In the Caribbean Sea, encircled by Mexico, Belize, Cuba, and Jamaica, are the Cayman Islands. Made up of three separate islands — Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman — it offers up land, water, and wildlife adventures unlike anywhere else in the world. But perhaps what it’s best at is nourishing your body, mind, and soul through amazing cuisine, relaxation therapies, and, of course, its stunning white sand beaches and turquoise waters. You can do nothing, or you can do it all. Your choice.
[Note: Meredith was a guest of Cayman Islands Tourism. All photos by Meredith Richardson and Cody Barnhill.]
Grand Cayman and Seven Mile Beach
Turquoise waters engulf the perimeter of Grand Cayman Island which quickly give way to deep blue ocean, exposing sheer drop-offs as deep as 5500m within the Cayman Trench. It all makes for dramatic views from land or sea. Washing up on the shores of this seven mile stretch of pristine beach are iconic symbols of the island: Seashells, like conch, serve as a home to local sea life while also making for delicious fare on local menus.
Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa
One of the newest resorts decorating Seven Mile Beach is the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa. The experience of both staying and dining at the resort should be classified as approachable luxury. Your experience here will leave you feeling like royalty without sacrificing the down to earth vibe you are greeted with upon arrival. The casual elegance of this place is exuded in its streamlined rooms whose doors open fully to reveal the ocean, with handwritten notes and prosecco left by their staff, or the 8500-square-foot spa that offers private saunas, steam baths, and a hot pool to all guests.
Check out the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa on travelstoke.
Eating locally and sustainably
Self-dubbed as the ‘culinary capital’ of the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands offer up nothing short of amazing cuisine. With a variety of cultures inhabiting the island, the influence this plays on the palette is obvious. This cultural melting pot not only dishes up a multitude of flavors but many restaurants source their food right from their own property or in the waters surrounding the island.
From left to right, Mizu Asian Bistro + Bar, The Brasserie, and Avecita are all must-dine places on Grand Cayman. Mizu prides itself on its sustainability practices and unconventional roll recipes; The Brasserie has its own half-acre organic garden where most of its fruits and veggies come from, as well as its own chicken coops; and at Avecita (in the Kimpton Seafire Resort) the chefs aim to use as many elements of the product foraged as possible, making the presentation of their dishes and drinks a true work of art.
Exploring the Cayman Islands by water
After letting the abundance of local cuisine digest, indulge in the sapphire waters surrounding the island. With so many ways to enjoy the water you’ll be left trying to carve out time for your next dip.
Probably one of the best vantage points you can get of the islands, catamaran sail trips are a popular means of getting offshore and onto the water. The islands’ surrounding waters are riddled with sail boats taking advantage of the reliable Caribbean trade winds that give sailors an advantage of getting places sans motor. Charter companies offer daily trips for those who can’t take the helm themselves and just want to relax and enjoy the ride. The magic hour on the water is right at sunset, where you can watch the sun dip below the horizon while sailing the warm waters surrounding the island.
Home to more than 300 dive sites in the string of islands, the Kittiwake Dive Site serves as an artificial reef to marine life offshore of Grand Cayman Island. Stripped of hazardous materials and sunk in 2011, the former navy vessel rests at a mere 20 meters in depth, making this an attraction for both novice and advanced divers. You can explore down to the depths of her five levels or all the way up to the bridge on the bow.
Check out Kittiwake Dive Site on travelstoke.
There are many locations around the Cayman Islands where you’re sure to witness the amazing colors of the coral and other underwater life. Popular spots include Sting Ray City (below), Cemetery Beach, and Turtle Reef (shown above).
Sting Ray City
Protected within one of the island’s designated wildlife interaction zones, and nestled in a series of sandbars of Grand Cayman’s North Sound, is Sting Ray City. Visitors can book guided tours by boat, where they can not only swim the shallow waters these Southern Stingrays inhabit but even hold them with the assistance of a certified guide.
The North Side of Grand Cayman
Known as the ‘locals’ side of Grand Cayman Island and lending itself to an even more laid back mentality than the other sides of the island, the crew of Rum Point have perfected how to have a good time. Famous for their mudslides and lion fish sandos, the resort is a perfect place to find affordable but good eats, play volleyball in the sand or just pull up a lounge chair or hang in a hammock for the afternoon.
Check out Rum Point Beach on travelstoke.
Cayman Crystal Caves
Only six miles south of Rum Point and situated in the heart of the rainforest are the Cayman Crystal Caves. These limestone caves are some of the newest attractions open to the public on the island. Believed to be over a million years old and once submerged under the sea, stalactites and stalagmites line the ceilings and floors of these caverns where even at the shallowest of depths you can still find fresh water pools. Legend has it that pirates used the caves as hideouts or shelter during hurricanes and that they stored their treasures here, but nothing sparkly has surfaced besides the natural crystal formations to prove that this is true.
Massive tree roots decorate the entrance of the caves while varieties of woodpeckers make the overgrowth their home. You can find the Northern Flickers nesting in the hollows of the trunks, popping out occasionally to say hello.
Check out the Cayman Crystal Caves on travelstoke.
Only 90 some odd miles northeast of Grand Cayman Island is Cayman Brac. Smaller than Grand Cayman, and only 1.2 miles wide on average, if you are lucky enough to get a window seat on the flight there then you are likely to catch the entire island in one glance. Set at an even slower ‘island time’ pace than its big sister island, Cayman Brac is the spot to be if you are in need of some serious rest and relaxation. Wanting to disconnect, escape the crowds, or simply take in the view while listening to the waves lap the shore? Welcome to Nirvana.
The landscape scales in size surrounding the island as picturesque sandy white beaches eventually become breath taking cliffs jutting out into the ocean.
Le Soleil d’Or
Offering a variety of organic fare fresh from their orchards and gardens situated above the resort grounds, Le Soleil d’Or is one of the leading farm to table restaurants and resorts in all of the Cayman Islands.
House chefs not only offer up cooking classes to guests, but develop new menus daily based on what has been caught in local waters and what is being harvested that morning from the farm.
With everything from upscale lodge rooms to quaint villas to large guest houses that stretch the length of their private beaches, the resort’s beach spa is a perfect place for that oceanside massage you’ve always dreamed about.
Check out Le Soleil d’Or on travelstoke.
Serving as a place for both fun and extreme relaxation, the Cayman Islands fulfilled whatever desire we had to simply kick back, relax and allow ourselves to indulge in the great things that island life has to offer.