The Non-Alcoholic Guide to the Cayman Islands | 20 Alcohol-Free Things To Do in Cayman

The Non-Alcoholic Guide to the Cayman Islands | 20 Alcohol-Free Things To Do in Cayman

Grand Cayman offers a buzzing social scene filled with brunches, boat parties, happy hours, and everything in between. While an active social agenda is great for making friends and forming connections on the island, it is no secret that many of these activities center around alcohol. That is why I have devised a list of non-alcoholic activities that can be incorporated into your island plans to encourage healthy connections and sustainable living. Get ready — sober island life never sounded so good!

1. Dive

The single most tropical activity you could possibly partake in, scuba diving is an ultra-healthy and adventurous way to experience the island. Red Sail offers a Sunday morning special departing from the old Calico’s — CI $50 for two tanks, all the equipment, and even a group guide if desired. Diving is a great way to make friends and form new connections. Read about how to become scuba certified in one of my previous posts.

2. Snorkel

Logistically much simpler than diving is the equally healthy and adventurous activity of snorkeling. All you need is a mask, fins, a snorkel, and a buddy! I recommend Eden Rock for its beautiful coral formations and Spotts for turtles. In the summer, Cemetery Beach is another great spot to swim with wild turtles!

3. Latin Dance Classes

Fuego Latin Dance offers a variety of classes focusing on Salsa and Bachata. These classes are CI $20 per hour and cater to beginners as well as improvers. Although completely alcohol free, I must admit that Bryan and I had some wine beforehand to help us ease into our dance moves. This is a great way to meet new people because you switch partners each time a new step is added to the routine.

4. Coconut Club Vegan Brunch

We never thought we would see the words “vegan” and “brunch” side by side, but Coconut Club puts on an artful and inspiring 5 course presentation in which cocktails are replaced by freshly fermented kombucha. The event is CI $45 and is a lovely way to connect with new faces as meals are presented in a family-style setting and there is plenty of time to chat in between courses. Keep an eye on their events calendar or the Coconut Club Instagram to see when their next vegan brunch will take place!

5. Walk a Dog

The Cayman Islands Humane Society encourages locals to pick up a dog at the shelter for a quick walk or a day-long excursion as a way to provide them exercise and grant them a bit of freedom from their caged surroundings. The dogs love it, you love it, and your liver loves it! Win-win-win!

6. Beach Walks

Too obvious? I think not! Don’t be that islander who takes their paradise surroundings for granted. Beach walks are straight forward but offer wonderful versatility in your island plans. For example, instead of driving directly to Island Naturals, park at Governor’s Beach and walk to get your smoothie! It is so much more rewarding having to work for it a little bit 😉

7. Coffee Crawl

Like a pub crawl but you trade alcohol for caffeinated bliss! Explore Grand Cayman by visiting its many cafes and coffee shops. Read my Coffee Crawl post to get started planning your own!

8. Road Trip

Living in the Seven Mile Beach area, the lifestyle can start to feel quite busy (and expensive)! Shake up your weekend itinerary by planning a little road trip out to East End or North Side. There are many little stops to make along the way including restaurants, beaches, scenic photo ops, and much more! 

9. Vitamin Sea SUP Yoga

One of the first things I researched before moving to Cayman was paddleboard yoga by Vitamin Sea. Stalking their Instagram account was one of the only things that got me through the snowy Minnesota winter. While Vitamin Sea offers standard paddle board rental, I would highly recommend trying out the yoga class which is taught on the water at sunset…I mean, what more can you ask for? 

10. Rent a Bike or Scooter

There are public bike and scooter stations located around the island. Hop on a scooter just across the street from the Westin and ride it to Camana Bay. Your reward for making it all the way there without falling could be an ice cream from Haagen-Dazs or a gelato from Gelato & Co. 

11. Join a Run Club

Grand Cayman has a surprising number of run club opportunities catering to a wide range abilities. These clubs are free to join and are a great way to meet fellow runners who share your health goals. Two of my favorites are the Palm Height’s Monday Night Run Club and the Saturday Morning Camana Bay Run Club which departs from Jessie’s Juice at 7 am.

12. Thrift Shopping

Shopping second hand is not only an amazing way to save money and practice sustainability, it is also a surprisingly entertaining way to pass the time on a Saturday. You truly never know what treasures you will unearth at the thrift store! I recommend the Humane Society Thrift Store but you can also try out the Red Cross and Another Chance (at the Strand). Read my recent post to learn the best tips for finding amazing thrift deals.

13. Go “Hiking”

Anyone who lives in Cayman knows that hiking, by standard definition, is not really a thing. The Mastic Trail is the one minor exception. Located near Bodden Town, the trail is a 7.4 km round-trip journey where you will come face to face with some of Cayman’s most quintessential trees and wildlife including Cayman parrots! Wear good shoes, pack a NON-alcoholic beverage, and you are set for an afternoon of exercise and nature appreciation!

14. Rent a Jet Ski

Island vibes abound when zipping across the crystalline turquoise waters of Seven Mile Beach on a jet ski. If you are not yet “balling” and do not own a jet ski, you can rent one from Red Sail, departing from the beach at the Kimpton. The cost is roughly CI $50 per half hour. A bit expensive, but it’s a nice way to treat yourself and also makes for a great gift!

15. Kayak The Bioluminescent Bay

Paddle beneath the stars from Rum Point to Cayman’s only bioluminescent bay. Cayman Kayak’s offers a 2-hour guided tour for USD $59 that gives you a front-row seat to this magical underwater phenomenon. 

16. 3 Girls & A Kiln

Get in touch with your artistic side and stop in at 3 Girls and a Kiln in Camana Bay. They are an art collective specializing in island chic ceramic and handmade, upcycled goods. They offer a whole calendar of monthly crafting events as well as make & take wood painting classes — perfect for a girls day out, a date night, or a little self-discovery bliss! 

17. Read on the Beach

Another seemingly obvious island activity; however, many are not taking full advantage of this seaside R&R! Spend a luxurious afternoon selecting the perfect read at the Book Loft and then head to a quiet stretch of Seven Mile or a secluded corner of Smith’s Cove to indulge in some cheap, alcohol-free entertainment. 

18. Sister Island Adventure

It can be hard to escape drinking culture when it has you surrounded on all sides. Maybe a weekend get-away is exactly what you need to break out of your current social pattern and satisfy a bit of wanderlust. Whether it’s rock-climbing in Cayman Brac or biking around Little Cayman, it’s never a bad idea to shake up your routine! Check out my Cayman Brac itinerary for a little help planning your island-hopping adventure!

19. Art Appreciation

Experience the island through the eyes of local artists by scheduling a visit to their studios. Read my East End Girls Trip Itinerary to read about the two studios I visited: Charles Long and White Dog Art. Cayman also showcases artwork around the island in the forms of murals, paintings, and sculptures. Visit the National Gallery for a more concentrated collection of artwork.

20. Sound Healing

Saving the best for last, a Sound Healing session with Janine Martins is an absolute must if you’re seeking fresh experiences and pure inspiration. Janine will bring your body back into a state of harmony with her beautiful voice and Tibetan singing bowls. Not to mention, her public offering is held on the Palm Heights rooftop, a truly dreamy location. Keep an eye on the Palm Heights events calendar or Janine’s Instagram for upcoming sound healing dates!

There you are! 20 alcohol-free activities to begin incorporating into your island social calendar. Don’t forget that as much as we love them, there is much more to this island than just boat parties and brunches! If you haven’t tried any of the above activities, I challenge you to try at least one this weekend. I promise they will open your eyes and allow you to experience Cayman through a new, beautiful, (sober) perspective! Enjoy 🙂

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Preparing For Your First Ever Cayman Boat Party

Preparing For Your First Ever Cayman Boat Party

Attending a boat party in Grand Cayman is basically a right of passage for island newcomers. Within a couple weeks of moving to the island, you’ve probably been invited to a handful, each one sounding more exciting than the last. At first blush, a boat party may seem like an ultra-fun, and dreamily tropical adventure. Don’t get me wrong, they really do have the potential to be all of that and more! However, there are certain aspects of a boat party that one must prepare for in order to maximize fun and minimize calamity. Today I will share a basic outline of what to expect as well as my top pointers that will allow you to experience all of the good and none of the bad on your very first (or 100th) Cayman boat party. 


What to expect on a Cayman boat party

Cayman boat parties have become a pillar of the island’s social scene, most commonly taking place on Saturdays and Sundays. The boats vary in size depending on the organizer. For example, the annual Gaelic party is hosted on a double-decker boat suitable for hundreds of guests whereas a small, birthday party boat may hold space for around 20 guests or less. No matter the occasion, the boats’ tried and true itineraries don’t vary all too much — the destinations predominately include Stingray City, Starfish Point, and Kaibo. Boats typically come equipped with either a sound system or a DJ so your maritime merriment is well-accompanied with energizing soca beats. Boat departure is typically around 1 pm with arrival just after sunset. Many organizers will also suggest a spot for after-party drinks but, quite frankly, I’ve never had the stamina to make it to those!


Tips for a Cayman boat party

Choose the right people: The overall vibe of a party is even more crucial if it’s taking place on a boat…quite simply because there is no escaping! Once you’re on, you’re on for 5 hours or more. It is important to consider who will be in attendance and if you can survive an afternoon at sea with them. Come to think of it, this is actually a great concept for a reality dating show. 

Pace yourself: This is a piece of advice that even the most seasoned of Caribbean party-goers may fail to abide by. Salt-water and sun create certain conditions that warrant chugging down a cool beverage. When most of your liquid supply contains some level of alcohol, it can be very easy to overdo it on the booze. Not to mention, these parties are not well-known for food options. All drink and no nosh is a recipe for disaster. That being said, know your limits and drink less than you would on land. Of course, this is easier said than done. 

Pack smart – water, snacks, sunscreen: Following up from number 2, part of staying in control on the boat involves nourishing your body with snacks and water (no, Truly’s do not count). Not only can you feed yourself, you can share with others! A surefire way to make life-long friends — offer up some chips and salsa and BOOM — besties for the resties. Also, we know you want to get a lovely island tan but 5 hours without sunscreen and someone is sure to confuse you for a lobster. Do yourself a favor and apply once before boarding and once more after Stingray City.

Attire – keep it simple: A boat party calls for similar apparel to that of a beach party. Here, we don’t complicate things — It is most fitting to wear a swimsuit, a swim cover-up, sunglasses, and flip-flops. Remember, one of the possible stops is Kaibo, a beach restaurant at Rum Point. While the scene is quite casual, I would still recommend wearing your cover-up and shoes off the boat for drinks and appetizers.

Respect the ‘rays: As mentioned above, one of the quintessential boat party stops is at Stingray City — a group of sandbars located 25 miles off the shores of Grand Cayman. It is here where they feed wild Stingrays, hence the large population of these overly-affectionate sea beasts. Although apparently gentle creatures, they can give quite an intimidating first impression. Have no fear! They are not aggressive and seem to be very accustomed to humans. At the same time, do remember they are wild animals and should be treated with due respect.

Save the starfish: A much less intense alternative to Stingray City is Starfish Point, an isolated beach on the north side of the island. Here party-goers are once again free to roam through the shallow waters, combing the sandy bottom for star-shaped critters. While you are allowed a bit of light interaction, do NOT take them above the surface. They are unable to breathe out of the water and can die within minutes. Certain educated individuals WILL tell you off which is not the vibe you want to attract.

Avoid seasickness: While there are many people who do not experience seasickness, there are an unlucky few, myself included, who cannot even go on a paddleboard without feeling nauseous. If you are prone to these symptoms, make sure you take a non-drowsy Dramamine or consume ginger in some form an hour or so before the trip.

Carry cash: This day in age we seem to be very reliant on card payments; however, there is a definite advantage to carrying cash while at a boat party. For one, belongings can get jostled around on the boat and losing cash is not as bad as losing credit cards. Additionally, if you make a stop at Kaibo with a large group, having cash on hand is an easy way to pay your share of the tab as they do not split checks. Lastly, the boat staff will leave a tip container at the end of the trip and it is a nice show of appreciation to leave cash gratuity on your way out.

Do not overcommit: This is true for any activity in Grand Cayman but especially with drinking-centered events like boat parties. Cayman offers an incredibly lively social scene. You could easily fill up every single weekend with parties and brunches but remember, it’s okay to turn things down as well. I promise, there will always be more boats. It is best to wait for one with the right people for the right occasion in order to truly enjoy the celebration to its fullest!

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A Very Last Minute Cayman Brac Itinerary

A Very Last Minute Cayman Brac Itinerary

Sometimes it’s the trips we don’t plan for that turn out to be the most memorable. There is nothing quite like the excitement of a spontaneous weekend get-away. Could it be that a spur-of-the-moment trip to Cayman Brac is exactly the adventure you’ve been craving? Read below to discover the perfect last-minute itinerary to inspire your impromptu mini vacay.

Hotel Alexander

Many people traveling to the Brac opt for a house rental, but this may require booking well in advance. When planning on the fly, Hotel Alexander is the ideal option for location and convenience during your stay on the island. A minute walk from the beach and an even shorter walk to the liquor store, Hotel Alexander provides a comfy home-base for your little island adventure. Best of all is the Pura Vida bartender, Emmanuela who is warm, funny, and makes some amazing Seven Fathoms cocktails!

Car Rental

CB Rent-A-Car is a literal minute walk from the tiny Brac airport. Stroll on over and rent a vehicle for only CI $30-45 per day. There is an extra CI $25/day charge for comprehensive insurance but even so, this has to be one of the most affordable rental car companies I have ever encountered. Our Kia Sportage was CI $44 /day and was the perfect size for our travel team of four along with our get-away luggage. Pro-tip: Bring your aux cord… Cayman Brac, for reasons that escape me, has an obsession with country music. It is all the play on the radio. I don’t know about you, but this is not the vibe I was looking for on my island holiday. Bring your playlist or be prepared for a weekend of country-western jams!

THE ITINERARY

Friday Evening – Kicking Off the Adventure

Get Lost: Our flight landed at 5:40 pm. After picking up our Kia, we got totally turned around and ended up at the most beautiful dead-end. There we watched the sunset and of course, took some killer photos. See the directions below if you want to *purposely* find this dead end 😉

When leaving the airport, take a left onto Westside Road and then a right onto Robert Foster Ln. Keep driving and you will drive right into the ocean (literally!)

Sunset at the “dead end”

Drinks @ Captain’s Table: Known for its beautiful and kind bartenders who make excellent Micheladas! A casual and intimate restaurant with a poolside bar that provides a fragmented ocean view. 

Check-In @ Hotel Alexander: After unloading your get-away gear in the room, head next door to Big Daddy’s (AKA Blackbeard’s) to stock up on liquid reinforcements for the evening and weekend ahead. 

Enjoy the Hotel: Sure, the flight from Grand Cayman is only 30 minutes, but no matter how short the journey, a bit of travel fatigue is inevitable. Luckily, the hotel features a poolside bar and full menu restaurant which means you don’t have to venture from your lodging for a nice meal and social vibe.

Beach Night Cap: The beach is just a minute walk from Hotel Alexander. Bring some glasses and a beverage of your choosing for a moonlight night cap accompanied by a few good friends and the pacifying sound of ocean waves. Night, night!

Saturday – DIY Island Tour

Morning Run: I feel I haven’t truly visited a new place until I have completed a 5k run in its foreign surroundings. This is why Saturday morning, bright and early, I was hitting the road to explore Cayman Brac on foot. I ran from Hotel Alexander to Sunset Place and back, about a 4 mile (or 6k) run, round-trip. With traffic-free roads and the sound of waves crashing, it was quite an idyllic route to jump start a day of adventure. 

Breakfast: Star Island Restaurant: A short drive from the hotel, Star Island may be the most affordable place I have dined in the Cayman Islands aside from maybe Burger King. A cozy, local haunt, Star Island feels like a mash-up between a VFW hall and church luncheon. The staff is very sweet and the food, quite tasty. Nothing beats the price — CI $8 for an omelette with ALL the sides included. I ordered a ginger juice and was pleasantly surprised at how fresh and delicious it tasted. 

Star Island in all its glory. If you look closely you can see a cow to the right!

Road Trip My best advice to you, if you have no rock-climbing or diving plans, would be to rent a car and drive around the island, looking for random adventures. That is precisely what we did and there was certainly no shortage of adventures to be had! Below I will list some of the spots to keep an eye out for if you are looking for some Brac travel inspiration!

  • Idea #1Caves: The rocky features of Brac’s landscape are home to many crevices and caves. Consult Google Maps or the tourist guide provided by CB Rent-A-Car and make quick pit-stops at the many natural roadside attractions. Warning: these caves are not for the faint of heart as they are very dark and heavily populated with spunky little bats. If you’re like me, you’ll observe from afar while snapping a cute photo.
  • Idea #2 – Natural Swimming Hole: Somewhere on Spot Bay Rd on the East End, if you have a good eye, you may catch a glimpse of the most beautiful natural pool with sparkling, crystalline water.  If you’re lucky enough to spot this dazzling oasis from the road, you must immediately pull-over and go for a swim or a hobble along the Ironshore.
  • Idea #3The Bluffs: The jagged, picturesque bluffs are quintessential to the Brac landscape and are a must-see on your spontaneous island tour. While on the East End, in the Creek area, turn onto Ann Tatum Bluff Rd and then left onto Major Donald. Keep driving until you come to the Lighthouse…which is quite an underwhelming structure; however, the panoramic vista overlooking an expansive blue seascape will truly take your breath away. But careful! Not too close to the edge…do not use our picture as a reference 🙂
  • Idea #4 – Beach Walk: On the south side of the island, drive as far east as you can and you’ll arrive at the Great Cave. Continue walking toward the water and you’ll find yourself on an expansive stretch of rocky beach with stunning, ground-level views of the bluff.  Pick your way along the rough shore, feeling the salty, ocean breeze on your skin, until you reach the blowhole nearest the bluff face. 
  • Idea #5 – Public Beach: After a day of adventure and spontaneity, make your way to Public Beach and sink your toes in the sand for a little R&R. 
  • Idea #6 – Sunset: Enjoy the dreamiest of sunsets from Sunset Place at the end of South Side Rd W while catching a glimpse of Little Cayman on the horizon.

SUNDAY – BYE, BYE, BRAC

Morning Run: This time, I ran the opposite way — from Hotel Alexander to Public Beach and back, totaling 5 kilometers.

Breakfast: Back to Star Island, because we simply couldn’t get enough!

Relax: Following an action-packed Saturday, we treated ourselves to a slow morning at Hotel Alexander. Brewing a pot of coffee in the room, lounging poolside with a book… A leisurely and luxurious start to our Sunday.

Bikes: Following our recharge session, we headed back to Captain’s Table where you can rent motorized bicycles for CI $25 the day. With only a few hours before departure, we took a cruise up and down South Side Rd W, off-roading every now and again onto sandy paths leading to the beach. 

Airport: Back to Grand Cayman we go! 


FINAL IMPRESSIONS

Cayman Brac is a lovely place to escape on a weekend adventure! Its landscape and outdoor activities are quite distinct from Grand Cayman and will make you feel as if you are truly “getting away.” Be sure to pack casual or athletic clothing and supportive footwear as this island features rugged terrain and boasts a sporty itinerary. My other top tips for this trip would be to rent a car, take the bikes for a spin, and arrive at the airport at least an hour before your flight (a lesson our friend learned the hard way). Overall, Cayman Brac is a place that is definitely worth visiting if you are feeling active and adventurous! 

Have more questions about the Brac? Comment below or follow me on Instagram!

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Cayman Islands East End Girls Trip Itinerary

Cayman Islands East End Girls Trip Itinerary

Are you looking for a unique day trip to shake up your girlfriend plans in Cayman? Look no further! Below you will find a unique East End itinerary featuring food, art, and drinks! While our outing did not include any beach stops due to overcast skies, I will offer some suggestions for additional or alternative activities to customize your very own girls day out! 

Stop #1 Jessie’s Juice

Jessie’s is a great rendezvous point to kick off your girls day out. Here you and your girlfriends can meet up and equip yourselves with caffeine for the exciting journey ahead! After all, what’s a road trip without a coffee companion?


Stop #2  Charles Long Art Studio

114 West Ln, Savannah

This East End itinerary features two very distinct art studios; the first of which is located in Savannah along a pebbled residential road beside the artist’s private home. Arriving at the Charles Long studio felt like total submersion into the local Cayman culture as Charles himself came out to greet us and shake our hands one by one. The studio is open and airy with natural light streaming through the domed ceiling. A visit to the gallery must be reserved in advance via Instagram or by calling directly. The pure island vibes and familiar spirit of this gallery make it an excellent detour off the beaten tourist trail. 

Instagram: @ckglong

Phone: +1 345-917-5741



Suggested Stop: Pedro St. James

Pedro Castle Road, Savannah

Charles Long’s studio is very close to Pedro St. James, a natural historic site situated alongside the sea. While I have yet to tour the 18th century Great House, I have enjoyed a drink and appetizers at the distillery that overlooks the water. There is also a stunning swimming hole that sometimes fills completely with water. Wear sturdy walking shoes and venture down the Ironshore to take a dip in the natural topaz pool.

Stop #3:  White Dog Art

Bodden Town Road

As you continue further east toward Bodden Town, you will near the second stop on our girls trip itinerary. White Dog Art is a simple modern house that greets visitors with a stunningly vibrant mural painted by the artist herself. Similar to our experience at Charles Long studio, the artist, Ren Seffer, came out to greet us with a warm and welcome smile. She invited us into her bright studio space where we felt right at home amongst her cheerful canvas paintings. It was so fun to see the contrast between the artwork of Charles and that of Ren. While both artists showcase a sea of bright, happy colors, their styles are utterly distinct and cannot be compared. (A visit to White Dog Art studio can be arranged through their website)

Instagram: @whitedogartcayman

Our group posing in front of the studio’s mural with Ren on the far right

Although I did not walk away with any pieces, I enjoyed getting to know more about the culture and history of Cayman through the art itself as many of the paintings featured emblematic places and people of the island. A few of the girls in our group gathered information from both artists to have a piece commissioned. This is also something to look into if you are searching for the perfect art for your home or as a gift.



Suggested Stop: Fruit Stand

Just up the road at the corner of Bodden Town Rd and Frank Sound Rd there is a fruit stand where you can pick up some local produce (cash only). This is a nice stop to restock your refreshments as you continue on your East End ramble!

Stop #4: Tukka

898, Austin Conolly Dr, Gun Bay

At this point in your girls trip, you have most likely worked up quite an appetite. No worries, delicious island fare is right around the corner! East End offers several excellent options for waterfront dining. For this itinerary in particular we selected Tukka, an Aussie-owned restaurant with a Caribbean twist. Their menu is quite large and diverse featuring local favorites as well as many international & Australian dishes. Being that our trip took place on a Sunday, they were offering a brunch deal for $CI 34. I myself ordered a la carte, selecting a lionfish taco and coconut prawns. While I am typically a cocktail girl, I was feeling rather rustic and decided to order a local bottle — Caybrew light. The highlight of lunch was sitting on their patio overlooking the water with a lovely ocean breeze!



Suggested Stop: Barefoot Beach

Queen Highway, East End

Unfortunately, the day we went on our East End trip it was a bit cloudy and cool (for Cayman standards) so we decided to skip the beach. However, I would recommend a stop at Barefoot Beach either before or after lunch. Even if you do not plan to swim, it is a beautiful spot to relax, take photos, and enjoy some drinks and snacks from the cooler. 

Barefoot Beach

Stop #5: Czech Inn

Bodden Town Rd

Circling back from East End en route to George Town, the Czech Inn is the perfect place to finish an East End outing on a high note. Arriving at the Czech Inn is a visual overload as this bohemian, outdoor bar and grill is decked out head to toe with unexpected decorations like surfboards for tables. While it is definitely not known for its scenery, the vibe of this place is one of a kind and 100% worth a visit. Although our group did not order food, the place has excellent menu reviews making it a perfect casual, roadside lunch spot. 



My thoughts on the day:

This itinerary provides a well-rounded cultural taste of East End that includes food, art, and nature. It is a perfect day trip for you and your girlfriends but could be enjoyed by anyone for any occasion! I am by no means an art enthusiast but I really appreciated the unique perspective these galleries provided me. I was able to see the island through the eyes of local artists — a truly special experience! I will definitely be back to Tukka soon for some more lionfish tacos and coconut prawns! Happy trails on your next journey out east!

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A Guide To Becoming PADI Certified In The Cayman Islands

A Guide To Becoming PADI Certified In The Cayman Islands

Going scuba diving has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, but having lived most of my life in the Midwest, I had no idea when I would be able to make this dream a reality. I certainly didn’t imagine moving to the Cayman Islands would be the factor that ultimately pushed me to do it. But now, here I am living in the Caribbean and what an amazing place to learn how to dive! While I am quite familiar with water sports and have done my fair share of snorkeling, I really had no concept of what a PADI certification would entail. Heck, I didn’t even know what PADI meant. (cough, Professional Association of Diving Instructors, cough, cough). That being said, this blog will serve as a written account of my experience (the good, the bad, and of course, the ugly), as well as a little guidebook full of tips and tricks to navigating this experience while living or visiting Grand Cayman.

Smiling because I have finished all the pool skills and am on to my first dive!
(Sunset House)

FAQ:

How much does it cost?

There are two parts to getting PADI certified – you first complete an online course followed by an in-person training. The price of the online course is $190 USD and the 3-day in-person training (including pool skills, four dives, and ALL the equipment) is $215 (180 CI).

Where did you get certified?

While Grand Cayman has many excellent dive school options, we signed up with Red Sail Sports, which is quite a popular choice on the island. Our instructor, Alex, was top notch and the whole experience was a very positive one from start to finish. I would definitely recommend Red Sail to anyone living in Cayman or visiting the island. 

Is it really worth it?

Of course, diving is not for everyone. Many admire the ocean from afar, but I’m not sure everyone is meant to go 60 feet beneath its surface. I can only speak from my own experience and this was my take: to me diving feels like entering into a world where I am no longer human. (Wow, melodramatic much?) I am doing something that instinctually, feels impossible — breathing underwater. Everything is quiet, time slows down, and I feel more peaceful and in-the-moment than I even knew to be possible on land. What’s more, I get to see and experience all the beauty of the Caribbean sea — its shipwrecks, its coral reefs, and its diverse marine life.

After practicing setting up our equipment (Sunset House)

Sounds great, how do I get started?

Step 1: First things first is signing up for the PADI online course (Open Water Diver)

This is completed and paid for independent from the dive school of your choosing. We decided which school we wanted before signing up but you could always do the online portion first and find your school later. The course consists of 5 sections, each with a short quiz. At the end, you take a 50 question exam which you need to score at least a 75% on. It takes anywhere from 10 to 16 hours to complete the whole course so I would not recommend leaving it until the night before… (ahem, BRYAN). 

Step 2: Choose a dive school

As mentioned above, we went with Red Sail Sports but there are many schools on island that offer PADI certification. Cayman Diving School, Turtle Divers, Divetech, DNS, Ocean Frontiers, Eden Rock, and Deep Blue are just a few examples to get you started. They may vary in price slightly but you will find their overall training structure to be quite similar. 

Step 3: Get training!

As I mentioned, the in-person course is 3 days in length. With Red Sail we completed most of our training at Sunset House, a restaurant and dive resort in South Sound. On the first day, we completed about 5 hours of pool training (uff-dah). On day 2 we completed 2 shore dives and on day 3 we put all our skills together with 2 boat dives.

My dive buddy Bryan after our final dive

What to expect:

Difficulty level

Being a swimmer and water enthusiast, I have to admit I went into the training a bit over-confident. I was not totally prepared for the challenges that a PADI certification would entail. Yes, the instructors are fun and want you to enjoy the experience, but they are also preparing you for any little thing that could go wrong while diving. That being said, there are certain skills that for some people (apparently all the men in our group) are seamless and easy…but for others, (me) cause a good deal of anxiety or discomfort. Namely, when we had to completely remove our mask and put it back on underwater. Despite these challenges, walking through these emergency situations step by step definitely helped me to feel more confident and equipped in the water. Overall I would say the training is very do-able and straightforward.

WOW, tiring (but rewarding)

I would recommend not scheduling many other activities for the 3 days that you are in the training. Why? Because it TOTALLY wipes you out. All you will want to do when you finish is eat everything in sight and pass out. And actually, you feel okay doing that because on average, a scuba diver burns 400-700 calories per dive. 2 dives per day and you have yourself a pretty solid workout! 

Equipment

They provide everything! If you have a nice mask or fins that you use for snorkeling, you can bring them along with you. But if not, they provide mask, fins, wetsuit, and of course all the dive equipment (BCD, weights, regulators, etc).

Time Commitment

  • Day 1: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
  • Day 2: 8:00 am – 1:30 pm
  • Day 3: 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
Getting ready to board for dives 3 & 4

Tips and my personal advice!

Bring snacks, water, and sunscreen!

During all 3 days of training there will be small breaks, not long enough to eat lunch but long enough for a protein bar, piece of fruit, Gatorade, or maybe some cookies! But try not to bring anything that will melt as you are outside in the sun all day.

Hydrate! Before, during, and especially after

While diving you can become dehydrated quickly due to environmental factors (sun, salt, wind) as well as by breathing dry, compressed air from the tank. All of this considered, you should be hitting the water hard at any and all opportunities. 

Go with a good friend or your partner

All 3 days you will have an assigned “buddy” who you do all your pre-dive checks with and many of the emergency skills. Of course, it’s okay and could even be nice to buddy up with a stranger but for me it was very comforting to have Bryan as my buddy (we get along pretty well, I guess), and it helped me get through some of the tougher skills.

If you get seasick, take non-drowsy Dramamine (even for the shore dives)

 Even though we didn’t go on a boat on day 2, I felt nauseous just from being on the wavy surface for a few minutes. Another trick of the trade that our instructor shared with me is ginger. They sell ginger root tablets at the grocery store but I happened to have fresh ginger at home so I made myself a mango, banana, ginger smoothie about an hour before the boat (along with a non-drowsy Dramamine) and felt amazing the whole day.

Highlights:

  • Seeing turtles, stingray, barracudas, a mermaid statue, and two nurse sharks!
  • Overcoming a fear: I was truly scared and anxious when it came to removing my mask underwater. I had to really focus and dig deep to be able to do it at 50 feet. But not only did I do it, I did it with composure and confidence which felt pretty amazing! 
  • Our instructor Alex was actually the best! We couldn’t imagine a better teacher for our PADI certification
  • If I wasn’t tan enough before, I definitely am now! Also, my hair is looking a lot more blonde so basically I got free highlights. I mean, this course really does pay for itself
  • Burned calories without trying: As I said before, divers can burn 400-700 calories per dive and even though the equipment weighs a lot on land, in the water you are weightless. Essentially, we burned calories while being incredibly lazy underwater. What more can you ask for?
  • A new appreciation for the island: If you think the island is beautiful on land, just wait until you see what it has to offer just off its shores!
Our instructor Alex, myself, Bryan, and Freuhle

Your dive certification awaits!

If you are someone who has been on the fence about getting PADI certified, I hope this article serves as the inspiration you need to take the dive! It is a certification that never expires and can be used anywhere in the world. Getting certified means becoming part of a dive community whether it be in Cayman or around the globe. It grants you access to explore a world that would otherwise remain completely unknown. Pictures and videos are nice, but wouldn’t you rather see it for yourself?


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Running The Cayman Islands Marathon

Running The Cayman Islands Marathon

What kind of crazy person gets up at 2:30 am to run a marathon on a Sunday? The answer, of course, is ME! Well, me and a thousand other Cayman residents. And although I believe the use of ‘crazy’ here is somewhat justifiable, I have to say to you, don’t knock till you try it…there may just be a method to this madness!

PRE RACE

My Sunday did in fact start at 2:30 am. That is what time I rolled out of bed and began my race day preparations. I would be running the Intertrust Cayman Islands Half Marathon, an event I had trained for throughout all of November. I was ready — nothing could stop me! Not even the ungodly start time. 

The day before the race I stocked up with all my supplies — organic running gels and electrolyte drink mixes from Be Well Pharmacy and most importantly, coconut water (from the not-so-fancy gas station). My breakfast consisted of Ezekiel sprouted flax bread (AKA magic bread) and a fried egg. While this was being prepared I started in on my liquids — black coffee and a lemonade electrolyte drink. I know what you’re thinking…that combination would probably land you straight in the porta-potty. I know what works for me but that does not mean it will work for everyone! We must tread very lightly with our pre-race meals…

Tip: The morning before a race you want to stick to foods you KNOW you digest well…likely a familiar food in your diet. If you’re going to consume as much as I did, you need to get up early enough for your body to digest it! (2-3 hours prior to the race)

By 3:30 am I was loading up my scooter getting ready to hit the road. Under the seat I stored by race day bib along with my running belt and bag. I laced up my Asics, fastened my helmet, and eased my scooter onto the empty highway. I felt like Will Smith in I Am Legend as I cruised down a eerily silent West Bay Road en route to Georgetown waterfront…not a vehicle or pedestrian in sight.

Upon arrival at the waterfront, I was still getting ghost town vibes, but as I turned the corner toward the start line I began to hear and feel the unmistakable race day buzz as fellow runners and volunteers milled about to DJ beats. The clock counted down to 4:30 am, the official start time for all marathoners and some halfers. Despite the absence of spectators (due to COVID restrictions), everyone was in very high spirits, ready to race against the sunrise along the Ironshore. I checked the zipper of my running belt, adjusted my Bluetooth headphones, and queued up my unbeatable motivational Spotify playlist. Time to do the damn thing!

Tip: If music motivates you while running, make a playlist that lasts as long as the run itself. Give yourself a little leeway, but not much. I made mine exactly 2 hours in length. I told myself I HAD to finish in under 2 because god forbid I run without music. Song choice is everything! I choose only music that has meaning or pumps me up (ideally both).

THE RACE

At exactly 4:30 am our large running pack pulled away from the waterfront and started down South Church street with direction to Sound Sound. Lighting was sporadic, leaving stretches of darkness illuminated only by the starry sky. Luckily, the weather was perfect and we enjoyed the slightly cool morning air…(I’m still a Midwesterner, so cool to me means 40 degrees).

While there were no spectators allowed at the start and finish, the volunteers at the refreshment stations and the die-hards standing on the side of the road at the crack of dawn really made up for it. After a few miles of people yelling “Go Kate!” I realized that I was not as popular as I thought and that my name was printed large and bold on my race bib.

We ran all the way through South Sound, past Hurley’s, and finished the loop at the end of Old Prospect Road, actually running right past my school before hitting the halfway point. I did not think I would be a fan of back-tracking the whole course, but actually it was fun to be able to see who was leading the pack and who was following closely behind. 

If you have never taken part in an organized running event, it is something you absolutely have to attend. Either as a runner or a supporter. There is something so completely unifying about the experience. Endurance running is an activity that we have been taught to dread but  it is actually one of the most natural instincts we have as humans. It brings us back to our hunter-gatherer days when we had to chase prey over long distances without a break. While a marathon is not nearly as purposeful as what our ancestors had to do, I believe it still brings us closer to our roots and helps to eliminate social divide. As corny as it sounds, it feels so good when a random stranger cheers you on and says YOU CAN DO IT! No joke, I got goosebumps probably ten times throughout the race…the runners high is a real thing.  If you don’t believe me, go experience it for yourself! At the very least, you will get some free food and beer at the end. 

POST RACE

With amazing supporters, a straight fire playlist, and quite favorable running conditions, I was able to maintain my goal pace of 8:30 miles throughout the whole race, putting me in a position to break my personal best! Winding through the streets of Georgetown, under a cotton candy sunrise, I neared the finish feeling exhausted but elated. I crossed the finish and was immediately adorned with a finisher medal. Just like that, it was over!

I made a beeline for the free food, selecting without any hesitation a bag of Famous Amos cookies. Nothing ever looked as heavenly. I ate my cookies with the satisfaction that I had definitely earned them. I mingled about with some other runners and tried not to fall over. Because of COVID restrictions, we couldn’t stay at the finish for long. After snapping some pictures and finishing my snacks, I made my way back to my scooter and cruised away toward Seven Mile. I looked at my watch…it was only 7 am. 

In true Cayman fashion I went straight to the ocean after my run. The water is actually “chilly” at the moment as temperatures have dropped a bit and we are experiencing what the locals call a “Christmas Breeze.” I’ll take what I can get. Anyway, this cool water felt pretty much amazing on my muscles and joints. 

After a morning of running and swimming, I basically felt like Iron Woman. This feeling didn’t last for long as I collapsed into bed and slept for 2 hours…getting up only because we had brunch reservations at the Kimpton. 

If ever there is a day you are entitled to an overabundance of fancy food, it is following a full or half marathon. It is essentially the 21st century equivalent of catching and eating your prey after a 13 mile chase. (I am only kidding, of course.) The other girls at brunch had also run the half marathon and we took our brunching very seriously that afternoon. 

All in all, it was one of the best days I have spent here in Grand Cayman. If I haven’t convinced you to run in the next Cayman marathon…or any marathon at all…hopefully I have at least convinced you to come cheer on the runners! Or at the VERY least not call us crazy 🙂

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about running in Cayman or running in general I would be so happy to answer! 

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9 Things To Do for FREE in Grand Cayman

9 Things To Do for FREE in Grand Cayman

Being a teacher with summers off (and no children of my own) means ample time to explore interests and hobbies. (So many people just rolled their eyes at me). It also means ample time and opportunity to spend more money than a teacher salary really allows for. Especially in Grand Cayman. Land of the $10 bell peppers. That being said, I have to be mindful of my spending habits and creative in my daily activities. Luckily, this hasn’t been too terribly difficult living on an island in the Caribbean. In this edition of Island Diaries by Kate I will share with you 9 free (or nearly free) activities to be enjoyed in Grand Cayman! (This list is absolutely not exhaustive). Please note you are about to see a common theme of beach-related activities. I wonder why…

  1. Enjoy “Poor Man’s Happy Hour”

There are definitely some occasions in which you want to go to a beautiful ocean-front restaurant and spend $10 on a glass of wine. But don’t forget, for that same price you can buy an entire bottle and sit your butt down in the sand for hours of enjoyment. Take a towel, a couple glasses, and pick any spot on Seven Mile Beach. All set!

Price: $5-10/person 

  1. Go on a beach walk

Not much to explain with this one! Take off your flip-flops, put on your sunscreen, and get to it! I myself like to bring along some coffee. Splurge at one of the many Cayman coffee shops like Jessie’s Juice or Paperman’s, or just bring some good old Folgers in your travel mug. 

Price: FREE or the price of your coffee 🙂

Sunday morning coffee beach walk
  1. Take a beach nap

Very similar to Beach Walk (see above) but for this one instead of walking you just take a nap on your towel! Any questions?

Price: FREE

  1. Treat yourself to a sauna session or hot yoga

Right now in Grand Cayman, it is 90 degrees almost everyday. With humidity, the real feel is around 100 or more. That being said, the second you step outside you are sweating. For this reason, any space you occupy can seamlessly become your own personal sauna. If you so choose, you could even do some yoga poses…say in front of the ocean or by the pool, and you find yourself in the middle of your own free hot yoga class. People pay the big bucks for that you guys. Take advantage. Sweat it out!!

Price: FREE

  1. Take part in anthropological observation (AKA people watching w/ the occasional eavesdrop)

This is a fan-favorite worldwide. All you have to do is post up somewhere (on the beach or at a coffee shop), and watch the people go by. I will say, however, that people watching in Grand Cayman is a little boring and normal compared to, say, the Wisconsin Dells with its concentration of Illinois tourists in a constant state of discontent and family dysfunction.

Price: FREE

  1. Have an impromptu photo shoot

If you do choose to people-watch in Grand Cayman, you will more likely than not see Bryan and I somewhere on the beach or around town taking an obscene amount of photos. Walk toward me. Smile! Look that way. Okay, now jump! Oh CUTE. Take off your sunglasses. NICE. Great way to pass the time and you may just end up with one winning photo out of the 100 that you took!!

Price: FREE (with your mobile device) WARNING: may come at the price of judgement from others but haters gonna hate.

  1. Treat your apartment amenities like a royal palace

Obviously, this one does not apply to the general population. But come visit and you can enjoy all that our new apartment complex has to offer! Choose from the following activities: swimming or relaxing by the pool, playing tennis, drinking coffee or reading by the canal, working out at the gym, botanical garden tour (walk around the facility and look at flowers…use your imagination), pet the neighbors dogs, and try to befriend the neighbor’s cats (good luck, they play hard to get).

Price: Not cheap for me but FREE for you if you come visit!

  1. Become a dog owner for the day (or just an hour)

The Humane Society in Grand Cayman is so different from those I have visited in the Midwest. One day I went there to see if I could hang out with the cats and 5 minutes after arriving I was alone with a pitbull named Gloria. We went for a walk. We had fun. I liked it so much that I came back the following week and took another dog out for a drive and a walk (smaller this time because Gloria would not have fit in the Fiat 500) This one was named Mika. At the Humane Society in Cayman they let you take the dogs to the beach or anywhere you want really as long as you bring them back at the end of the day. Helping dogs + exercise = an afternoon well spent! Before or after picking up your dog, you can visit the upstairs Book Loft that has a great selection of used books for dirt cheap!

Price: FREE, but warning — you may become attached!! ($2-4 for a book)

  1. Join Wednesday Night Running Club

Many people just stopped reading because they despise running. And the rest of you who do run are probably thinking you prefer to do it alone. But let me tell you, in this Caribbean heat, running with a group has been my saving grace. And it has been a great way to meet people from all over the world who love to run! WNRC meets at the World Gym (yep, you guessed it — every Wednesday) and the run takes off at 6 pm. Most people run 5k, some run a bit longer. 

Price: FREE (but T-shirt was 25 CI)      Note: $1 CI = $1.2 USD

Well, my friends. There you have it! 9 amazing activities you can do for free in Grand Cayman. Don’t write off this island as an excessively luxurious dot in the Caribbean. There is no doubt you could blow a lot of money here, and I am not saying that I don’t splurge from time to time, but most often the best parts of our day and the best parts of our life are born out of simplicity and are totally priceless. This has been true for me this summer in Grand Cayman! I hope you are all enjoying your summer and its priceless moments wherever you may be!