Impossibly turquoise waters, powder-soft sand, gentle ocean breezes, and palm trees swaying overhead. In the Cayman Islands, every day is pretty much the same — and that’s a very good thing.
For people like myself who are not fans of cold weather, when wintertime hits, it’s time to find summer somewhere else. Last November, I did exactly that when I made my first journey to the Cayman Islands.
There’s something to be set for a place that is about as perfect as you can find in terms of climate, beauty, friendliness and that easy, laid-back island vibe. And for being able to have that pretty much 365 days a year. There’s hardly a better place to de-stress, recharge, and just plain relax than at Coral Stone Club on Grand Cayman Islands.
About the Cayman Islands
Cayman consists of three separate islands: Grand Cayman, the main island and by far the largest; Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. They were discovered in 1503 when Christopher Columbus was making his fourth and final voyage to the New World and winds blew his ship off-course. He bestowed the name “Las Tortugas” because of the many turtles residing there. A few years later people began calling them “Caimans” because of the also plentiful crocodiles, and they’ve been known as the Caymans ever since. The earliest settlers, in 1658, were deserters from the British Army in Jamaica. The Cayman Islands are still a British territory today.
Seven Mile Beach
I landed at 4 pm, grabbed my rental car (remembering to drive on the left side of the road!), and by 5 pm was lounging on my Coral Stone Club condo balcony overlooking the stunning Seven Mile Beach. Ahh….this is the life!
Seven Mile Beach has regularly been named as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean – indeed, the world. An idyllic stretch of powdery coral-colored sand and blue water that looks as if it’s been Photoshopped, this waterfront is entirely open to the public – which means it’s possible to walk the full length of it. The coastline is dotted with resorts, restaurants, beach bars and watersports.
Coral Stone Club
Coral Stone Club is a small condominium complex of 37 privately-owned condos, most of which rent out as private vacation rentals. I really prefer staying in a true home like this, rather than a hotel. Not only does it give you more room to spread out, a full kitchen to cook in if you wish, and often other amenities – it also feels more like living in the place than you do in a hotel room. My condo was a three-bedroom (so would have been perfect if I’d brought the whole family, or several friends), and the entire property has been recently remodeled.
The best part was the location, right on (and overlooking) Seven Mile Beach. My living room and bedroom looked right out over the complex pool and the ocean, with private balconies, and all I had to do was walk downstairs and about 40 feet to be at the water. Pure bliss.
Here’s the website description of my Condo, #28:
Rust and wicker, soft butter cream and sea foam green nuances—all can be found inside this Seven Mile Beach rental. The views of the pool, beach, palm trees, and sparkling Caribbean Sea will remind you of why you selected this choice of accommodations in the first place. At 1,800 square feet, this 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom condo features a master bedroom with a king-sized bed, one guest bedroom with a queen-bed, and a third bedroom with two twin beds.
All condos include:
- Ocean and beach views
- Private balcony or patio with table and furniture
- Private entrance
- Central air conditioning
- LCD flat-screen television
- Cable TV with HD channels
- Free WiFi
- Telephone with free calls to the USA
- Safety deposit box
- Daily housekeeping
- Full size washer and dryer
Property amenities include:
- Infinity-edge saltwater pool and jacuzzi
- Beach with luxury lounges
- BBQ grill
- New fitness center
- Tennis courts
- Cribs and high chairs on request
- Free onsite parking
The Perfect Itinerary
With a spot like Coral Stone Club to call home, I’ll admit that many days I honestly didn’t feel like going anywhere else. To me, a huge part of a vacation like this is simply to do a lot of nothing — relax, read, nap, take an ocean or pool dip, stroll the beach, admire the island beauty, eat some great food, sip on a glass of wine overlooking the sunset from my balcony.
That was the formula for a lot of my time in the Cayman Islands — but for adventure seekers, or those times when you want to explore the island and partake of its many activities, there is plenty to do. Here are my top itinerary picks that I enjoyed:
Snorkeling (and scuba diving)
One of the main things most people choose to do on a tropical vacation like this is to partake in the ocean setting to enjoy some water sports. Cayman is particularly known for its incredible snorkeling and diving. The horseshoe-shaped Grand Cayman Island allows for an expanse of shallow waters filled with incredible living coral reefs – but just beyond, underwater cliffs drop off to a staggering 6,000 feet into the second-deepest ocean trench on the planet. Many divers are drawn to the cliff diving, descending deeper alongside these underwater walls; while others are fascinated by the many shipwrecks that dot these waters and make for incredible dive sites.
Although I have gone diving before, I’m not certified and so chose to just snorkel in the Caymans. In a place like this, with shallow and extremely clear waters and a thriving coral reef easily accessible, snorkeling is just as good as diving in many ways. Even some of the shipwrecks (such as the Kittiwake, which is accessible from shore) are accessible to both scuba divers and snorkelers.
This is one of the top draws on the island. Stingray City is a large sandbar where about 50 of the gentle rays have made their home. They live peacefully and are so used to humans in the area (first fishermen who fed them, and now tourists) that they are almost tame. They’ll brush right up against you, and the sandbar is so shallow that you can actually stand up, even though you’re hundreds of miles from shore.
I went out there with Red Sail Sports, on their catamaran. The 45-minute ride out to the sandbar was beautiful, skimming across the blue water and getting a great view of the Seven Mile Beach and the island coastline as we left it. Arriving at Stingray City and donning snorkel gear, I could already see the dark gray shapes of the rays swimming gracefully along the sandy bottom, off the edge of the boat.
I got in the shallow, warm water and the as the rays slid past, you could reach out a hand and softly touch their velvety backs. There were dozens of them, the group that the Red Sail crew said always lived in the area, and they were definitely gentle and used to people. They even took photos so that you could leave with a memento of your sting ray encounter, and the photographer was very skilled. Once the Red Sail cat headed back toward the marina, the crew hoisted the sails for a slow journey back, and opened the bar for beer and tropical cocktails. Truly an afternoon in paradise!
Another, completely different water experience to be had on Grand Cayman is to visit the bio-bay. All ocean waters have the microscopic plankton, but there are only a very few places in the world where they are found in such massive numbers that their bioluminescent glowing can be seen. And the Caymans have one of them!
There are two ways you can experience this magical phenomenon: by kayak or by snorkel boat. I did the night snorkel tour with George’s Watersports, run by (who else?) George, who grew up in the Caymans. You have to take a night tour (no matter which way you go), because in the dark is the only time you can see the glowing plankton. Think of them like underwater fireflies, the crew said.
As you pedaled your legs or moved your hands and arms in front of your face, you could see the glow of millions of little plankton, that themselves cannot be seen by the naked eye. It was magical, like tons of tiny stars were shooting out of my fingers.
If you aren’t keen on snorkeling or getting into the water like this, then a kayak tour is the way to go. Cayman Kayaks runs night tours, providing both a peaceful night paddle as well as a very close-up way to view and interact with the bio-luminescence. As you paddle and swish your oars in the water, the bay glows around it and the craft.
Cayman Turtle Centre
This is a delightful and informative place for all ages. Cayman’s largest land-based tourist attraction, founded in 1968, has a mission of helping to preserve and protect the green sea turtles that the island got its name from (and are endangered), as well as other sea turtles like the Ridley and Loggerheads. They do this by caring for the turtles, breeding them in captivity, running a hatchery for the eggs and releasing them back into the wild. So far, the Turtle Centre has released more than 30,000 baby turtles.
I got a private tour from Benny, who is a Cayman native and has worked at the Turtle Centre for 33 years. He knew so much about all the turtles and other animals there; he even has a baby turtle named after him!
The park is spread out over several acres, and the biggest attraction is the turtle pond (especially at the feeding times that occur several times throughout the day). But there’s also so much more to the Centre than that – there are other animals such as the Cayman Parrot, sharks, barracudas, a crocodile named Smiley, and more. A large snorkeling area allows guests to snorkel with some of the turtles, while a separate pool and playground area is a big hit with the kids.
There is so much to explore in the Cayman Islands, that in five days there I barely scratched the surface. The gorgeous Caribbean gem is a place where you can do as much in the way of recreational activities, dining and shopping as you want; or simply take advantage of being in paradise to let go and relax.