A vacation at The Reef Resort proves that even days and nights full of fantastic activities can be relaxing when you’re on the ‘island side’
by Matt McDaniel
As our flight from Miami reaches Grand Cayman for our first-ever visit, we slowly circle around the island to make the appropriately angled approach to Owen Roberts International Airport. Coming in low like a seabird, we fly over the cruise port in the capital city of George Town and see almost a half-dozen cruise ships of well-known as well as smaller lines. I think about other stops I’ve made at Caribbean cruise ports and am glad to be flying in instead. Little do I know that I’ll soon learn that Cayman is different from any other Caribbean destination.
The airport is small but efficient for its size. A steel-drum band plays cheery music as we cross the tarmac and head into the terminal, and I make eye contact with one of the musicians. He smiles at me and conveys that he loves what he’s doing and is happy to be here a sentiment that will be echoed many times over the next few days.
It’s not long before we’re in the car and heading to The Reef, a resort located about 45 minutes away on the other side of the island. Our driver, Jake, is a British ex-pat. Almost half of the islanders are foreigners with work visas. Jake tells us about the life on the island. He says there is little crime because the island is so well run and unemployment is so low. In fact, Caymanian law says that nationals have first dibs on employment ― but obviously there is plenty to go around.
The ‘Island Side’
We arrive at The Reef on the eastern end of Grand Cayman, which is located what locals call “the island side.” The name comes from the fact that while there are resorts and restaurants, the island side is less touristy, less crowded and more laid back. Cruise ships arrive in George Town every day but Sunday, and thousands of passengers fill up the port-area streets and shops, but rarely head this far out. The famed Seven Mile Beach is just up the road to the North, and many fly-in visitors head there for the active night life, bars and boutique shops.
But we’re here for another reason: To get away from it all. My wife Laurie and I live in Florida and have spent enough days and nights in the glitz of Miami’s South Beach and the tourist trappings of Central Florida. This trip, we’re looking for quiet, uncrowded beaches and drinks under uncluttered starry skies. Sure, we’ll spend some time at Seven Mile Beach and the world-famous Stingray City, but our focus is definitely on centering ourselves, relaxing, and finding a bit of romance along the way.
We pull into The Reef and are promptly greeted by the front desk staff. Turns out everyone at The Reef is friendly and engaging,greeting us as a friend the second time they see us and asking what our plans are. Check-in went smoothly and we quickly found ourselves in our first-floor one-bedroom condo unit. Both our living room and bedroom have unobstructed views of the ocean.
Although the resort is nearly at capacity, we feel like we are all alone as look out of our sliders at swaying palm trees, white sand and blue waters. We are getting exactly what we wanted.