I can’t say the Cayman Islands are somewhere I was dying to go. I discovered them while searching for a vacation spot that was close (under 4 hours) with tropical weather, a nice hotel and – most importantly – no zika.
Grand Cayman was it. A travel agent friend recommended the new Kimpton Seafire hotel as “a breath of fresh air” on the island, a 5-star option aside from the “tired” Ritz Carlton.
So, we planned a family trip for my mother’s 63rd birthday.
Let me stop for a second to tell you that Georgina, my almost-1-year-old daughter did. not. sleep. the entire 5 days. We’re talking up all night, carrier walks at 1am and watching Octonauts on the iPad at 4am.
And still, it was the perfect vacation. (Shoutout to PopPop who came and got her every morning at 5am!)
The hotel was great. Aside from the tacky carpet in the lobby, it’s lovely, with clean, big rooms situated on a beautiful stretch of beach. Pro tip: Ask for down pillows and they’ll bring them, which according to my mother-in-law is something not even the fanciest of fancy hotels will do.
It’s also incredibly child-friendly, offering cribs, babysitters, a huge kiddie pool that my cranky daughter loved and a camp for kids over 5.
The highlight of the trip – aside from sunny 80 degree days and a warm, calm ocean and stingrays, which I’ll get to later – was the restaurants. I know, I know…it’s not what you’d expect but Oh. MG.
Blue by Eric Ripert: Fancy and expensive, but a total bargain if you’re comparing it to Ripert’s Le Bernardin (which people do).
Calypso Grill: Recommended by my friend Casey (who lives part-time on the island) this casual, colorful Island-y spot with fresh seafood is “everyone’s favorite.” Ours included. The crab cakes were a win, plus the chicken liver and lamb chops.
Ave: Inside of the Seafire sits this elegant restaurant that drew comparisons to Gotham Bar & Grill back in NYC.
Duke’s Seafood & Rib Shack: This dive-bar slash restaurant did not look like it was going to have good food…but oh, did it ever. Opt for the ribs or jambalaya.
The food at the hotel pool, which can often be a miss, was fresh and delicious. The arugula salad was a sleeper hit.
On the activities front, you cannot NOT charter a boat. Go with Red Sail Sports (ask for Captain Dave and Trish!) and take it to Starfish Cove, the mangrove forest and MOST IMPORTANTLY Stingray City where you must ask to meet Frisbee, the genetically deformed stingray without a stinger who you will snuggle and kiss for 7 years of good luck! Please say hi for me.
I wish I could have taken Frisbee home. And slept more. But those things aside, Grand Cayman is an easy, delightful, family-friendly vacation for even the zika fearless.