Just back from five fabulous days on Grand Cayman! We gained tons of helpful info from
those on this board and a few others, and wanted to return the favor by
posting some of our experiences.
Air: We flew Delta, with a connection in Atlanta. No problem with flights,
which were as scheduled and on time - they even fed us on the ATL to GCM leg. Car: We got the best deal through Budget at the airport - Suzuki Jeep with
air and auto transmission for US$45 daily. This was about $18 less per day than
Andy's for a similar vehicle. It was great having our own transportation
since we were staying at the North end of 7 mile at London House.
London House - right on the beach: Can highly recommend these condos!
Very comfortable, nicely furnished, lovely grounds and friendly, attentive
staff. We had booked a one bedroom Ocean Front. When we arrived we found
these were all on the ground floor. We prefer the second floor because we
like to sit out on a balcony. They upgraded us to a two bedroom upstairs,
also oceanfront, for the same rate. These units had a full kitchen, dining
area and living room, with two bedrooms and two baths on a second level.
There was maid service every day but Sunday. They provide hairdryer and
beach towels (had I known, I could have saved the room in my suitcase).
They also have a nice pool, hammocks, shuffleboard (the kids staying there
loved this) and a barbecue.
Since we had the kitchen, we stocked up at the market. We really liked
Foster's in the Strand Shopping Center on West Bay Road. There was also a
Kirk's market further south towards George Town, but they didn't have as good
a selection. We hit the Tortuga liquor store in the Strand for beer and wine
the first day. Later, we found a coupon book (they are everywhere - check the
airport or your hotel/condo) that offered 10% off purchases at Big Daddy's
liquor. We didn't need to restock, but if you're going to be buying adult
beverages, check for the coupon as it might save you a few bucks. We got
great take away sandwiches/salads and desserts for our day trips at the
Coffee Grinder Deli, which is in the Queen's Shopping Center at the south end
of West Bay Road.
Restaurants: We loved Bed and the Reef Grill, both along West Bay Road.
Both had excellent food. Bed had a funky, intimate atmosphere. Dining
outside at the Reef Grill was an elegant experience. We had a great lunch
on the deck at the Cracked Conch the day we arrived and enjoyed the quality time
we got to spend with their resident macaw named Xanadu. We also had
dinner there, which was fine. The beach grill at Rum Point food was
serviceable, but a bit pricey for lunch. We also made the trip to Liberty
in the West End. Several guidebooks and the island magazines raved about
their buffet on Wednesday and Sunday nights. We went in and had a look, but
it hardly seemed appetizing - more like a NY deli buffet that had been
sitting out too long. To be fair, we did arrive later in the evening.
Still, it was really unappealing.
My husband and I love to snorkel, so our game plan for this trip
was just to drive around the island finding places to jump in and swim with
the fish. Unfortunately, the day before we arrived there had been a storm.
On our first full day on the island, we found the entire length of the
western coast had extremely rough, choppy surf. We headed up to Rum Point,
which was a bit calmer. Visibility there was great and we found a great
spot to snorkel about three quarters of the way out to the right of the
pier - an easy swim from the beach. There was a line of rocks underwater
that were home to a huge variety of fish. Highlights of the day included
spying a yellow stingray burying himself in the sand, and a seahorse attached
to the vegetation in the more shallow water. I mentioned that lunch was
pricey at Rum Point, but it was still a great day as we lazed in the
hammocks and popped in and out of the water. It was about a 40 minute drive.
Stingray City!!!!!! This is incredible and should not be missed! We went with
Captain Dexter and had a fantastic time! He was the perfect guide and we had
about 12 people on our trip. First stop was the Sandbar. I'm still in awe of
the experience of having so many of these creatures swimming around us and
rubbing up against us. They were extremely gentle, and no one on our trip
got any "hickeys". Dexter was wonderful and offered just the right amount of
encouragement to those that were nervous. NOTE: This experience might seem a
bit unnerving for some - the stingrays are a lot bigger than we had
anticipated and there are soooo many. But you really should give it a try.
They congregate around folks with the food so if you're nervous you might want
to stand back from the group a bit. After the sandbar, we were off to another
location to snorkel for conch. Finally, we did a trip out to the reef - which
was also spectacular. There were amazing fish, and we also saw a "wild"
stingray, e.g. one that wasn't from the sandbar buffet line. Captain Dexter
fed his pet eel, "psycho". I thought it would just poke its head out and grab
the food. We were shocked to see this 6 foot creature swim up to the surface
and writhe around the water - amazing!
Cemetery Reef - North end of Seven Mile Beach - was another superb snorkel
experience. Reef is about 100 yards out. By the third day, the water here
was much calmer and it was an easy swim. Again, a great variety of fish and
incredible visibility. We spent a lot of time in the water since it was so
warm there was no hurry to get out.
Smith Cove - Decent snorkeling right off shore, along the rocks to the right,
past the rock tunnel, but visibility was not as great as some of the other
locations on the island (still way better than other islands we've been to).
Smith Cove is just south of George Town and is really a very pretty location,
but we were disappointed to note a lot of trash and broken bottles. If you're
walking around barefoot, be careful of broken glass!
Seven Mile Beach - We went snorkeling right in front of the London House and
saw three turtles! - just a few yards offshore.
Hell - Okay, we had to visit so we could say we'd been there and back.
Bought the T-shirt, sent the requisite postcard. But really, if you're not
already up that way, you can give it a miss.
Shopping - Didn't really go to shop, figured everything would be more
expensive than home, but found two "good deal" places. Across from the
post office in George Town, on Eduardo Street I think, there is a shop called
Bliss. Very pretty and eclectic selection of handbags, jewelry and
accessories - all pretty reasonably priced. Perfect for any female on your
souvenir list (our daughter was quite pleased with her hair accessories) or
yourself (I love my bracelet). The Kirk Freeport stores carry Herend China.
I collect Herend figurines and found a limited edition Herend Stingray,
available only in Grand Cayman. It was less than US$200, which is much less
than you'd pay for a comparable piece in the US - a perfect memento of our
visit. As we were leaving, I also noted their Royal Dalton china figurines
were inexpensive compared to the US, but my husband hustled me out the door
before I went into a buying frenzy.
Overall, this was a spectacular vacation and I can't wait to go back and
spend more time. We've snorkeled other spots in the Caribbean, Mexico and
Australia and this was the best destination we've visited. So many snorkel
spots, incredibly warm water, great visibility and probably the most fearless
fish we've ever encountered. They actually come up to you - looking for food.
You can buy fish pellets at the dive shops. Pop those open in the water and
you are instantly covered with what appears to be a suit of sargeant majors.
Also, tons of parrot fish, jacks, angelfish, wrasse, needlefish, barracuda and
of course the stingrays (we didn't see a single shark).
While it can be expensive, getting a condo is a great way to cut down on the
cost of dining out. Also, getting a car, even for a few days, really allows
you some flexibility in exploring the island!
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