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Just south of Jamaica, the
have truly grown up the past thirty years, driven by tourism and banking. The Cayman Islands rank as the world's fifth largest offshore financial centre. Bank secrecy laws make it illegal to reveal the identities of accounts owners - unless of course, shady dealings are suspected. Through the years, regulations have been severely tightened making it nearly impossible to launder cash here.
On the tourism side of development, the islands have been a
paradise since the 1960s. The Cayman Islands, like all islands, are essentially the tips of underwater mountains, and the submerged terrain around these islands is especially dramatic. The spectacular underwater walls, caverns and healthy coral reefs have made these islands one of the world's best spots for diving and snorkelling. Add to that their virtually crime-free ambience (thanks to tight government controls and the high per-capita income enjoyed by most Caymanians) and it's easy to see why so many people choose the Cayman Islands for a Caribbean holiday.
Though people from around the world visit to scuba dive and enjoy the tropical climate,
predominate. The islands are just a 90-minute flight from Miami, Florida, and being a British territory, English is the official language - making these islands a quick, convenient and easy getaway for Americans. In fact, the hotels, fast-food chains, products and many of the service industry workers hail from the US (many Canadians also work here).
An abundance of natural attractions make the islands an ideal destination for those who enjoy watersports, birdwatching, laid-back day hikes, clear water and sandy beaches (Grand Cayman's
Seven Mile Beach
is among the finest in the Caribbean). If rousing casinos and wild nightlife are what you seek, these are not the islands to visit. There's no gambling of any kind here, and beach nudity is forbidden.
Grand Cayman is the
of the three islands and where you will find the largest choice of accommodation, restaurants and attractions. The sister islands Cayman Brac (pronounced "brack") and Little Cayman have far fewer choices in lodging and dining and most travellers to these islands choose all-inclusive meal packages. Compared to Grand Cayman, the pace is far mellower here. They've yet to put up stop lights on either island, and Little Cayman only recently got its first full-time police officer.
All three of the islands are
low-lying and arid
, though Cayman Brac does have a ridge that rises to 140 feet above sea level, the highest point of the three islands. The vegetation throughout is predominately scrub brush and mangrove. There are also colourful flowering plants and trees such as the
brilliant flamboyant tree
that grows as high as 50 feet and develops a blossoming orange canopy that spreads across the roadways.
flowers almost year-round, dotting island homes in vibrant swatches of fuchsia, white and lemon-yellow. A variety of tropical birds also flock to these islands, especially to Little Cayman.
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