One of our closest college friends, decided to do an incredible destination wedding on the island of Grand Cayman, offering us the perfect excuse to take some time off from work, and travel again with the boys! Daniel and I have not traveled much through the Caribbean, so we were not sure of what to expect. To keep costs low, we tracked ticket prices (for months), finally booking tickets using a sale fare we found on “secret flying” for a red eye flight on JetBlue to GCM. The boys (as always) were outstanding travelers, though the layover in JFK was dreadfully long! Thankfully there was a great children’s ‘play area’ in the JetBlue terminal.
Arriving in GCM was incredibly easy, the humidity and “island time” seeped into our family rhythm almost immediately upon arrival. There is currently construction at the airport (Sept 2018), however the food tent outside the airport has some reasonably priced options- we had a delicious beef stew, and a plate of fried cassava, steamed plantains, roasted chicken, and Caribbean beans and rice.
The island is covered in iguanas and chickens- offering free entertainment and diversion for children of all ages…we stopped multiple times on the way to our condo to observe the wildlife in action along the roadsides.
Our condo was absolutely incredible. The majority of the Airbnb’s and VRBO’s average about $300+/nt (2Br/2Ba) on Seven Mile Beach; we found a little oceanside inn called the Turtle Nest Inn in Bodden Town which was under $200/nt (which included a car rental). The staff was very friendly and the location superb! The inn has two pools (for guests only),a kayak, paddle board, snorkel gear, sand toys, parasols, life vests and a beautiful quaint CLEAN beach that is perfect for snorkeling beginners (like our boys).
We ended every day with swimming, snorkeling, and of course conquering the coconut challenge! (Every time we travel to a ‘tropical’ location, we set a goal of finding/harvesting a coconut to enjoy-one of the many simple pleasures in our travels and making family memories.)
So here it is, our top 5 things to do while in Cayman on a shoestring budget:
1) Snorkel!!!! Although visibility was suboptimal on the Bodden Town side of the island, the ease of snorkeling made up for it. There is quite a bit of seaweed to wade through (super shallow), but once you find a pool of clear blue, there are plenty of colorful little fish, starfish and you may even spot a spiny lobster (or his tentacles) under a rock!
2) Bioluminescence tour. SOOOO MUCH FUN! This was the experience our boys will remember from this trip. We boarded a small boat at sunset to explore the starfish alley (which coincidentally is jellyfish alley)… our eldest ended up with a mean jellyfish sting, which was an experience in itself. All ended well though, and after a few additional stops along the surrounding bays, we ended in a quiet intracoastal water area that is known for the bioluminescent organisms that produce a magical light underwater… swimming in it felt like we became magical fairies in an unearthly world. Worth every penny of our splurge on this tour.
3) Kayaking/swimming/paddle boarding. We just love being near/on/in the water, and it brings so much joy to our children, so this will almost always be a must do on our top 5 beach destination lists. Whether in the pool or in the ocean, its always easy and relaxing for the family- of course, we are super cautious with our three little ones and they understand the concept of sneaker waves and in general respect water. The water surrounding Grand Cayman was very calm on both the Bodden beach as well as the other beaches we explored. The more touristy “Seven Mile” beach area has unbelievably clear waters to explore, but the crowds are much heavier and typically not local.
4) Eating at the Grape Tree Cafe roadside stand in Bodden town! The Fried fish, Plaintains, Conch fritters, Cassava, and Johnny cakes were AMAZING! There were other good spots for eating nearby (we tried a decent BBQ spot and had good Jerk chicken, beans & rice, and a local rum mixed drink- a little too strong for us lightweights). I also find it entertaining to visit local markets… the children know this is Mommy’s favorite thing to do when visiting any country. Although we are are semi-gluten free family, the children love savoring local baked goods, local fruits, and local ice cream! We also (where/when possible) enjoy fishing or harvesting local foods- fish, lobster, etc. We did not do much fishing in Cayman due to permit/restrictions.
5) Searching for coconuts, birds and iguanas!! The children always get a kick out of exploring a new beach or park. Cayman is FULL of iguanas and coconuts… so our boys were in heaven and on a mission to call out each spotted iguana. There are also many wild chickens (reminded me of Kauai).