Spend a Day the Grand Cayman Way

More fun that sand and sun
written by Erin Greer | photos courtesy of Westin Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman, just south of Cuba in the British West Indies, may well be the inspiration for every white sand, azure water, bikini-clad, paradise postcard you have ever envied. The flight from Atlanta clocks in at just over two hours – likely less time than you spent in rush hour traffic today.

Every bit the island getaway, Grand Cayman offers some of the best and most beautiful beaches, but sun and sand aren’t the island’s only offerings. Whether you’re family folk, an adventure seeker, a food lover or a history buff, Grand Cayman has something special for you.

FOR FAMILIES Wedding Gazebo at SunsetKiddos will enjoy Dexter’s Fantasea Tours, a relaxing catamaran ride to can’t-miss family favorite, Stingray City, where they can pet, hold and swim with wild stingrays. Ask the captain for a stingray massage and keep the
camera ready!

While many groups offer tours to Stingray City, Dexter’s offers extended time at the location, and also includes snorkeling at a nearby reef in the half-day excursion. This adventure has something for everyone in the family, including beverages on board and plenty of space on deck for any necessary
midday naps.

Snorkeling may afford a turtle-spotting experience, but the Cayman Turtle Farm guarantees it. Marvel at the Green Sea Turtles’ Breeding Pond, visit the island’s last crocodile, Smiley, and plan to spend tons of time at the Turtle Touch Tanks. Two levels of entry are offered here: basic entry will get you in to see the pond, Smiley and the tanks while upgraded entry includes Breaker’s Lagoon, the largest swimming pool on the island, Predator Reef, the Caribbean Free Flight Aviary and Turtle Lagoon, where you can swim – yes, swim! – with the turtles. Bring the swimsuits and stay all day.

Red Sail Sports runs a catamaran to beautiful Rum Point on Mondays for an unbeatable beach barbecue. Dine seaside on a buffet of soups, salads, seafood and jerk meats. Kids can play in the pristine water or watch the fish from the dock. Parents can recline in beach hammocks and enjoy a complimentary daiquiri from the Dak Shack. Dinner includes live island music and the chance to show off your limbo skills.

Sail, snorkel, wakeboard… You want it? Red Sail Sports, with its multiple locations along famous Seven Mile Beach, has it! Meet at The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort and Spa for the Waverunner Snorkel Safari, a 90-minute, guided Jet Ski tour of the best snorkel spots on Seven Mile. Rent a GoPro camera for the day to chronicle your adventure.

No scuba license? No problem! Pirate Cayman has one of only a handful of locations in the world where bioluminescence Divers will have you in the ocean for a beginner’s dive the same day. Take the in-office safety course and then hit up Eden Rock, a celebrated diving site, for safety checks and a 40-foot dive among the coral reefs. Witness some of the island’s most beautiful marine life and maybe stay for a snorkel of the wreck of the Cali. Tell Mac I sent ya!

Later, meet at Rum Point at sunset for Cayman Kayak Bioluminescent Tour, a two-hour, moonlight kayak excursion to view this beautiful natural phenomenon. Grand – “glowing” water created by microscopic organisms – can be viewed year-round.  Special bonus: the absence of light pollution means you will be able to see countless stars, among them, The Southern Cross, a constellation not visible from the States.

Beach House Patio Dining

Sunday brunch is a big deal on the island, and The Lighthouse has one of the best. Dine on the dock and enjoy a bottomless buffet of sushi, smoked salmon, prawns, ceviche and tartare. Traditional breakfast options like eggs and sausage mix nicely with other offerings – barbecue pork ribs, beef lasagna and grilled mahi-mahi with coconut-lime sauce. The seafood salad alone will have you going back for seconds. With so many amazing choices, it’s easy to overdo it, but make sure to save room for dessert.

Located beachside at the newly renovated Westin (whose pool, spa and shopping offerings will convince you to book a suite), The Beach House is a feast for the eyes and the palate. Pair the breathtaking view with the equally breathtaking sea bass and you have the recipe for an unforgettable evening. The menu is an intriguing combination of Caribbean, Mediterranean and Asian influences – the sea bass, for example, is an Asian fusion featuring an edamame mash. Once you’ve filled up on the signature crab cake, seared foie gras PB&J, or – my favorite appetizer – the smoked local wahoo crudo, you can hit up The Westin to watch the sun set from one of the hotel’s many beds on the beach.

Forget fancy. If good food at a good price is your game, then head to The Sunshine Grill. Just across the street from the Westin, this local’s favorite o ers a variety of appetizers (the Mahi Bites are a sweet treat) and sandwiches (try the Havana Chicken or the Snapper Reuben), which come with “sunshine scramble,” a pile of French and sweet potato fries, onion rings, fried mushrooms and fried jalapeños. Every meal comes with a complimentary ice cream cone; a great choice for lunch or dinner.

Also known as Pedro’s Castle, the Pedro St. James is a fully-restored glimpse into Grand Cayman’s British Imperialist past – the 18th century to be precise – when the grand house and grounds were built by Jamaican slaves for a wealthy Englishman. Walk the grounds, learn the history and visit the gardens and the Hurricane Ivan Memorial.

Travel to historic Bodden Town, the original Cayman capital, and visit the Mission House, home to early missionaries, teachers and families who established the Presbyterian ministry and school. Denise Bodden, a direct descendant of one of the founding families, leads the tour, providing insight into native culture and history, including genealogy, religion, architecture and history, making this a not-to-miss “authentic” Cayman experience.

Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II opened Grand Cayman’s Botanic Park in 1994. Visitors can stroll through Heritage Garden, enjoy panoramic views from the Tea House and visit the lake area, a natural habitat for the endangered Cayman Blue Iguana.

Your bags are probably packed by now, but in case your visit isn’t fi nalized, be sure to visit westingrandcayman.com