23.11.2019 - 30.11.2019 85 °F
“Life is meant for good friends and great adventures”…and that is exactly what this trip was all about.
Third time on the island of Grand Cayman, but first ever holiday away from home. We traveled with our daughter (14) and closest friends (Jake, 11).
Every trip we embark upon seems to have a complication and an injury. Both happened very early on in the trip. The complication was a major one and was discovered during our layover in Atlanta, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I was trying to purchase food for the plane and our credit card was declined. I had a sinking feeling, flipped the card over and discovered that it had expired the month prior. This was our travel card and the only one we brought. Aside from a few hundred bucks cash, we had no way to pay for anything for a full week (we would have taken out more cash if it came down to it). Three frustrating calls to Capital One got us nowhere. They claimed they mailed the card months ago and that there was nothing they could do to get us a new card. In fact there was, but I didn’t find this out until we got home, when I called to express my displeasure.
Thankfully our very good friends agreed to pick up the tab for everything and then we would pay them back after the trip. It was a running joke at every meal when Mark would ask Reed “you got this one, right?”
Before I get into the nitty gritty of our trip, I’ll provide a quick overview of the good, the bad, and the unfortunate:
~ Our condo. Great upper oceanfront end unit at Plantana. Spacious, quiet, amazing views, a large deck and a screened-in porch.
~ Our beach. Best section of Seven Mile Beach as far as I’m concerned (and I’m a beach snob).
Wide, white, and lined with Casuarina pines and coconut trees. And uncrowded.
The luxury condos on either side of us were pretty dead, which was awesome for us.
~ Stingray City with Captain Marvin. We have done this each time we go, and this was probably the most fun.
~ The weather. Perfection. Sunny, mid-80s, calm water, and a light breeze except toward the end of the week when it picked up.
First trip ever that we did not see one drop of rain all week.
~ Prices. Cayman has always been expensive but now it's really painful.
~ Crowds. We tried to avoid them as much as possible, but the island has just gotten too built up.
I think there are 5,000 new roundabouts.
~ Resorts. Westin, Ritz and Kimpton. The beach scene at these resorts is obscene.
Then take Cayman prices and add 25% and there are your resort prices.
~ Camana Bay. I just can’t. Large, upscale shopping, dining, Cinema complex.
It’s like a mini Miami was dropped onto the island.
UNFORTUNATE: (Aside from the complication and injury)
~ Our snorkeling experience was relatively disappointing. But I know it could have just been bad timing.
~ Commercialization of the East End, traffic, and construction (I sit in traffic every day at home; I do not want to on vacation).
~ Airport. It’s new, larger, and more modern, but not unattractive. And I understand that it was necessary.
But it’s lost all charm. The old one looked like a traditional island structure and felt like an idyllic gateway to paradise.
And the steel drum band that played as you walked in off the tarmac is no more.
Cayman will always hold a special place in my heart as we were married on Seven Mile beach in 2003, and Ellie frolicked on the shore as a toddler, but we've been spoiled by less developed islands.
Back to the story…
Our friends arrived a couple of hours before us so they spent some time at the George Town Yacht Club next to the airport.
After we secured our family truckster from Andy’s (A Kia Carnival), we picked them up then headed to Seven Mile Beach. Thank goodness for Waze because all of the new roads, roundabouts and tunnels made traditional map reading a challenge. After we dumped our stuff and ooed and aahed at the view, we hit Kirk’s and Blackbeard’s to stock up on breakfast food, snacks, and beverages.
Then we freshened up, and made our way to Coconut Joe’s for our traditional first night meal.
The kids were beat so after they went to bed, we relaxed and relished in the feeling that is the first night of vacation.
Sunday was spectacular and we spent all day on the beach. Though Reed did hit Legendz to watch some football in the afternoon, and then Mark followed after taking the kids snorkeling at Governor's Reef, which was very close to us. This was Jake’s first time on a Caribbean island and he took to it like a fish to water.
Lunch was leftovers from last night’s dinner since we didn’t want to drag ourselves off the sand for too long. And here is where the injury occurs. I was heating up fries on a baking sheet in the oven. Somehow when I took it out, the edge of the pan and my inner upper arm had an encounter. Holy burn. That was the painful and gross looking gift that kept on giving for 2 weeks. Thanks goodness for all the salt water.
Back to the beach.
After showering we enjoyed our second of seven glorious sunsets.
Then it was off to Yoshi to pick up our sushi platter for dinner.
After sufficiently stuffing ourselves, we listened to some tunes, had a little dance party, then our sun-kissed bodies fell into bed with the anticipation of another great day ahead.
Monday was our trip to Stingray City with Captain Marvin’s.
The water was blinding turquoise and the stingrays were playful and plentiful.
Next up was snorkeling at Coral Gardens before a leisurely cruise back.
Then more beach time before cleaning up for dinner.
On tap for tonight was Macabuca, but once we arrived, we learned that they were not serving food that evening aside from all you can eat BBQ so we had a drink and enjoyed the sunset before moving on to Peppers.
Delicious meal in a fun setting.
Then a treat from Peach Wave (fro-yo)…think Sweet Frog, but better.
Then the boys ditched us for a bit to watch more football but we had wine, Uno, and condo karaoke.
Tuesday we enjoyed our coffee with a view, as we did every day, and the kids enjoyed their first smoothie from the little tropical food truck across from our complex
The morning passed in a blur of sun, sand and sea. Skip ball, floating, sunning, reading, snorkeling, and coconut rum.
Lunch was at Sunshine Grill. This was actually one of the best meals of the trip. The cocktails were fabulous, and the calamari Ellie declared to be the best of the week (tempura coated and tender with a delicious dipping sauce). The fish tacos were great too.
After lunch we decided to try snorkeling at Cemetery Reef. We took the advice of a fellow snorkeler who had just come in, and swam out to where he said he saw the most sea life. That was a much longer swim than it appeared to be, and there a few snorkel mask issues. It was the dads and the kids. Had they seen more than just one colorful parrot fish, it would have made the 2 mile swim (as they called it) worth their while. After collapsing on the beach and resting for a bit, we walked back to the car past the cemetery and Mark quipped “the reason it’s right here is because so many people come back from snorkeling and drop dead’.
Tonight’s dinner was taco and margarita night at Coccoloba. But first, sunset.
After the sun sank into the sea, we strolled down the beach to the Kimpton Seafire.
We were seated toward the back of the open air restaurant, but it was still nice. The open face tacos were small, but fancy. We ordered many. The margaritas were also fancy, and unique.
Wednesday was our island tour day. First stop was Starfish Point. Back in the day it was a secret treasure called Ivory Kai…hard to find, pristine, and deserted. Over the years it’s become just another tourist trap. It was great fun watching 75 people clamoring to hold a total of 3 starfish. Not. My guess is that after all the excursion boats leave, they scramble away as far as their tiny little feet will carry them. And the unlucky ones get carried back in with the tide.
Side note: I don't like other people in my photos so it may look uncrowded, but that's carefully orchestrated.
Next up, Rum Point. It’s gotten even more crowded and touristy than it was, if that’s even possible. The water was not the crystal clear shallow pool I remember either. I didn’t even take a photo of the pretty pier because of the unsightly orange and black swim zone barrier which mars the view. We stayed for a drink and pondered our next move. Crystal Caves was on the list and definitely would have been the better choice vs how we had just spent our morning. We decided to skip it because everyone was getting hungry.
We drove parallel to the sea, out to the far east end to check out Eagle Ray’s. What a great spot overlooking the water. We ordered drinks and watched the dive boats come in. The main reason I wanted to come here was to try the lionfish tacos. They did not disappoint.
Blow Holes were next on the agenda but nothing was spewing, so we kept trucking along to Spott’s Beach. I was most excited for this because everything I read said that seeing turtles was almost guaranteed. But it was way too rough to snorkel unfortunately.
One last stop before heading home, Smith’s Cove. Crowded of course so after the kids jumped off the rock a few times we called it a day.
We enjoyed a low key evening of watching the sunset, eating jerk chicken carryout from Chicken Chicken, listening to tunes, and playing Uno.
We woke to another gorgeous day on Thanksgiving.
After taking some Christmas-y photos of the kids, our paddleboard was delivered.
Joel from Cayman Watersports is great. We got a brand new, high quality board which kept Jake busy all day. Ellie had wanted to parasail but the windy conditions made that a hard no.
Lunch was at the Westin's pool bar/restaurant simply because it was an easy walk down the beach. The food was fine, nothing to write home about but the drinks were marginal and ridiculously expensive.
We enjoyed some more beach time...
Then a sunset paddle before getting ready for dinner.
We were becoming spoiled by all of the great sky painting.
Dinner was at Morgan's. Great atmosphere, food and drinks. But super pricey. And the service was so fast…the exact opposite of island time…that our meal felt very rushed. The restaurant was not full so it’s not like they needed to turn over the table. Our waitress was very nice and extremely knowledgeable but also a bit pushy. Her recommendations were on point, though. We were out of there in under an hour and that was after stretching the meal out with coffee drinks and dessert. But everything was delicious and we enjoyed spending the holiday with some of our favorite people.
Our post-dinner plan was to hit Camana Bay to see the lights and big Christmas tree. We managed to get lost in that mini city and never could find the tree so we aborted and went home. Comfy clothes were donned, wine was poured and we enjoyed a chill evening at the condo.
Friday was our last full day, and the end of vacation blues were setting in. We had to make the most of it. We walked around Georgetown, bought some souvenirs, then had lunch at Margaritaville.
We wanted to snorkel Eden Rock, right in the harbor, but it was choppy due to the wind. And my mask kept fogging up. So we never made it out to the reef. But did see some fish close to shore. It was like swimming in an aquarium at this spot last time we visited. So it was a bit disappointing. Also disappointing was the floating water park. What an eyesore. The fate of Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto is up in the air as there is a proposed new port plan. Currently, ships have to anchor and guests are brought over via tenders. The new plan would allow cruise ships to tie up on shore. And George Town will be even crazier than it is now.
Back to the beach to soak up some more sun. And get Ellie her coconut drink. By the time we wandered down to Calico Jacks (a cruise ship beach and bar), the stand had closed up shop but a nice man cracked one open anyway.
Dinner was at Rackham’s in George Town. We had seen all of the fresh snapper at the beach market next door earlier in the day so that is what we had for dinner. So good. The tuna was excellent too.
We decided to head out for an adult hour after we got the kids settled at the condo. That didn’t really work out. We went to Legendz just because it was close. I did have a yummy Aperol Spritz. But that atmosphere just doesn’t do it for us so we decided to walk across the street to the Westin for a coffee drink. Denied. Aside from Morgan’s, coffee drinks were not offered anywhere we went. So we did our best to down the last of the alcohol in the condo. Seven Mile Beach needs more beach bars!
We had afternoon flights so after packing up in the morning, we spent a last hour on the beach and drinking more coconut rum, gin, and beer before checking out.
Lunch was at Lone Star. Surprisingly good. Then we dropped our friends at the airport since they had an earlier flight. Ellie got a Henna tattoo while we were killing time, then we started the long journey home.
While this was likely our last visit to Grand Cayman, the memories from this trip and those before it, will live on.