[Photo by: pmarkham/Flickr]
An island of guilty pleasures ( mainly directed at a those with deep pockets), Grand Cayman is one of my favorite spots in the Caribbean. Even traveling on a budget, I managed to see and do many of the fanciful things that make Grand Cayman a seductive place to visit. As a food lover, this island lured me with its decadent choices of international fare and seafood dishes. Safe and friendly, the popular “seven-mile” stretch of shoreline is flanked with a mix of ritzy and budget hotels, fabulous restaurants, and a fun nightlife scene.
I stayed at the Marriott on Seven-Mile beach, and let’s just say that between the constant construction, scrappy beach, tired accommodations, and expensive buffet breakfast that exuded the feeling of dining at a HoJo, I was slightly disappointed. The lovely part was that just a short walk down the beach I could hang at the newly-built, glorious Ritz Carlton where the food really doesn’t get much better.
And, so, here are five recommendations I can impart from my five-night stay to anyone interested in exploring this fabulous island.
1. Dining at Post: One of the best (and most reasonably priced) dining experience I encountered on Grand Cayman was at a tiny restaurant called Post. Among the many lavish places to dine, this Italian restaurant, owned by a family from Torino, stood out. The gnocchi were utterly tender, melt-in-your-mouth good, and the calamari and caprese salad superb. This little eatery is sort of in the middle of nowhere (when speaking in Seven-Mile terms) but is definitely worth the trip.
2. Taking in the Night Scene: In the evenings, after the sun withdrew its streaming rays from the pearly shores, I would hit the lively streets and head to Deckers. This open-air bar played the most rhythmic mix of salsa, reggae, and french creole music I had ever heard. The blood orange mojitos were divine and the bartenders, friendly and informative. The most attractive part of this sultry bar is that it is in stumbling distance of most hotels.
3. Curing Rainy Day Blues: If you happen to have the misfortune of a rainy day, don’t fret for a minute as the Ritz Carlton’s sushi bar boasts spectacular views, and booze that cure rainy day blues. The hotel is a monstrosity of posh shopping (window shopping for the budget conscious), dining and mingling, and is a surprisingly fun place to meet very cool people from around the world.
4. Petting the Stingrays: Although it is cliche to do this, I recommend the experience because it is sublime. Petting eight-foot stingrays, while standing in crystal clear water at the edge of a natural sandbar in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, is one of those moments when you say “hell yeah, life IS good.” As one of Cayman’s biggest attractions, Stingray City tours can be easily arranged at almost any hotel on the island.
5. Have a Picnic on Owen Island: Easily one of the most stunning beaches in the Caribbean, Owen Island is the perfect place to have a picnic. Its soft, white sand and blue lagoon whisks away any agitation that may have built up from staying on the crowded Seven-Mile stretch. If you plan a day trip to Little Cayman (which I strongly recommend) you can go by rowboat (Owen Island is approx. 590 ft. off the shores of Little Cayman) and have your lunch at a secluded spot under swaying fringed palms.