North Side Guide to the Cayman Islands
I knew my boyfriend and I's trip to the Cayman Island's would be a little different than the average tourist experience. We were staying in Old Man Bay at his uncle's vacation home across the island (about 40 minutes away) from the resorts, 7 Mile Beach, and Georgetown.
This turned out to be the perfect escape as my plans for the trip were simply to relax and read on the beach. I hadn't been able to afford a real vacation in some time, opting to cash in vacation days for cash at previous jobs. But the truth is, vacation is a necessary component to self-care and a way to invoke creative thinking and restart your mind.
My full-time job is in customer support which leaves me prone to decision fatigue and an over attachment to all of my devices. To put it lightly, I was STOKED to get some much needed sunshine and tackle my reading list.
We were lucky enough to stay at a relatives vacation home which allowed us to make our stay more affordable. While the home we were staying in had a private beach, it was a little rockier than we were looking to lounge on. The hammock was a welcome reading spot though, perfectly photogenic under two palm trees.
We spent most of our time at Rum Point, home of the famous mudslide drink, complete with a shot of rum in the straw and a cherry on top. Rum Point is a private beach owned by the restaurant and bars on the property. There isn't a cover or fee to use the beach but getting drinks or food at some point is a recommended courtesy. The relatively small beach has lounge chairs, a changing room, and several convenient stands to purchase drinks.
Tip: Budget for your drinks! Most of the menu drinks cost about $10.00KYD which is $12.20USD. After lounging in the sun, it's super easy to rack up a tab.
It was here that I slathered on SPF 35 and get lost in M Train by Patti Smith. Most people come to the beach to read their way through the summer best seller list. I prefer biographies and memoirs of artists, business people, and everyone in between. There's nothing quite like being transported to another city or time period to find yourself already in paradise when you snap out of a couple hours of reading.
We did take a break from the beach to hike on the Mastic Trail which was close to where we were staying. I would definitely call myself a lazy hiker in the spectrum of hiking experience. I'm not able to scale a mountain but I do enjoy spending some time in nature.
We were hoping to see some cool wildlife and some interesting plants but didn't find much besides the rough, black rock that can be found throughout the island. Though the trail wasn't difficult, I would recommend something with a good sole like hiking boots for the rocky trail.
It's only a few miles long but we ended up going in about a mile and turning around. It was a particularly hot day and our water supply was running out faster than planned. (As I mentioned, lazy hiker!) It's important when that the trail doesn't loop around so you'll need to turn around and start back the way you came once you're done.
While I was happy to check it out, a trip to the Botanical Gardens might have been more scenic as we didn't see a lot besides a tiny lizard and a lot of rock.
Another place on our list to check out was Starfish Point. This was admittedly harder to find than we expected after a few failed attempts. On Google maps, it will basically direct you to a road that is closed to the public. Next to the closed gate is a really small public beach. You'll want to park here then take a right through the bushes and past the "No Trespassing" signs. Follow the trail along until you see signs for Starfish Point and another beach.
Here you might find a few party boats and tours hanging out but you'll also find starfish! They were scattered about but the ones that were there were really big. They creeped my boyfriend out but I enjoyed holding one of the smaller ones. You'll just want to make sure you don't take them out of the water so they don't suffocate. Even though I carefully waded out in the water with my iPhone, an underwater camera would be recommended. There is space on this beach to hang out but less shade than Rum Point so you won't want to forget the sunscreen.
After all this hiking and exploring, you may be wondering where you can get a cold beer! We weren't looking for anything crazy so we picked up some Cay Brew to drink on our deck for a cheaper solution than the beach or a restaurant. You can get Cay Brew at any of the liquor stores but not the grocery stores. There is a larger liquor store by Foster's or Waterboyz on the North Side. (You'll need to be buzzed in)
We tried both the regular Cay Brew and the White Tip Lager. The Cay Brew has a more amber taste but I preferred the crispness of the White Tip Lager which also donates 5% of the profits to local conservation efforts.
If you're looking to bring back any liquor souvenirs, I would hit up one of the nicer liquor stores. I brought back some Havana Club, a Cuban rum, for myself!
On Sunday most grocery stores and shops will be closed but for the most delicious reason: brunch! Sundays in the Cayman's are meant for lounging and eating all morning. And for the price, you better eat up to get your money's worth.
We decided to eat at Tukka, a Caribbean/Australian fusion restaurant. We went the night before to have a drink (great Rum Runner!) and have a cheaper meal of a few appetizers to try a wider variety. Brunch was expensive but still cheaper than some at $29.95KYD per adult or $36.52USD. For additional $19.95KYD you could get bottomless mimosas for up to 2 hours. I decided to stick with the included coffee.
Some of the highlights were the made to order Eggs Benedict, Lion fish pops, Kangaroo sushi, Kangaroo and shrimp skewers and the beautiful creme brûlée. Kangaroo is a bit gamey but is pretty similar to venison. If you're going during the season, a reservation is recommended to get an ocean view table on the deck.
Our favorite place to eat was probably the Over the Edge Cafe as we were staying just a few doors away. They have a real variety with a relatively low price point as well as breakfast options. We mostly ordered fresh fish sandwiches there but also came by for sushi night, breakfast, and drinks. The outdoor deck has really relaxed ocean view and even a couple cats lounging around.
Outside of the resorts, this is also one of the restaurants where the adventurous (and non-vegetarian/vegan) can try sea turtle. While sea turtles have an endangered status, the Cayman Islands is the only place in the world where you can try this native delicacy. It's a traditional meat for the Cayman people and engrained in their history as a country. There is also a turtle reserve on the island to offset the island consumption and help encourage the population.
Though controversial, I'm not one to pass on the opportunity to try unusual cuisine. For a truly authentic version, I would suggest ordering the sea turtle as a steak. For the adventurous on a budget, I would suggest my choice of the sea turtle sliders. They were well-prepared and seasoned expertly. True to my research on the meat, it had a really similar texture and taste to veal. I would really recommend trying it if it coincides with your diet, beliefs, and sense of adventure.
Another great place to get a cheap bite on the North Side is Kurt's Corner (next to Waterboyz). My boyfriend and I both ordered some amazingly fresh tasting and carefully fried fish. This was a really nice place to grab a casual lunch on their shaded porch.
On our second to last day, we went into Georgetown. This was on July 4th so while the British Island wasn't celebrating US Independence Day they were celebrating Constitution Day. Many things were still open but a couple of the coffee shops I was hoping to try were not.
We ate breakfast at Bread and Chocolate, a really sweet vegan cafe in the heart of Georgetown. I had the amazing coconut French toast which was sandwiched with chocolate hazelnut butter, banana, and fresh strawberries. My boyfriend had a similar waffle version that he was ready to take on after the drive across the island!
They also have a nice selection of vegan coffee, juices, tea, and lemonade. The inside was really homey with nice touches like flowers on the table and artwork scattered throughout. It was also one of our least expensive meals of the trip.
We walked around a little bit and checked out the Observation Tower which doesn't take very long but is interesting architecturally and covered in some really cool mosaics. It's also free which is plus! There are also a lot of shops in this area though most were closed for Constitution Day when we went.
After checking out Georgetown center we drove up to the area named Hell. This is also free and features an overlook of about a football field of jagged black rock. There's also a cheesy devil statue to get your picture taken with and some cardboard cutouts as well. It might have been silly but I couldn't resist checking out the gothiest thing on island. I even wore my favorite black lipstick for occasion and we struck a pose of excitement à la Jacqueline and Vincent from Portlandia.
Be warned that the postcards are pretty terrible as most of them don't actually show the cool black, rocky expanse. We found that the three small shops next to the post office were the best bet. I was able to pick up a cute enamel pin of the Cayman "Sir Turtle" for a couple of dollars.
Tip: mail your postcards directly from the Caymans to ensure that they get stamped with the official "Hell" postal stamp.
On our last day we stopped at my most frequented stop for coffee on the North Side, Kaibo Espresso which I wrote about here. I also picked up some coffee souvenirs for friends and family.
If I ever go back to the Caymans, I'll be sure start at Kaibo for more lounging and less hiking.
Questions about any of the who, where, what in this post? Ask in the comments and I'll be sure to reply :)