Numerous reasons might prompt you to visit the Caribbean Islands, yet none of them probably have to do the area’s vegan-friendly nature. That is, unless you put Grand Cayman on your travel radar. This upscale Caribbean destination has a chic South Beach feel and offers a host of vegan eateries and wellness activities. Here’s how to indulge in a weekend of vegan wellness in 48 hours.
Your best option for exploring this 22-mile-long main island is by car, which you can pick up at the airport. Just remember that the Cayman Islands are a British territory, so you’ll be driving on the opposite side of the road from what you might be used to. Grand Cayman is famous for its Seven Mile Beach—although it’s really only 5.5 miles long—and you’ll want to stick to this strip. Choices in hotels are numerous, but consider the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort where you’ll find plenty of vegan options at its restaurants—at Veranda Terrace, for example, you can find Cauliflower Tacos (sans the cilantro aioli) or Veggies Paella—as well as a full menu of wellness activities such as yoga classes, snorkeling, and paddle-boarding.
Fuel up on brunch or lunch
If you’re here on a Sunday, the Marriott offers a brunch service that is truly one of a kind. Locals also flock here (many say it’s the best on the island), so be sure to make reservations ahead of time. The meal, which includes unlimited champagne and specialty cocktails, features a massive spread of food arranged in several different stations around the restaurant, and many are vegan by default (ask one of the chefs to walk you through your options). The sushi bar, for instance, has several plant-only rolls, while the salad bar features fancy creations, most of which are vegan. You might also find vegan-designated desserts such as banana cookies and mango tart. On any other day of the week, you can venture into George Town, the island’s capital, for lunch, and grab an outdoor table overlooking the ocean at Lucky Slice. Try the Green Goddess pizza which features zucchini, eggplant, and sunflower seeds, or the Green Peace Pizza with refried beans, falafel, housemade vegan cheese, and avocado. If you’re there on a Wednesday, you’re in luck, as it’s vegan pizza day, and you can take advantage of a special 20-inch pizza special.
Take it to the beach
In the afternoon, drive to Rum Point on the island’s north side. Here, you’ll find a smattering of picnic tables, hammocks, and a beautiful white sandy beach. You can swim, snorkel, and even play volleyball on the beach. For dinner, head to the upscale Agua Restaurant, which has a strong Italian influence. All of the pasta is housemade, and most are dairy- and egg-free. While there aren’t vegan-denoted items on the menu, ask your server what vegan creation the chef can cook up for you (the restaurant is happy to accommodate vegans). After dinner, grab a nightcap at Craft, a bar with 16 beers on tap, many of which are local.
Plan for yoga and iguanas
There’s no better way to start the day than with movement, and, if you’re lucky, your hotel will offer beach yoga or a meditative walk. If you’ve never tried stand-up paddle-board yoga (otherwise known as SUP yoga), now’s your chance, as the crystal clear waters offer an inviting playground. Check out the classes offered by Vitamin Sea Cayman Islands or arrange a private class with the company. If you love nature, you can’t come to the Grand Cayman without visiting the Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Park. It is the only place in the world you’ll see the blue iguana, which you may run into as you walk the many trails in the park, including several that take you through gardens showcasing plants that are part of the island’s history. Keep your eyes open for butterflies—the Cayman Islands are home to over 60 butterfly species, five of which are native to the island—and birds like the iridescent green Cayman parrot, which is one of the island’s national symbols. The true star of the 65-acre park is the blue iguana, once in danger of being extinct. Thanks to the work of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, which breeds and releases the native iguana species, however, they’ve been upgraded to endangered status. So far, at least 1,000 iguanas have been released, and you can see the program up close when you take one of the park’s daily iguana tours, offered daily at 10am and 11am Monday to Saturday.
Feast on coconut calamari
Jump back in your car and head to Vivo, a vegan-friendly café located on the water’s edge on the island’s northwest side. The meat-free menu items are extensive and are promoted with icons of a pig, chicken, and cow that say, “We are not ingredients.” Two not-to-miss items are the vegan calamari (deep-fried local coconut with spicy tomato sauce) and the Vivo Piadina (homemade Italian flatbread stuffed with vegan seitan bacon, avocado, tomato, arugula, and vegan Thousand Island sauce). If you are in need of some pampering, book a treatment at the Botanika Union Spa. Sip on a locally made kombucha as you wait in the zen-like reception area. If you enjoy massages, the “Herbal Renew” will no doubt please you. After, take a minute in the relaxation room to write a wish on a tag and hang it on a tree.
Sip on local vegan beer
If you prefer sipping versus spa-ing, the island has two breweries: Cayman Islands Brewery and 1981 Brewing Co. Cayman Islands Brewery offers a tour (plus, you get generous pours) while 1981’s taproom has a hip, cool vibe that’s perfect for chilling out. You’ll find vegan beer at both breweries, such at Cayman Islands’ Twisted Citrus and Seven Mile Wheat, and 1981’s Cayman Blonde and Tropical IPA. Spend your evening at the appropriately named Bread and Chocolate, an all-vegan bistro that you’ll want to visit again. If the hand-painted slogan, “Save the earth—it’s the only planet with chocolate,” on the colorful walls doesn’t hook you, the food sure will. The menu is extensive, but go for the Pulled Porkless Sliders with roasted barbecue jackfruit and crunchy slaw on homemade bread, or the Angus Beet Burger with garlic aioli, lettuce, tomato, and red onion on a sesame-seed bun. Enjoy a glass of wine as you indulge in coconut macaroons or a caramel brownie.
Whether you’re a Caribbean fan or not, Grand Cayman will no doubt surpass your expectations. By the end of the trip, you’ll not only know what the local mantra “Caymankind” is, you’ll have lived the vegan version of it.
Karen Asp is the author of Anti-Aging Hacks, and award-winning journalist, as well as a fitness pro certified in plant-based nutrition, world record-holding athlete (in Nordic walking), and a vegan mentor with PETA.