Location: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Sequin Jumpsuit: Nasty Gal | Wetsuit: Duskii (worn with Wilfred Free Charlene Short – Aritzia) | Belt: Grundéns | Dress: Olcay Gulsen | Pink Bikini: VS Swim | Black and Orange Bikini: VS Swim
We celebrated our one-year anniversary with a trip to Grand Cayman. Our last few trips had been to Europe and we had yet to take a true tropical beach vacation. Since we live in NYC, we needed a break from crowds and opted for an off-season destination. The Caribbean still has great weather in October but offers lower fares and rates since it’s at the end of hurricane season; so we started our search there. When Stephen and I travel we like to do activities, neither of us can sit and “relax” for very long, so we compared the Caribbean islands from that angle and eventually landed on Grand Cayman. The selling point for me was the opportunity to swim with stingrays in their natural habitat, in what looked like the most beautiful turquoise water. We stayed at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, also known as The Beach House, because of it’s location on Seven Mile Beach and modern beach house vibe. Day one in Grand Cayman we headed straight to Stingray City, we picked this day to visit the sandbar because there were no cruise ships in port which meant there was a high probability it would’t be crowded, and sure enough we were the only ones there. We also ended up with a private group (another perk of off-season travel), just ourselves and two local guides who took us out on jet skis, about 45 minutes into the ocean, to a sandbar where we could see the stingrays. I should mention that in the month of October the island will often get brief patches of tropical storms that blow through quickly. This happened to be one of those stormy days so the water was very choppy and the guides were not taking it slow. Although we act like it, we’re not young anymore, I actually have a herniated disc in my back from the previous 30 years of “activities” so I was worried the amount of air we were catching on the waves was going to put me on forced relaxation mode for the rest of the trip, but miraculously my back held up until we got back to New York. Since these are not captive stingrays they still have their barbs and can sting you if they feel threatened. Before dismounting the jet skis one of the guides said to make sure to use caution because stepping/falling on one of the rays could make them sting you. Just as he said this Stephen fell off of the jet ski and had this look of sheer terror as they circled beneath him. There is one stingray who no longer has her barb, named Frisbee. The guide was obviously very familiar with Frisbee and lifted her up so we could touch her. I was a competitive swimmer for 13 years so I love being in the water and can get a little too comfortable even in the open ocean. Case in point, I insisted on swimming through the stingrays along the bottom of the sandbar. Turns out hovering above the rays is typical behavior of their natural predators and another great way to get stung, I still say worth it. We also took the jet skis out to Starfish Island, where the shoreline is dotted with thousands of starfish. I’ll list all of the companies we used for these private excursions below and highly recommend these guys, they were knowledgable and really down to earth. They are also willing to customize your trip so if there is stuff you want to skip or you want to spend more time somewhere they’ll make it happen. One of their typical stops is the mangroves, which we rode through quickly from the dock. Since I get eaten alive by mosquitos, even in NYC, I usually take a hard pass on anything called “mangroves.” Norma made us go to a jungle botanical garden in Mexico once and my family still laughs about how many bites I got, locals actually pointed and laughed at me (while everyone else remained bite free). I was so chewed up I could barely bend my legs, I was told it was my “gringo” blood. Whatever the reason is, I draw my YOLO line at places where mosquitos are prevalent. Our second day in Grand Cayman we decided to try scuba diving. Although I previously highlighted my “extreme comfort” in the water, scuba diving was not for me. I think I read a little too much about the dangers online which made me too anxious to enjoy it. Stephen also does this thing where he can totally get in my head and unintentionally psych me out: “don’t get freaked out but when I did snuba as a kid it was freaky looking up at 14 feet of water above your head and they know less about the ocean than they do about space so who knows what’s down there.” Prior to these conversations I didn’t have a single scuba concern, I had my wetsuit picked out and I was ready to roll; but then he got me thinking too much and that’s never good. The dive spot entry was a tiny metal ladder off the side of a mini cliff and trying to get in the water with the tank, pack, and weight belt pretty much made me think I was going to drown. I wish I had tried it when I was younger…and dumber. If I attempt scuba diving again I would want to do a full course so I know what to do in the event of an emergency, a half hour PADI lesson did little to quell my concerns. The instructor said I looked like a natural, but I just couldn’t stop worrying about how surfacing too quickly could potentially kill me (pretty sure you can see the sheer terror in my eyes in the picture). On the flip side, Stephen loved it (he said it was one of the coolest things he’s ever done) so I feel a little bad about vetoing any future dives. On day three we rented a car to explore the rest of the island, we were a little too excited they had Jeep Wranglers available, it’s a car we both really like and in my opinion is the quintessential beach road trip vehicle. Also, living in New York we take public transportation so often that being alone in a car listening to music has become a bit a novelty for us, people never understand why we’re so pumped to actually be able to drive a car on vacation. I wore this Nasty Gal jumpsuit which is actually pretty versatile, I’ve worn it with a white t-shirt and a turtle neck and even a button up underneath for less beachy locations. I would recommend layering, even if it’s a sheer layer, if you have any sort of chest, I clearly don’t and it was extremely hot and humid so I went braless and shirtless under the romper on this particular day. We made a list of things to see and followed them around the island out to Rum Point, which was clear across the other side of the island. Our mini road trip culminated at Spotts Beach, a public beach known for sea turtles due to the prevalence of sea grass. I highly recommend stopping here to snorkel, it was off the beaten path so we were the only people there and as promised there were in fact sea turtles….well, ‘A’ sea turtle. I was hell-bent on getting a selfie with this turtle and chased it way too far out into the ocean before I gave up. The turtles are faster than they seem, especially considering how deep they swim, every time I surfaced to breath the turtle gained a significant lead. When I looked at the GoPro footage I realized I had the camera facing down…so basically it didn’t matter how close I got since I don’t know how to operate a camera properly. My favorite moment of the trip was our private beach dinner on the night of our anniversary, the hotel even let me pick the lighting and furniture for the dinner (they probably thought I was ridiculously anal but I wanted it to be perfect and they obliged). We timed the dinner to happen at sunset and if you haven’t seen a Cayman sunset it is a sight to be seen, especially setting over that turquoise water. We had our own private waiter who served us an amazing four-course meal, surrounded by candlelight, with our feet in the sand. Afterwards, we stopped by the s’mores bonfire to roast some marshmallows and then took a walk down Seven Mile Beach. We didn’t take a lot of pictures because we wanted to enjoy the moment, being our first anniversary and all, but it was very memorable and one of those experiences worth splurging on. The next day we planned a beach ride and horse swimming, another activity on my weird bucket list. I used to ride horses growing up, I took lessons and even went to horseback riding camp every summer with my best friend, so it’s something we often do on vacation. Although I’ve been riding many times, I’ve never gone beach riding or horse swimming. Believe it or not horses can swim and it’s actually something they like to do. Bareback riding is a unique experience, your only source of support is holding onto the mane, not something I would do if I wasn’t surrounded by water. We weren’t allowed to bring our camera on the swim because the owner wanted us to “concentrate.” I got this Duskii wetsuit for scuba diving but did a repeat for horseback riding because it’s amazing. I love the fit, the colors, and find it to be very figure flattering. Neoprene really sucks it in which is ideal at the end of a trip and a four-course meal the night before. Full disclosure: I did get this suit taken in (I have a great tailor and they don’t even bat an eyelash anymore when I bring in ridiculous things like wetsuits) so I’d factor that into your sizing choices for this brand. After the beach ride we took the hotel’s complimentary Linus bikes out to Camana Bay to pick up gifts for our families and then stopped at Coconut Joe’s (a local spot the cab drivers all recommended) for dinner. We ended up eating at Coconut Joe’s every morning for breakfast because it was cheap, close, and so good. The island is also known for their jerk chicken, which I used to love eating as a kid from this restaurant in Haight-Ashbury (Cha Cha Cha) so the spicy Caribbean food served up a good dose of nostalgia. A couple of other places that were continuously recommended were Mizu, Waterfront Urban Diner, Duke’s, Ortanique, and Grand Old House. One other thing I’m dying to do is see the bioluminescent bay in Grand Cayman, we’ve never been in a location on the right day (it has something to do with the full moon) but if the stars align one of these trips it’s on my list.
Something we specifically purchased for this trip was the EWA-Marine underwater housing for our Canon DSLR, a recommendation from B&H, here in NYC, where we exclusively buy all of our camera equipment.
Hotel: Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort – www.marriottgrandcaymanbeachhouse.com
Jet Ski Tour: Ebanks Watersports – www.ebankswatersports.com
Scuba: Pirate Divers Grand Cayman – www.piratediversgrandcayman.com
Horseback Riding: Cayman Horse Riding – www.caymanhorseriding.com