Caribbean

Grand Cayman: A Real Family Getaway

written by | Posted on September 1st, 2009

You’ve heard about Seven Mile Beach’s busy resort landscape. But for families hoping to reconnect in a serene setting, Grand Cayman’s east end offers clients the chance to do everything – or nothing at all.

When it comes to family travel destinations, it’s hard to beat the Cayman Islands. Renowned vacation spots like Seven Mile Beach have been luring parents and kids for decades to the restaurants, clubs and tour programs that line the shores. But what about clients looking for a more remote, off-the-beaten-path destination?

“Seven Mile Beach is what most people know of the Cayman Islands,” says Tom McCallum, director at The Reef, a 152-room resort in the less-visited east end of Grand Cayman. “It’s cosmopolitan and it’s bustling and it’s busy, though when you’re on the beach you don’t notice that. It has 7-story buildings and lots of restaurants. When you’re on the beach, it’s relaxing, but otherwise it’s not exactly tranquil.” And that can make reconnecting with loved ones that much harder, he continues. “At the end of the day, if you want a beach vacation…you want to relax and not keep too busy.”

Enter The Reef, set on its own quarter-mile strip of sand on the eastern coast, far removed from Georgetown’s cruise crowds and duty-free shops. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less of a Caymanian experience. “Cayman is incredibly strong in the family market as a destination. The core assets to Cayman are proximity to the U.S. and great airlift, great beaches; we’re very safe with lots of things to do and great restaurants. And The Reef has all of that as well,” McCallum explains. “We also are the only full-service resort in Cayman with guaranteed all beachfront rooms.”

In fact, The Reef is something of an anomaly on the island. Though Grand Cayman is home to plenty of condo resorts—“Cayman in general has a real strength in the condo villa sector; half the rooms in Cayman are condos,” McCallum asserts—The Reef is a resort that’s licensed both as a hotel and as a condo, the only one on the island according to McCallum. Accommodations come in studios and 1-bedroom suites, all with kitchen amenities. “So if you have kids, they’re not asking ‘Where’s the food?’ or ‘When are we going to the restaurant?’” McCallum says. “You can get food at the supermarket across the street.”

Many suites at the resort can connect to become 2-bedroom suites, another family-friendly feature that McCallum says is only gaining popularity. “Multigenerational families is the biggest [recent trend],” he explains. “Say Dad can only get away from work for three or four days—Mom will come down with the kids and grandparents. All of our rooms are studios or 1-bedroom units, but most of them connect together to be a 2-bedroom condo, and those work really well for families. Often, we have people taking multiples of rooms.”

And though guests at The Reef won’t spend much time at typical Caymanian hotspots like Seven Mile Beach or Stingray City, they just might have an even more authentic island experience. “A lot of local residents come out and stay with us, so for visitors staying at The Reef, they find that they’re mixing with local residents who are getting a ‘staycation’ on the island,” McCallum explains. “That’s kind of cool, because you can be staying here and playing on the beach with your young kids, and they’re hanging out with kids from Cayman who are also on vacation. That’s a kind of unusual experience for people to have—actually going into another country and staying in the same hotel as the local residents.”

family fun Just because clients are staying outside of the typical tourist zone doesn’t mean they’ll have nothing to do. Whether they’re signing up for a guided tour or simply exploring independently, Grand Cayman’s “other side” is packed with activity. You just have to know where to look.

“On property alone, we have these cool guides called White Sand Watersports who do paddleboarding, guided snorkel tours and a really neat thing called power snorkeling,” says McCallum. “You go under with this motor device that you hold in your hand that pulls you along while you’re snorkeling.” Other than that, though, The Reef offers no motorized watersports of any sort. “We don’t do wave runners. Our resort is about chilling out, so that’s why we don’t do that.” Parents also shouldn’t expect to check their kids into an all-day program while they relax in the sun. “We’re not so much into kids’ camps. Don’t come to us if you don’t want to see your kids,” McCallum declares. An activity director offers games and events for guests of all ages, from water aerobics to yoga to arts and crafts, which kids can do independently or with their parents and other family members.