Grand Cayman’s Superb Seven-Mile Beach

Grand CaymanAlthough Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach is actually only 5.5 miles long, this gorgeous crescent-shaped stretch of coral and sand does not short change you on pleasure. Voted one of the best beaches by Caribbean Travel + Life Magazine, a leisurely walk on this lush, palm-tree lined shore will take you past condos, villas, and luxury and mid-priced resorts all just steps away from crystal clear blue Caribbean waters.

A snorkeler’s and diver’s paradise, the Cayman Islands, located in the Western Caribbean, 460 miles south of Miami, include Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman – together they represent an overseas territory of Great Britain. The islands are actually the tops of pinnacles that reach up from the Cayman Trench, one of the world’s deepest sections of ocean. Beyond the beach—perfect for paddle boarding, kayaking, and sailing—we embraced Grand Cayman’s quiet Caribbean charm, explored the local restaurants and shops, and strolled through George Town, the island’s quaint capital.

Snorkeling, Grand Cayman

[ The boys spent most of the week underwater ]

Things to do and places to see:

Stingray City & Stingray Sandbar: This excursion lives up to its reputation as the “experience of a lifetime.” Home to over 75 Southern Stingrays, these two separate sites give you a chance to snorkel in twelve feet of water, or safely stand on a sand bar in two to four feet of water with these gentle, graceful giants who swim freely in their natural habitat.

Cayman Turtle Farm: Not just a tourist attraction, but also a conservation facility that raises and protects endangered Green Sea Turtles. Swim with turtles, dip into the touch tank, and learn about Cayman marine life.

Blue Iguana Safari Tour: The Recovery Program has helped protect Cayman’s largest endangered land animal–it can grow up to five feet long. The daily 1.5-hour tour goes behind the scenes and provides an up close view of these dragon-like lizards.

Hell: Many locals will recommend that you “go to Hell,” which of course refers to the humorously titled tiny town in West Bay, named for the blackened calciferous rock formations found there. Take a minute to send a “postcard from Hell!”

Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment: The Ritz Carlton’s excellent family program offers unique, environmentally based activities. My two teenage boys enjoyed a night snorkel, joined a shipwreck dive, and took an underwater photography class. There’s plenty of educational and engaging programming for little kids as well.

Six Senses Cayman Adventures: We did not have time to go, but the concierge highly recommended this tour company, which specializes in group and private island-wide eco-tours.

Camana Bay: This lively waterfront town center offers an eclectic mix of shopping, cinema, dining, and special events. We especially loved the well-stocked shelves of Books & Books, Bay Market specialty and organic food store, and Ginger Lily Frozen Yogurt.

Divers Supply: Located in the West Shore Center, stop by to stock up on diving, snorkeling, and beach supplies.

Guy Harvey Gallery & Shop: My fish-loving children picked up t-shirts adorned with this artist/scientist/conservationist’s gorgeous marine-themed artwork.

Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

[ Seven Mile Beach is stunning, even on a cloudy day ]

Places to eat and places to sleep:

Ortanique: Traditional Caribbean dishes with a modern twist. Located in Camana Bay—take a seat outside for dramatic water views.

Pappagallo’s: A waterside, Northern Italian restaurant with a Caribbean flair with plenty of pasta and fresh seafood on the menu.

Andiamo: On a balmy evening, we enjoyed dinner on the terrace overlooking a tranquil lagoon at the Ritz Carlton. An added bonus—they show nightly family-friendly movies on their outdoor giant movie screen under the stars.

Bread and Chocolate: This George Town café offers a vegan menu for breakfast and lunch.

Casanova by the Sea: A homey, local Italian restaurant in George Town. Grab a seat on the veranda for excellent views of the harbor and cruise ships.

Looking for a resort on Seven Mile Beach? Check out the Ritz Carlton, Marriott Beach Resort, or the Westin, or try the Caribbean Club beachfront villas—all excellent choices.

Silver Rain Spa: The Ritz Carlton’s serene La Prairie-affiliated spa transports Switzerland to the tropics. Before jetting back home to reality, indulge in a much-deserved massage to soothe body and soul.

Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

[ The boys met up with this smiling fish in their underwater photography class ]

Seven Mile Beach, Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman

[ The Caribbean’s “Best Beach” does not disappoint ]

Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

[ We caught the wind and the waves in a Hobie Cat ]

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Sarasota: Florida’s West Coast Wonder

Orlando, Miami, Palm Beach – these are the cities that get top billing when considering Florida’s top vacation destinations. But, it is the Sunshine State’s west coast that truly features the best of what Florida can offer, and Sarasota is its heart and soul.

Sarasota lies on Florida’s Gulf Coast and is known for its award-winning, white talcum-powder beaches, vast cultural offerings, and natural beauty. With an increase in flights to its international airport, it’s even more accessible than ever. Sarasota, located south of the Tampa Bay area and north of Fort Meyers includes several barrier islands, known as keys, which lie just off the coast in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Ritz Carlton, positioned across from the city’s downtown area and marina, has served as our Sarasota home on several trips. Although its location on the mainland’s bayside might seem inconvenient, a quick trip across the John Ringling Causeway by car or hotel shuttle brings you to the resort’s lovely pool and beach club on Lido Key. Located between Long Boat and Siesta Keys, Lido also features an array of small, beachside hotels and condo rentals and acres of recreational area. Adjacent to Lido Key is St. Armonds Key with its popular pedestrian area. St. Armonds Circle is a charming place in which to meander and sample the diverse restaurants and sidewalk cafes, specialty stores, gelato and ice cream shops, all laid out in a lush, tropical, circular setting.

Ritz Carlton Sarasota

The Ritz Carlton Sarasota Beach Club — just steps from its gorgeous gulf beach

Sarasota’s downtown area, with its scattered high-rise office buildings and hotels, and low-rise historic areas offer an eclectic mix of eateries and galleries with annual street fairs, farmers markets, and art exhibits a focal point of the downtown culture.

Of course those gorgeous, white-sand beaches are Sarasota’s draw. We spend hours there collecting shells, fishing, and snorkeling in the Gulf — much calmer than Florida’s eastern, Atlantic coast. On cloudy days, there are plenty of nearby fun and educational activities including Jungle Gardens, MOTE Aquarium, kayak tours, and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

Sarasota, Florida

The MOTE Marine Laboratory & Aquarium offers hands-on learning like panning for shark teeth

Last year a highlight of our trip was a half-day spent with Tearin’ Em up Charters. We were met one early morning at the pier behind the Ritz Carlton and whisked away for a four-hour, hook-to-fork adventure on Captain Doug’s charter boat. We cast our lines in and around the inlets and then, with our catch of the day in the boat’s cooler, pulled up to the bayside beach of South Lido Park. We jumped out of the boat into the shallow water and strode up to the rustic beachside campsite complete with wooden picnic tables and barbeque station.

Sarasota, Florida

Jack reels in a Spotted Seatrout from the emerald-blue waters surrounding Long Boat Key

Captain Doug, a classically trained and experienced chef, had all the fixings to whip up his signature shore lunch. Right on the spot, he fileted and prepared my sons’ spotted sea trout en papillote, wrapping the freshly caught fish with sweet potatoes, Vidalia onions, and ginger root into a foil pouch. While we waited for it to cook, he offered us skewers and marshmallows, which we roasted in the fire and then sprinkled with fresh lime juice for a delicious take on “Siesta Key Lime Pie.” Accompanying our meal was warm honey-pepper corn bread and grill-cooked beans. After we finished our mouth-watering, open-air meal, we boarded the boat for our trip back to the Ritz Carlton, with our stomachs and our hearts full.

Sarasota, Florida

Lido Key’s acres of recreational area provide the perfect setting for a seaside picnic

While our tasty beach barbecue cooks up over the open flame, Harris toasts a marshmallow appetizer

While our tasty beach barbecue cooks up over the open flame, Harris toasts a marshmallow appetizer

Unique Family Traveler sampling of things to do and places to eat in Sarasota:

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens: This 14-acre “oasis of inspiration and tranquility” on the Bay features rare tropical plants including 6,000 orchids.

Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures: Their kayak eco-tour takes you through the exotic mangrove tunnels on Lido Key into the bay to view manatees and dolphins.

MOTE Aquarium: There’s plenty to see — sharks, sea turtles, manatees, seahorses, dolphins, plus over 100 other species, along with touch pools and viewable, working marine-studies labs.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens: Meander through 10 acres of lush, tropical, winding jungle trails and view creatures like Florida’s crocodiles and famous pink flamingos

John & Mable Ringling Museum: This original, 66-acre winter home of the legendary circus entrepreneurs, features an art museum, a 56-room estate, and the world’s largest miniature circus.

Ritz Kids: This Ritz Carlton camp program, held at their beach club, has top-notch staff who will keep young kids engaged with a diverse set of activities including swimming, arts, science and nature-studies

Darwin’s on 4th: This downtown Peruvian restaurant features a mix of Latin American flavors with an Asian flair including an extensive selection of ceviches.

Pacific Rim: Japanese/Thai fusion cuisine and sushi in Sarasota’s lovely Southside Village neighborhood.

Café Epicure: Authentic Italian in the downtown area with sidewalk seating, offering excellent, freshly made pasta, thin-crust pizza, and homemade desserts and gelato.

Le Macaron: Located on St. Armonds Circle, this French patisserie creates mouth- watering, freshly-baked macarons — the perfect place for cappuccino and dessert.

Tommy Bahama: On St. Armonds Circle, serving contemporary, American cuisine with a tropical twist. Get a table upstairs for a view of the setting sun and order the delicious coconut shrimp.

Jack Dusty: The Ritz Carlton Sarasota’s lively seafood restaurant is not your typical hotel dining experience – recently opened, this restaurant’s creative “coastal cuisine,” first-rate service, casually elegant décor, and bay views are delightful.

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

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Ritz Carlton Sarasota