Over the break I went to the Cayman Islands!! It was a much needed vacation and I had a fantastic week!! I went with my mom, dad, brother, my brother’s girlfriend, Katie, and my boyfriend, TJ (and I had the added bonus of seeing Heather, a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, who ended up being there at the same time!)
It was an amazing vacation! The weather was pretty much perfect except for one or two days of rain and we did lots of lying on the beach, swimming in the ocean, snorkeling, hanging out in the pool and just relaxing. We also went to Stingray City, which was a very cool experience and definitely a highlight of the trip!! I was very scared at first and not totally happy about them swimming up against my leg but after a few minutes I relaxed a little and they turned out to be quite cute and sweet little creatures. They have an adorable little smile, they seem to enjoy being stroked and cuddled, and their skin is surprisingly soft and velvety! The tour guide on our boat even licked the barb to show us it is completely safe….not that this totally convinced me but it was an impressive trick.
Another huge benefit of Grand Cayman (and one of the reasons my incredible parents chose this perfect vacation spot) was that eating gluten free was actually not too challenging!! Some places are harder to travel to than others when on a gluten free diet but Grand Cayman was great! I always bring staple foods with me on a trip, such as cereal, rice cakes, and protein bars, so I know that I don’t need to stress about having nothing to eat. But I wouldn’t have needed to bring anything with me on this trip! They had lots of grocery stores with a wide selection of gluten free products, all the restaurants we went to definitely understood what gluten was and which meals were safe for me to eat, and one restaurant even had a gluten-free menu!
Since I know how hard finding the best places to eat when you’re traveling can be, I thought I would share a bit about my restaurant experiences and eating gluten free on Grand Cayman!
The first night we stayed at the Holiday Inn but it was definitely like no other Holiday Inn I had ever been to! It had a beautiful outdoor pool with a poolside bar and then just beyond the pool was the beach! The restaurant at the Holiday Inn was called the Blue Iguana.
Blue Iguana. We sat on the patio for dinner, which overlooked the pool and the beach. The restaurant wasn’t too busy and it had a very laid-back, island atmosphere. They had a good-sized menu with options for everybody! There was a burger for TJ, a delicious looking chicken salad for Katie, and even a typical island jerk pork dish with friend plantains for my dad (who always loves to pick the most adventurous item on every menu, despite my concerns). The jerk was definitely spicy but everybody at the table seemed to love it! I didn’t try it but it smelled yummy 🙂 The waitress knew about my allergies and was very helpful in explaining what she thought would be safe for me to eat. In the end, I chose to have the salmon, which they were happy to do without the sauce and in a separate pan. It came with carrots, zucchini and a salad. It was a simple but delicious meal. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted the same thing for lunch the next day! To my delight, they had red snapper (a local fish) on special the next day so I was able to get that instead! I learned to LOVE snapper on this Grand Cayman trip.
After the first night, we moved into a three-bedroom condo for the remainder of the trip. We stayed in the Sunset Cove condos. It was at one end of Seven Mile beach and separated by a little area of rocks. This meant we had our own beach, which was WAY less busy than Seven Mile beach, but we could also easily walk to it across the conveniently placed stepping-stones. The condos shared the property with a hotel so there was also a pool with a swim-up bar that we had access to.
Agua. This was definitely my favourite restaurant of the trip!! It was located along Seven Mile beach (not on the beach but just across the road) so it was a very convenient location for us. It had a gluten free menu AND gluten free bread to start off the meal! I immediately fall in love with any restaurant that brings me gluten free bread. It may seem like such a simple thing but it makes a huge difference to my enjoyment of dinner when I can join everyone in the pre-dinner bread eating. The gluten free menu was quite extensive with many salad options, appetizers, such as mussels and chicken satays, and main courses, such as filet mignon, snapper, wahoo (another local fish), and many other choices. I did not feel restricted by the menu at all. I ended up having my new favourite fish, snapper! It came with bok choy, carrots, mushrooms and steamed rice. I thoroughly enjoyed this meal and everything was cooked to perfection.
Royal Palms Restaurant. This is where we decided to go for New Year’s Eve! My mom had planned this before even getting to the island. They had a big party planned for New Year’s Eve with a DJ, dance floor, and fireworks on the beach. For dinner, they had a set menu with just a few options but my mom had included in our reservation that I would require a gluten free meal and they were more than happy to accommodate. The waitress had a pretty good idea of what I would be able to eat and, when she didn’t know, she went to ask the chef to confirm. I ended up with a tasty shrimp appetizer and a delicious dinner of swordfish and potatoes. This was exciting because I had never had swordfish before and it was another new fish that I realized I loved.
Cracked Conch. I loved this restaurant!! It wasn’t on Seven Mile beach so it was a little bit further to go but it was beautiful! We sat out on the patio, which was right over the water, and we had a stunning view! It was also cool that, once the sun went down, we got to watch some scuba divers going out for a night dive. To me, this sounds like the scariest activity EVER and something that I never want to do but it was cool to see other people doing it! Again, there wasn’t a specific gluten free menu at this restaurant but they were still incredibly knowledgeable about what I was able to eat. And can you guess what the best part was??? They had GLUTEN FREE BREAD!!! And it was incredible! It was a bun and it was one of the tastiest gluten free buns I have ever had at a restaurant. I decided not to go for an appetizer because I had my bread but everyone else got appetizers. I give the adventurous award to my brother for his pick of squid ink guacamole! Then came the main course. I decided to try ANOTHER new fish, Wahoo. And I was very happy with my pick. It was a white fish with a similar texture to a tuna steak. It came with diver scallops, snow peas, and sundried tomatoes. The best part of this restaurant was they even had a dessert option for me! It is basically impossible to get dessert at a restaurant when you can’t eat gluten or dairy but they had a dairy free vanilla ice cream as an option! I decided against it because I was full and didn’t feel like more food but I still really appreciated the offer.
Rackams. In hindsight, this wasn’t the best restaurant option for me. It was a waterfront bar and grill and pretty much all the food items were breaded. I ended up getting a salad, which wasn’t very exciting but was still a good meal. But the meal wasn’t really the reason for going to this restaurant. It was the atmosphere! It was right on the water, in Georgetown, and they had lots of island drink options! We got Cayman lemonades, Caybrew beers, and strawberry daiquiris. PLUS at 7:30 they had a Tarpon feeding! Tarpons are HUGE fish that are local to the Cayman Islands and it was so much fun to watch the feeding. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this restaurant for the gluten free food but I would definitely recommend it for the non gluten-free food (which looked really good) and the location/atmosphere. We went on a rainy night but I can also imagine that it would have a gorgeous sunset view!
Kirk Market. It is because of this grocery store that I can confidently say you can go to Grand Cayman with any dietary restriction and you’ll be able to eat something, as long as you can get yourself to Kirks! It was like Whole Foods, Cayman-style. They had everything!! A million different kinds of almond, coconut, and soy milks and yogurts, TONS of gluten free options of cookies, crackers, granola bars, chocolates, and a huge frozen section with a wide variety of gluten free breads. And to top it all off, they were SAMPLING gluten free cookies! I was in heaven. I don’t think there is much on a specialty diet that you wouldn’t be able to find at Kirk’s. They also had delicious looking fresh fish, meats, fruits and veggies so one night we made a delicious dinner on the BBQ at the condo.
Overall, I definitely give Grand Cayman thumbs up for its progress with gluten free options.I was very happy not to stress too much (I always stress a little) about what I was going to eat every day! And I definitely have to thank my parents for this amazing trip too. I would never have been able to eat at so many great restaurants without them researching the island before going and figuring out all the perfect places to go. It is my hope that traveling is going to keep getting easier and easier with each passing year as everyone becomes more aware of what gluten is and how to avoid it.
It was an amazing vacation and just what I needed after a long, busy, and challenging year of med school!
Best wishes for 2014!