Alternate titles: A Snorkeling Review from Someone who Loathes Snorkeling
Exactly How Many Sea Creatures is Felicia Afraid of and How Can We Increase That Number?
Whew, I really did not plan to take a week off of blogging but between having a cold, a wedding, and the holidays, here we are. Today I’m recapping a trip we took in May, then I’ll do a Savannah, GA girls weekend recap, and then on to Greece!
We originally started to plan a trip with Nick’s brother and sister-in-law in April of last year. The initial plan was that they would come down here to Wilmington over Memorial Day to hang out, go to the beach and the pool, grill out, etc. The plan quickly evolved into “well, maybe we can take a few days off too and drive to Florida from here for a weekend at a different beach” to “well, flights to the Caribbean are actually pretty cheap for that week” to “well, how about we do a week in Grand Cayman?”. This was all planned out via text while Garrett was at work away from his phone, so he left work with a long weekend visit to his brother’s and came home to a week long vacation in the Caymans. Luckily he’s a trooper and was down for whatever.
We didn’t have a ton of time for planning, since we only decided on the trip at about a month out, so we quickly booked our tickets and an apartment on VRBO (this one, to be specific). For this vacation, we decided to rent a car, for several reasons. A couple of the things we wanted to do were spread out and we would have paid just as much in transfers and taxis than to just rent a car. We also thought it would be hilarious to watch Garrett navigate driving on the other side of the road, complete with turning into the wrong lane and constantly mixing up the blinker and windshield wipers (AND IT WAS).
We also came up with a list of things we wanted to do:
- Snorkeling (can’t say this was high on my list, due to a previous snorkeling attempt that ended in a meltdown for me, but hey I go with the flow)
- Turtle Farm
- Rum Point
- Stingray City (again…not my cup of tea but never say I’m not a team player)
- Relaxing (my favorite)
- Drinking (my 2nd favorite)
We didn’t have to do much else to prep for this trip. English is the spoken language, they use the same plug type as America. We already owned snorkel gear from a previous trip to the Caribbean (I would definitely recommend getting your own if you don’t already have some. Ours were like $25 from TJ Maxx and were much nicer than the rentals given on excursions). One thing we did purchase were waterproof phone cases, and we were really glad that we did. We were able to take pics in the water of each other and the fish while we were snorkeling. The guys even took videos of snorkeling they did without us, and it was cool to watch those when they got back.
Garrett and Molly arrived on the island before us, so they were able to get the rental car, check in to the condo and pick us up from the airport. On our way back from the airport, we stopped at the grocery store to get supplies for the week. It was also conveniently located next to a liquor store. We had read before the trip that beer is insanely expensive in the Caymans but we still experienced a little sticker shock at seeing the $35 price tag on a 24-pack of local beer. We (stupidly) decided that we would just drink liquor drinks all week to SAVE MONEY! We got a mix of alcohol and some mixers, and also stocked up on breakfast and lunch items (we planned to go out to dinners). Yeah, we ended up going back out for several $35 cases of beer throughout the trip. These oldies can’t handle their liquor like we used to.
After the store, we headed to the condo. The condo we stayed in is part of the Regal Beach Club complex, and I really can’t recommend it enough. We were thrilled with the place, and most importantly, with the associated beach. Regal Beach Club is located along Seven Mile Beach on the west side of the island.
We chose this area because it’s well populated and has a ton of stuff (grocery stores, restaurants, shops, etc) within walking distance. The beach was particularly nice. White sand beaches with calm, deep, blue waters. The whole package. Seven Mile beach has a lot of condos and hotels all along the water, but I biasedly think our area was the nicest. The Regal Beach Club wasn’t super packed and we always had plenty of chairs to pick from, no matter what time of day we went down to the beach. Our beach chairs were well spread out and uncrowded, especially compared to the Marriott next door.
After we put away groceries, explored the condo and made drinks, we headed down to the beach. As mentioned above, the beach and water were amazing and we stayed in the water until dark. This kind of became our daily routine, in the mornings the guys would go find a snorkeling spot and Molly and I would sit on the patio and drink our coffee and chat for about two hours (I love not doing anything productive in the mornings until I’ve had several cups of coffee, which Nick hates because he’s always raring to go. This was so nice!) before heading down to the beach. We would all eventually meet up at the beach and then go inside for lunch. The afternoons would be more hanging out in the water, drinks, and occasionally exploring somewhere else. Then we’d all get ready and head out for dinner.
Since the days are all pretty similar and kind of run together, I decided to just recap stuff that we did, rather than a day by day.
- Coconut Joe’s – We had a great experience here, loved the coconut shrimp, the Caribbean Chop salad, and the Rasta Pasta! Definitely recommend
Ragazzi Restaurante & Pizzeria – This might have been mine and Molly’s favorite restaurant of the week. I wouldn’t have expected to find such amazing Italian food in the Caymans, but there you go. We especially liked the blue crab spring roll, the seafood linguine, pepperoni pizza and fried zucchini. The crab ravioli also looked amazing, we didn’t get it, but definitely would have if we went back (which we were totally planning on doing).
- Cimboco – We actually didn’t love Cimboco. I got the banana leaf snapper which was ok, but Garrett got the Cayman margherita pizza, and it was pretty weak. It reminded me of a frozen cheese pizza Don’t recommend.
- Pepper’s Bar and Grill – We went here the first night in search of some ‘authentic’ Caribbean food and this place did not disappoint. We got pretty much all of the “jerk” offerings (chicken, pork and pork sausage) and we loved them all!
- XQ pizza – only half of us went here one night, while the other half of us were either passed out, or wandering alone on the beach all liquored up and then crying while watching a wedding at the next door Marriott. Not naming any names here. But apparently the pizza was fantastic.
- Alfresco – We went here our last night, it was tough to make it during the week since we had to drive and usually nobody was sober enough to do so, but we were taking it easy due to travel the next day. We loved this place! We couldn’t get enough conch and tried the marinated conch and conch fritters. We were all surprised to like the marinated conch the best. I also got the house made gnocchi, which was AMAZING. So soft and fluffy. The fish and chips were also pretty delicious.
As mentioned above, snorkeling is NOT my favorite thing to do, because I’m a huge baby about creepy things touching me in the water, so I was definitely apprehensive about how much snorkeling we would be doing on this trip. Nick and Garrett are pretty well obsessed with snorkeling and spent most mornings (apparently mornings are a good time to go, because more fish are out?) checking out nearby spots. Molly and I snorkeled close to our hotel and particularly enjoyed going from shore near our hotel and the neighboring Marriott.
Marriott Reef Balls – If you are nearby, these are totally worth checking out! This was my favorite spot (take that with a grain of salt since I don’t actually love snorkeling), mostly because the reef balls were so far down and I could just swim over the top without actually getting close to anything.
Governor’s Beach – Nick said this was a good “beginner’s” site for snorkeling. Nothing too crazy but certainly some cool stuff to see.
Devil’s Grotto / Eden Rock – This was their favorite snorkel site of the week. There are two parts to it, Devil’s Grotto is to the left and is more cave-y, and Eden Rock is to the right and is more like a coral reef. The water is really deep and it had more fish than they saw at other sites. They had a close encounter with a large tarpon fish, which scared them both pretty well, but later we found out that they are harmless! They just like to get close and check you out. I would have absolutely panicked haha.
Rum Point – this area was fun, it had great scenery and we enjoyed the lunch we had here. But it was also frustrating that we couldn’t bring our own food and drink and the watery was murky and had a lot of sea grass. If you are close by or it works into your plans, I would say check it out, but don’t go out of your way. I’d say we give it about a 3 (out of 5).
Stingray City – I think everyone (except me) was most excited for this excursion during our trip. We used Acquarius Tours, which is highly rated on Trip Advisor. Our tour consisted of a stop at Coral Gardens, Starfish Point and Stingray City. I was most scared of the stingrays, clearly, but I surprised even myself and had to be coaxed into holding the starfish as well. Who gets uncomfortable around a f*&$ing starfish? My lameness knows no bounds. Overall though, the tour was really good, we got plenty of snacks and the operators were really cool and hilarious. I even liked the snorkeling, since again, most things were really far away and I could float and watch from far above.
My one gem of advice would be, when they start feeding the stingrays, if you are at all apprehensive get back on that damn boat. It becomes a vicious feeding frenzy and stingrays come out of NOWHERE and start bumping into you and flapping and pulling up their gross little suction mouths. Those sounds will haunt me in my dreams. Some of us (again, not saying who) made a complete ass out of themselves and was screaming and running (a big no-no around stingrays as they can settle in the sand and you would step on them) until Nick grabbed them and tried to shuffle them back to the boat while taking all of the stingray bumps. Horrifying. But everyone else who is not lame REALLY loved it! And I really don’t regret the trip, getting back on the boat sooner is the only thing I would do differently.
Turtle Farm – this was one of my favorite things that we did while in the Caymans, I think this is must-do if you are staying on Grand Cayman. You can see turtles of all sizes and feed them. You are also able to get into a tank and hold some, which was really fun.
Hell- Hell is a group of dark limestone formations on the island. Seeing them was really cool, and this was maybe a 15 minute stop on our way back from the Turtle Farm. There is also a post office here so you can send a postcard to someone from “Hell” if they’ve really pissed you off recently. Definitely worth a stop if you are close by!
This is the first trip where we went to the Caribbean and didn’t do an all-inclusive. We loved doing it this way! I was worried that the logistics of getting our own food and drink would be annoying, but it really wasn’t and you have more control over the quality of everything. The beaches were also less crowded and we didn’t have to be up at 7 am to go reserve a decent chair for the day. This was seriously one of the most relaxing vacations I’ve ever been on. So relaxing in fact, that half of us (won’t say who) went home with a special gift in tow:
We all agreed that this was a great trip, and one that we would repeat. Our current plan is to do it every five years!