Tropical Holiday

This week I’m pleased to offer a series of guest posts by P. Andrew Och, a very talented journalist and photographer. Och and I have freelanced together numerous times. Enjoy his tales and insights from his recent trip to Grand Cayman Island. All articles and photos are by P. Andrew Och, unless otherwise noted.

During a recent visit to Grand Cayman Island, I discovered that there are a number of reasons to spend the holidays in the Caribbean besides the warmer weather and obvious attractions of a tropical location.

Grand Cayman is a small island South of Cuba with only a two hour flight from Miami International Airport. The island with a population of only about 20,000 has that small town vibe and sense of community that can make for a memorable holiday experience for you and your family.

One big reason to go to Grand Cayman during the holidays is that they actually want you there! This brings the prices down on airfares, hotels, attractions, diving, water sports, shopping and more. You can find special packages all over the islands to encourage holiday travel and visits.

There are special local holiday traditions of which to take advantage and enjoy. The Friday of Cayman Thanksgiving weekend is a true celebration of all that is Caymanian, and is also called Cayman Homecoming. The weekend (which took place on December 6 and 7 this year) kicks off with the concert event of the year that features the premier Cayman bands and world-class entertainment. Cayman Thanksgiving is a weekend-long national celebration that honors Cayman heritage, culture and lifestyle. It’s the Cayman way of showing fellowship among friends, family, neighbors and visitors while expressing thanks and gratitude for the blessings of island life.

Another special time in the Caymans during the holiday season is the annual Gimistory festival at the end of November. This festival brings together local and international storytellers who travel the island to tell their tales. You will enjoy Cayman-style lemonade and fresh caught seafood as the incredible tales are told for free at stages all over the island.

Christmas is a wonderful time on the island with lights, trees and decorations that give a special tropical warmth to the holiday. And don’t worry about shopping… from the shops in George Town to the stores of Camana Bay, they have you covered. The Farmers & Artisans Market held every Wednesday from 12:00-7:00 p.m. in Camana Bay takes on a holiday flair, as well.

You’ll want to visit Camana Bay anyway for their amazing restaurants and to see the island’s biggest and most beautiful Christmas tree. They also host another Christmas treat — The Parade of Lights. It takes place on December 1, and features boats decorated with millions of lights parading through the harbor. Onlookers enjoy carol singing, local food and drink in what is fast becoming a Grand Cayman tradition.

Camana Bay Tree Lighting 2012 (photo courtesy of Camana Bay)

Camana Bay Tree Lighting 2012 (photo courtesy of Camana Bay)

I would recommend sticking around for New Year’s Eve, too. Spending the night at one of the swanky resorts or any of the world famous restaurants on Seven Mile Beach is a spectacular way to ring in the New Year. You’ll be treated to one of the biggest fireworks displays in the world, as nothing stands between you and the brilliant aerial display but miles of white sand.

So, if you’re looking to add a little tropical spice to your holidays, the Cayman Islands may be the way to chase away Old Man Winter and keep the family singing Frosty the Snowman all at the same time. The islanders want you to visit, and the package deals are there. If you can’t make it this year, start making plans to pack your Santa hat and swimsuit and head south for the winter in 2015.

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