Tag Archives: Caribbean

Crystal Caves and Stingray City, 2017

The next day, we spent the morning by the pool before hopping on a bus to drive to the Crystal Caves on the other side of the island. On the way we passed the port where the Disney cruise ship was in harbour and Bodden town where the locals live.

Crystal Caves is a new tourist attraction having only been open for about a year. Our tour guide used to explore the caves as a child before they were excavated and lit up. He told us stories of crawling through small crevices and knew what all the plants in the surrounding countryside could be used for.

Our first cave was the open ceiling cave, with funnily enough, a hole in the ceiling. A huge fig tree crowded the entrance and there were bats grouped together sleeping. The next cave was the roots cave where the roots of trees could be seen breaking through the stalactites and stalagmites.

The final cave, the lake cave, was the highlight of the tour as it actually had a blue lake inside the cave. There have been tales of pirates burying treasure here. The caves sparkled like crystal gems and the cool temperatures were a welcome change from the heat of the beach.

After the tour, we headed back to the hotel for a fancy dinner at The Beachhouse. The scallops benedict were delicious and the desserts almost looked better than they tasted. We went to bed early, as we knew the next day was going to be a big one as we were off for a day of sailing to Stingray City.

The morning dawned sunny and we boarded the boat with expectations for a great day out. The catamaran was wide with equipment for sailing and several places that you could sit to get your feet wet. The water was so clear and many different shades of blue and aqua. Once the sails went up, it was so beautifully quiet and peaceful.

Stingray City is a sandbar where stingrays gather out of a habit that started a few years ago when fisherman started to feed them. Now, Stingray City is a haven for cruise ship day-trippers as they all crowd around seeking a spot for that perfect photo opportunity.

Nevertheless, our boat crew seemed to be responsible for the animal’s welfare, gently handling the animals and giving us all an opportunity to hug and kiss a stingray one by one.

I was apprehensive at first; being an Aussie I had heard all the reports about Steve Irwin getting killed by a stingray, but these sting rays were smoother than I thought and not at all aggressive.

It was a crazy cool experience and I am glad that we had the opportunity to do something so lovely and unusual.

Related posts: Caribbean rum, 2017Grand Cayman, 2017Solo trip to Hawaii, 2014Isla Mujeres and Cancun, 2011

Caribbean rum, 2017

On our second day on Grand Cayman Island, we went into Georgetown and found a pretty town square with a white washed library, a peace memorial and a large open plaza. I was particularly taken with a statue commemorating the steps women have taken to gain equality.

We headed down to the port and found the place where all the cruise ships come in. There were lots of touristy shops to be found here, including a Margarittaville. We searched for the local market, only to discover that we had arrived too late and there were only two stalls left selling scotch bonnet chillies and fresh coconut.

On the walk to the Cayman Spirits Distillery, we struck gold when I spotted Smokies BBQ, which sold tasty brisket bread rolls and mac and cheese bites. We also found the Tortuga factory- famous for its rum cake and also apparently its statues of pirates.

The Cayman Spirits Distillery offered 7 different types of rum including one that is aged in barrels seven fathoms under the Caribbean Sea. They also served a vodka and flavoured liqueurs. The set up of the cellar door was suitable nautically themed with an old style dive suit and model ships.

As we waited for the next distillery tour to start, we chatted to the exceedingly friendly staff who let us sample some of the wares. The tour itself was quite interesting to learn how the rum is made from fermenters to the liquor tank and the bottling machine.

After the tour we were treated to free pouring fun and photo opportunities with a suitable soundtrack by the very generous proprietor. It was definitely value for money and a great experience. We left with two bottles of genuine Caribbean rum- coconut and dark.

Next we returned to the hotel pool bar for some rum cocktails, before we went to dinner on the beach. Tables were set up so we could eat with our feet in the sand while we watched the beautiful Seven Mile Beach sunset.

More rum drinking ensued as we listened to the authentic sound of kettledrums. For desert we roasted marshmallows and smores on a beach bonfire paired with more rum cocktails. When in the Caribbean, what else can you do, but drink rum? It would be rude not to.

Related posts: Grand Cayman, 2017Solo trip to Hawaii, 2014Isla Mujeres and Cancun, 2011, New Year’s Eve on the Island, 2007

Grand Cayman, 2017

After a long flight through Los Angeles and Miami, we finally arrived on Grand Cayman Island in the British West Indies at night. Exhausted, we checked into The Westin and crashed.

The next day, we awoke to the beautiful aqua blue waters of Seven Mile Beach. After breakfast and a short stroll along the beach out the back of the hotel, we caught the complimentary bus to the Cayman Turtle Centre.

Our driver, Benny, was at a bit of a loose end on a not so busy Sunday morning, so he gave us a personal tour of the centre. There was the main pool and egg-laying beach that had 300 massive adult size turtles; the smaller tanks with younger turtles and a lonely Cayman crocodile.

Benny pointed out the silver thatch palm- the national tree of the Cayman Islands- and a few iguana’s, which are everywhere on the island. He showed us the replica local houses that survive hurricanes and the hatchery, which had no eggs, but a turtle shell showing its spine and a turtle skull.

The highlight was paddling knee deep in the pools of turtles that were less than a year old and being able to hold them, flapping around as they objected to being out of the water. We crossed the road outside the centre that dropped off into the sea- deep blue as far as the eye could see.

On the way back to the hotel, Benny took us to Hell- a dark rocky limestone formation, hence the name. We posed for the requisite devil and angel photos and then hopped back in the van and passed some traditional houses in West Bay, all with porch swing seats out the front.

Back at the hotel, I had my first cocktail- a Cayman Lemonade- with my lunch of proper American hot wings. We bypassed the comfy cane chairs and hammocks to claim some umbrella deck chairs on the beach and settle in for some more cocktails with table side service.

After a few Cayman Island Ice Teas, I jumped in the water and swam out to the furthest buoy I could see. The water was so clear, deep and refreshing. Next on the agenda was a few Capiroska’s at the bar in the pool, before we decided it might be time to think about dinner.

The most recommended place for BBQ by the hotel staff was Peppers BBQ. Dubious at first, we saw locals arriving for take away as we waited for our meals so I thought it must be good.

The jerk chicken was tasty, but the BBQ pork ribs were definitely the star. We walked it off back to the hotel along a street lined with lamps. A great start to what promised to be a great holiday.

Related posts: Solo trip to Hawaii, 2014New Caledonia, 2014, Malaysia, 2012, Isla Mujeres and Cancun, 2011, New Year’s Eve on the Island, 2007It’s a South Pacific Thing, It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Tulum, 2011

My husband and I arrived in Tulum and went straight from the bus station to the beach.

We stayed in one of the separate huts on the beach in a hotel that had a mini statue of the Tulum ruins near the beach bar. The image was very familiar to me as it featured on the cover of our guidebook.

Tulum had the bluest water I had ever seen along with the whitest sand. I understood now why everyone raves about the Caribbean.

We went to an Italian restaurant in the fancy hotel at other end of beach as I had heard it was famous for it’s fresh lobster pasta. We took our sunset cocktails at the deckchairs on the beach before we headed inside the restaurant for dinner, where the floor was also sand. The waiter made us a prawn made out of palm leaves.

Thinking it the safer option, we walked back to the hotel along the road instead of the beach, but it was a creepy deserted country road at night. By day, there wasn’t much to do either, except to go to the local shops for supplies.

I discovered what a real taco was when we had the best fish tacos I have ever had on the beach. No Old El Paso hard shell tacos here, just small soft fresh tacos with fresh fish and some special sauce.

We spent a couple of days lazing on the beach, listening to the other travellers talking loudly, trying to outdo each other; and the regular fruit seller passing by with cries of “Piña, mango, coco.”

One night, we met a group of young Aussie surfers at the beach bar; and on another, an old surfer dude from America who had been living in Tulum for a number of years now. He introduced us to some local friends who proceeded to drink us under the table with double strength tequila happy hour cocktails. We declined their offer to head into a nightclub in town for further drinking.

Instead we went into town the next day for the freshest, loveliest tortillas I have ever eaten at a local restaurant near the bus stop, made while you eat. I really didn’t know what good Mexican food was like until I had been to Mexico. Even the guacamole is made differently here.

On our last day we went to explore the Tulum ruins. While definitely not the most culturally significant ruins, being the newest in Mexico; they are definitely one of the most picturesque as they overlook the beach and the blue waters of the sea.

There were huge iguanas everywhere that roamed around the tourists and the stones. Walls surrounded the site and a small cenote could be found in one of the ruined houses.

We saw the Temple of the Wind God, the famous El Castillo and walked down to the beach. There were many temples, platforms, a palace and a guard tower.

Next stop to continue our Caribbean adventure was Isla Mujeres, and if I thought the water of Tulum was blue, we hadn’t seen anything yet!

Related posts: Chichen Itza, 2011, Campeche and Merida, 2011, Palenque, 2011, Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011