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St. Thomas vs Grand Cayman

Old Feb 6th, 2007, 06:04 PM
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St. Thomas vs Grand Cayman

Ok Carribean experts..I need some help. The hubby and I are looking to go to the Carribean in November (2nd week) for a relaxing vacation. We want to snorkel and be beach bums. We tend to eat in a lot (at least breakfast and lunch) so we will rent a condo. I was originally looking at St Thomas but then I thought maybe GC might be a better choice. I am open to other suggestions as well.

Here are my questions:

1. Is November a bad time for either of these places? I read something about ocean currents being strong and not so clear water and tough snorkeling.

2. Which has better snorkeling directly from the beach? Don't want to take a bunch of boat trips to get to awesome reefs. Maybe 1, but hoping to just keep it relaxing and no set timetable.

3.What part of each island would be best to rent a condo on? A certain beach.

Thanks!
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 06:15 PM
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Here's the thing: snorkeling can be great in Grand Cayman, but not really from Seven Mile Beach, where most of the hotels and condos are. Snorkeling can be great from Sapphire Beach, but the choices there are limited; there are some condos within easy walking distance (but I believe not directly on) Magens Bay Beach in St. Thomas. I'm wondering about the beach snorkeling at, say, the Bolongo Bay or Marriott in St. Thomas ... what does everyone think about that?

Those are my initial thoughts. Beaches in both places can be very good, however.

November is still hurricane season, but things usually slow down by the second week. But you can never be sure. This year was no problem; other years you're still fighting tropical fronts well into November.
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Old Feb 7th, 2007, 04:33 AM
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Thanks Doug for your reponse. We are willing to travel to other beaches to snorkel, but I know sometimes they are private, so you can't get to them unless you are a guest. It would be nice to have a condo located on a beautiful beach though, so one or two days we can just walk out the back door and into the water.

In St Thomas and St John, it seemed like this was impossible as most condos were on a cliff and you had to hike down. I did find a condo on Sapphire that sparked my interest.

Not too worried about the hurricanes. We are going the 2nd week of Nov, although that doesn't mean a thing. I just didn't know if the water conditions were such at that time of year some sort of annual weather pattern occurs that I wasn't aware of (besides hurricanes.)

In any case, any other insights would be helpful.

I guess my main interest is...which has better offshore snorkeling? Which are easier beaches to get too without hiking a zillion miles to get too it?
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Old Feb 7th, 2007, 10:40 AM
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We've been to both and for snorkeling I would say Grand Cayman. I also like the Island of Grand Cayman better than St. Thomas/St. John.

In Grand Cayman we stayed at the Holiday Inn k/n/a the Courtyard by Marriot. Their stretch of 7 Mile Beach is across the street. No big deal. There were tons of fish swimming around and you could just stand in the water and see them since the water is so clear. The was a small reef out in the water that we could swim to that had more fish and some coral. We didn't scout around the Island to other beach snorkeling that trip. We did take a boat tour out to Coral Gardens, Sting Ray City and the Barrier Reef. It was great. We also did the semi-sub Natutilus over Cheeseburger Reef. Lots of fish. My husband got to snorkel with one of the crew memebers. I didn't know we could get to snorkel, so I didn't have my bathing suit on. He just went in his shorts. We went in November '03 (pre-Ivan) and the weather was great. We are headed back to Grand Cayman in April on a cruise and have a tour scheduled that is taking us to Smith Cove, Sandy Cay and the shipwreck "Callie".

We stayed at the Wyndham Sugar Bay in St. Thomas. Their beach is quite rocky so good for snorkeling. Not great for just swimming around. We went to Coki Beach and the snorkeling there was good. Lots of Sergeant Majors. Especially since everyone was feeding them dog bones that the beach vendors sell. We did the helmet dive at Coral World next door and that was pretty cool. I don't think I would do it again though. The helmets are heavy and we were confined to one specific area. I would like to try snuba instead. We did a day trip over to St. John and went to Trunk Bay. We thought Trunk Bay was highly over rated. The snorkeling there was practically non-existant. There was hardly any fish and the underwater snorkel route had no coral and no fish.

Some of the best beach snorkeling we've done is in Cozumel, MX. They have lots of rock and iron shore around their beaches. Great for snorkeling.

We did some great snorkeling in Aruba also. Although the water is not a clear as Grand Cayman, St. Thomas/St. John or Cozumel. There were tons of fish. We went to Baby Beach twice, De Palm Island, Arashi Beach, Natural Pool, Mangel Halto Mangroves Beach and a snorkel boat trip.

I have some great underwater snorkel pictures on our site if your interested:

http://community.webshots.com/user/kvrlvn

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Old Feb 7th, 2007, 04:20 PM
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St. Thomas and Grand Cayman are very different islands. For me, Grand Cayman wins hands down.

GC is a more expensive island (plus the US dollar is worth $0.80) but that is what helps keep it the jewel that it is.

On GC, if you want to stay near a lot of restaurants, stores, etc. stay on 7MB. If not, stay on our favorite area, Cayman Kai area, or on the East End.
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Old Feb 7th, 2007, 06:02 PM
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Well I'm leaning towards GC more and more. Found a few condos. One I really like at Rum Pt but my hubby isn't happy that it doesnt have a tv or internet...uhhh!

I found another but it's on the south end near Bodden Town. Does anyone have any experience with Bodden Town vs Rum Pt/Cayman Kai? I read the current was stronger at Bodden Town.
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Old Feb 8th, 2007, 05:47 AM
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Rum Point is on the North Sound, so you can snorkel there, and I'm told the snorkeling is pretty good, so that might be a good alternative. But Rum Point is also pretty isolated from Seven Mile Beach (the only really exquisite beach on Grand Cayman and where you'll find 90% of the restaurants and stores). So you are trading good snorkeling for a stronger sense of isolation here, but a lot of people actually prefer Rum Point because of the lack of traffic.

Bodden Town doesn't have a beach at all, so you can't enter the water there. It's just rocks. There's a lovely place called Turtle Nest Inn there, however, and there are a few restaurants out that way (the Lighthouse).

A better alternative might be the Reef Resort on the far east end. Though isolated, that beach is pretty good and has decent snorkeling (it's the only good beach on the east end of the island).
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Old Feb 8th, 2007, 06:17 AM
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Let me amend. There may be a small beach at Bodden Town ... by the Turtle Next Inn, in fact.
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Old Feb 8th, 2007, 08:12 AM
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Actually Turtle Nest is the place I was looking at. I checked around but couldn't get an answer on whether or not the snorkeling was good or not. Seems like it was so/so but the Inn was fantastic. The places I was looking at on Rum Pt didn't seem to have AC either, which could be bad. I'm not sure that will do considering I dont want to leave windows open at night do to bugs.

At least with Bodden it's sort of in the middle and we could drive easily to any part of the Island. Not like the commute around it would be horrible anyways, considering I drive 1hr to work each morning.

Haven't ruled 7MB out yet but it's certainly a last resort.

Thanks for all the help!
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Old Feb 8th, 2007, 09:26 AM
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As you approach Seven Mile Beach, traffic actually becomes an issue. Despite the short distances, it can take a surprising amount of time to get there and find a place to park. There are a lot of old Cayman hands on these forums who can help you if you have more specific questions, though, and they've been much more recently than me.
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Old Feb 8th, 2007, 09:27 AM
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As you approach Seven Mile Beach, traffic actually becomes an issue. Despite the short distances, it can take a surprising amount of time to get there and find a place to park. There are a lot of old Cayman hands on these forums who can help you if you have more specific questions, though, and they've been much more recently than me. So consider reposting with Cayman questions if you have them.
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Old Feb 8th, 2007, 03:25 PM
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Traffic not 2 bad now that the new by-pass is open
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Old Feb 8th, 2007, 03:32 PM
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Forgot other part of reply. Plantana is a good chioce for a condo. Right beside the Gov's house. Excellent beach and good snorkling right in front. Places 2 eat are close Eats is acros the st. The Sunshine Grill has an excellent BBQ every Thrusday. Foster's is about 3/4 mile away. Public bus stop right out front for $2 each u can go 2 town and shop and watch all the confusion as the cruise ship scramble. Since they have little time in G'town. Now I know why we don't cruise!!!!!
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Old Feb 8th, 2007, 04:08 PM
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We stayed at the Turtle Nest Inn many years ago and really liked it. If you so a search on this forum you can probably bring up some of my old postings. The accomodations were really nice and clean and the owners were extremely hospitable. There was a small beach area at that time at the Inn, but it was only so-so. Lots of grass as you wade in and the sand was not the smooth, silky type that's on 7MB - filled with lots of broken coral that washes in. I'm not sure how much erosion may have occurred though with that beach subsequent to the hurricane that slammed Grand Cayman a few years ago. I think that area got alot of damage. There was a reef right off the shore there, so there was good snorkeling. Although it was centrally located, we did find ourselves driving quite a bit to go to town for dinner ... with traffic can be a 30 minute drive.

When we go to Grand Cayman again, I think we'll try the Plantana condos. They looked really nice and consistently get good reviews. They are in a great location on 7MB, a bit north of the more congested area, but still very convenient. They are also next to the Governor's house with it's small public beach area and I recall that there was a small reef a bit off shore for snorkeling there.

One of our favorite spots for snorkeling right off shore was just outside of town in a beautiful cove -- I just can't recall the name of the cove -- perhaps other posters can help.

Cemetary Reef is on the northern end of 7MB and is supposed to have fantastic snorkeling, but the reef is a bit of a swim offshore, so we didn't end up snorkeling there.

You can't beat Seven Mile Beach though ... one of the nicest I've been on with sand like powder.
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Old Feb 8th, 2007, 05:30 PM
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I too have been looking at Grand Cayman
for my family's next vacation.
We love to snorkel, esp walk in, off shore.

Our favorite spot on St Thomas was
Secret Harbour.
The condos are nice, the beach is
pretty and the walk in snorkeling
is excellent- the water is calm
Bonus is a very good restaurant and
beach bar. They have a dive shop and
the owner will take you out to some
pristine reefs for snorkeling for a
reasonable rate.
This place always gets good reviews
on Trip Advisor and I have to say,
they were all very accurate.

Rent a car as Taxi's are expensive.
You are only a 5 minute car ride
to Red Hook- the ferry dock where
you can take a boat ride over to St
John.

For Grand Cayman, I was settled on the
Reef Resort over on East End until I
read some unfavorable reviews on
Trip Advisor regarding "paper thin"
hotel walls which allowed you to
hear everything going on in your neighbor's room.
I then thought that Turtle Nest Inn
was THE PLACE as it garners great reviews. Again, some unfavorable reviews on TRIP ADVISOR regarding most
of the trees and vegetation blown
away by IVAN; and the hotel is right
on a road and trucks can be heard
atnight driving by, forced me
to look around again.

THe RETREAT at RUM POINT is now at the
top of my list as is the Discovery
Point Condos on north 7MB-the latter is
close to the Cemetery Reef

I would appreciate any comments on these two spots

Mark H.
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Old Feb 9th, 2007, 02:41 AM
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Q for mhummel: We may be going to Secret Harbour in ST this spring. The trip package automatically includes transport from/to the airport, but we would like to rent a car while there. Should we just forego the transports that are included and get the car at the airport when we arrive? Or is there a reasonably convenient way to get a car after we're at the hotel?
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Old Feb 9th, 2007, 02:44 AM
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Oh, on your question for Grand Cayman ... I would definitely recommend the north end of 7MB near Cemetary Point over the East End. The beach is just so much nicer there, and the north end is a bit away from the conjested southern part of 7MB near town. The east end seems too isolated as a place to stay.
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Old Feb 9th, 2007, 03:25 AM
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Response to Cher.

The hills and curves are fairly intimidating to drive in St Thomas.
The transport van that we had was air
conditioned and held all of our luggage.

I believe A car rental exists in Red
Hook and they will deliver to
Secret Harbour.

You can call SH and ask someone at
the desk- they should know

By the Way- Use the in room SAFE for
your valuables, even a cheap watch,
AT ALL TIMES.

Watch out for hair braiders who come
in pairs and then ask to use the bathroom!!!

;-)

MH
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Old Feb 9th, 2007, 04:28 AM
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See the hair braider comments is exactly why I'm leaning towards Grand Cayman! I hated going to the Naussau and feeling like I had to watch my back!

Thanks for the input Cher about Turtle Nest. I will continue to look at the north end of the island of North 7MB.
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Old Feb 10th, 2007, 12:02 PM
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Based on what you are looking for I recommend the Reef Resort on the east end. Exc. snorkeling right from a beatiful beach, nice condo's with TV and internet. We just got back from there, email me if you would like to see pictures or if you have questions. Not sure about the "thin wall" comment, we never heard a peep from our neighbors.
 

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