Personal, News, Travel

Taking a break on Grand Cayman

By mid-winter in New York, Erin and I are always ready to get out of town to someplace warm and sunny. This year, we used Kayak's "explore" function to find a cheap, tropical destination and lo-and-behold, we bought flights to Grand Cayman. The next step was finding a place to stay: after a bit of research, we decided on the Wyndham Reef Resort, on the East side of the island, away from the main tourist strip of Seven Mile Beach.

Flying to Grand Cayman was easy, JetBlue actually flies direct from New York! We rented a car since we were going to the other side of the island and wanted the flexibility. Since the island is a British territory, it was my first time driving on the left hand side of the road - I didn't make TOO many mistakes! As we drove across the island from the main city of George Town to the east side, it was nice to see the landscape change to more of a local feel. After a quick stop for a late lunch (or early dinner?) at great local spot called Kurt's Corner, we arrived at the Wyndham Reef.

As one of only a few resorts on the East side of Grand Cayman, the Wyndham felt like a little tiny village in itself. It has a huge stretch of beach, multiple pools & hot tubs, a spa, coffee shop, a restaurant, and of course a beach bar with awesome bartenders. Also, literally EVERY room looks out on the ocean. We had coffee on our balcony the first morning, enjoying the gentle sea breeze and waking up. We also stocked up on snacks & drinks at the stores right across the road which was majorly convenient.

There were a ton of available activities, and we quickly signed up for a trip to Sting Ray City. We also wanted to do a few dives, but as it turns out, since we hadn't been on a dive in 2 years we needed to do a refresher course and opted not to because of our limited time. At sunset every day, you can feed the giant Frigate birds that circle overhead from the pier, definitely a crazy experience and it seemed like kids and adults were loving it.

Happy hour was, of course, our favorite time, and we got to know the bartenders, Nazeer & Tony really well. They're both masters of the tropical cocktail, with any number of flavors possible. We were also lucky enough to be visiting during a full moon, and there's nothing quite like enjoying fresh seafood on a beach by the light of the moon! Even though we didn't take advantage of it, the resort also offers all-inclusive packages to make things simple and easy.

Hands down one of our favorite things we did was Sting Ray City. The concierge advised us to try the 7am trip, and avoid the crowds that amass by midday from the cruise ships. True to the advice, we were the ONLY boat out there, and had the entire sand bar to ourself! Plus, as a photographer, I wasn't going to say no to sunrise photos.

Our captain from White Sand Water Sports showed us how to feed the rays using squid - it was a little scary at first, but they don't have any teeth and are quite gentle. After the feeding, we had time to go snorkeling on the nearby reef as well, and it was full to the brim of sea life of all kinds.

As it turns out, 4 days on Grand Cayman was exactly what we needed to recharge our batteries. Although I might need to spend some time at the gym after too many conch fritters and piña coladas, it was a perfect, laid-back, relaxing getaway.

The Wyndham Reef kindly offered us a complimentary stay, but all opinions are my own.

News, Personal, Travel

Exploring Puerto Rico, Part 2: Culebra

When taking an airplane to an island in the middle of the Caribbean it only makes sense to then take an even smaller airplane to an even smaller island, right? When we heard how easy it was to fly out to the island of Culebra from San Juan, we were intrigued. When we found out Culebra was home to one of the top 10 beaches in the world, we were hooked.

Although the plane flight isn't for the faint of heart, the views over San Juan and the island make it worth it.

Once on the island, it's easy to rent a jeep, golf cart or scooter to toodle around the island. We opted for the golf cart, though my wife looked longingly at the scooters. We spent an entire day out at Playa Flamenco, which besides being absolutely incredible, is also home to old US Army tanks that had been abandoned and lovingly graffitied with colorful designs.

There are plenty of small restaurants and bars to get your island drinks, but we fell in love with Zaco's Tacos. The tacos were delicious, the drinks were cheap, and the bar had some killer light.

Culebra was probably the highlight of our trip, and I wish we'd had more time to relax, maybe even scuba dive. Oh well, with how easy this whole trip was, I know there's going to be a next time.

¡Hasta el proximo, Puerto Rico!

Personal, Travel

Exploring Puerto Rico, Part 1: San Juan

One of the many awesome things about living in New York is how easy it is to visit Puerto Rico. I don't know why, but it seems like plane flights are always dirt cheap and its status as a US territory makes things even easier. It's amazing that in the middle of a cold, NY winter you can hop a three hour flight and be in the Caribbean where your phone still works and everyone takes US dollars.

We spent our first day in Old San Juan, noted for it's colorful, colonial architecture, and giant military forts along the sea. We wandered the streets with no specific plan, stopping in coffee shops, saying hi to the alley cats, and enjoying the sea breeze.

My next post will focus on our next few days in between, but we spent the last day in the newer part of San Juan, Condado, where the luxury hotels tower over white sand beaches and the iguanas hang out with you poolside while you sip your piña coladas. Not a bad way to say goodbye!

Thanks to Leica for lending me the D-Lux camera for the trip. It was the perfect travel camera!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post where we visited one of the top three beaches in the world!