We have amazing brand ambassadors. They inspire us to #getoutthere every day and are always on the move, especially Jen P. (@flentil). From the Galapagos, Costa Rica, running marathons, sunrise SUP sessions, to the Grand Caymans, this mermaid certainly keeps us on our toes! Jen just got back from a recent trip to the Grand Caymans and here’s her guide. Check it out!
Caribbean Paradise: Grand Cayman
For the last 5 years, my family has made Grand Cayman an annual destination. Every year, we think we’re going to change it up and go somewhere new, but we love it too much! The crystal clear, turquoise water, the sultry warm air and the amazing sea life keep bringing us back.
What to Do:
The main activities on Grand Cayman are water-based, naturally! Vibrant reefs and the famous Cayman Wall offer incredible opportunities for diving and snorkeling. There are wonderful spots to check out pretty much everywhere. Even right in downtown George Town, there is an amazing marine park, Devil’s Grotto and Eden Rock. Enter from South Church Street – you can park right at Paradise Seaside Grill and the entrance to the water is just to one side of the restaurant. And Paradise is a great place to enjoy a post snorkel or dive meal with pleasant, shaded outdoor seating right on the water. You can also go one building up the road to the Eden Rock Diving Center for another entry point to the marine park – plus, they have rental snorkel and dive gear if you don’t have your own.
You can swim out from the beach pretty much all up and down Seven Mile Beach to enjoy fun snorkel adventures, but further north on Seven Mile Beach is Cemetery Beach, where there is a really nice snorkeling spot. You do have to swim out about 100 yards to get there. The beach is just behind – you guessed it – a local cemetery. As you pass by the cemetery from the road to the beach, please be respectful!
Another well-known snorkel spot is Rum Point. Located on the East Side of the Island, it’s about a 45 minute drive from Seven Mile Beach. It’s a great spot for young kids – the water is quite shallow. There is a pretty fun, short stretch of rocks with many little reef fish in about 5 feet or water that is accessible just to the right of the dock out past the swimming areas. For the adults and bigger kids, there is more snorkeling further out with amazing corals and larger fish. Be mindful of currents and boats. And if the wind is out of the east, it will be choppy with poor visibility.
If you plan to visit Rum Point, GO EARLY. Rum Point is a popular destination for both on-island visitors as well as cruise ship guests so by lunch time it can get really busy!
Because Grand Cayman is essentially the very top of a huge underwater mountain, the famous Cayman Wall runs around the island, dropping off in some places to 3000ft! Because the wall faces all directions, there will almost always be at least one area suitable for diving regardless of conditions. Dive shops abound on the island, along with reputable tour operators. Do your homework and find one that is right for you!
Sting Ray City
You can’t really talk about Grand Cayman without mentioning Sting Ray City – it’s the largest tourist draw for the entire island. Each year, millions of people trek out to the shallow sandbars in North Sound. Southern Stingrays are literally everywhere! They have become quite used to people, so even though they are still wild (which means they do still have the barb at the base of their tail) they are comfortable swimming around you. Generally, someone from your boat’s crew will hold one for you to say hello to if you wish, or, if you’re like me, you can kind of go to the edge of things, away from the everyone else, and just enjoy swimming alone with these beautiful, enormous creatures. This spot can become a bit of a spectacle, so if you plan to check it out, I definitely recommend going first thing in the morning or at the very end of the day, when the majority of other tours are gone. Check out the “Breakfast with the Rays” tour offered by Red Sail, or there are lots of private charter options that will get you out there when fewer people are present.
My son’s passion is fishing, so every year we try to include a fishing charter of some kind. Good fishing is as close as a quarter mile offshore, where the ocean floor drops off sharply, plummeting thousands of feet to create a natural thoroughfare for the big migratory pelagic species prized by anglers.
One of the Cayman Islands’ biggest attractions for anglers is that big fish run close to the coastlines of Grand Cayman. Popular gamefish such as blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dorado and barracuda are caught year-round. Water temperature varies annually only about 8 -10 degrees and the baitfish are here year-round – which means the bigger fish are too.
If you’re keen to fish, you can charter a boat for deep sea fishing, bottom reef fishing (sometimes more fun for young kids) and light tackle/fly fishing in the flats. Pretty much every type of fishing option is present on Grand Cayman and there are countless outfits to show you the ropes!
You can fish from shore, and no license is required, as long as you practice catch and release…just be sure you are not in any protected marine park areas – and there are many of these, so check carefully before casting out.
Catch and release is strongly encouraged for all fishing in these waters – unless you know it will be your dinner, please release your catch! Your guide will know seasons, limits and keeper sizes for the fish, or you can easily find this information online.
There’s often a good breeze blowing around this island, so if you enjoy sailing, you can either rent a sailboat for yourself, or catch a ride to enjoy a trip to Stingray City, secret snorkel spots, or just to take in the sunset.
If you love SUP, this place is for you! Beautiful clear water, there’s always something to see. If you own a board, especially an inflatable, pack it up and bring it along. Rentals are available on-island, but check into rates, because it can get expensive. I strongly recommend getting out at daybreak or just before sunset, when the wind tends to be lightest and the sun won’t scorch you. If you head out later, be sure to mind your sunscreen and pay attention to wind. It can pick up quickly and I’ve seen a number of people, especially beginners, who needed help getting back to shore.
George Town is the big city on the island, with many shops and restaurants if you feel like wandering around. Keep an eye on the cruise ships that are docked because if there are several of them, downtown will be SUPER crowded until the mid-afternoon when their passengers head back to the ships for departure. Other things located downtown include the Atlantis Submarine and they also have a glass bottom boat option. These are cool ways to see all the underwater beauty if you are traveling with others who don’t snorkel or dive, or just if you need an adventure out of the sun in the middle of the day!
Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Garden
Looking for an inland activity? These botanic gardens are a great change of pace, especially on a cloudy day. Enjoy the manicured paths, ponds and beautiful local flora. These gardens are one of the few places where you can see the now-endangered native blue iguana. The blue iguanas have been overrun by the non-native green iguanas, but they are keeping them safe within the boundaries of these gardens and you’ll see them in a few places as you walk around.
Getting around on Grand Cayman:
Depending on where you want to go, there are some easy shuttles you can take to get around, especially if you are going to some of the better known tourist destinations. The island isn’t very big, only 22 miles long and 8 miles wide at its widest point. Nothing is too far away, but the driving is a bit slow, so allow time. Renting a car is a convenient way to get around and offers a lot of freedom to explore, but remember, they are a British Territory, so they drive on the left side of the road – be sure you are comfortable giving that a go!
Where to Stay:
There are lots of choices to suit your budget and interests. The most popular area is Seven Mile Beach because of its beautiful, white sandy beach and tranquil swimming. The accommodations on Seven Mile Beach include hotels and condos. House rentals can be found in other areas of the island, especially on the east side towards Rum Point. There are numerous boutique hotels around the island as well. Getting away from Seven Mile Beach will give you less hustle and bustle, but you may find that the beaches are rocky or not suitable for swimming so make sure you do your homework to make sure you find a place that suits your needs and interests.
What to Eat:
No surprise that you should order the fish any chance you get, it’s the freshest option. And if you see lionfish on the menu, GET IT! This species is highly invasive and causing all sorts of damage to the reefs. By creating demand for this fish in restaurants, you are helping to control the local lionfish population. Other local menu choices includes Caribbean jerk, escovitch and conch chowder. In and around George Town there are loads of restaurant options. We’ve enjoyed Paradise Grill (as I mentioned) as well as the Lobster Pot, which has a nice sunset view if you ask to sit outside and the kids always enjoy looking down at the tarpon swimming right around the docks. You can get fantastic BBQ from Pepper’s Bar & Grill (they also do take-out and delivery). Eats Cafe is a less expensive but super reliable place to grab a bite, it’s right on Seven Mile Beach across the road from the Westin.
If you head out of town towards the more residential areas such as Bodden Town, you may see some roadside jerk stands. If you spot one and you’re hungry, definitely stop in! The food is usually less expensive and REALLY good!
If you stay in a place that has a kitchen, there are several grocery stores in and around George Town…Kirk’s Market has a good selection. If you see local avocados for sale, pick up a few, they are AWESOME! A lot of food is imported, so you may have to pay more than you are used to for certain things.
What to Bring:
It’s ALWAYS tropical – temperatures hover between 80s and 90s Fahrenheit, so you don’t need much! Unless you are planning on a fancy dinner, you will be just fine with casual beachwear, tons of SPF, and an array of MI OLA bikinis…and DON’T forget your MI OLA rashie, because the rays are super strong! My family tries to take a break from the sun daily between 11 and 2 or 3pm to ensure we don’t fry! If you have your own snorkel gear or SUP, of course, bring it along! But it can all be rented if you want to travel light.
How to Get There:
If you live near a major city in the Central or Eastern parts of the US, there’s a decent chance you can fly direct and be on Grand Cayman in a matter of just a few hours. Not gonna lie, the first time we went, my son was 5, so a direct flight had HUGE appeal. If you have kids, you get this! But if finding the best airfare is your goal and you have more flexibility, definitely start looking well ahead of time and you’ll likely find some great deals. The airport is small, so if you are visiting during peak season (Dec – April) you may run into really long lines getting through customs. Totally worth it in the end, though! Meanwhile, they are also upgrading the airport so perhaps this aspect of getting there will improve.
What are you waiting for??? Get out there and enjoy Grand Cayman!!