Our favorite time of day on Seven Mile Beach is early morning, before sunrise. The light is so beautiful in the early morning, the air is so fresh, the sand is cool. Seven Mile is on the west side of the island and the line of trees and condos means that the sun...

...doesn't break until a little while after sunrise. There's a glorious 30 minutes or so when the sun is fully risen but not yet above the tree line - the light on the water is fantastic, so bright and colorful.

Once the sun breaks the tree line, the air immediately turns warmer. You know you're in the tropics when the sun is strong and warm on your skin a 8:30 a.m. Before sunrise, most people on the beach are serious walkers or runners, with an occasional serious swimmer putting in a workout before heading to the office. There aren't really all that many - one of the conundrums of Seven Mile Beach is how uncrowded it is for being one of the world's most beautiful beaches. After sun break, the beach goers tend to be visitors camped out in lounge chairs, some with books, some with coffee, some building sand castles, some floating in the shallows with wacky noodles.

Once the sun starts throwing light directly on the beach, we put on sunglasses. We shopped long and hard at the duty free shops to find sunglasses worthy of Seven Mile Beach. We eventually discovered a Maui Jim model that has very dark lenses - dark enough to handle the brightness of the beach at mid-day. They are also sturdy enough too push up on top, behind the ears and even hold the bangs back. A perfect beach deserves perfect sunglasses. Best of all, they are polarized. The water in Cayman is so amazingly gorgeous with polarized lenses - the glare disappears and the blue becomes electric. Check out any place along Seven Mile Beach, along the south or north coasts, or at Hogsty Bay in George Town - especially at mid-morning to mid-day the colors are unbelievable with polarized lenses.

There's a strong wilderness element to water this clear and fresh and beautiful. Driving in along West Bay Road or South Sound to work is like driving through a national park to get to work. The far reach of the horizon gives a feeling of immense space. And there's something alluring about the surface of clear blue water on a calm day - it begs exploring. All of this and the fresh breeze remind us that Grand Cayman is a small hammock in a large wilderness environment. Step to the edge of the land and you are looking out at hundreds and hundreds of miles of open water. The reefs in the close in shallows are an easy experience of wildlife in a natural state, uncaged and mostly unspoiled. The shallows drop off to deep wild water with large marine life and wave and current dynamics that come second to no other force on earth.

This sense of wilderness is what keeps us coming back day after day, year after year to swim or snorkel. Even sitting on the beach and staring out at the water - light blue merging to the dark blue of the Cayman drop off within a mile of shore - is refreshing, seeing a natural horizon instead of a man-made  one and sensing the expanse of the wilderness. It's a great way to start or end the day (we'll tell you about sunset on Seven Mile in the next installment).

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