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5 posts from January 2011

01/30/2011

Is Cayman Fun For Kids?

While Cayman is an extremely relaxing island that gives adults a much needed escape from reality, people often wonder if it is a good place to take kids. I've been going since I was born, which was in 1980. From as early as I can remember, I always loved my visits to the Cayman Islands. While Cayman is a different type of destination than a place like Disney World, it still has a lot to offer children. Here are some great suggestions of things to do with your kids in Cayman:

1. Dolphin Cove: While a bit pricey, swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Cove is a once in a lifetime opportunity for kids. The great trainers teach kids all about the dolphins and also let you touch, pet, and swim with these amazing creatures.

Dolphin Cove Website

2. Stingray City: This is an absolute must during any trip to Cayman. These creatures are truly amazing and, while intimidated at first, kids eventually warm up to them.

Stingray City Website

3. Turtle Farm: Since the turtle is used in the logo of the Cayman Islands, visiting the Turtle Farm during your visit seems appropriate. It gives children the opportunity to learn about the wildlife heritage and culture of the Cayman Islands, through interactive activities with beautiful sea turtles.

Turtle Farm Website

4. Snorkeling: This can be done right in front of Treasure Island Condos, which is great for introducing children to the sport of snorkeling. If they have never done it before, I highly recommend teaching them in the pool. It's a lot less frustrating getting pool water in your eyes and mouth, than the sting of salt water. Once they have it down, take them out into the new enclosed cove area before venturing out to the beautiful reef. Finally, towards the end of your trip, take a snorkel trip to the North Sound with stops at Stingray City as well as the beautiful reef, where you can see nurse sharks, lobsters, and beautiful fish.

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5. Look for seashells and hermit crabs: This sounds pretty simple, but it truly is the most vivid memory I have of my early years in Cayman. Obviously they are all over the beach and each one is very unique.

6. Eat lunch at Billy Bones pool bar: If staying at Treasure Island Condos, the kids will love the ability to sit in the water and eat lunch. Mom will love not having to cook lunch every day. The novelty of eating while sitting in the pool is pretty cool to most kids.

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7. Listen to steel drums performance: A sound that is native to the Cayman Islands is a steel drum performance. Locals perform at least once a week in the Treasure Island Hotel lobby. Children will enjoy this unique musical sound, while adults can enjoy complimentary rum punch.

8. Atlantis submarine: This 48 passenger submarine goes to depths of greater than 100 feet, which gives you a chance to view marine life, without having to be certified to scuba dive. 

Atlantis Submarine Website

9. Jolly Roger Cruise: This pirate cruise on a real pirate ship is a daytime trip that kids can enjoy. They offer fruit punch and rum punch that is sure to cool you down in the hot Cayman Islands sun. Kids can enjoy a Pirate Trial ending in an intense sword fight. Don't forget to have the kids bring their swim suits though for when they have to walk the pirate's plank.

Jolly Roger Cruise

10. Pirates Week: If you are fortunate enough to visit during Pirate's Week in November, there are all kinds of various activities for kids, including treasure hunts and parades.

Pirate's Week Website

11. Play on the beach: This sounds pretty simple, but it really could pass hours of time for kids. The warm sun, bath-water ocean, and white sand gives kids lots of fun options on the beach. Typically, a visit to the Cayman Islands is a kid's first experience with a beach so they are intrigued by it and can spend hours playing on it. Please view the video below of several kids in front of Treasure Island Condos building a sand castle.

YouTube Video of Sand Castle


 

01/23/2011

What exactly is Marinated Conch?

For years, people in the Cayman Islands have been eating marinated conch. You see it on virtually every menu as an appetizer. But what exactly is this sea creature? How is it prepared? Where do you find it? 

  Conch

The Queen Conch is a large marine-living mollusk. It is a soft-body animal with a hard shell as protection. They achieve full size at about 3-5 years old, with a maximum size being about 12 inches long. They live in the sandy region near reef habitats. They start in shallow water, but then move to deeper water until it is time to lay eggs at what time they return to shallow water. They are able to move around by use of their foot, which ends in a pointed shape. This allows them to move in a leaping motion along the sea floor.

How does this relate to your trip to the Cayman Islands? When you head out on a snorkel trip, they almost all involve a stop to dive for conch. These beautiful shells are often hard to find because the bright pink side is face down and the top is often the same color as the sand and covered in algae. Once your group finds about 5 of them, the captain begins the process of marinating them for a tasty appetizer. Yes--I said marinating. Not cooking. Did I forget to mention that marinated conch is not cooked. It is perfectly healthy to eat the firm conch meat raw.

Click here for great video: Captain Gleason cleans conch meat

At this point, the captain takes a screw driver to disconnect the conch from its' shell. After disconnecting it, then it slides right out of the shell and is ready to be cleaned. (see video above). The best piece of meat to eat is the firm white meat that gets sliced into fine pieces and marinated. They say the conch is marinated in a "secret-recipe", but it seems to be a little lime juice and pick-a-peppa sauce. It is served with saltines for a real Caribbean Treat.

The only thing to keep in mind is that there is now a conch season because it is on the endangered species list. They are only able to catch and serve conch from November 1st to April 30th. So if you want to experience the marinated conch experience when you are on your snorkel trip, make sure you go down during the right time of year. It is truly a delicacy that everyone should try.

01/16/2011

Cayman Condos on YouTube.

I'm excited to introduce the new Cayman Condos on YouTube feature. While you are sitting home in the states trying to plan your next big trip, my goal is to provide you with current video footage of different aspects of Grand Cayman. The idea is that you will get a great understanding of the beautiful property you are visiting, which will make you confident in your investment. When you go on a vacation, it's important to know that you are getting your money's worth. I am open to any and all video suggestions. 

The first installment on YouTube is recent video footage of the recently renovated beach at Treasure Island Condos. This video was taken today and shows the brand new $750,000 restoration. The swimming cove between the groynes is perfect for wading, swimming, or allowing children to play. On the other side of the groynes is a beautiful reef for snorkeling with beautiful fish, lobsters, barracuda, and even stingrays, thanks to the coral reef.

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The pristine sand that was laid down as the final piece of the project will be retained thanks to the design of the project. For more information on this project please visit the prior blog:

Treasure Island Beach Restoration Project

Please let me know if you are interested in seeing videos posted to YouTube on any other aspects of Grand Cayman. This new feature should be a great way for all of our regular readers to stay in the loop on what is happening in Cayman. It will feel like you're actually there, even though you are sitting back in another blizzard. I now introduce the first video from Cayman Condos on YouTube. Enjoy!!

New Beach at Treasure Island Condo Video

01/09/2011

Restaurant Choices on Grand Cayman

Several people have contacted me about a blog posting on restaurants in Grand Cayman. I have come up with a list of 10 restaurants that I have been to and enjoyed. Everyone has different tastes, budgets, and expectations, so I will not rate the restaurants, but simply list them alphabetically. However, there is one restaurant on the island that is so far and away above the rest that it deserves it's own posting. Casanova's By The Sea definitely is THE best on the island when it comes to dining. Please visit my previous blog about "Cayman's Top 5 Attractions" and see #3 on my list. To summarize:

I don’t typically consider a good restaurant a tourist attraction, but Casanova’s is always a highlight of my trip. This Italian restaurant, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, offers a wide variety of pasta, seafood, and chicken entrees. Tony Crescente, a true Italian, is the owner and prides himself on authentic food from his homeland with family recipes. The service is impeccable and they definitely make every person feel welcome, as though you are part of their family. Whether on a romantic honeymoon get-away or there with a large group, the atmosphere at Casanova's makes this a must-try attraction. Even if you are making your first ever visit to Casanova's, the staff will make you feel like Norm from "Cheers", where everyone knows your name.

However, there are several other restaurants to fill in the other nights that you don't go to Casanova's. I have provided a link to the homepage of each restaurant for you to look at menus and prices. Keep in mind, it is typically too hot to eat outside from May-August, but you can use your own judgment. Enjoy!!

1. Agua: One of Cayman's newest restaurants, Agua is conveniently located in the heart of Seven Mile Beach. They combine a very unique international menu with an elegant setting. They specialize in a number of fish dishes, but each with a international flavor. Agua also has one of the more extensive wine lists on the island.

Moderately priced. Outside seating available.

Preferred dishes: Arugula Salad and Wahoo Mediterraneo

Visit Official Agua Website

2. The Brasserie: The Brasserie possesses a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It is a hidden and less known restaurant off the beaten-track in downtown Georgetown that often gets overlooked. It specializes in fresh seafood and does a great job of combining a modern approach to cooking with traditional ideas. They offer a lot of "tasting menus" as well as many "share plates", which allows you to try a variety of things. 

Moderately priced. No outside seating.

Preferred dishes: "Knife and Fork" Seared Snapper Sandwhich

Visit Official Brasserie Website

3. Calypso Grill: This island treasure is a great spot to visit for lunch while visiting Dolphin Cove to play with the Dolphins. It is located at Morgan's Harbor in West Bay and is a short 10-15 taxi ride from all Cayman Condos properties. This open air restaurant offers soft breezes from the North Sound. The contemporary color schemes offer a great ambiance for either lunch or dinner. 

Expensive. Outside seating available.

Preferred dishes: Warm goat cheese salad and Sauteed Sea Bass

Visit Official Calypso Grill Website

4. Coconut Joe's: This lively outdoor restaurant and bar is conveniently located across the street from Treasure Island Condos. You can grab breakfast, lunch, or dinner and it is a great spot to watch American sports. This is a great spot to go the night you get into Grand Cayman. You are tired, getting acclimated, and don't have any groceries in the condo yet. 

Inexpensive. Outside seating available.

Preferred dish: Mahi Mahi Sandwhich with side salad.

No Website available.

5. Cracked Conch: This waterfront restaurant is located at the top of West Bay. You can enjoy the atmosphere inside the main dining room or dine under the stars next to the ocean. It is a little bit of a drive to get to the Cracked Conch, but once you get there it is a beautiful setting. With more than 30 years of experience, the Cracked Conch is sure to be a great experience.

Expensive. Outside seating available.

Preferred dishes: Conch Chowder and Seared Diver Scallops

Visit Official Cracked Conch Website

6. Grand Old House: This is one of the fancier restaurants Grand Cayman has to offer. If going to the Grand Old House, expect a long drawn out meal. It offers an extensive wine list with an exquisite menu. It has been open for over 100 years and with a veranda overlooking the Caribbean Sea. This is about a 15-20 minute drive from most Cayman Condos complexes

Expensive. Outside seating available.

Preferred dishes: Marinated conch and Cayman turtle steak

Visit Official Grand Old House Website

7. Lobster Pot: This restaurant perched high above the Caribbean Sea and offers breath-taking views from every seat. It is located in Georgetown and is a short 5 minute taxi ride from all Cayman Condos complexes. This restaurant has been around since 1965 and is sure to offer an excellent variety of fresh fish.

Expensive. Outside seating not available.

Preferred dish: Cayman Trio: Broiled lobster tail, grilled fresh mahi-mahi, and garlic shrimp. Served with garden vegetables, rice and beans.

Visit Official Lobster Pot Website

8. Pappagallo: Ristorante Pappagallo is an Italian restaurant tucked away in West Bay. It offers an intimate and vibrant atmosphere. You cross a wooden bridge as you enter the restaurant and it is like entering a different world. Tall thatched ceilings with large woven fans create the ideal atmosphere to experience a truly special evening. You will notice the sweeping views of a saltwater pond, with tropical fish visible in the water, local wildlife, iguanas, wild birds and the gentle noise of a tropical waterfall.

Expensive. Outside seating available.

Preferred dishes: Calamari and Fresh Catch of the Day-Cayman Style

Visit Official Ristorante Pappagallo Website

9. My Bar at the Sunset House: This outside bar/restaurant overlooks the sunset house dive spot. I highly recommend this inexpensive restaurant for lunch or a quick and inexpensive dinner. This is another option for a restaurant to go to on your first night on the island because it is easy to get to and provides an opportunity to get some food, without spending a lot of money. 

Inexpensive. Outside seating only.

Preferred dish: Dolphin Caesar Wrap 

Visit Official My Bar at the Sunset House Website

10. The Wharf: The Wharf is one of Grand Cayman's oldest restaurants that provides a great atmosphere and elegant dining. You can take a break from your meal to go out to the pier and feed the tarpon. These large fish flock towards the well-lit area of ocean at the end of the pier, which provides some pretty cool opportunities to see them. Also, expect to be serenaded by Eugene with his harp as you enjoy a romantic dinner. This restaurant is walking distance from Treasure Island, CoCo Plum, Grandview, Grape Tree, and Georgetown Vilas.

Expensive. Outside seating available.

Preferred dish: Seafood Bisque and Caribbean adobo spiced grouper

Visit Official Wharf Website

 

01/02/2011

Seven Mile Beach

One of my favorite things to do in Grand Cayman is walk along 7 Mile Beach. Whether going for an early morning run or going for an afternoon walk, the beauty of the beach is evident. Located along the western shore of Grand Cayman, this sandy beach runs for 5.5 miles, despite the world-known name of 7 Mile Beach. Due to it’s pristine beauty, this beach recently received the Caribbean Travel and Life Magazine’s award for “The Caribbean’s Best Beach.”

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The beach begins just north of the capital city of Georgetown, which is the shopping district of Cayman, and extends all the way to the West Bay district, which is the home of the Cayman Islands Turtle Farm. In between you will find miles of beautiful sandy beaches that are open to the public. It is possible to walk the full length of the beach past many hotels, villas, restaurants, and bars.

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A great spot to stop and grab lunch or a drink is The Royal Palms, a great outside beach bar, which is centrally located in the heart of 7 Mile Beach. (The Royal Palms also offers live music at night on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.) There are also several great snorkeling spots along 7 mile beach, thanks to both natural and artificial reefs. Treasure Island Condominiums offers some of the best snorkeling with a natural reef just in front of their $750,000 beach renovation (see photo below). There are several other spots with great snorkeling, including an artificial reef in front of the Marriott and a natural reef in front of the Governor’s residence. Further to the North there is another great snorkel spot just to the north of the Seven Mile Public Beach.

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While the entire beach is public and can be walked on freely, many of the homes and resorts are private property, which means you can’t use their chairs, towels, and pools. However, you are able to use the beach and ocean along the entire beach. In addition, several resorts offer restaurants and beach bars that are open to the public. The Cayman Islands government does allow grilling on the beach, but does not allow loud music or nudity.

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When you visit the Cayman Islands, enjoy the beach to the fullest. Go for a morning jog, walk to a hot snorkel spot, or spend hours floating in the warm Caribbean Sea. The nice thing about the Cayman Islands, compared to somewhere like Hawaii, is the lack of big waves. This calm shore allows for children and even babies to enjoy the water, without fear of big waves. Remember, though, you will want to wear plenty of sunscreen as the sun beats off the white sand and turquoise water to cause intense sun exposure, even on cloudy days. Also, don’t forget to take some cash or a credit card because you never know when you might want to stop for a rum punch. Remember, in Cayman, it’s always 5:00 somewhere!

Wishing everyone a safe, prosperous and Happy 2011!!