Grand Cayman Beaches – East Or West, All Are Best!

My tour of Grand Cayman beaches begins at the north-west tip of the island, in West End, and wanders down to the south coast, then along the road to East End before turning back north and west to the end of the road at Rum Point.

Barkers National Park

Barkers National Park: Has some beautiful beaches, unspoiled by crowds or fast food litter. There’s a price to pay, of course, and that’s the lack of amenities, apart from a few BBQ pits and picnic tables, you’re on your own here. You’ll need transport to get to Barkers but it’s worth it for the tranquility, even on many weekends.

The West End

Of all the Grand Cayman beaches, Seven Mile Beach is the big one. This is where it all happens. The sand is a fine, almost white powder, the water’s shallow, and there’s all the activities people want from a Caribbean vacation. Seven Mile Beach is where you find

parasailing, helicopter rides, jet-skis, tubing, and the usual fast food restaurants to satisfy picky kids (of all ages). Although it’s huge, Seven Mile Beach is mainly given over to resorts so for locals or those staying elsewhere it includes a number of public beaches, like ‘Public Beach’ off West Bay road, right next to Marriott Courtyard and Calico Jacks. It’s a busy beach with plenty of amenities, such as BBQ pits, cabanas, a playground for kids, and washrooms. Then there’s ‘Cemetery Beach’, which may not sound too inviting (I can’t imagine an Ad Agency coming up with the name) but it’s a great beach for snorkeling. It’s also a great beach, with trees for shade and picnic tables to make your stay more pleasant. It’s at the north end of seven mile beach, further away from the big hotels, but it has everything the more mature beachgoer needs; shade, picnic benches, and great snorkeling. Public access is also from West Bay Road.

Below George Town, off South Sound Road, are a number of small beaches, though the water is too weedy for comfortable swimming. Heading east along the south of the island, brings you to small sandy beaches at Breakers, Cottage, or even quieter spots like Half Moon Bay and White Sand Bay. At the aptly named village of Breakers, the beach is quiet but the sea isn’t. There’s no offshore reef to calm the waves here so even on sunny, pleasant days, they roll in all the way from the Atlantic and send spray flying onto the road.

Another place the waves sweep right onto the beach is a little farther east at Frank Sound, a rocky beach of bare, sharp ironshore. Not a traditional beach, in the sense of sunbathing or swimming, but it’s an interesting spot if you like rocky beaches and the creatures that go with them. Frank Sound also has the ‘world famous’ (world famous all over Grand Cayman, anyhow) blowholes. These are natural fissures in the ironshore that squirt water high into the air when the waves crash against the shore. This is a place to contemplate nature rather than work on your tan.

Grand Cayman’s East End beaches are the place for chillin’ — with the exception of the resort beaches where you have everything you want and more. East End Resorts, such as Morritts Grand or Tortuga and The Reef at Colliers Bay, have fine beaches and they’re surprisingly quiet and unpopulated. Resort people come in two types — beach folk and pool folk, and there are lots more pool folk — so even big resorts at the height of the season have idyllic beaches that don’t crowd you. Staying at Morritts gave us ample opportunity to walk and paddle along beautiful East End beaches that didn’t seem to have names but did have white sand, warm shallow water and nobody but us enjoying them. The tranquility at the East End of the island is amazing when you consider how small the island is and how many visitors it gets each year.

Continuing along the Queen’s Highway and North Side Road takes you past many more secluded, empty beaches where you can own the sand for the day. We never saw anyone on some of them. For us, it was like being Adam and Eve on vacation. Stay near Old Man Bay and you can have lunch or dinner at the excellent beachside BBQ there.

If you want more water sports, the end of the road brings you to two more Grand Cayman beaches, Rum Point and Cayman Kai. Rum Point is a public beach with golden sand, warm shallow water, trees to provide shade, a rocky point so safe even children can snorkel round safely, and an excellent, very reasonably priced, beach restaurant, the Wreck Bar. Of all the Grand Cayman beaches, we liked Rum Point best. We didn’t recognize it as a public beach the first time we saw it because it looked so much like a resort. Once we got over that we found it a great place to go. Boats or jet-skis can be rented from the Red Sail Sports shop on site, as well as trips on the catamaran and the glass-bottom boat.

Cayman Kai is a small public beach with a playground for the kids, BBQ pits and picnic tables. Like the busier Rum Point across the road, it’s popular with locals as well as visitors.

At Cayman Kai, we’ve come to the end of the tour. Only North Sound, the big bay that looks like a shark-bite, stands between us and our starting point at Barkers, which we can see from here because it’s always a clear day on Grand Cayman’s beaches.

Discover the Secrets of Phuket’s East Coast

It wasn’t long ago that the east coast of Phuket didn’t even get a second glance. It was considered by many to be too remote, too dull and too boring. However, recently it has been discovered by property buyers who would rather it remained a secret.

The west coast has always been the preferred destination in Phuket with its idyllic sandy beaches, quaint seaside towns and villages and a good mix of top quality restaurants.

Since the late eighties, when the island started to develop as a tourist destination, luxury hotels, boutique resorts and plenty of apartments and villas have sprung up on the west coast. Making it popular but perhaps a little over-crowded.

Towns such as Patong and Kata have become so popular that in high season you can’t walk down the street without being asked to buy a suit, stroke an Iguana or buy some sort of crazy gadget. Beaches are littered with sun-loungers as tourist clamber to catch enough rays before they go home.

If you like that sort of thing then the west coast is for you – but if you seek peace and quiet away from your busy day-to-day life you should take a look at the east coast.

For a start it’s less crowded – in fact it’s hardly crowded at all.

With only a handful of hotels and resorts, the east coast hosts far less holidaymakers. East coast resorts favour spa breaks, wellness retreats and relaxation; discos, jet skis and tailors shops would most definitely be out of place here.

What’s more, the east coast boasts the best views on Phuket. The islands and limestone karsts of Phang Nga Bay rise up from the ocean and as the sun sets the sky is filled with orange hues. Fishing boats meander across the waters and yachts return to their marinas for the evening.

If you enjoy boating, the east coast offers something that the west never can – marinas. Any expert will tell you that the west coast is far too choppy in the summer season to safely moor boats.

Yes, the east coast with its calm tranquil waters is ideal for boating. Phang Nga Bay is a playground for all to enjoy;it has a myriad of awe-inspiring islands, caves and deserted beaches to explore.

If you are looking to get away from everything -you should take a trip to a deserted island, and spend the day on the beach collecting shells, snorkeling or simply relaxing on the sand.

If you are lucky enough to own a boat you have a wide choice of moorings; Royal Phuket Marina with it’s up-market retail shops and restaurants, Boat Lagoon, Yacht Haven or the newest and for many the most attractive – Ao Por Grand Marina.

If you play Golf – it’s on your doorstep too.

Mission Hills, a superb Jack Nicklaus designed links course with a fabulous clubhouse, is located right on the east coast. A short twenty minute drive takes you to several other courses on the island including The Blue Canyon, which has hosted the Johnnie Walker Classic twice, and Loch Palm located in the centre of the island.

With property prices on the east coast being far less than on the west – it makes sense to consider the east for longer term living.

When you compare prices, you’ll be paying around 80,000 Baht per square metre on the east coast, whilst a west coast property of the same quality will cost you in excess of 140,000 Baht per square metre – a 75 percent difference!

There are also some superb properties available; The Bay at Cape Yamu is one of the finest examples of modern architecture to be found in Phuket.

Waterfront villas are literally 30 metres from the shoreline and come with a price tag of just 45,000,000 Baht for a 792m2 villa – try finding that anywhere on the west coast.

The neighbouring development at Baan Yamu is managed by the top five star resort Twin Palms. It offers a great range of apartments, penthouses and villas with prices starting from as little as 12,830,000 Baht – a fraction of the cost of a west coast equivalent.

The east coast is developing at a steady pace. Developers are not clambering over each other to build lots of boring apartments and over priced villas on small plots. They are building carefully planned, high quality developments.

Villas have privacy, spacious interiors and dramatic views. Condos are large and functional for longer holidays and even more permanent living.

The east coast has a certain charm. The locals enjoy a traditional way of life; fishing and rubber farming. It doesn’t have sexy beach bars, tourist hotels or parasailing…but it also has something that few places on the west coast can offer – peace and quiet.

BJJ Veteran Eduardo Rocha Training Winners in SF Bay

At first glance, Eduardo Rocha seems like just another muscle-bound bald guy, the kind you find brooding on weight benches between sets. At second glance, he’s intimidating. With copper-colored eyes that pin you to your spot like a memo on a bulletin board, Rocha doesn’t look like he has too many problems in dark alleys.

At 43, Rocha is a fourth-degree black belt and a world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter. When not training for competitions, Rocha keeps busy with a rapidly-growing academy, an even more rapidly growing son, and the hobbies typical of a Libra: surfing, snowboarding, and avoiding conflict.

Although a peace-loving nature may seem at odds with his chosen profession, Rocha’s long years of fighting have taught him to choose his battles with great care.

“Sometimes drunk guys want to mess with me,” he says. “And I think Man, you have no idea what you’re doing. But I just let it go. It’s not worth making a problem.”

Rocha’s Libran equilibrium comes in handy for more than just ripping waves and avoiding bar fights. The process of immigration requires surfing skills of the soul. An √©migr√© leaves not only home and family, but his sense of identity behind. Experiencing a new culture, a new language and a new lifestyle means seeing the world through new eyes. The World becomes a 3D version of Where’s Wally, and you’re Wally. It takes a while to find your new self with your new eyes in your new world in the constant cycle of learning and forgetting, departing and returning, connecting and letting go. When you throw running a business and raising a kid into the mix, anyone could feel overwhelmed. But Rocha seems to take it all in stride.

“When I first came here, everybody said to me, ‘Watch out, there’s some bad neighborhoods here.’ They never saw the favelas in Brazil. This place is Disneyland.”

Born near the sea, Rocha’s first love was the water. But when his family moved from the tranquil beach town of Gavea to the gritty reality of Rio, then-adolescent Eduardo discovered a new priority: survival. So he traded his fins for fists and his goggles for a gi and began his long love affair with the art of war.

Having started training in his teens, Rocha was awarded his black belt at the age of 27 by BJJ legend Royler Gracie. Now a fourth-degree black belt, Rocha has competed over the years in a seemingly endless array of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments-with bewilderingly similar names-both here and in Brazil. Rocha has also competed in a discipline known as Vale Tudo, which translates as anything goes. As the name implies, Vale Tudo is a no-holds-barred, knock-down drag-out whack-’em-with-a-chair affair integrating elements of Thai Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and plain old meanness.

Besides the technical niceties of strategy and form, Rocha’s preparation involved countless hours spent perfecting the exquisite art of taking a punch.

How do you learn to take a punch?

Rocha smiles his crocodile smile. “You let somebody punch you until they get tired. Then, you let somebody else punch you.”

Needless to say, Vale Tudo has a high rate of attrition, and Rocha’s affection for his teeth eventually won out over the dubious attractions of the testosterone-soaked poundfests of Vale Tudo. Since then, he has dedicated his time and energy exclusively to teaching and training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Rocha’s life has had more than its fair share of ups and downs, but he speaks of it with the even tone and emotional detachment of an accountant performing an audit. The eldest of three brothers, Rocha felt the weight of responsibility at an early age. His fighting spirit appears to have been inherited from a feisty Libra mom who kept her postmodern family in balance with a smile on her face and samba music in the background.

“It used to bug me,” says Rocha, echoing the sentiments of every teenager since time began who has been embarrassed by a parent’s musical preferences. “Now, I see why she likes it. It makes you feel-you know-happy.”

Blood and betrayal, sun and shadows, divine intervention and evil spirits-all are part of Rocha’s own personal Brazilian soap opera. Following a near-death experience in a car accident, a fight that went the wrong way and the birth of a son, Eduardo Rocha decided it was time to start thinking seriously about the future. Rocha came to the East Bay in November of 2004 with a suitcase, a surfboard, and a dream of building something that would last for himself and for his family. His unique style attracted an immediate following and Rocha became their Prophet of Pain, on a sacred mission to free the real men of the East Bay from their inner sissies.

The obsessive-compulsive behavior BJJ inspires in practitioners along with his undeniable skills have been a recipe for success for Rocha in Oakland. In a sport where black belt instructors are treated like rock stars, Rocha is King of his own brand of Rocha ‘n’ Roll. The fanaticism accompanying the sport can perplex those who have not yet heard Jiu-Jitsu’s call, but those who have appear to think and talk of nothing else. The conversations of BJJ fighters revolve around three things: the submission they almost got; the new gi they did get; and whatever new style is going to revolutionize the game forever-or until next week, whichever comes first.

Eduardo Rocha maneuvers through the changing styles and conflicting loyalties of the California Jiu-Jitsu scene with seemingly unflappable Libran aplomb.

When asked to explain his success, the crocodile becomes suddenly coy.

“It’s my charisma,” says Rocha.

Could be. But with a rosy future on the horizon, Eduardo Rocha talked to me about the past.

Why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

My city, Rio, is very violent. I needed to find something to protect me and my brothers.

Why not a gun?

Because a gun will put you in jail, fast. There are a lot of fights in Rio, but most of them don’t involve guns. The guns are in the favelas. At least, that’s the way it was when I started out. Now it’s different. Now it’s a war.

What’s with all the fighting?

If you want respect in Brazil, you need to be able to prove you’re strong.

Wait a minute. Is Jiu-Jitsu a fight, or a game, or what?

Jiu-Jitsu is everything. A fight, a sport, and a game.

In America we have a saying: “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” What’s important to you?

Winning. In Brazil, there is no space for second place. You’re either the first or the last. In Brazil we say: “Second place is the first place of the losers”.

Is that why you moved to California?

I’m in California because a door opened for me at the right time. California is the capital of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in America. I was here before for tournaments, and when the door opened, I walked in.

Jiu-Jitsu seems like a pretty macho game. How does your school fit into the diverse population of the East Bay?

There are a few macho guys in the East Bay too. Not very many, but some.

Can people who aren’t macho gain anything from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

My school is open to everybody, but Jiu-Jitsu is not for everybody.

What’s your greatest fear?

In this world, sharks. In the other world, bad spirits.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

On a big boat, traveling alone. The ocean will be my next challenge, when I can’t use my body to fight anymore.

I hear there are sharks in the ocean.

(Rocha laughs) That’s a good thing. I like fear. The adrenaline makes me feel alive.

How about pain?

No. I don’t like it, but you have to learn to live with it.

Your name means “rock” in Portuguese. Do you feel like a rock?

I try to be strong like one.

Rocks are cold.

They heat up in the sun.

So do snakes.

We all adapt to the situation.

Rocks break.

That’s the bad thing about rocks.

I guess nobody’s perfect.

(Rocha laughs)

If you could be somebody besides Eduardo Rocha, who would you be?

Somebody who doesn’t need anybody.

Like a rock?

Or a shark.

If you could turn back the clock, is there anything in your life you would change?

Everything. I made a lot of mistakes in my life. I had to learn the hard way. Sometimes you have to walk through hell to find the way to live.

You have a lot of medals and trophies. What’s the one you’re proudest of?

Medals don’t make the fighter. You are what you are. The thing I’m proudest of is surviving here, in a strange country. Showing people that I can do everything, not just fight like a bull.

What’s your pet peeve?

Weak people. People who are always looking for the easy way out.

What do you like best about America?

The way Americans do business. Here, you can actually get something done. In Brazil, it’s all about having a good time.

How do you define happiness?

Beautiful women, my son, and a great day to surf.

Is there anything else Jiu-Jitsu gave you besides muscles and a lot of trophies?

Jiu-Jitsu gave me balance. It teaches you to survive when you’re not on top, and how to adapt to bad situations.

What’s your primary motivation as a fighter?

Fear.

Do you have a hero?

No. But I like Batman.

This interview was conducted in 2006 in Oakland, California.