, Budget Travel, and Santa Barbara Magazine.

Dive In The Cayman Islands are among the world"s top dive destinations. Moore, a longtime diver, says that the diversity is outstanding, the reefs are pristine, and the soft corals are the best he"s seen. Bloody Bay Wall, off Little Cayman, starts in just 20 feet of water and drops 6,000 feet. At Grand Cayman"s Stingray City, you can feed wild stingrays while standing in shallow water. In terms of outfitters, Moore recommends Captain Marvin"s for a stingray trip, Reef Divers at the Brac Reef Beach Resort on Cayman Brac, and the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman. (Nondivers can opt to snorkel, snuba, and ride in small commercial submarines.)

Beach Time On Grand Cayman, the hotel-lined white sand of Seven Mile Beach is the most famous spot, but Morris recommends Smith"s Cove, a quiet pocket beach south of George Town. On Little Cayman, he suggests Point of Sand on the east end, where you can snorkel while the currents carry you along the reef. He also liked sailing over the shallows of Owen Island, 600 yards off the Southern Cross Club. Cayman Brac"s shoreline is rocky.

Wild Times Parrots, Cayman boa constrictors, and ancient trees spice up a hike on Grand Cayman"s Mastic Trail. Moore recommends hiring a National Trust-approved guide to interpret for you. On Cayman Brac"s numerous well- marked trails, you won"t need a guide, but bring flashlights (you"ll need an extra in case one fails or breaks) so you can explore the caves to see bats and stalactites. On Little Cayman, Morris suggests arriving at Booby Pond Nature Reserve about 45 minutes before dark to see the aerial battles between boobies and frigate birds. Look for the four- foot-long iguanas sunning themselves on Candlelight Lane, west of the Southern Cross Club.

Room Key Visitors can choose from all-inclusive luxury resorts, condos, small hotels, dive lodges, and fishing camps. The Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman has pastel 1950s-era cottages (renovated in 1994) with no TVs or phones. "It"s simple yet charming," says Moore ($1,450 to $1,780 per person for seven- night packages, with diving and fishing options available; tel. 800-899-2582, Web site www.southerncrossclub.com). On Cayman Brac, Brac Reef Beach Resort features an excellent dive operation - and plenty of hammocks. (For rates call 800-327-3835, Web site www.bracreef.com.) On Grand Cayman, The Westin Casuarina Resort has a prime spot on Seven Mile Beach and a new spa ($205 to $725 per night; tel. 345-945-3800 or 800-937-8461, Web site http://www.westincasuarina.com.

What"s to Eat The traditional national dish is turtle stew. (These days the turtles are farm-raised.) Bed, a trendy local spot on Grand Cayman, serves fusion food presented as towering sculptures. Moore"s favorite meal was the yellowfin tuna with cracked peppercorn crust at the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman. For a quick, casual lunch, try the farmer"s market in George Town or one of the roadside jerk stands. At Dora"s Jerk on Grand Cayman, $10 buys a giant portion of jerk pork and rice, plus a Stingray beer. Cracked Conch by the Sea has a deck for sunset views, while Casanova serves Italian food in a lively atmosphere and has a fine view of the harbor.

On the Road You can fly direct from the U.S. to Grand Cayman; small planes will get you between islands, but do book in advance. You"ll need a rental car or scooter for beach-hopping on Grand Cayman and to reach the bluff trails on Cayman Brac. (A Jeep Wrangler costs $75 per day.) Bring your driver"s license in order to get a temporary permit ($7.50). Driving is on the left. There"s no need for a car on Little Cayman.

Read It and Leap Far Tortuga, by Peter Matthiessen, uses islander dialect to tell the tale of superstitious turtle fishermen from Grand Cayman. The Maritime Heritage of the Cayman Islands, by Roger C. Smith et al, documents the area"s nautical history, including pirates, shipwrecks, and sunken treasure. For guidebooks, try Bradt"s Cayman Islands, by Tricia Hayne, and Adventure Guide to the Cayman Islands, by Paris Permenter and John Bigley. The Dive Sites of the Cayman Islands, by Lawson Wood, details more than 260 spots.

Web Headings For dive information and a list of operators in the Cayman Islands, see www.divecayman.ky.

Cash Flow ATMs and banks are everywhere.