This was going to be a one-off post, but turns out I had more to say than I realized!
Paycheck and I had an incredible opportunity to visit the Cayman Islands this summer! I have been to Grand Cayman once without him, and again 4 years ago with him.
Grand Cayman is beautiful, the water has clarity for an average of 100 feet and often far greater than that, that’s straight down as well as to the sides. The main reason for this is that none of the islands have a river that flows into the sea, so low turbidity. The deep water just off the shelf (2,000 feet) helps as well by allowing particulates to settle slowly. My personal theory is that the iron shore, or what we in the states call lace rock, helps. The island is not ringed in a sandy beach-though the 5 and a half mile long Seven Mile Beach is EXACTLY what your sun-starved brain daydreams about complete with white sand, dazzling water, and sea grapes aplenty-it’s mostly hard, pointy rocky shoreline with lots of mangrove trees to keep the sand from shifting much.
It’s hot, pretty much year round. The summer is the kind of hot that sucks the air from your lungs and makes your hair into ringlets comprised equally of hair, sweat, and humidity. So wear as little as possible and cover every inch with sunscreen. Just carry it around to reapply and don’t forget places like the part in your hair, tops of your feet, backs of your calves. You will tan, even with SPF 50, so don’t be an idiot and think you don’t need it or want it because you came to get a tan. All that will get you is blistered. That sun is no joke. There, that’s my PSA.
It’s hard to say what the best part of visiting Grand Cayman is. From a strictly me centric point of view, that being a person who loves being outdoors and swimming far more than eating at THE best places or shopping for more than food and anti-fog for my mask-I’ll list out what I really liked about the island in no particular order.
Swimming and snorkeling-the water is CLEAR and warm and filled with fish. There are many places accessible via a short swim from the shore, or there are all kinds of outfitters to boat around to the hotspots. Starfish Point has starfish-they are just right there in the shallow water. Sometimes there are also jellyfish, so be aware. Stingray City is amazing-and busy. It’s a sand bar in the north sound where rays come up to be hand fed by locals and tourists alike. Feeding is not required to enjoy them, just be sure anyone you are with won’t freak out if approached. The water is often too deep to stand up in. These aren’t the rays in the touch tank at the aquarium that rival dinner plates in size. These are real, wild critters with wingspans of 5 feet. They will bump into you, swim all around you and that can be overwhelming, as can be attested to by the various people freaking out and having to be hauled back into boats.
Spott’s Public Beach is a good place to see turtles in certain seasons. Smith Cove is a gorgeous snorkel spot, probably my favorite just because you walk in and are already there-it’s amazing very close to shore. Cemetery Beach is another gorgeous spot and a long swim out from the shore gets you into some gorgeous reefs, natural and manmade. The Kittywake wreck is off this beach as well.
There are several wrecks to visit, the Gamma is very close to shore and in fact, the top of the wreck sticks up out of the water. Ask around for more ideas or take a tour-a 5-stop snorkel trip is around $100 US and well worth it on a first visit anyway.
One more snorkel/swim thing I truly enjoyed-top 10 life experiences type of enjoyed-was the bioluminescence tour. We went on a boat and snorkeled, though there are kayak tours as well if pitch black water freaks you out. This is an amazing thing to see, I can’t put it into words. The water is filled with dinoflagellates that light up when pressure is applied in this case, mere water pressure from the flick of a hand will make the water sparkle blue and your hand light up. Fish swimming by light up, people around you, the bottom of the boat, your entire body and movement creates sparks of light-it is magical. And so rare! If you get down there when the moon is right (less moon is best) take the tour. There are only 11 places left in the world with bio bays and only 2-3 that you can actually interact with. It truly belongs on a life list with the northern lights. It’s that beautiful.
This trip, we got to go on to Little Cayman with friends who are looking at property for an eventual retirement home there. It was just a day trip and we did not have endless time to be in the water, but I will add Point of Sand as another must-see spot for snorkeling.
More soon, this is getting quite long!