White sand, blue waters, great service, delicious food… this centrally located Marriott resort is not the largest, but it has it all.
One of the first resorts nestled on the south end of Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach and less than two miles away from Georgetown, the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach is not a vast, sprawling resort typical of the Caribbean. Housed in only one building, the hotel is compact; some would even say small. But the Grand Cayman Marriott is far from lacking. With a family-friendly environment and abundance of activities, it has all the amenities a family traveling with young kids could ask for, and serves as the perfect home base for all of your Grand Cayman adventures.
The bright hues of blue, red, yellow and orange visually enhance the Caribbean dÃ©cor of a lobby scented with a light tropical, coconut breeze. A courtyard with a small lagoon is home to a handful of lazy turtles that the children can feed at various times during the day.
The recently constructed beach section only holds three rows of lounge chairs and the pool area is literally only three steps away. The compressed size actually makes it easier for the smallest family members to roam around freely, having space to explore while mom and dad rest easy because their little ones are never too far away… and neither is a bathroom or your hotel room.
The Marriott is also very conveniently located only 4 miles from Owen Roberts International Airport, and getting to Grand Cayman is easier than you think. I flew Cayman Airways, the official airline of the island nation (and one of the only airlines which still serves its passengers a hot meal!) However, you can get flights through nine other providers, including American Airlines, Delta, US Airways, Air Jamaica and British Airways. Also, most major cities in the Eastern United States fly to Grand Cayman and if not, then Miami, less than 500 miles away, is your best bet.
Eco-Friendly Adventures off Grand Cayman
The Cayman Islands (consisting of Grand Cayman and two smaller islands Cayman Brac and Little Cayman located about 80 miles northeast) are internationally known for their diving options. The water is crystal clear and warm year round, with untouched coral reefs and large schools of tropical fish visible even at depths of more than 50 feet. Grand Cayman alone is home to more than 160 dive sites, most of which are deep and steep and probably too intense for children and teens who are not seasoned in the sport.
But, the Grand Cayman Marriott is ideal for families looking to take a tamer venture into the beautiful and sparkling waters off the coast of the island. Red Sail Sports (877/Red-Sail), an outfitter that provides watersport activity options all over the destination, has a desk and dive shop set up at the hotel.
I was fortunate to take a trip to the famous Stingray City where I conquered my fears as a I swam with, touched and even kissed dozens of docile stingrays (something that I could never, ever in my entire life picture myself doing). Kids who are creature-curious will especially have a ball getting to know the rays as they stand on a safe sand bar in the middle of North Sound. Red Sail also offers SCUBA excursions and classes, as well as special packages that are especially designed for kids and the kid at heart. And since you book Red Sail through the resort you can charge the fee directly to your room for an added convenience.
If you don’t feel like leaving the hotel, but still want to experience the waters, that is what the Marriott’s beach is for. You rent get anything from a waverunner to a banana boat. Or if you really want to dive in, rent a set of fins and other snorkeling gear for a full 24 hours for $15. Also included is a complimentary tour of the Reef Ball Eco Reef that lies off the coast of the Marriott’s shoreline as well as a lesson on how to snorkel and spot the sea life.
As I stood on the balcony of my beachview room on the 5th floor of the resort, I noticed what I naively thought were 10-foot-high balls of nothing sitting in the water about 50 feet out. However, when I rented my aforementioned snorkel, I got to explore this “Eco Reef,” installed in the ocean in 2002 as a joint effort between the Marriott, the Grand Cayman Departments of Tourism and Environment, the Reef Ball Foundation, and the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT).
In order to support a healthier aquatic eco-system, these Reef Balls stop the erosion of the beach and restore life to the population of sea creatures which has been dramatically decreasing. Statistics from a 2007 FIT study show that there has been a growth of natural coral reef on and around the ball. And even though it is an artificial reef, it is still just as cool to explore when underwater.
After exploring the reef, I am sure the kids (as I did) will have a newfound appreciation for the importance of the environment. With this is mind, there is no better time for them to explore Camp ECO. Located behind the hotel’s Sol Beach Bar, this Kids Club, run by the recreation staff, is for ages 5-12. Open from 7am-8pm, parents can pay for the full day, starting at $25 CI or they can pay for each individual activity, starting at $5 US each. (Note the Cayman dollar has a fixed ratio of $1 CI to $1.25 US). Kids can face paint, make and paint pottery, run races on the beach or even create their own sand foot print all while learning about the importance of the environment.
Additionally, the camp also offers daily excursions off the resort; favorites include trips to the Boatswain Turtle Farm (345/949-3894, 825 Northwest Point Road, West Bay, Grand Cayman) and Kayak Tours. Plus, there are complimentary activities that the entire family can enjoy such as family movie night in the lobby, merengue dance lessons and scavenger hunts. The Activity Schedule does vary weekly so make sure to pick up your copy at the Recreation Center, located next to Red Sail Sports’ desk.
Marriott Feasts Fit for the Family
My breakfasts were spent dining in the Red Parrot, the Marriott’s buffet restaurant named after the hotel’s very own red parrot, Ruby (fyi, kids can feed and pet her throughout the day). Open from 7am-11am, you can sample the wide variety of fresh island fruits or have omelets made-to-order and sip smoothies while you wait. But, if you are in a hurry to get your day started, you can always stop at Balboa’s Coffee Lounge located in the Lobby for a quick muffin, coffee or pastry.
Balboa’s stays open all day until midnight serving light snacks, lunch and drinks for the adults. Make sure you ask for the Tantric Kiss (which was my poison of choice during my stay), a drink that was especially concocted by one of bartenders at the resort, a local Caymanian who has won awards for his mixes. A frozen drink with a blend of strawberries, banana liqueur and rum, the Tantric Kiss will not disappoint (and you can even order a virgin for the kids).
If sweet drinks are not your thing, Cay Brew, the Cayman Islands own beer, is very popular (and light) –perfect for a day on the beach. And if you happen to get hungry while catching those rays, take a break from the sun and dine at Sol Bar with a complete lunch menu available whether it is at a table, or while lounging with your feet in the sand. Try the tilapia sandwich (it is delicious), and the fried calamari is great choice for a big family looking to casually pick on something.
Right next to Sol Bar is Solana, the full oceanfront restaurant serving lunch and dinner. Make sure you try and time your meal with sunset (as I did), that way you can enjoy the Latin American-influenced cuisine while watching a spectacular view!
Solana serves up delicious dishes every night, but families will certainly love the themed nights. If you didn’t get enough lobster and shrimp, Friday night is the Buccaneer’s Feast, where pirate wait staff serve your meal as calypso music provides the rhythm for the limbo dancing and fire eaters. Seating is limited and only from 6pm-8pm, so be sure to make your reservations early. The best part: at Marriott restaurants, kids between the ages of 6 and 12-years-old dine at half price.
Aside from the theme nights, it is understandable for a family to want to have a culinary experience off the resort’s ground. Since the Grand Cayman Marriott is centrally located on West Bay Road, a main strip with numerous restaurants in walking distance, this is possible. Plus, Grand Cayman is safe, clean and very family-friendly. The Wharf (345/949-2231, West Bay Road # 43, Grand Cayman Islands) offers outdoor dining just north of Georgetown and besides the food being great, the restaurant has a nightly tarpon feeding at 9pm.
Or if mom and dad wish to have an evening to themselves (the Marriott does have a babysitting service for a fee upon prior arrangement), they should head to LUCA, a trendy Italian eatery up the street. The wine list is extensive, the lobster ravioli is creamy and mouthwatering and the service is impeccable. One of the newest restaurants on the island, LUCA fuses international dining with fresh Italian ingredients. It is sophisticated and the ideal spot for a night on the town in Grand Cayman.
Relax at the Spa or in Your Room
The hotel’s spa, La Mer or The Sea is located right off the lobby, and it is hard to imagine that such a quiet and tranquil place can exist so close to travelers checking in at the front desk, but it does. My massage therapist, Karen, lead me straight into one of the back rooms of the small spa and inside was a private shower, dimly glowing candles and relaxing music. I laid down for my hour-long Swedish Massage in which Karen used YonKa treatments. Refreshing and revitalizing, my massage left me ready to do exactly what most come to do at the Grand Cayman Marriott: relax. I spent the rest of this day laying on the beach and enjoying the cool ocean breeze and hot sun.
Mom and Dad can opt for a Couples Massage, or if they can steal more than an hour away from the kids, La Mer recommends the La Mer Pour Deux, the massage for two, but to the max. Think complimentary champagne and a private whirlpool session after your rub down. And if you are willing to treat your little ones, La Mer does offer packages for children under 12. Girls will love the Princess De La Mer where they are pampered, primped and manicured to their heart’s desire. There is currently nothing on the menu for the boys, but if they are interested I am sure the accommodating La Mer could manage to toss something together.
Your vibrantly furnished guest room has bright Caribbean hues and classic Cayman furnishings, with a private balcony; the view from my oceanfront room was tropically divine. Some of the balconies overlook the man-made lagoon, while others on the south side look past new construction and out to a view of ships coming into Georgetown. With 295 rooms and 20 junior suites to choose from, you shoudn’t have a problem. The bedroom, fitted with the traditional “Marriott Bed,” is probably one of the softest and most comfortable I have ever had the pleasure to snooze in and my room did come equipped with a small efficiency kitchen and couch for when I wanted to relax with the television.
To learn more and see some photos, visit www.Marriott.com
Resort Report Card
|Name:||Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort|
|Address:||389 West Bay Road
Cayman Islands, British West Indies
|Seasonal Rates:||$ – $$$$|
|Choice of Activities:||A-|
|Quality of Amenities:||A-|
|Bonus:||Location on Seven Mile Beach makes for a perfect post-breakfast stroll on the beach.|
|Note:||Stop at Treasures Boutique and buy an underwater camera– you will get some great shots!|
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