I swear I used to enjoy the winters in Colorado…at least more than I do now. But after 5 years living in Denver, my husband and I were ready to try out the snowbird lifestyle, hence our quick trip to the Grand Cayman in early January.
To seal the deal, my parents, who live in Georgia, seemed just as excited to get out of the cold, damp weather that the Southeast winters offer. So, all 4 of us together were more than ready for a warm island getaway.
We began planning for our trip in early November, just before the next peak of COVID after Thanksgiving. With the surge, Grand Cayman was banning travel through December, and they amazingly opened right before our planned trip in early January. To ensure safety w/ re-opening, the island enforced some strict regulations for travelers.
If you plan to travel to the Cayman Islands anytime soon, here’s what you’ll need:
- An Authorization to Travel (read more about it here)
- Proof of a negative PCR test or antigen-detecting rapid diagnostic test no earlier than the day prior to departure
- Proof of full COVID vaccination (can be shown via photo on your phone) – IF you don’t want to have to quarantine when you get there
- And once you’re there, you must abide by the following: Take a pre-departure test, either a certified rapid test/lateral flow test (LFT) or PCR test, no earlier than the day before departure. Plus, you must follow an on-island testing regime, getting a test days 2, 5 and 7 of your stay
To sum that up, there are currently a handful of requirements to travel to Grand Cayman, and although we were only there for 4 days, I do think it was worth it. Read on to learn why.
Grand Cayman literally JUST re-opened for tourists.
That means the island is the least busy it may ever be! We drove all around the island with no traffic (from 1 side of the island to the other in less than 1 hour), we booked excursions with no scheduling issues (Stingray City, Starfish Point, and the Botanic Gardens were practically empty), and we went to restaurants with absolutely no wait (hanger ain’t a thang). On top of that, everyone on the island was so friendly and happy to see tourists again, as that’s a huge part of how they make their living.
The weather is perfect.
Highs of 80 degrees, lows of 70…doesn’t get much better than that, folks. Tank tops, flip flops, shorts, and swimsuits were pretty much all we needed. So, Matthew and I were able to pack all of our clothes for the week (since we also went to FL after) in 1 small bookbag each.
The island is stunning.
Crystal clear water, the whitest sand beaches, and lush vegetation made for some of the best snorkeling, most relaxing sunbathing, and unique sightseeing. On top of that, there are beautiful mansions lining the exterior of the island, showing the wealth of those who have chosen to settle some of their assets on the island, sometimes referred to as a tax haven (w/ no income taxes, property taxes, capital gains taxes, payroll taxes, withholding taxes, nor corporate taxes).
The food & drink – so good.
Whenever I go anywhere near a beach, I feel the need to eat as much seafood as possible, which is exactly what I did in Grand Cayman. Lionfish tacos, Mahi salad, and poke bowls were among a few of my favorite dishes. On top of that, drinks are somehow more refreshing when enjoyed oceanside. So whether it was a local beer or a fruity cocktail, a drink was never far from my hand. Just beware: food is very expensive on the island. Because $1 is equal to .83 Cayman Dollars, you can expect to be a bit shocked by some of your receipts while dining out.
East or West Side – you can choose your own adventure.
We stayed at the Wyndham Reef Resort on the East side of the island, which based on our experience, was definitely the less busy, more peaceful side. It’s closer to Stingray City and the Botanic Garden, but farther from Seven Mile Beach, where all the resorts are located on the West side of the island. It truly depends on what type of trip you’re looking for, but I enjoyed the East side for the more local, laid-back vibes.
There’s so much to do!
Although the island is relatively small, there is truly so much to do. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Snorkeling…just about anywhere! There are coves all around the island where you can pull off and jump in the water. But one of my favorite spots we snorkeled was one we went to as part of our Stingray City boat tour – a beautiful reef just past where we swam with the stingrays.
- Stingray City. Of course this is a favorite, as it’s one of the most popular things to do here! While I was originally nervous, I had nothing to worry about as the stingrays are so calm and really just swarm around you because they have been trained to know that us humans will give them leftover fish catches if they stay around the area.
- Seven Mile Beach. Also a favorite on the island, and truly a beautiful beach! The white sand feels like powder on your toes and the crystal clear water is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Whether you’re lounging on the beach or paddleboarding on the water, Seven Mile Beach is a must-see.
- Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Park. 65 acres of beautiful plants, flowers, and ponds. I really enjoyed walking around this expansive park, gawking at the unique plants and searching for the endangered blue iguanas (we saw 3!).
- Starfish Point. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many starfish in the ocean, but you’re guaranteed to see a ton in the clear water at Starfish Point. There’s not much snorkeling you can do here, but it’s worth a visit to see all of the starfish!
- Camana Bay. It’s an upscale, waterfront town with plenty of restaurants, shops, and cafes to keep you busy. We came here on our last day for lunch, but I wish we would have had longer to explore the area.
All in all, despite some challenges that came with the COVID restrictions, I definitely recommend visiting Grand Cayman for a unique escape from the cold winter you may be experiencing wherever you are.
Have you been to Grand Cayman? Let me know what you thought in the comments!