We took a trip to Miami, Grand Cayman, and St. Kitts a month or so ago, but I haven’t had the time to put up a trip report of the various segments until recently. Apologies for the delay. Read on to hear about our experiences in Grand Cayman!
We arrived in Grand Cayman on American Airlines after a few days in Miami. We were surprised by how short the flight was. I guess it is probably because I’ve never gone to the Caribbean by way of Florida before. I just never realized how close they were! Flying from Miami to Grand Cayman was about the equivalent of flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
When we got to Grand Cayman, we were very impressed by how clean and well maintained everything was. Getting off the plane, there was a live band playing “island music,” for lack of a better classification, as we got into the terminal. Passing through customs was quick and painless, and we stepped outside to go rent our car at Andy’s Car Rental, as their rates were half the price that Hertz wanted to charge. We got our small little car at Andy’s, and we were on our way. If you have never driven on the left side of the road, then it might be a bit jarring when you first arrive in Grand Cayman. But beyond that, all of the roads are in great shape, the signs are easy to read, and the place is generally easy to navigate.
We stayed at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort on the famous Seven Mile Beach. The entrance to the Marriott is pretty standard, but they had a really nice lobby. I booked the cheapest paid rate they had (but paid with Marriott gift cheques), and the person checking us in told us how they had upgraded us to an ocean view room as a special treat for their “most valued platinum members.” They brought us each some fruit punch to welcome us to the resort. I thought that was a nice touch.
We got to our room, and I was not surprised to find it to be a standard Marriott room. The bathroom was nice and large, but the room was very basic. As a five year Marriott platinum, I think I can count the number of suite upgrades I’ve gotten at a resort on one hand. Oh well… The view, on the other hand, was magnificent. We were directly over the beach, and we had a great view. When on vacation at tropical places, I love sitting on the balcony and listening to the water break on the shore. Fortunately, our room was perfect for that!
I must say that Seven Mile Beach is the nicest beach I have ever seen in my life. I have been to beaches in Thailand, California, Mexico, the Caribbean, Spain, etc, and Seven Mile Beach takes the cake. There is not a single vendor on the beach (someone told me the government outlawed that). I could not find any trash either. I actually once found a cup that someone had dropped, and I felt compelled to pick it up and throw it away since it was the only trash in sight. The sand is perfectly white and soft on your feet. The beach is very flat. If you are the type that enjoys “long walks on the beach,” Seven Mile Beach is your beach! In fact, as a challenge / excursion, we decided to walk for miles up the beach at sunset, grabbing a drink at every bar we saw along the way. We had a blast (and got fairly drunk)!
What else is there to do in Grand Cayman? Well, to be honest, not much! There is one fantastic excursion that I recommend everyone does. That’s Stingray City. Because of the shape of Grand Cayman and its position to a reef not far from shore, there is a naturally formed sand bar about four feet deep in the middle of the water. There are thousands of stingrays there, and you can swim with them! We used Stingray Sailing for our trip, and they were excellent hosts. Chip and his dad run a boat, and they called us in the morning, asking us if we would like to leave earlier so we could beat all the cruise traffic. This turned out to be really nice as we were able to get out there with the stingrays before everyone else joined us. They put a bucket of bait on a buoy there, and you can feed the stingrays, pet them, hold them, etc. You’re shown what NOT to do to avoid the barbs as well. Apparently the barb only points backwards. So as long as you don’t attack them from behind, you don’t risk being stuck. This, of course, makes the Steve Irwin incident even more bizarre. You MUST do Stingray City when in Grand Cayman, and I wholeheartedly recommend Stingray City to be your host!
Apart from that, there are a couple more things to do in Grand Cayman. I recommend spending a day at Rum Point. Seven Mile Beach is on one side of the Island. Rum Point is on the complete OPPOSITE side. It can take between 45 minutes and an hour to get there, but we always like to explore the islands we go to, and the drive is quite pretty. Rum Point is just a nice beach, restaurant, dock, and activity center all in one. It’s a fun spot with a good vibe to it, and the drinks are cheaper than they are at the major resorts. The drive out there is fun, but don’t expect to see much, besides beautiful beach, along the way. Grand Cayman is a FLAT island. Nothing there is more than a few feet above sea level. There are no hills, and there’s not much vegetation either. Just pretty beaches.
Food in Grand Cayman is overpriced and overrated. I always expect to get amazing seafood whenever I travel to tropical islands, but I think I just need to come to the realization that I live in San Francisco, home to some of the world’s best seafood, and it’s probably not going to get that much better when I travel. If you don’t feel like overpaying every day, one place I must recommend is called the Sunshine Grill. There’s a hotel in Grand Cayman called the Sunshine Suites, and they have their own restaurant there. It’s not only well priced, but it’s also VERY delicious. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor! They have some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had. They also serve the Painkiller, the famous beverage from the Soggy Dollar Bar at Jost Van Dyke. There’s no experience quite like having a Painkiller at the Soggy Dollar Bar, but the Sunshine Grill came close enough ;-).
If you’re looking for a great place to decompress, relax, and enjoy life, I wholeheartedly recommend Grand Cayman. If you’re looking for an island full of adventure, look elsewhere. You won’t find that here. Grand Cayman has very little poverty, very little crime, and at the risk of being offensive, very little “culture.” Most people there aren’t from there. If you ask for local food, most people will point you to restaurants that use some Jamaican flavors, but that’s it. The Marriott there is a great place with some of the friendliest staff members I’ve ever encountered. Do check it out!