These last couple years had us feeling a little burnt out. How could it not, right? So we decided the best way to combat burnout was piña coladas on the beach in a tropical paradise. And based on what flight prices were reasonable, we landed on the Grand Cayman Islands. But as much as we would love to be lazy beach bums all day, we just aren’t those people. So we balanced our trip with lazy days and some excursions. Here are some of our favorite destinations and experiences we had in the Grand Cayman Islands.
WHAT TO DO:
How to describe the beaches of the Cayman Islands without sounding like a total cliche sap? Yes, yes, the beaches are heavenly. The water is fifty shades of turquoise, the sand is warm, the air smells like saltwater, the sunsets look like a painting. Ugh, I make myself sick. But they are that good.
All beaches in Grand Cayman are public up to the high water mark (where high tide hits), including the beaches in front of resorts. So feel free to walk the beach.
WHAT TO DO:
In a place like the Cayman Islands, you really want to spend as much time in the water as possible. Aside from just swimming and lounging, we were also able to do some snorkeling and paddle boarding. The crystal clear waters make activities like paddle boarding and snorkeling absolutely spectacular. Looking down, I could see everything from barracuda to angelfish swimming right below me.
WHAT TO DO:
Sure the beaches are amazing, but if you never left the beaches, you would miss places like the Crystal Caves. The Crystal Caves are a series of hundreds of cave systems adorned with glittering stalactites and stalagmites, creating an otherworldly atmosphere. In our guided tour, we got to see three of these cave systems, and walk the beautiful forest to each one. To be clear, this is not spelunking, and you do not need any experience to enjoy this tour.
WHAT TO DO:
Kayak the Bioluminescent Bay
Perhaps the most unforgettable thing we did on our trip was kayaking the Bioluminescent Bay. Located on the northwest coast of the island, this magical bay is home to millions of bioluminescent organisms that create a stunning display of light when stimulated by movement. Like magic. One of those things that leaves you in awe of our natural world. As our tour guide told us more about the fascinating science behind this natural phenomenon, each of our kayaks had a glowing blue-green stream behind us. Made even more magical by another one of the world’s most spectacular wonders—a starry sky so clear that you can not only make out constellations, but galaxies. Just one of those experiences you’ll remember for the rest of your life. So, if you find yourself in the Grand Cayman Islands, do yourself a favor and take a kayak tour of the Bioluminescent Bay. You won’t regret it.
WHERE TO EAT:
As soon as we got to the island, we headed straight to Heritage Kitchen for lunch. This beloved local restaurant is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the true flavors of the island. From fresh-caught seafood to traditional Caribbean specialties, every dish at Heritage Kitchen is a celebration of the island’s vibrant culinary traditions. While the menu includes things like spicy conch stew or succulent jerk chicken, it really all depends on what was brought in that morning, and what is left by the time you get there. But whatever you have will be delicious. I had the grouper and rice, and while I’m not usually much of a seafood person, I nearly finished my meal. So if you’re looking for a truly authentic Cayman dining experience, make sure to add Heritage Kitchen to your itinerary.
WHERE TO EAT:
Eat Australian Cuisine at Tukka East
While we had many amazing meals, our favorite was definitely Tukka East.
The meal started with the most divine piña colada I have ever tasted. With the drinks, our server brought out binoculars so we could see the shipwreck off the coast—the Wreck of Ten Sails, from the late 1700s. Then we ordered…well, everything. I tried crocodile, conch, lobster, prawns, I tried it all. And we talked about that meal the rest of the trip.
WHERE TO EAT:
Wanderlust Brunch at Anchor and Den
Every Sunday at the Marriott Beach Resort is the Wanderlust Brunch—an international brunch that features a diverse array of cuisine from different countries, sure to satisfy the most discerning of palettes. From pancakes and bacon from the American station, to fresh seafood at the Japan station, the Wanderlust Brunch has something for everyone. Oh and don’t forget the flowing champagne, mimosas, sangria, you name it.
Be sure to make your reservation in advance! It does get booked up, and NOT just by the hotel guests, the Wanderlust Brunch is open to anyone who makes a reservation.
WHERE TO STAY:
Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort
I cannot say enough good things about the Grand Cayman Marriott Resort. It had everything we wanted in a hotel. It was on seven mile, had beachfront dining, and it was not all-inclusive but did have the package option that had a $75/day meal voucher.
Look, I get it. All-inclusive resorts can be a tempting option for some folks who just want to kick back, soak up the sun, and have every meal at the resort. But if you ask me, that’s not really experiencing a place. For me, travel is all about immersing myself in the local experience, and all-inclusive resorts can sometimes feel like a bubble, isolating me from the authentic adventures that await beyond the resort’s walls. I mean, how are you going to taste the real flavors of a Caribbean island if you’re only eating at the resort’s buffets? To really get a feel for a place, you’ve got to get out there and explore. That’s the whole point of travel, right?
WHAT ELSE TO KNOW
• Speaking of driving, there’s an alarming amount of roundabouts. Traffic circles, rotaries, roundabouts, whatever you may know them by, there is almost a comical amount in the Cayman Islands.
• Hurricane season is June through November. Although hurricanes are rare, and often quite mild in the islands. Hurricane Ian actually hit the island during our stay, bringing with it strong winds and heavy rainfall. While it did cause some disruption to our trip, overall, the damage was relatively minimal, and not a local on the island seemed worried about it.
• There are chickens and roosters…everywhere. I mean, do with that information what you will, but I thought it was at least worth mentioning.
• Everything is expensive on the island. Come prepared with the essentials, because God forbid you forget a bottle of sunscreen, you will be paying a premium for it.
• Bring reef-safe sunscreen and bug spray. And speaking of sunscreen! Don’t forget to take care of the vibrant reef system around you. Pack reef-safe sunscreen and bug spray to protect yourself without harming the delicate marine ecosystem.
• What else to pack.Check out my post “Beach Getaway Essentials: What to Pack for your Beach Vacation” for tips on what to pack!
The Grand Cayman Islands was just what the doctor ordered for burnout. The beaches, the food, the drinks, the excursions, even the hurricane scored us an extra day down there since our flight was delayed. Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, the Grand Cayman Islands really have something for every traveler.