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Finding fresh guava, foraging for almonds, swimming with sea turtles, watching locals slap down dominoes, sipping a 7 Mile Wheat beer... the amount of firsts you'll experience on a tour with Joe Tourist is incredible.

If you're looking to see a different side of Cayman, Gilbert Nicoletta with Joe Tourist will plan an unforgettable day just for you. He customizes all of his tours for individual guests, and after experiencing his All Island Tour on our last trip to Cayman, my husband and I are believers. We can't wait to schedule another tour with Gil.

snorkeling and picking guava

The adventure started as soon as he picked us up at Christopher Columbus Condos. He greeted us with fresh yellow sapote from his yard and some herbs to taste. To loosen us up for the day, he took us by the rum distillery for a tasting. I joked that I hadn't had breakfast and needed some sustenance, so Gil took us by a local food truck for some Caribbean meat pies after the distillery.

Drives between stops were fascinating as Gil told us story after story about about the social, economic, and environmental history of the Cayman Islands. Some stories were personal, others general culture, and still others hilarious tall tales. He explained why so many youth go into banking, how locals refer to time as Before-Ivan and After-Ivan, reminisced on raising Pigeons (if you had one with a "top-knot," you were the bomb), and so much more. Learning more about our home-away-from-home deepened the bond I have with this little Caribbean island. It will add to your love for Cayman too.

Jumping off the dock at Spotts Bay, we had the majestic opportunity to swim alongside several sea turtles. In the parking lot, Gil told us how the famous house-shaped graves of Cayman used to have wood pieces in the center with details engraved, but over the years the wood weathered away. He also spotted an almond tree and showed my husband, Brandon, and I how to crack them open. Brandon was a natural at opening them and I got to enjoy the fruits of his labor. ;)

Alongside the road, Gil found fresh guava for us to pick and enjoy as an appetizer before a feast that awaited us at Over the Edge Cafe. We enjoyed turtle and Cayman style bread, mahi mahi, cracked conch, farm to table veggies and more—a taster's platter full of local dishes you can only get on Gil's tours.

With full bellies, we walked into the North Side heritage day to see what was happening. Gil introduced us to local crafters that were plaiting baskets and rope with silver thatch. One of the women working on a basket told us the craft was a tradition handed down from her grandmother to her mother to her. While we were talking, another local approached the crowd, and my eyes widened in delight. It was Shelly Miller. We met at Rum Point a couple of years ago, thus proving Cayman is a small island indeed. It was fun to get to experience that as a visitor.

We continued to Starfish Point to see the sweet 5-pointed creatures and enjoy an amazing sunset. At dusk we drove by Davinoff's Concrete Sculpture Garden and then began to slingshot around the East End.

local tour guide with ccc guest

As the night settled in, Gil rolled his windows down so we could listen to some "old timers" playing dominoes at one of the East End beach shelters. He said if we heard someone slap them down that it basically meant "game over." The weather wasn't prime for the Blow Holes, but we stopped there anyways so Gil could show off the fossils in the iron shore, including one ancient crocodile.

On our way back to the condos, Gil continued to regale us with stories, my favorite being the family tradition of going crabbing after the first spring rain. He said that come May, "everybody's in the bushes" and on the side of the road looking for crabs, dreaming of baked crab-back.

Gil dropped us back off at the condos after a day filled to the brim with unforgettable stories and experiences. If you're interested in a custom island tour with Gil reach out to him on his Joe Tourist Cayman Facebook page. You won't regret it!

You can also read reviews from other adventurers over on the Joe Tourist Outdoor Adventures Trip Advisor page.

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Native Cayman dishes are an outstanding combination of island cuisine meets home-style cooking—deliciousness that you have to experience. Admittedly, it took a few trips for us to discover what dishes were unique to the island and where to find them. Once you sample the local food, though, you'll find yourself craving trips to Cayman not only for it's beauty, but also for dishes you can only get on island! Here are a few places you can "taste" Cayman culture for yourself.


  1. Champion House II

If you want to try local cuisine, Champion House II is a must-stop. The down-to-earth feel of the restaurant matches the seriously amazing home-style food. Sample Cayman-style fish, jerk chicken, turtle stew, conch stew, callaloo & ackee. Tip: Try several dishes by hitting up one of the daily buffets or best of all the Sunday brunch!


   

  2. Rankin's Jerk Centre

Grab some of the best jerk chicken on island at Rankin's Jerk Centre. Offering takeout and located in Bodden Town, this is the perfect pit stop for lunch or dinner on your way to or from the East End. It's also crazy affordable. Probably the least we've spent on a meal in Cayman!

     

  3. Boggy Sand Cafe

If you've got your heart set on Turtle Stew, we suggest a quick trip up the road to Boggy Sand Cafe. Just 1 kilometer from the condos and located right before Foster's, it's a convenient trip for which your taste buds will thank you.

     

  4. Vivine's Kitchen

Vivine's Kitchen is an island staple located on the East End. It's off the beaten path and as local as you can get, serving dishes such as salt beef & beans and Cayman-style fish. Enjoy dining in the tiny, unassuming interior or sit at a picnic table outside overlooking the sea. Hop on one of two resident hammocks after you chow down. Tip: It's cash only, so come prepared.

     

  5. Heritage Kitchen

Boasting "All Local Food," Heritage Kitchen is a great place for native seafood dishes and a chill island vibe. The Cayman-Style Grouper is absolutely delicious. So delicious, we went back twice in one trip for it! Also, don't miss the fish tea. (Hint: It's actually soup!) P.S. Heritage Kitchen is also cash only.

     

  6. Da Fish Shack

Da Fish Shack is a bit less "local-kitchen" than the other eateries on this list, but you don't want to miss their breadfruit dishes. Fried breadfruit and breadfruit pudding give yummy homage to the popular Cayman crop that's often compared to a potato in taste and consistency.

     

  7. Over the Edge Cafe

This North side restaurant and bar is ideal if your group is split on trying local fare. Some can indulge in tasty local cuisine like Cayman Style Lobster and a variety of turtle dishes, while others can get their burger and french fry fix. All entrees come with delectable Cayman fried bread (beignet fritters). 

For a huge Cayman feast, sign up for an island tour with Joe Tourist and ask him to take you by Over the Edge for the special Cayman platter you can only get on his tours. You won't regret it.

We hope you enjoy trying local dishes as these restaurants. Have any additional tips? Share them with us in the comments. And if you'd like to learn how to cook like a local check out the Traditional Cooking Classes that the National Trust has been sponsoring each month at the Mission House. The next class is July 6th, and they'll be teaching attendees how to make Custard-Top Cornbread. Yum!

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Shelly Glasgow grew up in the 60's and 70's in a Cayman that had many unpaved roads, a population that spanned about 7,000 - 12,000 residents over the two decades and only 403 tourists in the year 1970. A lot has changed in Cayman since her childhood, but three things still hold true: her big beautiful personality, her love for her family and her love for the island.

I met Shelly while trying some local fare at Champion House II. She was our waitress, and her warm and welcoming presence captured my attention immediately. When I discovered she grew up in Cayman, I asked gleefully if I could interview her for the blog. We sat down a couple days later at Champion House II before Shelly's shift to chat about what life was like growing up in Cayman. She opened up to me with such ease, wisdom and joy—making me feel as if I was sitting with an old friend.

shelly and champion house II owner
Shelly (right) pictured here with Dorothy Scott (left), owner of Champion House II.

Shelly grew up in a small wattle and daub home in Georgetown with her parents and 7 siblings. She grins widely as she remembers their home, "I don't know how we lived there, but it seemed to be the biggest house in the world because there was so much love there."

Her love for her parents shines through brightly as she talks about their unbroken love and how they didn't have much growing up, but that they always provided for their needs. As children she and her siblings had no idea they weren't well off because her parents always kept their childhood happy and they never went without basic necessities.

Shelly's father, a Caymanian, worked "on the ship" as many men did then. There wasn't much industry available on island at the time, so men would go to sea to make money for their families while women stayed at home to raise the children. Shelly fished from rocky shores as a kid (caught a lot of snappers), and spent a lot of time with her neighbors. Parents would take turns watching after the kids in the neighborhood, so she bounced from house to house to play with neighbor kids. In those days "everybody know everybody." She laughs and then shares that people would often show up to each others houses uninvited. According to Shelly her mom made the best straw hats out of silver thatch (she longingly wishes for one now), and her dad trained her how to chop coconuts as a child—a skill she would later use as a waitress at Coconut Joe's. Shelly's childhood was that of a true island girl with strong community and a wholesome family life.

Shelly attended the only high school on the island at the time which was on Walker Road in South Sound. She recalls her father telling her, "I hope you find a job that matches your personality because I would hate to see you behind four walls with all this paperwork and all this personality going to waste." After high school she gave life as a flight attendant a try, but ultimately decided that the hospitality industry in Cayman was for her. Almost 40 years later Shelly is still in the hospitality industry, and she's exactly where she belongs. "I think I have the greatest job in the world,"  she exclaims. Shelly has been at Champion House II for two years and loves every minute of it. She's always approached her jobs as if the business she's working for is hers, with total commitment and love. She loves everyone, and says, "If you can't get along with me there's something wrong with you. You better check it out." I laugh, and she laughs her big welcoming laugh; and I believe her 100%.

As Shelly built a successful career in hospitality, she also raised three beautiful children as a single mom. She proudly tells me all about Selena, Serena and Brandon and how lovely a place Cayman is to raise kids. Brandon her oldest just graduated with his bachelor's and got engaged, so we excitedly look through some photos on her phone. She recommends Smith Cove for swimming outings with kids—she loved taking hers there when they were young.

I ask Shelly what she likes to do in her free time, and it's such a sweet answer. She likes going to her neighbors to sit and chat, grabbing an occasional drink at Wellie's Cool Spot (a local restaurant and bar she recommends), walking, going to the pool and playing dominoes, cards or checkers. She's got this island life figured out, and I am warmed by her spirit and love for the simple life. At one point she tells me, "Cayman life is one of the top lives," and I know it's true. At the end of the interview she invites me to come back tomorrow.

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If you’re looking to keep up your workout routine while in Cayman, want to jumpstart a relaxation habit you can take back home with you, or just want to try something new, there are a few fantastic yoga studios on island I would highly recommend. Bliss Living Yoga and Cayman Yoga Club offer a variety of classes seven days a week. Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or have never downward dogged in your life, there’s a class that will be fun, relaxing, and challenging for you.

Plan Your Class

You should look at the class descriptions on the studios' websites to see which type of class interests you the most. There are plenty of offerings each day of the week for all levels of yoga skill. The two studios are located between West Bay Road and Esterly Tibbets Highway, near Camana Bay, which is around a ten-minute drive from Christopher Columbus.

Both studios allow drop-in classes, so there's no need to call ahead—just arrive around fifteen minutes before class time so you can sign in at the front desk and get situated. If you don’t want to worry about packing a mat, you can borrow one for the class. A mat is complimentary for your first class, but you can also borrow one for a small fee for successive classes.

A single class is around $24 USD, but if you think you’ll come multiple times, a class pack might be a better deal. They’ll ask for just a few pieces of information and then you’ll be ready to get your yoga on.

What Should You Bring?

Wear comfy clothes you can freely move around in—t-shirts, tank tops, athletic or yoga pants are all great choices. Yoga is much easier to do barefoot, but you can wear socks if you would be more comfortable. You should also bring along a bottle of water, which you can bring into the studio with you, and a mat and towel if you want to bring your own. The studio will provide blocks, straps, blankets, bolsters, and other props you might need.

What To Expect

After you sign in, you’ll remove your shoes and store your belongings in cubbies—the yoga studio itself is a phone-free zone. Once you find a spot for your mat, you can start stretching or kick back and relax until class starts. Each class is lead by a trained instructor who will talk you through each pose as well as demonstrate proper technique.

I attended classes on two ends of the spectrum, one Flow class at Bliss Yoga Studio and one Power Vinyasa class at Cayman Yoga Club.

Flow

If you’re looking for a way to relax your muscles after a long flight, find some quiet time amid a busy itinerary, or just take your time with a workout, this is a great choice. The flow class is an hour long and focuses a lot on your breath, stretching and holding poses, and the meditative aspects of yoga. It’s accessible to all skill levels, from beginner to advanced. Many of the poses in this class were seated, and several props were used, which helped everyone modify poses to suit their flexibility.

My class was an early afternoon session with Janelle. She had a fantastically soothing demeanor and helped me relax my sore, plane-ride-agitated shoulders. I’d highly recommend this class to anyone, but especially for any first timers—you’ll get a good idea of what yoga is all about without getting into many difficult poses.

Power Vinyasa

Power Vinyasa is a rigorous class that focuses on working your whole body and the breath as you move from pose to pose. This hour-long course is designed to make you sweat and really challenge yourself. All skill levels are welcome and anyone can get a workout from this class, but I would recommend that you are already comfortable with flowing between poses (e.g., downward dog into the Warrior series) before attending this class.

Photo courtesy of Cayman Yoga Club

I attended a later evening class with Janine, who included some much-appreciated motivational wisdom within her instruction. She was also incredibly gracious and gave me some tips on improving a pose I struggle quite a bit with. If you're nervous about taking a class, don't worry, your instructor is happy to help and guide you—it's what they're there for! 

Get Started!

Don’t let vacation throw off your fitness resolutions this year. Stop in for a yoga class next time you’re on island, relax, and take that Cayman vibe back home with you! And don't forget you can also visit a traditional gym or take a bike ride around the island for other great ways to keep active while on the island. 

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If you want to see the "real island" then biking the West Bay Loop is for you! Tour guide, Richard McKee, leads bike tours through West Bay and shares lots of history and saucy facts about Cayman along the way. Aside from being a great Caribbean historian, Richard is a hoot and will keep you entertained along the way.

The tour meets and ends at the Cracked Conch/Macabuca. When my husband and I pulled up and approached the bike stand, Richard was there helping two other couples find the best bikes and helmets for their ride; and then did the same for us. I got the "Birthday bike" and was feeling pretty special as I made a few practice laps around the parking lot. (Someone had wrapped the handlebars with ribbon the day before for a Birthday girl.) Richard prepped us for the journey with some safety tips (like "Remember to stay to the left!!") and off we went.

We rode for a while and then stopped in at Boatswain Bay, a quiet little nook we never would have found on our own. Directly next to the bay is a cemetery, so Richard told us about burial customs new and old including shells used to mark graves (that are still there now). We took shelter from the sun under some shade trees nearby, and Richard started in with the history of the islands beginning with Christopher Columbus discovering the islands in 1503. He explained how the islands went from Spanish to British rule and how they went from the island that time forgot to one of the most successful islands in the Caribbean. He wrapped up our first stop by telling us he was going to tell us about the economic miracle of the Cayman Islands in little spurts along the way which left me excited for not only the biking ahead but our stops, too!

teeny house on beach

As we rode further through West Bay we got a good glimpse of the local life. We passed West Bayers who were walking, biking and relaxing on their porches. Everyone we passed was so friendly, wishing us a good morning and waving and smiling as we passed. We pulled up briefly next to an ackee tree along our way, and Richard told us all about the local love for the fruit and how Caymanians would often cook up a fresh batch of ackee and cod for dinner. We also made a quick stop at Hell, so Richard could explain how the attraction came to be and then carried on.

Our next big stop was at the library adjacent to the Sir. John A Cumber Primary School. School children were playing at recess when we stopped. Richard pointed out the British architecture of the library and then continued on telling us about the history and economic miracle of the Cayman Islands. As he gave us the coolest history lesson, a few of the school children had taken notice of our group and were waving and chuckling hellos at us in the background. Any time we'd actually look their way they'd immediately look away and act as if they hadn't been trying to get our attention. They were pretty cute, and it was fun to feel a part of everyday Cayman. We left the school grounds, and pedaled along further through West Bay. I was starting to feel proud of my morning workout!

library kids at recess and biking

The next stop was a fun surprise - and I'm not sure if Richard always makes it a stop - but he took us by his house to show us what life was like for residents of West Bay. He pointed out beloved birds flying around in his back yard, told us about hurricane preparations and explained why Caymanians feel that 9 ft above sea level is high ground and a valuable asset. He shared a few more facts and stories, and then we headed off towards Barker's National Park.

On our way to Barker's we made a pit-stop to look at interesting architecture and learn more about how the island has evolved. Once we arrived at Barker's we took a little break to walk around and then Richard shared more history and current affairs with us. We picked up our bikes and hit the road again, this time pedaling through mostly residential roads, winding our way to the West Bay Four Ways stop and then crossing over to Boggy Sand Road. The houses that line this little coastal road are a mix of old charming island cottages and new luxurious homes; and I think Richard had a story for just about every one of them! Once we left what might possibly be my favorite road on the island we headed back for home base - Macabucca. The final stretch of the ride was especially beautiful with the sea peeking through the trees to our left. I felt so peaceful and enjoyed having a little time for personal reflection.

Once we returned, Richard told us we had biked 11 miles which surprised all of us. He gave us some advice for what to do with the rest of our time on island and then several of us decided it was time for some grub at Macabuca. We earned it!

If you'd like to bike the West Bay Loop (which I 5000% recommend), get in touch with Richard on his website here. I hadn't ridden a bike in a year or so, and would only call myself slightly in shape at best; so don't let the 11 miles scare you away. : )

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Grand Cayman is one of the most relaxing, enjoyable places you can visit, but taking a vacation here doesn’t mean your daily workout routine has to be put on hold.

In fact, part of my travel planning includes scoping out all of the local gym options, so that I can continue to get in energy boosting workouts.

Prior to my first trip to Christopher Columbus Condos in Grand Cayman, I did a quick search for local gyms and weight rooms. I found several options which included an Anytime Fitness, Life Extension Sports and Fitness, and a World Gym.

As a powerlifting hobbyist training for my local gym's 1,250lb. club, I chose to go with the World Gym, a sister gym of the famous Gold’s Gym – a gym known for major strength building. My friend Chris, who was traveling with me, didn’t want to miss a workout either, so he joined me at World Gym.

I knew I made the right choice when I heard the hard rock pounding from the speakers as soon as I walked in. As I bought my day pass, I noticed the music switched to an upbeat techno track, and I decided to stow the earbuds for the day.

This place was rocking, and I couldn’t help but get pumped up.

As I walked into the primary, first-floor weight room, it was apparent: this was a place for serious bodybuilders and CrossFitters alike.

The personal trainers looked as though they lived and breathed fitness every day and everyone in the gym was hard at work. It’s hard to explain, but this gym had a contagious and exciting vibe to it that just makes you want to work out!

I made my way over to the squat rack to start on my routine. The equipment was in great shape, but I could tell that it had seen some hard, heavy days. I wanted to make sure I lived up to the “Gold Standard” so I racked on some heavy weight and went to work while Chris explored the various rooms and levels of the gym.

Later, Chris and I met at the bench press to crank out some reps together. As I laid on the bench, I noticed that the gym seemed to go on for ages in every direction.

There was an outdoor CrossFit arena and an upstairs level as well. Chris and I checked out the CrossFit area, “CrossFit Muscle Beach”, and decided it looked far too serious for us, but if CrossFit is your game, this is the place to be.

Next, we visited the upstairs where we found cardio equipment of all kinds and even more weight machines. While walking on the treadmills, I thought it was really neat that I had a bird’s eye view of the lower level.

If you enjoy people watching or learning new workout techniques, you can see dedicated people doing some pretty challenging workouts from up there. They also had plenty of big screens, so you can watch the news or a TV show while you exercise, too.

After Chris and I finished our cool down on the treadmills, we made our way back to the lobby where we met Herman, the owner of the Barbell Cafe.

The Barbell Cafe is located inside World Gym and offers the most nutritious (and absolutely delicious) juice creations on Grand Cayman. All of the recipes have been personally crafted by Herman himself and are the result of years of research and study.

You can read all about Herman and his wonderful concoctions here.

We decided right then that we had to come back each day of our trip, if not for a lift, definitely for a protein-packed smoothie.

So, whether you've just started a workout routine or have been working out faithfully for years just know that there are plenty of great options on the island to stay healthy while you're visiting. It's also really cool to have the opportunity to do something more "everyday" and local to get a feel for what life is really like on the island. 

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