EXPLORE: THE CAYMAN ISLANDS
Just a short flight away lies an easy Caribbean paradise
Just a short flight away lies an easy Caribbean getaway
Grand Cayman is the largest and most populous of the three islands that make up the British territory known as the Cayman Islands. The laid-back island life and alluring clear water makes this a perfect destination for a no-hassle weekend getaway.
EASY TO TRAVEL
Planes, bikes and automobiles. Make the two-hour drive to Fort Lauderdale to catch a direct flight via Southwest Airlines' new flight schedule and you will quickly be in a Caribbean paradise. No need to worry about transportation when you get there. Just book a rental car with Andy’s, because navigating around the island is simple once you get the hang of driving on the left side of the road and maneuvering through roundabouts. Many of the island’s resorts offer rental bicycles so you can cruise along the beach or explore a little farther inland. The island itself is only 22 miles long and takes about 60 minutes to get from one end to the other via car.
EASY TO EXPLORE
Snorkel at Stingray City and Rum Point. For years, southern stingrays have flocked to this sandbar, just 20 minutes or so from land. Tons of tour boats drop anchor here daily where you can jump into the chest-high water and experience stingrays gliding by you like shadows. Whether you take a charter boat or book a half-day excursion aboard a catamaran with Red Sail Sports as we did, you are in for a special treat.
Our sailboat, Spirit of Poseidon, was a wonderful way to see Stingray City. The crew was friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. They made sure that each passenger had the opportunity to get up close with the stingrays. The boat also took us for some fantastic snorkeling at Rum Point, where I saw fish, starfish and sea turtles. You can pick up the starfish, but do not take them out of the water. If you want a photo with them, be sure to keep the starfish under the water so they don’t suffocate. Grand Cayman offers plenty of other snorkeling opportunities right from the shore—for example, Cemetery Reef and Smith Cove.
Tons of tour boats drop anchor here daily where you can jump into the chest-high water and experience stingrays gliding by you like shadows.
Hike at Crystal Caves. Located on the north side of Cayman island, the Crystal Caves is an underground cave system that recently opened up to visitors. Previously these caves were privately owned and inaccessible to the public, which explains their pristine condition. You are able to explore the caves only with a guide, who points out interesting stalactites and stalagmites, as well as native plants along the trails that lead you to one of the beautiful underground lakes.
Boat through bioluminescence. You have to do this tour if you have never experienced bioluminescence. The only electric boat tour leaves from Rum Point. Since gas and diesel are killing the bioluminescence, the electric-boat and kayak tours keep the tourist footprint to a minimum.
WaveRunning along Seven Mile Beach. The coast is beautiful from the shore, but it is even more gorgeous looking at it from the ocean. Rent WaveRunners from one of the Red Sail Sports Dive Shop locations scattered along Seven Mile Beach. The water is perfect for both beginner and expert riders. This is a fun break from being under the water.
EASY TO RELAX
Seafire Resort and Spa. This 266-room hotel is not only Grand Cayman’s first new hotel in more than a decade, but also the Kimpton Hotel Group’s first international resort. The luxurious and modern accommodations are located on the north end of the world-famous Seven Mile Beach. On top of being warmly welcomed upon arrival by the bellman, each guest is greeted at the door and offered a glass of champagne before even making it to the front desk.
The rooms are spacious with modern amenities, plenty of USB hookups, outlets and thoughtful items such as umbrellas and yoga mats. Outside, the hotel property is cozy and creatively spacious, with several hidden nooks to relax on various forms of seating from beds to bean-bag chairs to sofas. The large pool is positioned directly
across from the beautiful beach, with lounge chairs, cabanas and a volleyball court. The resort offers a spa, fitness center, kids’ club and three restaurants. Each evening all guests are invited to a complimentary happy hour in the lobby, featuring wine and a small snack.
EASY TO RECHARGE
Dining and drinking. From a quick breakfast bite on your beachfront balcony (the local cronut became my go-to breakfast item) to a picnic-style lunch and beachfront gourmet plates, there are many food and drink options on Grand Cayman to help you reenergize after some busy touring.
The Ave Bar inside the Seafire hotel is the perfect spot if you love a cocktail made by a true mixologist. A quick walk from the Seafire will lead you to Calico Jack’s, a fun beachfront bar with loud music and water to splash in. If you enjoy trying local beers, stop at the Cayman Islands Brewery for a tasting and brewery tour. I enjoyed Caybrew, refreshing after a sunny snorkel trip.
For an ocean-to-table meal, book a waterfront table at Morgan’s and enjoy the breeze off Governors Creek, or dine at Rum Point where you can change into your swimsuit for some relaxing water time after your meal.
A perfect ending to your getaway is Caribbean fare at a premier oceanfront table on West Bay. On my last evening on Grand Cayman, the Cracked Conch served up my favorite meal: starting with a perfectly prepared plate of crispy calamari with a homemade chili jam and a generous portion of spicy octopus; moving to the main course, which included a Caesar salad made with a combination of romaine and arugula, followed by a fantastic flavored herb and panko mahi-mahi served atop a smoked mashed potato.
DIFFICULT TO LEAVE
Extend your trip. The part of this getaway that is not so easy is leaving paradise. If you have a few extra days, book a short flight to one of the sister islands—Cayman Brac or Little Cayman—for a completely different experience and extend your island vacation. If you are one-third water enthusiast, one-third beach bum and one-third adventurer like I am, then you will immediately start looking up Southwest flights for your next trip to the Cayman Islands.
Seafire Resort and Spa is a new addition to famous Seven Mile Beach. Above left, the view from a beachfront room at Seafire; center , snorkeling at Stingray City; right, the beautiful turquoise water of the Cayman Islands. Red Sail Sports offers tours...
Rum Point is a popular spot on the north side of Grand Cayman, where the Top Shelf Mudslide (inset) from the Wreck Bar is a favorite libation.