I’ll jump right in to Part 2 of my Grand Cayman vacation recap! In case you missed Part 1, check it out here.
We got up and drove south through George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands. Driving through the main drag, we got our first real glimpse of the cruise ship crowds—and that was with only three ships in town that day. We headed to Smith Cove (pictured above) just south of George Town, which was another spot we’d read was a good place to check out. It’s a small public beach where you can do offshore snorkeling, and there’s a rocky area with a lot of tide pools.
When we arrived there was a group setting up for a small wedding on the beach! As soon as we got there John realized he had forgotten to bring his snorkel, so instead of driving all the way back to our condo we went to a dive shop that we had passed along the way. We figured we might as well buy a snorkel and fins for me, and John could just use my new gear that morning. With that squared away we went back to Smith Cove, where the wedding was in progress:
John headed into the water to snorkel and I walked along the rocky shoreline, again marveling at the amazing water.
It was sunny and starting to get pretty hot, so I waded into the refreshing water and bounced around for most of the time that John was snorkeling. When he finished snorkeling, we walked around the rocky area together and checked out the tide pools. We saw some baby fish, lots of crabs, and a few sea urchins. Tide pools are so fun to investigate!
When we headed back to our car we stopped to talk to a couple who had just arrived and wanted to know how the snorkeling was. I turned my head and saw this huge iguana chilling in a nearby tree:
Speaking of creatures, the day prior I had received a notification that Pokémon Go was releasing new monsters! When I googled for more information I realized that there are two regional exclusive Pokémon available in the Cayman Islands, so I definitely had to play while on vacation. 🙂 I caught a couple of the new releases at the Marriott on Tuesday night. I also played on the car ride to and from Smith Cove, and I managed to catch both regional exclusives along the way: first Heracross, then Corsola. So that was very exciting for me! #nerdalert
We relaxed at the condo for most of the rest of the day and I kept an eye on John while he snorkeled again. We decided to go back to Macabuca for dinner and try their regular menu, since our first time there was for Monday night all-you-can-eat BBQ. We got there right before sunset, which literally never gets old:
After dinner we returned home and had some wine on the beach again…something else that never gets old.
Because we’d had a couple low key days in a row, we decided to do an activity on Thursday: drive to Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Park, which is located farther east on the island, about a 50 minute drive from our condo. We had been sticking to the west side so it was nice to get out and see more of the island. Before our mini road trip we ate breakfast at Boggy Sand Cafe, a cute place we had noticed on our first day, right next to the liquor store and grocery store. It’s only a couple months old and offers a bunch of local items as well as American-style staples like French toast, pancakes, and waffles.
Part of the reason I wanted to go to the botanic park is because they have an orchid trail. I knew there wouldn’t be many orchids in bloom there right now, but I wanted to see them regardless. And yeah, there wasn’t anything too exciting at the park, orchid-wise, but it was still cool to see them growing in their native habitat:
I really liked Rankine House, an old Caymanian home which was brought to the park and restored, then surrounded by a heritage garden to showcase a traditional island home and garden. It’s so cute! Back in the day (circa 1900), islanders would build a small kitchen structure separate from their home to help reduce heat as well as the risk of fire in the home. Smart!
My outfit just happened to match Rankine House and other features in the park:
I fell in love with this gorgeous spray of purple ombré flowers! I have no idea what they are (if you know, please leave a comment!), but I can assure you that the color gradient is not a shadow.
On the way out to our car I spotted this enormous orchid in bloom! I couldn’t get close enough to get a detailed photo of the blooms, but it looks vandaceous to me. One commenter on my orchid Instagram said it’s Renanthera, which I’m not convinced is right. But seeing that blooming orchid was the perfect way to end our trip to the botanic park!
We were pretty hot and sort of wilting by the end of our botanic park visit, so we headed back to the condo and hung out there all afternoon. I practiced snorkeling with my new gear in the condo pool (baby steps!).
Thursday night we went to dinner at Coccoloba, a Mexican street food joint by the beach at the Kimpton Seafire. We got there right before sunset and I started getting attacked by mosquitoes, but fortunately I had brought bug spray in the car just in case. I had to go out to the car and coat myself in the stuff, but at least it saved me from being eaten alive at dinner. The Coccoloba menu is pretty small but we enjoyed our meal there. We started off with the watermelon spritz cocktail; to eat, I had a mushroom quesadilla and John had pork rinds and fish tacos. Nothing fancy, but I love a good quesadilla!
Our last full day of vacation had arrived. 🙁 We got up and started our day with an hour or so at Cemetery Beach again. I tried to practice snorkeling in the water, but I got a foot cramp while putting my fins on and didn’t think I should try to swim with a cramp. Ugh. So I hung out in the water again while John did some more snorkeling. A small school of fish kept approaching me in the waist-deep water—like the roosters, they must be accustomed to people feeding them. I always get a little squicked out by things swimming around me, but these fish were cute and non-threatening.
By this point I was actually starting to have a bit of vacation fatigue, so when we went back to the condo I mostly hung out inside on my laptop, read, and rested. When I get so close to the end of a vacation I start to get anxious and feel like I just want to get home without having to go through the actual traveling part. If only we could teleport!
John went for a walk on the beach and picked up trash—there was SO MUCH of it on the small stretch north of our condo’s private beach. He filled up two trash bags in a short period of time! When he came back I decided I wanted to help pick up trash too, so he went out with me and we filled a third bag. Lots of bottle caps, flip flops, straws, liquor bottles, sunscreen bottles, and, oddly, unopened bags of chips. I think a lot of the trash was stuff that flew overboard off of boats and then washed ashore. It felt really good to clean up even a very small piece of the island!
It was super windy on our walk, but still beautiful:
For the final dinner of our vacation we returned to Ristorante Pappagallo, where we took a selfie in front of the lagoon before it got dark:
For my entree I ordered the basil-pine nut pesto & smoked burrata risotto with candied tomato and black olive dust. SO GOOD:
On our final morning in Grand Cayman we ate breakfast at home, then visited the beach one last time. We packed up and got the condo in good shape for our 11am checkout, then said goodbye to the place. Our flight wasn’t until 4:20pm so we had a few hours to kill before returning the car and going to the airport. I suggested we check out George Town since we had really only driven through it on the way to and from Smith Cove. George Town is the main downtown area and shopping district, and it’s a main point of interest for many cruise ship passengers.
We didn’t see any cruise ships that day so George Town was actually pretty quiet. We went into a couple gift shops and then John spotted a sign for a stamp shop called The Penny Black so we went upstairs and entered this great little store! I became interested in stamps after visiting the National Postal Museum in DC a couple of times, so it was awesome that John happened to find this place. We purchased some Cayman Islands stamps with orchids and turtles on them, and the proprietor was very pleasant. If you’re into stamp collecting—or even if you’re not—The Penny Black is a hidden gem of a shopping destination for unique souvenirs.
Our final stop before heading to the airport was Paradise Seaside Grill so John could get some lunch. We sat on the patio overlooking the water and soaked in the island vibes.
After lunch we changed back into our “street clothes” (i.e., jeans, shirts with sleeves, shoes with socks) in the car and headed to return our rental car. The Cayman airport is under construction, and though we didn’t have any issues upon arrival, in my opinion it was a total shitshow the day of our departure. There’s one main waiting room for most of the flights, and most of the seats were taken once we got through security. There’s one cafe, which had a long line, and one men and one women’s restroom (predictably, the ladies’ room had a line but the men’s didn’t). Basically, the airport was very much an anxiety-inducing situation for me. But a couple seats opened up not long after we arrived, so we were able to sit down and relax before it was time to board. Hopefully the airport renovations will vastly improve the situation for future travelers!
When my airplane seatmate got up to use the restroom, I snapped this pic out the window—we were flying over Cuba at that moment, though you can’t see anything but the clouds. I have to say, flying business class is pretty sweet! (ICYMI, read the beginning of Part 1 of my recap re: why I flew business class).
So that’s it! We had a fantastic time and would absolutely return to Grand Cayman. We loved our Airbnb and the fact that we had picked a location that was a little off the beaten path yet not far from activities and dining. The main thing we concluded we should have done was go out on a boat more than just the one time; we sort of front loaded our major activities and took it easy for the remainder of the trip. We had so much fun on the boat that we could have easily handled a second boat excursion. We also dragged our feet on planning a bioluminescent bay tour, and by the time we thought we might want to do one, the best time of the month to do so had passed. The tour operators only run biobay tours when the moon is slight enough; if it’s too bright you won’t be able to see the bioluminescence very well. But we did a biobay tour in Puerto Rico years ago, so it’s not like we missed our one opportunity to ever experience it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our vacation as much as I’ve enjoyed reliving the memories through writing and sharing these photos!