My summer vacation: Cayman Islands

August 19, 2008|By JESSICA SMITH / Pulse Correspondent

In 1503, Christopher Columbus discovered the Cayman Islands. He named the islands "Las Tortugas," meaning "the turtles," upon seeing the copious sea turtles that dwelled there.

More than 500 years later, the islands are now thriving and are a popular place to visit. My family and I were fortunate enough to rent a house and spend a week there this summer.

Stepping off the airplane in Grand Cayman, I didn't see any sea turtles, but I did see a steel drum band welcoming us to the island playing their traditional music.

Driving (on the left side of the road ) from the airport to our villa in Cayman Kai, we passed crystal clear waters in shades ranging from cerulean to aquamarine, houses in a myriad of vivid colors and 2-foot-long iguanas crossing the street.


The first few days, Cayman Kai experienced tropical thunderstorms with heavy downpours and strident thunder. Fortunately, these storms left as quickly as they came, leaving me and my family to travel the island.

One of the first things we did in Georgetown -- the "big city" of Cayman -- was go on a pirate cruise. I was skeptical and thought the cruise would be clichéd, but it turned out to be enjoyable. The authentic looking ship had four crewmembers, but gained eight more when they made all the children onboard pirates, after checking them for lice and scurvy, and making them swab the deck. After traveling for an hour -- and shooting cannonballs at all the cruise ships in port-- everyone got off the boat to snorkel and swim. There were few sights to see underwater where we stopped, but most everyone enjoyed walking the plank.

The next day, we visited Stingray City, a well-known Cayman attraction. Taking a glass bottom boat out to sea with the famous Capt. Jimmy Ebanks, groups are able to swim with, hold and feed stingrays. Then the boat takes passengers to Coral Gardens to snorkel, where beneath the surface there are hundreds of fish, even oversized eels.

After visiting Stingray City, we tried a local dish, conch fritters. The only way to describe these was crunchy on the outside, and chewy on the inside, with a mussel-like texture. We also tried fried plantains, which tasted like fried bananas.

The island offered horseback riding in a national park where sights include an ocean filled with puffer fish and stingrays, mango trees, the country's largest freshwater lagoon and areas still destroyed by hurricane Ivan in 2004.

People in the Cayman were very amiable and chatty. Aside from the natives, there were many Brits, considering Grand Cayman is the British West Indies. The only person I met that I was not very fond of was a woman at Rum Point beach who literally followed me around trying to convince me to let her braid my hair.

Though I was hoping to go to Europe this summer, I was pleasantly surprised by the Cayman Islands, and I can honestly say the only part I disliked about the trip was the plane ride.

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