Ah, the Caribbean, just the name sounds dreamy doesn’t it? Aside from pirates and Johnny Depp, I always pictured beautiful women in floppy hats drinking daiquiris on the beach. A huge hub for luxurious cruise lines and notoriously expensive, I always thought of the Caribbean as a high roller destination, reserved for the rich and famous.
If someone told me I would be wandering the beaches of Grand Cayman this year, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. However, it totally happened. I didn’t become famous and I certainly hadn’t gotten rich. Instead, I was let in on a little secret. That the Caribbean could actually be seen on a budget. Specifically, the gorgeous island of Grand Cayman. Don’t want to wait until the day that you’re rich and famous to visit the Caribbean? Here’s how to see Grand Cayman on a budget!
Where to Stay on Grand Cayman
Completely unaware that a budget hotel even existed on this island, I was pretty surprised when Comfort Suites came up in my search. Sure, I’ve seen them before around the U.S, but I wasn’t sure how a non-luxury hotel like this could fit into the Caribbean landscape. After sorting through the photos and reading the reviews, I realized that not only were the rooms affordable but the hotel itself was sporting a refreshed brand that was just as luxurious as it was practical. The location was perfect as it backed up right to Seven Mile Beach and I could easily walk to several restaurants if I didn’t want to dine on site.
What else made it so budget friendly?
• The Free Breakfast: It helped me save big time on food costs! There were plenty of healthy options, the food was hearty enough to fill me up AND they even have flavored waffles.
• The Option For a Suite: Staying in a suite was another great way for me to save money on food. My room had a kitchen complete with a refrigerator, stove, microwave, dishwasher and coffee maker so that I could shop at the grocery store and prepare meals myself instead of eating out. It had a sleeper sofa too which would have helped me save if I had brought family along. However, I had the whole bed to myself and with the upgraded pillows and blankets, I couldn’t have been comfier!
• The Beach: Since the hotel backed up right to the beach, I was able to use their chairs and umbrellas instead of spending money to rent them somewhere else.
• The Location: Since the hotel was in walking distance of restaurants and only a 30-minute walk from Georgetown, I didn’t have to shell out any money for taxis.
• Booking Online: A little trick I discovered was that booking directly through the hotel website actually saved me more money than booking through a third party! And, if you join their free loyalty program, Choice Privileges, you get a special member rate, the lowest available rate online, guaranteed.
What to Do
There is plenty on the island to keep visitors busy but many of the options aren’t so cheap. Splurging on some excursions like Sting Ray City were a must for me but since I saved money on the hotel and food, my budget didn’t take too much of a hit. What can you do that is free, cheap or good value?
• Snorkeling: If you rent, buy or bring your own snorkel, the whole world under the sea is yours. You can dip into the ocean at nearly any point and go on your own snorkeling adventure for FREE!
• Hell Geological Point: This small patch of black limestone formations is one of the island’s most famous sites. There are lots of stories about how the area got the name Hell, but it really stuck and now everything around it is themed on the idea of the underworld. It’s all in good fun though and is a must-see while on the island. It doesn’t cost anything to go and look at the formations but all of the trinkets that are sold in neighboring shops may cost you a pretty penny.
• National Trust Tours: Take some time to learn about the nature that’s on the island. The National Trust runs tours like the Blue Iguana Safari, Tour of the Mission House and the Mastic Trail Tour that range in price from eight dollars to twenty-four dollars a ticket. You can also pick up a pamphlet and do a self-guided walking tour on the Mastic Trail for no fee.
• Take a Self-guided Tour Around Georgetown: The town is small and perfectly walk-able for an afternoon. If you can resist the urge to shop, just wander around and check out the fish market, craft market, Fort George, and Heroes Square Walk.
• The Turtle Center: To see some absolutely magnificent turtles, head to the turtle center for viewing and a little education. Tickets are under twenty dollars per person.
• Atlantis Submarine Tour: Costing between $115 and $150 per person, this excursion is certainly not the cheapest on the island but offers a whole lot of value. The submarine tours run during the day and at night and give guests the chance to not only cross a submarine ride off their bucket lists but to also see a ton of wildlife and coral reefs too.
• Eco Boat Trip: I went out with a tour operator called Six Senses Cayman Adventures. This tour makes the list because of the extreme value it offers! Waiting until the crowds from the cruise ships have dispersed, the tour brings guests onto the sea where they learn about the landscape and the creatures who live in it. The tour stops at Star Fish Point where guests are encouraged to have a look around and view the giant star fish and conch shells. The boat then heads over to Rum Point where guests can relax, order lunch and try some of the famous Mud Slides. Once guests are nice and full, they are taken to the reef for a bit of snorkeling before getting the chance to get up close and personal with the rays at Sting Ray City.
• The Jolly Roger: This authentic pirate ship is a quintessential, Caribbean experience that you just have to try! They offer all types of packages like day cruising, sunset cruises, kids cruises and a booze cruise. The prices vary but the booze cruise costs only $50 per person and includes an open bar which makes it a great value.
Where to Eat
The island is FULL of fantastic restaurants offering both international and Caribbean cuisine. While there are some top notch restaurants to visit that can be extremely pricey, there are also fantastic options that won’t break the bank. If you want to take a break from cooking meals in your hotel suite, try out one of these options.
• Pepper’s: One of my favorite spots on the island, Pepper’s not only has delicious food and cocktails but it serves plenty of local fare. The Coconut Run Down Fish and the Breadfruit fries were both incredible! Plus, it’s the kind of place that even locals hang out at AND it was just a short walk from the hotel if you decide to stay at Comfort Suites.
• Rackams: Dine right on the waterfront and make sure to get one of their Piña Coladas! They serve a great selection of seafood, have a noteworthy happy hour from 5-7 and serve complimentary, curry cheese fries on Fridays from 6-7. Plus, they let you throw your scraps to the fish that linger nearby.
• Chicken! Chicken!: This place is great for people trying to eat on a budget and the food is locally inspired too. Their wood roasted chicken isn’t the only thing on the menu either so make sure to check it out.
• Coconut Joes: Right across the street from the hotel, this was the first restaurant that I visited on my trip. It offered tons of local flavors and had the vibe of a laid back beach bar.
• Stingers: It doesn’t get more convenient than this as Stingers is located right by the pool of Comfort Suites. The staff is friendly, service fast and the food top notch. You can get cocktails and snacks to eat right by your pool chair and even charge the meals to your room so that you don’t have to deal with payment until you check out.
Flights: While flights may be the most expensive part of your trip, there are ways to cut down on costs. Check sites like Trivafly, which gather up all of the most affordable flights for you to choose from!
Don’t let the idea of the high Caribbean price tag deter you from visiting. With a luxurious budget hotel, cheap places to eat and free activities, Grand Cayman offers a chance to visit the Caribbean no matter what your budget.
Note: My stay at Comfort Suites and my admission for the Atlantis Submarine Ride and Eco-boat cruise were complimentary. However, all opinions are my own.