Adventures in Grand Cayman: gelato, fruit stands and friendly stingrays

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Gabrielle Nguyen/Staff

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As my trip to Grand Cayman, the largest island of the Cayman Islands, came to a close, I realized that what I took away from the trip most was, well, a lot of extra pounds, if we’re being honest. The food can be a little pricey at times, but if you’re a seafood lover, you will thoroughly enjoy the foodie life in the Cayman Islands.

Of all of the restaurants I was able to enjoy (I’m fortunate enough to come from a food-loving family), I enjoyed a restaurant called Agua the most. The restaurant has a wide selection of dishes on its menu, which you can check out here. During my experience at Agua, I inhaled a special grilled snapper with a truffle lobster bisque sauce and a shrimp kebab on the side. For dessert, I highly recommend the homemade gelato. I had a major foodgasm when I tasted that first bite of the homemade hazelnut gelato, and then I had 10 more foodgasms when I ate the rest of the three entire scoops in the bowl.

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Homemade hazelnut gelato at Agua

And if you like to not only eat seafood but also play with sea animals (seems like sort of a screwed up combination, doesn’t it?), there are a number of activities in Grand Cayman that I don’t think anyone should miss out on. First, aside from a couple of wonderful dolphin sanctuaries, there are also various snorkeling and scuba diving tours. But my favorite sea animal interaction was swimming in Stingray City. No, it’s not an actual city. It’s a sandbar in the middle of the ocean where stingrays gather around and are surprisingly very friendly. I was scared shitless before I stepped off of that large double-decker boat, thinking, “Wow, those stingrays must hate me now. They don’t want this big-ass boat in their city…” But surprisingly, I was wrong. The stingrays in the sandbar are very friendly and are very receptive to human interaction (especially since we feed them fresh cuttlefish). I was able to kiss, cuddle with and even receive free back massages from the dozens and dozens of stingrays swimming around my feet. They reminded me of my friends’ cats rubbing against my leg as I walked by them — but just a little more … wet. Seriously, it was probably one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. Highly recommended.

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Wormwood plant at the Queen’s Botanical Garden on the east side of Grand Cayman

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Roadside fruit stand on east side of Grand Cayman

 

As stimulating as that experience was, one of my favorite parts of my eight-day trip was the day my family and I went on an island tour. I was fortunate enough to travel around the entire island, learn its history and even get some fresh fruit along the way. Our first stop was the Queen’s Botanical Garden. There were many interesting plants and fruit-growing flowers, some of which were medicinal. I looked at some of the ones that Dr. Presti taught me about in “Drugs in the Brain” here at Cal two semesters ago. Afterward, we checked out The Blow Hole, which is a large geyser on the east side of the island that shoots out water as the waves came in. I took some pretty cool Instagram-worthy pictures, if you know what I’m saying. (Mostly ones of me pretending I was in a tsunami.) After that, we headed over to the best roadside fruit stand I had ever been to. I’ve been to a couple in Hawaii, Costa Rica and a couple others in the Caribbean, but of all of those, this one was the best by far. An adorable, energetic Filipino woman fed us fresh starfruits, soursops, sweetsops, watermelons, mangos, papayas and strawberries … I mean, this place was fruit heaven. She even put a bunch of those in a blender really quick for us and made us the most delicious smoothies my family and I have ever tasted. (Tip: Ask them to add peanuts — it gives the smoothie a surprising salty crunch to it). Roadside fruit stands with locally grown fruit in Grand Cayman are a MUST. After the fruit stand, we headed to Pedro St. James Castle. Pedro St. James Castle is not an actual castle, but is a large house. It was the first stonewall house built in Grand Cayman back in 1780. The fact that the house was only three years younger than the Declaration of Independence was fascinating to me, and the man who gave us a tour of the “castle” — he called himself Mr. Carl — was an ancestor of the original house’s builder, William Eden. For you history and anthropology connoisseurs, many of the original artifacts from 1780 are still in the house — even the old rocking chair that William Eden sat in.

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William Eden, original builder of Pedro St. James Castle’s, rocking chair from 1780

My eight days in Grand Cayman were eventful and draining (mostly because of those extra-strength UV rays) but definitely worth it. If you skip everything else on this list, what I recommend doing most is visiting Stingray City. It’s always fun and interesting to interact with animals in their natural environments, and it was especially compelling to see how friendly these animals with seminegative connotations are — I mean, the word “sting” is in their name. Seriously, I cannot get over how enthralling it was to cuddle and kiss something that is supposed to “sting” me … I don’t need a significant other. I just need a stingray … right?

Image sources: Gabrielle Nguyen, Staff

Contact Gabrielle Nguyen at [email protected]

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article misspelled William Eden’s name.

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