The Culinary Capital of the Caribbean

Grand Cayman is considered the culinary capital of the Caribbean, so of course I want to share some dining recommendations!

Heritage Kitchen

Heritage Kitchen quickly became one of our “go-to” restaurants on the island when we were craving something more casual, authentic, and Caymanian. In fact, calling it a restaurant actually makes it sound more formal than it is, as it is essentially a roadside stand. Except, this roadside stand is located immediately next to the ocean with some of the most amazing views of the sea.  The owners make you feel like family, and are so warm and welcoming. We went to Heritage Kitchen so many times during our first two vacations to Grand Cayman, by the time we returned for our third vacation to the island in less than two years, the owners remembered us and it felt like we were reuniting with old friends!

Heritage Kitchen Grand Cayman

The food: There is a full kitchen inside the stand, and all of the food is made to order. Don’t miss the coconut grouper, the whole snapper, and the fresh mango juice! All of the fish entrees come with rice and a piece of fried bread. There are picnic tables outside, just in case you want to enjoy the view while you eat.

Pro tip: Check their schedule at the beginning of your trip and make sure they are open on the days when you’re planning to go! And note that they tend to take vacation for a full week (or more) in August and are closed during that time.

Cimboco

Cimboco is a local gem and also another one of our favorites. The food is straightforward and incorporates the flavors of the island. We dined there for breakfast and a couple of dinners; however, breakfast seems to be their strength. We went there almost every day for breakfast (on all three of our trips to the island). We walked in, after having been away for six months, and the waitress said, “Welcome back! Your daughter has grown so much since we last saw her!” It’s things like this that make it so easy to fall in love with Grand Cayman and the people who live there.

The food: The French toast with fresh orange whipped cream is a go-to for our daughter. The island saltfish is my personal favorite, as it’s a typical Caribbean dish and is served with fresh bread and homemade jam.

Pro-tip: They offer a $5 breakfast special every day. This is my husband’s favorite, partially because it’s rare to find any other meal on the island for as little as $5!

another great breakfast at Cimboco

another great breakfast at Cimboco

Vivo

Everyone who knows me knows I am a huge meat-eater and wouldn’t survive one day as a vegetarian, let alone a vegan. So, it’s quite shocking that we dined at a vegan restaurant during our trip AND, it may have been one of my top two favorite meals on the island! Vivo has some of the highest rated reviews on the island, and for good reason! Every element of our meal was perfectly executed, with incredible attention to detail. And the view (!) – oh.my.goodness. the view! We ate dinner at 5pm (early dinners are a must when dining with a toddler), which was perfectly timed with the sunset.

The food: While it is a vegan restaurant with locally sourced ingredients, they also serve lionfish, a mild, flaky white fish. The true show stopper was the vegan "calamari." How on earth they were able to get COCONUT to taste like calamari is beyond me! And it is paired with the most delicious tomato dip. It's genius. Heck, I could be vegan if all vegan food tasted this good!

We ordered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for our daughter – and let me just tell you, this was no average peanut butter and jelly! Homemade peanut butter, homemade jelly, and homemade bread. It was incredible and I’m afraid she will never eat another one of my ordinary sandwiches again!

Pro-tip: Go for dinner during the week, as it isn’t as crowded as at lunchtime. We felt like we had the entire restaurant to ourselves – which really was ideal since the little one was grumpy and a public tantrum was a possibility. (Doesn’t it seem like they save the really dramatic tantrums for when you’re in public?!?!)

enjoying the eco-friendly/kid-friendly cutlery 

enjoying the eco-friendly/kid-friendly cutlery 

Vegan "calamari"

Vegan "calamari"

Vivo Restaurant

Casanova

Who knew that we’d get a slice of Italy in Grand Cayman? Casanova serves Italian fare, and we were stunned when we discovered that most of their servers are from Italy! It was a moment of nostalgia for us, as we have family in Italy who are so dear to us.

Casanova’s location is perfect, as the restaurant is situated in Georgetown on the waterfront. While we were eating, we saw a large group of divers board a boat and head out for a night dive. Virtually all of the tables on the balcony have beautiful views of the ocean. And I was thrilled to see so many other families with young children! As a mom, you always have a moment of panic when trying a new restaurant and worrying that the staff won’t be accommodating to your little one(s). This was not the case at Casanova, and we were grateful for that.

the view from our table at sundown

the view from our table at sundown

The food: Casanova immediately gained points with me for serving FRESH pasta. Maybe it’s our time spent in Italy that has made me a pasta snob, but I rarely order pasta dishes unless the noodles are made fresh and on the premises. And combine fresh pasta with fresh seafood that was likely caught in the sea about 100 yards from my shoulder? Sign me up!  My husband ordered the fresh snapper entrée and he was thrilled with how simple and fresh the flavors were, coupled with the buttery texture of the fish. The little one was happy as a clam with her kid’s pizza, which was wayyyy too big for a two-year old! But we all know I can't say no to carbs, so I was happy to get it boxed up and eat it later.

Pro tip: Because of Casanova’s location in the heart of Georgetown, and somewhat close to the airport, I’d recommend dining there on the first day of your vacation. It’s casual, and the menu has a lot of variety. As soon as you sit down at the table and inhale the cool sea breeze, you’ll be happy that you chose Grand Cayman for your vacation.

fresh pasta with seafood

fresh pasta with seafood

the interior of Casanova

the interior of Casanova

 

*Disclaimer: Our dining experiences at a couple of the restaurants mentioned in this post were partially sponsored; however, all opinions and recommendations are my own.*

Baby and Toddler Activities to do in Grand Cayman

Continuing from my last post on Grand Cayman, I want to give you guys a few highlights from our trip and some of my favorite BABY AND TODDLER ACTIVITIES TO DO IN GRAND CAYMAN. When my daughter was an infant, I spent countless hours online trying to figure out where to go on vacation with a baby. I wish I had stumbled upon this kind of information then! So be sure to share this with your friends who have young children!

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This trip was our third to Grand Cayman with our daughter, so I created a rough itinerary of activities and fun things to do several weeks before we left for vacation.  I recommend renting a car for the duration of your trip. It’s inexpensive (we spent about $200 for the week) and gives you more flexibility to see and do more. Note: in Grand Cayman, they drive on the LEFT and the steering wheel is on the RIGHT. It only took a few hours for us to get used to!

Seven Mile Beach Grand Cayman

Stingray City

Heading back to Stingray City was an absolute must! On our last trip, we booked a tour to Stingray City and the sea was very rough. It was still a great experience, but because the waves were a little aggressive (it is located on a sandbar), we spent most of the time trying to make sure our daughter, who was 21 months at the time, was OK in the water while in our arms.  So on this vacation, we returned to Stingray City and the sea conditions were perfect. When the waves are calm, the water is only waist deep.

Pro-tips for Stingray City: 1) Book a morning tour if you have a younger child. The morning tours are about 2.5 hours long and you get back to your hotel or condo before lunch. 2) Make sure you book your tour with an operator that uses boats that have covering from the sun. There are several catamaran tours that go to the area, but cats typically have less protection from the sun – which isn’t ideal for a young child. 3) buy a waterproof phone case or a Go Pro before the trip to capture the experience. Our tour operator sold waterproof cases, but I spent almost double buying it on the island, compared to if I bought one at home! Save yourself some $$ and get one like this before you leave home! I was surprised that it was 100% waterproof, like the label said! Many tour operators charge $50USD or more to take photos and give them to you on a disk. 4) Make sure you bring an infant/toddler life vest with you on the tour. Some tour companies provide them, but I felt more comfortable bringing one from home for our daughter. She ended up using it in the ocean and the pool as well!

Stingrays at Stingray City
Stingray City Boat
on the boat headed from Stingray City

on the boat headed from Stingray City

 

Rum Point

If you have a baby or a toddler, you MUST go to Rum Point! On our second visit to the island, I had already made the decision not to go there because of online reviews stating that Rum Point is overrun with tourists and cruise-shippers. It was only by chance that we ended up taking the drive there, and it turned out to be one of our favorite places on the island! The water is shallow from the entry point near the sand to several yards out, so young children can walk into the water with ease and splash around without worrying about waves. There are also two restaurants – one casual and one a bit nicer - where you can get food, mudslides (a favorite drink on the island), and other drinks. Not to mention a stand where you can rent paddleboards, kayaks, water bikes, and other fun water toys.

sea urchins in the water at rum point

sea urchins in the water at rum point

Lots of starfish in the water at Starfish Beach near Rum Point

Lots of starfish in the water at Starfish Beach near Rum Point

Pro-tips for Rum Point: 1) If you prefer to have quiet time at Rum Point, check the island’s cruise ship schedule before you go to see how many ships will be in port on that day and what time they will leave the island. 2) If you’re staying on Seven Mile Beach, plan to go to Rum Point after breakfast, as it’s about a 50-minute drive. That way, you’ll get a full day there and can even stop at some of the yummy local restaurants on the way there and back. 3) Be sure to checkout Starfish Beach, which is  literally 2 minutes driving from Rum Point. It's a quiet beach and the Starfish are close to the shore in shallow water. You can pick them up, but don't take them out of the water!

Rum Point Toddler
Rum Point Ocean

 

Starfish Village/Camana Bay

Camana Bay is an upscale shopping area with restaurants and a movie theater, located a few minutes away from Seven Mile Beach. Each time we’re on the island, we visit Camana Bay at least twice. There is a lot of open space for kids to roam freely and the area is very family-friendly.  The movie theater has Story Time several days a week and there are also large fountains/splash pads at each end of the complex – perfect for kids to splash around on a hot day, while mom and dad enjoy a cool beverage or even a meal.

We visited Camana Bay the week before Christmas and it was absolutely beautiful! The lights and the Christmas decorations, with the backdrop of the bay, were stunning!

Camana Bay during the holidays

Camana Bay during the holidays

If you’re looking to take a break from the beach and do something fun with your kids, visit Starfish Village. Starfish Village is an amazing children’s center, tucked right in the corner of Camana Bay. They have daily programs for open play, sing-a-longs, and even have a “drop-and-play” program for kids 3 and over. Our daughter was too young for the drop-and-play, so we did the “stay-and-play” program and sing-a-long during our last vacation, and she loved it! It was a great opportunity for her to play with new toys, sing, and interact with other kids.

Pro-tip for Starfish Village: 1) Starfish Village’s programs are constantly changing, so it would be helpful to send an email before your trip to find out if there are any updates to the program schedule listed online. 2) We were surprised to realize that there were very few tourists at the stay-and-play, and mostly children with their nannies (which makes sense since most of the programs are mid-day). Chat with the other adults there to see if they have any tips on things to do or places to visit. Local residents always have the best tips!!

 

*this post contains a couple of affiliate links; however, all opinions are my own and product suggestions are items I’ve purchased personally.*

Grand Cayman - The Perfect Destination for Infants and Toddlers

I should be wrapping presents, but figured I’d procrastinate a little while longer and catch you all up on our vacation to Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. This will be one of several posts in a series, as there’s so much to share about Grand Cayman, and I can’t fit it all in one post!

Believe it or not, this is our THIRD trip to Grand Cayman in the past sixteen months! It’s actually kind of surprising, because we typically avoid going back to the same destination over and over, as we enjoy exploring new areas; however, Grand Cayman is clearly an exception. In my mind, it is one of the best family-friendly destinations in the Caribbean.

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Grand Cayman has a reputation of being the place where the rich and famous hide their money (the banking industry on the island is prominent) and also where they go to vacation. And while this may be true, the island attracts people from all walks of life and economic backgrounds.

Because I love lists, here are the top seven reasons why we’ve fallen in love with the island of Grand Cayman:

1.       It’s a short flight from most East Coast cities. And bonus for us, there’s a nonstop flight from DC to Grand Cayman. Wheels up to wheels down is 3.5 hours.

2.       The island is ranked one of the safest in the Caribbean. Safety is always a concern for me, when traveling with my daughter.

3.       Families are everywhere! It’s not an island where you’ll see tons of rowdy Spring Breakers. It is a super family-friendly island. Young children are welcomed in almost all restaurants, and there are lots of options for activities. We were surprised by how many of the tourists were traveling with infants. It was great!

4.       No one will try to sell you tchotchkes on the beach or offer hair braiding services. (no further explanation needed!) If relaxation is what you want, you will get it!

5.       It’s considered the culinary capital of the Caribbean. The food in Grand Cayman is delicious, and the big names of the culinary world (Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, etc.) are often on the island. Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to attend the Cayman Cookout, the annual food and wine festival that takes place on Grand Cayman.

6.       Caymanians are SO kind and warm. I guess it makes sense that the slogan for the island is “Cayman Kind,” because the local Caymanians are some of the most genuine and warm people I’ve ever met while traveling.

7.       Stable infrastructure: the roads are well paved, there is reliable healthcare available, and there is access to clean and safe drinking water (from the tap). So, in mom-speak, that means no travel vaccinations are needed and if your little one gets sick, getting them to the nearest hospital will not be a problem.

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And because I want to give you an honest perspective, I think it’s also important to share the “cons” of the island. Well, there’s only ONE con: the average cost of meals and lodging is definitely expensive; However, you can tailor your trip to Grand Cayman in a way that makes it more affordable. For example, you can rent a condo or a home instead of staying on a resort (resort fees add up!), you can cook most of your meals in the condo instead of eating out, and you can opt for the free/inexpensive activities, rather than the organized day tours offered by tour operators. But I’ll get into these details later! Stay tuned for my next post about all the great things to do with your family on the island.

 

Top 5 Important Tips to Prepare for Your First Vacation with an Infant or Toddler

The best way to ensure a smooth and enjoyable vacation with you and your little one(s) is to think and plan ahead. When traveling, there are so many elements that are out of your control, it really helps to spend a few minutes thinking through the things that you DO have control over. Here are a few important tips to make your trip a little easier and hopefully more fun:

1. Adjust your expectations. While you will have fun and create lasting memories with your family, the hard truth is, you (probably) will not spend the day lounging on the beach for hours on end with a frosty beverage in your hand. Mentally prepare for moments when it will be hectic and prepare for tantrums. Take "shifts" with your spouse during nap times to ensure you both get personal time. At the very least, you can look forward to those hours of personal relaxation. Adjusting your expectations will help set the foundation for the rest of trip. It can only go up from there!

2. Carve out time to prepare. Yes, the more you prepare for the vacation, the less stressed you will feel when unexpected things happen. This preparation should include pre-selecting a handful of family-friendly restaurants, identifying activities to do if the weather forecast changes, and maybe even connecting with some of the local mom-groups or kids organizations at your destination.  On a recent trip we took to the Caribbean, it rained for at least half of the time we were there and I had no clue what indoor activities were available on the island, or how to get to them. The WiFi in the condo where we were staying had a poor signal, so we didn't do much on the rainy days besides go out to eat. It was a real bummer and I vowed to always have a "rain-day" option built into my itinerary for future trips.

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3. Plan a food stop post-landing! After a long day of travel and a (likely) exhausted and somewhat cranky child, the last thing you want to do is have to scramble to find food when arriving in a new destination. Decide if you will take advantage of the restaurants in the airport upon arrival, or if there is a family-friendly dining option within walking distance of your hotel or rental property. Have a plan! Hangry toddlers aren't fun for anyone.

4. The cheapest flights are NOT always the best flights. While I love nothing more than a good travel deal, I've learned that the cheapest flights are not always the best flights when traveling with a child. Travel times and flight itineraries matter! Best option: nonstop flights that are under 5 hours. Now is not the time to book that $69 sale fare with 3 layovers, trust me. You will also want to know if your ticket carries any restrictions. Finding out on your departure date that you are not allowed any carry-on luggage is not ideal!

5. Call the airline. Call the airline's customer service line after you've booked your flight and ask if there are bassinets available on your aircraft. The bassinets are intended for children under a year old (age may differ with each airline), and can be adjusted to give your child a small area to nap or even play quietly. The seats with bassinets usually have more legroom.

Pro tip: Even if your child is too big for the bassinet, but under 2 years old, you should still call the airline and ask to be moved to a seat with a bassinet. If your aircraft is not equipped with one, ask if they are able to extend a complimentary upgrade to a seat with more legroom (for you and your child under 2). I did this with every flight we took when my daughter was under two, and they upgraded us every time. (Kudos to United Airlines!)

You might be asking yourself, "If I have to consider all of this, is it really worth it?" And my response, is an emphatic "YES!!" You will create memories and experiences that can be cherished forever. And even if your kids don't remember the trip years from now, YOU WILL, and you'll have some incredible photos for a lifetime. 

And, We're Live!

And just like that, the site is live and this is my first blog post! So incredibly exciting. You may be wondering what was the motivation behind this blog.  Well, it all started after our daughter was born and I was desperate to go away on a vacation of any kind!

Let me give you some background: pre-baby, I was always on the go traveling to some place new. I'm a little obsessive about getting the best travel deals, and would use any combination of frequent flyer miles, travel points, and off-season destination promotions to create my "dream" vacation on a budget. 

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Of course, when opting to plan a trip this way, you have to accept the reality of inflexible flight schedules and more time in transit. On a two week trip throughout Italy with my husband, we decided to spend time on the Amalfi coast. The most cost effective way to get there was to take the metro in Rome to the main train station, hop on a train to Naples, and then take the metro in Naples to a town outside of Sorrento. Add in the complication of an employment strike by transportation workers, and a metro car that broke down in 80 degree weather while we were en route to Sorrento! While it wasn't the easiest travel day for us, it has remained one of our most memorable vacation [horror] stories to date.

Fast-forward a bit and cue the arrival of our newborn baby girl.  The planes, trains, and automobiles style of travel that we were used to was NOT going to work now that we had a baby in tow. 

newborns: The easiest age to travel! Photo Credit: Candids and Colors PHOTOGRAPHY

newborns: The easiest age to travel! Photo Credit: Candids and Colors PHOTOGRAPHY

So I dug in deep to research the best trips for traveling with an infant, and surprisingly, I found almost nothing valuable! How could this be?? I thought, "Are Disney cruises the only vacation families with young kids take??" While we've enjoyed our fair share of cruises, we wanted something more - something more flexible, adventurous, and fun. 

And beyond wanting to plan a vacation, I was simply struggling to find activities to do with a baby who could not walk or talk. During those early days, I desperately wanted to get out of the house and do something enjoyable, but had no clue where to go with such a young child.

Our daughter is now two, and our weeks are full with activities and travel. We've taken her on three big trips - one off the U.S. mainland and two international. I spent HOURS sifting through details and planning almost every element of those vacations. I happen to genuinely enjoy researching where to eat, what to do, and how to engage in the local culture of travel destinations, so why keep all those tips to myself when I can share them with you all?? And then, this blog was born!