Family Fun in Grand Cayman
By: Francine Brokaw
When you think of the
Cayman Islands you can expect to imagine offshore banking probably comes to mind. Yes,
the banking industry is part of what drives the economy of
these picturesque islands, that, and tourism. Many people experience
Grand Cayman for only a few short hours when their cruise ship
docks at George Town, but those who make it their vacation
destination discover what a unique place it really is.
There are plenty of activities to keep
everyone happy, and yes, if you just
want to rest and relax by the pool or on the beach, you can
do that too. Grand Cayman is truly
a family vacation spot.
For those who want to
experience more than just a suntan vacation, Grand Cayman can keep you
busy from morning to night. Boatswain’s
Beach and the Cayman Turtle Farm attract over 360,000 guests
per year. This place
is dedicated to the survival of these beautiful creatures and
once a year several turtles are released to the ocean. This is home to more than 16,000 Green Sea Turtles
who are raised and cared for and where visitors can see and
even hold them. From the baby hatchlings to the largest (575
lbs.) and oldest (72 years), you can see them all. Besides
the Green Sea Turtles, there are a few other species to see
and compare - Loggerheads, Hawksbills, and Kemp’s Ridleys.
For the outdoor and nature lovers there
are several other places to visit while on Grand Cayman. The
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and the
Blue Iguana Recovery Program are great for nature lovers. Take
a leisurely walk on the 8/10 mile walking trail around the
park and discover a variety of plants and trees. The “Colour
Garden” is arranged by colors and as you pass through
you’ll see a variety of pink, orange, yellow, blue and
white flowers that will take your breath away. The Heritage
Garden is a recreation of a traditional homesite that would
have been on the island many, many years ago – before
electricity and modern conveniences. The park consists of 65
acres, much of which was damaged by hurricane Ivan in 2004,
but it, like the rest of the island, is recovering nicely.
This place is filled with magnificent colors and scents, so
be prepared with Claritan or Benedryl if you have allergies.
And, while you’re walking around, don’t be surprised
to see a blue iguana keeping you company. There are many in
the park, which is next to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program
that houses almost 200 of these indigenous creatures.
Another fun and cool activity
is a relaxing horseback ride on the beach. Pampered Ponies
will guide you along a serene stretch of beach
where you can enjoy the sand and the surf. But don’t
let their name fool you – these are full size horses.
And if you decide you want to speed up your heart a little,
try a canter or gallop!
The exotic Butterfly Farm is
not to be missed. This fascinating place is a tropical garden
with butterflies from all around the world
twitting through the air. It’s really a serene place
and once you purchase admission, you can return as often as
you like during your visit to the island. The tour guide will
explain how a butterfly is “born,” and you’ll
see its four incarnations. From a tiny egg which hatches into
a caterpillar which turns itself into a chrysalis which then
transforms into a butterfly, every stage of life is represented
If you’d prefer not to stay on dry land - remember, this
is an island - there are so many things to do in Grand Cayman here, you won’t
be able to decide what to do first! Stingray City is filled
with stingrays, all swimming around and waiting for you. Red
Sail Sports, with several locations around the island, offers
Stingray City outings. We took a catamaran out for some snorkeling
around the stingrays and the other marine life. The knowledgeable
- and often comedic - crew is helpful and handy, and even provides
lunch on the trip back! What else could you ask for? If you
prefer not to snorkel in the deep waters, then you can take
their afternoon tour, which takes you to a shallow area where
you can walk through the water while the stingrays swim around
your legs. This is an incredible experience, and even if you
don’t want to walk among the stingrays, just watching
them is amazing.
Not in the mood to swim
with the stingrays or be in the ocean? How about kayaking through the mangroves?
Bob and Luca at Cayman Kayaks will guide
you on one of three different tours. On "The Sunset Tour" you’ll
experience the magnificent colors of the sky as you paddle
through this protected natural habitat. Ages 6+ are welcome
on this 1 hour tour. "The Wetlands Explorer" is
a little more energetic, longer, and for ages 14 and above.
A light snack and water is provided. "The Mangrove Adventure" is
an easy paddling tour with several stops along the way. Age
6+ are welcome, however make sure your child can sit for the
2 hours. Water and life vests are provided for everyone on
If you still haven’t had your fill of water activities,
you can now swim with the dolphins Grand Cayman style. There are two facilities, one on the east end and one on the west end of the island. So you will have your pick. You can also try the Wave Runner Snorkel Safari offered by Red Sail Sports.
I have fabulous memories of this, even though the day we went
out we didn’t have the best weather conditions. You’ll
be guided through the water on your wave runner (they are set
to a maximum speed under 50 mph) to two different snorkeling
spots where you’ll see even more marine life. If you
haven’t experienced racing over the water on a wave runner
before, this is something you really should try!
And if you want to see
the underwater life but don’t
want to get wet, board the Atlantis Submarine you can dive
to depths over 100 feet to view the incredible coral and other
sea life that live below the surface.
So, now that you’ve experienced the island on the ground
and in the water, what else is there? Jerome at Cayman Islands
Helicopters can fly you around to see everything from a new
vantage point. With three different tours, there’s something
for everyone, whether you want to see the entire island, seven
mile beach, or the stingrays from above, Jerome is the man
So, you see, there is a lot to do on this small and exciting island. It’s
probably taken you almost as long to read this as the average
cruise ship tourist spends in Grand Cayman!
Now that you’ve decided to make Grand Cayman your vacation
spot, the next question is where do you want to stay? There’s
no shortage of hotels and places to stay in this place. They run the gamut from
the bare necessities with kitchens, to the most elegant. Seven
Mile Beach is the place where most of the well-known hotels
are located. The Westin Casuarina Resort and Spa provides a
great location for the entire family. There is a swim-up pool
bar for adults, who can also indulge themselves at the relaxing
Hibiscus spa where, among a variety of things, they offer couple
massages. Merinda at the Kids Club entertains your children
with day (half and whole) and night camps, providing kids with
activities, crafts, outside excursions, food and fun. Ferdinands
is a great place on Friday nights for the Pirate Buffet, with
indoor and outside dining. Can you say delicious?
And for the ultimate
in luxury & style, the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman was created. This beautiful resort
has only been open a few months, but
it is already a popular retreat. This is the place to be
indulged, complete with turn-down service and a chocolate on
The Silver Rain Spa has several options that will pamper
you. There are several dining options, including Periwinkle,
poolside restaurant that offers yummy parmesan fries, among
other delicious goodies. High Tea is offered on Saturday
and Sunday, and by special request. A special Teddy Bear Tea
holidays and special occasions, let children enjoy the fun
ritual of afternoon tea. Also for kids, the Ambassadors of
the Environment program was created with the assistance of
Jean-Michel Cousteau and his Ocean Futures Society. Kids
have several activities from which to choose, and if you decide
to have a night on the town, you can pay an hourly rate after
9 PM for supervised sitting. Snorkeling, hiking, sailing,
climbing, hiking and other activities combine to make this
a magnificent way for kids (divided into ages 4-7 and 8-18)
to enjoy their vacation.
If you’re not in the mood to stay in Seven Mile Beach
and want to immerse yourself in the island environment, the
Rocky Shore Guest House rents several units with kitchens.
It’s out in the country, located on the west side of
the island. Proprietors Trina and Chris also teach island crafts
and traditional arts. Up the coast from there is Cobalt Coast,
which opened December 2000 and gives guests a “small
but full service” option with “island charm,” says
proprietor Arie Barendrecht. The view is spectacular and Dive
Tech, located on the property, has scuba outings for kids and
adults. The east side of the island is also a picturesque alternative
to the hustle and bustle of Seven Mile Beach and George Town.
The Reef Resort is a friendly hotel away from the crowds and
Dining on the island
is another treat. The view from the Sea Harvest Restaurant
at Sunset House, combined with the food
was one of my favorites. I had a vegetable curry dish that
was out of this world. Hemingways Restaurant at the Hyatt,
The Calypso Grill, and The Wharf are all among my recommendations.
The Wharf, especially, provides wonderful first class service
with delicious food. At 9 PM every evening they feed the Tarpons
that are drawn to the location by the light. And, to my amazement,
kids were among the diners at all of these places. But if you
have fussy eaters in your family, don’t fret. There are
plenty of KFCs, Burger Kings, and Wendy’s’ so you
know everyone will get something they want. Plus, this island
is loaded with pizza places too! Coconut Joe’s is the
hip place for three meals a day. Try their “soon to be
famous” hash browns at breakfast. Mmmm.
Getting around Grand
Cayman is a little tricky. You can rent a car or take the taxis.
If you rent a car, remember they drive
on the left side of the street and you may get a car with the
steering wheel on the left or the right side. There are both,
which can be a little confusing. Also, make sure your car has
a working air conditioner. That’s something I forgot
to check before leaving the rental agency. At least the windows
Their street signs leave
a lot to the imagination. It’s
quite difficult to find the street you’re looking for,
and the maps aren’t that much of a help. Believe it or
not, they do have traffic on the island. Their main road is
two lanes with a center lane for turning, and during rush hour
things often tend to get a little jammed up.
Even though the Cayman
Islands are in the British West Indies, the electricity is
still 110, or standard American current,
so you can easily recharge your iPod, camera, and cell phone.
The people are friendly and happy to have you there. A majority
of the people we talked to are relocated Canadians, who have
left the colder climate for the warm temps of the Caribbean.
And it does get warm. As a matter of fact, I can honestly say
when I went to Grand Cayman, I went to Hell. Actually, Hell
is a small town there and the geography consists of some black
jagged rocks that could resemble hell, although since no one
has come back from there to confirm that is what hell is like,
we can only surmise. When you’re there, check with Ivan,
the devil who is always happy to take a picture with visitors.
We visited Grand Cayman
in late February, which is their high season and coolest time,
if you can call 85 degrees with the
humidity factor making it seem like 95 -100 cool! But even
with the heat, it is a fun place to explore, with plenty
of things to do and incredible blue water that ranges from
shades of turquoise all the way to a dark cobalt blue.
Unlike many of the other
islands in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman is a fairly safe place
to be. You won’t have people coming
up to you on the street begging for money or soliciting you
to purchase anything. You can feel relatively safe and secure
as you walk around the island. I did not see one piece of graffiti
on the entire island, and believe me when I tell you that we
scoured every inch of that place! It is clean and friendly
Grand Cayman is the
largest and the main island of the three Cayman Islands. Hurricane
Ivan’s destructive path in
2004 caused a lot of damage, but everywhere you look there
is new construction and life. Things are coming back, making
Grand Cayman a great vacation destination for the entire family.
One final note, when
you go to Grand Cayman, don’t forget
your antihistamines if you have allergies to plants, plenty
of sun block, a hat, and bug spray. Trust me on this one if
you don’t want to return with bug bites all over your
ankles! Next time I'll follow this excellent advice!