Lush vegetation is among the myriad charms of the Cayman Islands, a 102-square-mile territory south of Cuba and Northwest of Jamaica. Its three distinctive Islands — Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman — are awash in botanical colour palettes that meld into white-sand beaches and turquoise waters, making it the ideal spot for a vacation — or a staycation, for those that are fortunate enough to live here.
John Stanton hails from Chicago. Yet he’s fallen in love with his new home in the Cayman Islands, where tropical breezes blow. “Grand Cayman is a beautiful and inspiring place to live,” says Stanton, Beverage Manager at the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa. “One of the things that motivated me to move to the Island is the Caribbean culture, climate and the unique set of produce that grows here.”
Indeed, when it comes to attractions on the largest island, Grand Cayman, a glorious array of options exists. So why not get the most out of your Grand Cayman adventure?
Along that popular, bustling stretch of Seven Mile Beach are some of Grand Cayman’s many hotels, fit not just for tourists, but also for those locals looking to luxuriate whilst staying close to home.
For a touch of U.K. charm, the Kimpton’s Seafire features contemporary architecture, British colonial and mariner touches, and high-tech vibe.
If it’s elegance you’re after, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman is a AAA Five Diamond 375-room property that’s been ranked the No. 1 resort in the Caribbean, with amenities like multiple award-winning restaurants, a golf course, La Prairie spa and two outdoor pools.
You may feel like singing or dancing at Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman, inspired by iconic singer Jimmy Buffett. It features 285 guestrooms, three pools, live entertainment and retail shops.
The Westin Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa recently underwent a $50 million renovation, with interiors inspired by Caribbean colours and a light-filled lobby with panoramic ocean views. Featuring the largest freshwater pool with swim-up bar in Grand Cayman, you can also enjoy your relaxing staycation in one of their two hot tubs.
Back at the Kimpton Seafire, Stanton crafts handmade cocktails at Ave, one of the resorts’ three signature restaurants overseen by executive chef Massimo De Francesca.
“In my line of work, you are constantly looking for different ingredients to use in your creations, and the list of fruits and vegetables that are unique to this region and available at the farmers’ markets here is pretty amazing,” says Stanton.
His discoveries include a “host of ingredients that I never encountered in North America,” such as mamey fruit, white guava and soursop, to name a few. “Going to the farmers’ markets every week has become a regular routine for me, and I’m consistently surprised by the vibrancy I encounter there.” That’s fitting in a locale frequently heralded as the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean. From Italian and Indian to Mediterranean fare, the Cayman Islands have more than 200 unique dining choices.
Fancy a taste of the finer things? Blue by Eric Ripert is the Caribbean’s only AAA Five Diamond restaurant, and highlights the bounty of Cayman’s fishermen with locally caught seafood.
Grand Old House, one of the destination’s staple restaurants, features fine local dishes, but it’s their wine that truly stands out. The award-winning wine list features more than 1,500 vintages and some 15,000 bottles of wines from across the globe. The second biggest collection in the Caribbean, it is also one of the 500 biggest wine collections in the world.
For a more casual feel, Cayman Cabana, located on the historic George Town waterfront, is known for its authentic yet progressive local Caymanian cuisine.
During your downtime, spend time outside exploring the Island. Grand Cayman is filled with many natural wonders and outdoor adventures. The underground Cayman Crystal Caves in Old Man Bay boast spectacular underground caves with stalactite and stalagmite crystal structures unlike anything else on the Island.
Like the Caves, many attractions here centre around Mother Nature. Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park offers exhibits that run the gamut from its Floral Colour Garden, to the Woodland Trail and Orchids in the Park.
Animal lovers will want to reach out to The Blue Iguana Recovery Program, which is dedicated to preserving Grand Cayman’s blue iguana, working to pull it back from the brink of extinction. They offer a behind-the-scenes look during the Blue Iguana Safari, a guided tour where you’ll get to see the blue iguana captive breeding facility, tour the park’s woodland trails at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.
To be one with nature, you can also dive right in and swim with the fishes. Stingray City is a series of shallow sandbars where the wide, flat-bodied fish congregate, and the subterranean world of the Crystal Caves beckons from a tropical forest.
For more adventurous water enthusiasts, various watersports — kayaking, snorkelling, wave runners, water-skiing, banana boat rides, sailing, parasailing and windsurfing — are available on Seven Mile Beach and Rum Point. Known as the birthplace of recreational diving, there are miles of reefs and exotic coral gardens, vertical walls that plummet to depths of 2,500 feet and shipwrecks that date back centuries.
You can sample a taste of history above water at Pedro St. James Castle, the country’s oldest stone structure. Learn about Caymanian history inside the restored great house — in fact, the site is considered the birthplace of democracy for the Cayman Islands.
Prefer to stay dry whilst enjoying all Grand Cayman has to offer? Golfers will appreciate the North Sound Golf Course, the only 18-hole championship course in the Cayman Islands.
You can also choose to explore Grand Cayman’s shopping and arts scenes. Camana Bay is a shopping, dining and entertainment destination on Grand Cayman complete with a movie theatre, local and international shops, and restaurants. Events include live music and outdoor concerts.
Life in Cayman — where there are some 135 nationalities and an easy-going vibe — certainly feels like a staycation for those lucky enough to call this destination home. “Some of the friendliest people on the planet, and some of the cleanest and most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen,” says Stanton. “Just wow.”
Author: Donna M. Owens