McCallum encourages guests to explore outside the resort as well. “People can take tours, but we really recommend people rent a car to explore the island. We encourage people to get in their car, get some snorkel gear [rentable from the resort], and we’ll point them towards a hidden snorkel spot where there’ll be nobody else. It’s just so quiet out here.”
The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is another favorite for families, particularly its resident recovery program for the endangered blue iguana, of which The Reef is a sponsor. Active families can also rent bikes, just $5 per bike for a half day, and explore the recently paved 19-mile loop that runs right past the resort. “It’s the best cycling terrain I know in the Caribbean, and I’m a cyclist,” McCallum declares. “Fifteen miles of it are coastal roads, with a couple of nice hills and always prevailing winds. People come here to dive, people come to play golf, so why not come and bike?”
When it comes to guided tours, McCallum suggests Cayman Islands Safari Tours, offering excursions similar to the island safaris run by Chukka Caribbean Adventures in Jamaica. Tours showcase some of the island’s best-known attractions, like Pedro St. James, the Bodden Town Mission House, the East End Lighthouse Park, and natural attractions like blowholes on ocean-facing cliffs, which erupt with seawater when the tide crashes into the caverns below. Half-day tours start at $95 for the first adult, $75 for each additional adult, and $55 for kids ages 12 and under.
“Staying busy, especially with young kids, is always a concern for parents,” McCallum says. “But we know, from our experiences with our guests, that all families really need is for kids to be able to walk out of their room, onto the sand, and go play. The beach and the Caribbean water is a playground for kids. You can offer all these things to them and they’ll come back to you by day three or four and say, ‘We haven’t got to do half the things we were talking about doing.’ And you ask them, ‘Well, what have you been doing?’ And they say, “Oh, mostly just hanging out on the beach.’ … People are saying, ‘Well, what is really important to us?’ They’re stripping it down to the basics. It’s important to spend time with family, and when it comes to a vacation, they don’t want the bells and whistles. They want to be on the beach.”
The Reef’s Junior Simply Adventure package starts at $2,450 for a family of four, and includes 5-night accommodations in a beachfront 1-bedroom suite; five days of snorkel equipment rentals for the whole family; five days of midsize car rental (insurance not included); a half-day paddleboat rental; two 1-hour, 2-person glass-bottom kayak rentals; a tour of the blue iguana recovery facility at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and donation to the facility; on-resort kids’ activities; and taxes. The Teen Simply Adventure package offers the same accommodations, snorkel and car rental, onsite activities and blue iguana tour, but swaps in a 2-hour paddleboarding lesson and 1-hour snorkel with diver propulsion vehicles for two. Rates start at $2,650.
more east end options Compass Point Dive Resort serves as a retreat for clients with one vacation goal in mind: exploring beneath Grand Cayman’s electric blue waters. Families with older kids can take advantage of the resort’s extensive dive program, with two scheduled dives running daily as well as trips to Stingray City, where families can either dive or snorkel alongside throngs of stingrays. Younger kids can also snorkel in the serene waters of the east end during Compass Point’s weekly snorkeling safari, witnessing colorful tropical fish like parrotfish and angelfish, all in an environment virtually untouched by tourism. And the resort makes it just as easy to play above the waves with lessons and excursions in both paddleboarding and kiteboarding. Rates start at $215 per room per night for a 1-bedroom condo with a queen bed and two pull-outs, full kitchen and balcony or patio.
Families looking for a more intimate experience—and particularly families traveling in a large group—should also explore their options with Cayman Villas, representing dozens of villa rentals all over the Cayman Islands. From On The Bay, a secluded, 2-bedroom retreat with balcony and pool set right on the beachfront, to the large, upscale Pease Bay House, with five bedrooms, high-end kitchen appliances and its own tennis court, cabana, infinity pool and barbecue area, the company offers a varied selection of accommodations with appealing options for every member of the family.