Tag Archives: grand cayman

Destination: Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman Beaches

I had been daydreaming about taking a trip to Grand Cayman ever since I saw an episode of 190 North that showed the host horseback riding on the beach and sipping rum drinks.  This was years ago.  I was in high school and at the time this had been my dream trip.  Stingrays and horseback riding in crystal clear waters and topping the day off watching the sunset.  What more could a girl want?

When Ken and I started thinking about our first trip, he suggested the Florida Keys.  (We still haven’t been by the way!)  There was a beach, and I had only spent a day there prior, so I was on board.  Then came the time to book our trip.  The Keys were way out of our budget for a short[er] trip.  Time to brainstorm.  Just for fun, I started looking into how much for a 4 night stay in Grand Cayman.  And to my wonderment, it was much cheaper.  Before you start laughing at us, we were aware of the outrageous prices for everything once on the island.  I start explaining to Ken:  sting rays, turquoise water, and freakin’ horseback riding on the beach…in a swimsuit!  I was hanging on the edge of my seat as he pondered the thought of the entire trip changing in a matter of two minutes.  He agreed.  Smart man!

Two months later, we found ourselves on a plane.  I was beyond excited.  This had been my dream trip.  As always, I had basically planned out our entire stay.  Admittedly we ended up being a little overwhelmed with our schedule but we still found that we had more than enough time to lounge around at the beach in front of our hotel and spend obscene amounts on rum drinks.

Marriott Seven Mile Beach

Bonus: The tethered floats at the Marriott beachfront. Perfect for tanning!

The Hotel
We stayed at the Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort on Seven Mile Beach.  The hotel was just a short drive from the airport.  We were immediately greeted by friendly staff with juice drinks.  As we arrived quite early in the morning, our room was not ready and we were pleased to find that the hotel had a special spot for guests to keep their luggage in the lobby, under constant guard by hotel staff.

Our room was clean and decently sized.  The balcony was perfect to enjoy coffee or room-service breakfast in the morning before hitting the beach.  The pool is large with a perfect view of the beach.  The hotel’s section of the beach is wide and clean with plenty of lounge chairs.  Tip:  wake up early and save a spot with some towels and personal items.  The food was really great.  Confession?  We still find ourselves drooling over the blueberry pancakes and hash browns.  Room service is a nice alternative to the high prices for the continental breakfast.

Next time around, we would most likely spring for an ocean view room, but we were just as well with a courtyard view from our balcony.  We don’t typically spend much time in the room anyways.  That’s not really what vacations are for, right?  Either way, next time we visit Grand Cayman we will most definitely be staying at the Marriott.

Transportation
Ay!  I was told by others that driving around the island could be difficult and confusing.  We opted to use a taxi or the local “bus” transportation to restaurants.  Taxis were just fine, accepted USD and KYD giving change in KYD, and the drivers were always friendly.  The “bus” on the other hand, was a unique experience.  Like the taxis, they accept USD and KYD.  Change is made in KYD only.  The fare is 2 KYD  for the route that particular bus runs.  There are several routes – be sure you are getting on the right one!  The buses are not like big city buses, think Dodge Sprinter.  The buses are not the cleanest but you don’t feel like you need to bathe in Purell afterwards either.

It’s very nice to have a cheap mode of transportation, but be warned that travelling along your route can be lengthy when your driver stops for every person waving on the side of the road.  At first, we found it comical when the driver honked at every person on the streets – “need a lift?”  But after stopping 12 times in what should have been a 6 minute ride, we were questioning whether or not a taxi would have been a better choice.  After a while, we figured we could no longer fit more people.  Wrong!  We were shocked at all the seats that were unfolded in the tiny bus.  I was wondering if at some point, we all ended up sitting on one another’s laps.  I was beginning to feel claustrophobic by the time we arrived at our destinations.  Just kidding…but only kind of.

West Palm Beach Resort

The Food
One of the greatest things about Grand Cayman is the fresh seafood, conch fritters, and rum cake all in casual settings situated on the beach.  Make sure to take a drive to The Sunset House for some bacon-wrapped shrimp and rum cake (and of course rum drinks!) as you watch the sun set over the ocean.  The Cracked Conch is a nice romantic spot to enjoy dinner in West Bay.  We had lunch at their Oceanside tiki bar, Macabuca, where the conch fritters and coconut shrimp are phenomenal!  Staying on Seven Mile close to the Royal Palms Beach Club, the breezy outdoor restaurant is a great spot to grab Caribbean seafood while listening to the waves roll into shore.

Seven Mile Beach

The Island
Grand Cayman is gorgeous, clean, and safe.  Georgetown is home to many colorful shops and stores perfect to pick up some souvenirs.  Cemetery Beach is always voted a top snorkel spot in the Caribbean and Seven Mile Beach is always voted one of the world’s greatest beaches.  The locals are proud of their island and their mixed culture.  The Cayman Islands really are a remarkable mishmash of Caymanians and people from all over the globe who came for sun and diving – and never left.  The wild iguanas are a fun sight to see mid-afternoon basking in the sun.

Stingray City

Things To Do
Stingray City is the #1 attraction on Grand Cayman, and for good reason.  We took a trip out with Red Sails.  The cost was surprisingly affordable – about 80 USD per person.  We were picked up at our hotel making only a few stops at other hotels before arriving at the dock.  The 45 minute sail on the enormous boat was wonderful on a warm, sunny day making Stingray City feel like a bonus.  That is, until you get into the waist deep water with the rays.  The staff wrangled up the rays and allowed any of us that wanted to hold them and even kiss them.  Photos were taken and can be purchased for an additional charge.  After some time with the friendly and curious rays, hop back on the boat and enjoy some snorkeling in deeper water near a large reef.

Seahorses

Horseback riding on the beach and in the crystal clear waters is a truly incredible experience.  We used Spirit of the West and we were glad we did.  This excursion will cost about $150 USD per person.  They had a taxi pick us up in front of our hotel, taking us to a secluded beach where we spent nearly 2 hours on our horses.  They have several options including private rides, moonlit rides, and the Caribbean sea swim.  I would highly recommend the sea swim – there is nothing more amazing than riding bareback in the Caribbean, listening to the horse chuffing as they swim along.  The guides were friendly and knowledgeable and they even take photos of you and your group.  Don’t forget your waterproof camera!

Turtle Farm

Cayman Turtle Farm is an excellent place to have a hands-on experience with the adorable sea turtles.  The Island Wildlife Encounter has wading pools with small turtles and touch tanks where you can try and nab a quick baby sea turtle for a photo op.  If you are a sea turtle lover, this is a wonderful place.  They even have a saltwater lagoon for snorkeling with the little guys, for an extra fee of course.  The farm has a release program, but be warned that the locals also use these turtles to “supply local needs” ie they eat them.

Water activities are obviously a main attraction as well as the many dive sites.  Snorkel along Seven Mile Beach to see curious Yellowhead Wrasse, sea turtles, and sting rays.  You can even take a trip to Star Fish Point and marvel over the amount of sea creatures in the shallows.

Next time around we plan on snorkeling off of cemetery beach, grabbing some souvenirs in the colorful shops of Georgetown, and scuba diving.   We would most definitely make room to horseback ride on the beach again as well as visit Stingray City.

The super cool water spout we saw on our last day!

The super cool water spout we saw on our last day!

 

Grand Cayman ended up being our first trip together. Maybe this is why it holds a special place in our hearts.  Or maybe its because the Caymans are truly a magical place to vacation.  We found April to have amazing weather, sunny and only moderately humid with a gentle breeze.  We still can’t wait to go back one day.

Native Wild Iguana

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