Tropical baby – the Cayman Islands

While I’m doing research for another post on air travel with baby, I thought I would take it easy and write about something I know: the Cayman Islands, a place I call home. I live in a tropical destination that welcomes over 2 million visitors each year, maybe you’re considering coming, in which case I hope you find this post useful. Otherwise, maybe I can entice you to come visit my beautiful island.

IMG_0227

Getting to the Cayman Islands

First things first: getting here. Grand Cayman, the largest and most visited of the three Islands is only a one hour hop from Miami, 3 hours from NYC and 4 hours from Toronto.  There are also direct flights to Grand Cayman from many other US destinations: Houston, Tampa, Washington DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale and sometimes even Boston.

If you’re flying directly from Miami, Tampa, NYC or Chicago, chances are you’ll be flying our national airline, Cayman Airways. Here’s a little plug for this small airline but it certainly deserves every accolade: larger seats, free luggage and free rum punch. Not to mention friendly service.

Where to Stay?

The next decision is where to stay. There are three main tourist areas in Grand Cayman: Seven Mile Beach (which is also divided into north, central and south), East End and Kaibo/Rum Point. If you want to be near the restaurants and most attractions staying on Seven Mile Beach makes sense. The southern part is the less nice part of the beach while the north is much nicer. The central part is also nice but more crowded. There are many condos for rent as well as a handful of hotels. BTW all the beaches are public up to the high water line so no matter where you are staying you can visit any part of the beach you like.

waters.jpg

East End is secluded. But beautiful. And there’s the Wyndham Reef Resort where all rooms are oceanfront and there are studios up to 2 bedroom suites (no I don’t work for them or get a commission 😉). There is a grocery store and a liquor store across the street, making it easy to stock up on baby foods and kid snacks.

Finally, there are no hotels in the Rum Point/Kaibo area, but a bunch of condo rentals. This area too is very secluded but it is close to Rum Point, which is a type of beach club with lounge chairs, hammocks, water sports rental and restaurant (and the absolute best mudslides on earth).

IMG_0225.JPG

Activities

Now let’s get to the meat of the matter: why is Grand Cayman a great place to travel with kids? Aside from the wide range of accommodations, including condos and hotels with kitchens which make it super easy to prep fast meals and snack, the supermarkets are well stocked (including with a wide selection of baby foods of American and British brands) the Island is safe (you’re not afraid to leave your hotel or condo) and there are tons of kid friendly activities.

IMG_0235

Aside from “the” beach (wide, long, soft white sand Seven Mile Beach), other fun spots for kids are:

– Public Beach (northern part of SMB) where there are cabanas and a playground. There are also toilet and shower facilities.

– Smith’s Cove/Barcadere: south sound road. Lots of shade, very scenic, shallow entry and older kids will enjoy jumping off the jumping rock into the water.

– Rum Point – a great beach for kids because the water is shallow for a long way from shore. Entry is free and so is the use of beach chairs. A short drive down the road, past Kaibo restaurant, is a vacant lot. It’s actually more exciting than it sounds: park the car, walk to the end, until the water, wade in, look down. You might see a starfish or five.

– Spotts beach: a great place to spot large sea turtles. The current is pretty strong so not recommended for little ones. It is a beautiful beach though and fairly empty on weekdays

– Playgrounds: the most popular is likely Dart Park on South Sound Road (a beautiful spot for a picnic) but there is also one behind the airport and one in each district. Here’s the official list.

– the fountains at Camana Bay: kids can splash around in the fountains (free!) while parents enjoy a cocktail at one of the adjoining patios. Also, Camana Bay puts on many family friendly events throughout the year, including free movies, farmer’s markets, chalkdrawing, Easter egg hunt and father’s day activities. Well worth having a look at their website.

– Cayman Turtle Centre: kids can see a wide variety of turtles and hold turtles. There is also a swimming lagoon and waterslide, as well as a nature walk.

– Stingray city: I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Grand Cayman’s most famous attraction even though it is not really suitable for small children or babies (mainly because getting there involved a boat ride over often choppy waters). Older kids however will love kissing and feeding the rays. The water is shallow enough for older kids to stand.

– iguanas: there is a little park on Bel Air drive (off South Sound road) that is really good for seeing lots of green iguanas, as well as ducks, turtles and chicken. You can also see the rare endangered blue iguana at the Botanic Park (Frank Sound Road)

IMG_0233

In case of rain, there are still a few good ways to keep a child entertained without spending all day watching cartoons in the hotel room. Little Monkeys (Shedden Road) is an indoor playground. Starfish Village in Camana Bay offers a Stay’N Play for children from one year upwards. Motions Unlimited gymnastics studio lets babies 6 months and up play in the padded gym on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10:30am to noon. For a quieter activity, the George Town library is a peaceful setting to spend a couple of indoor hours.

Finally, a parting word on another matter of vital importance: food. There are all sorts of restaurants in Grand Cayman from very fancy to roadside stalls.

IMG_0228

Good bets for casual sit down meals with kids include Sunset House, Cimboco, Waterfront Diner, Sunshine Grill, Al Fresco’s, the Fish Shack (just probably not on Friday nights when it becomes more bar like) and Eats.

IMG_0226

Good take out includes A La Kebab, Chicken Chicken, the Burger Shack, Island Naturals cafe, Bread and Chocolate (vegan). The supermarkets have hot food bars with some local food choices (generally Fosters has more local fare than Kirks or Hurleys).

Finally, if you’re missing home comforts, there are several international chain fast food joints including Pizza Hut, Pappa John’s, KFC, Wendys and Burger King (sorry, no McDonalds – though there is a MacDonald in town that is a local fast food outlet).