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Insider Guides

Gabriella Khalil's Insider Guide To The Cayman Islands

Caribbean vacation clichés aside, the sugar-white sands of Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach are positively paradisiacal.

The fabulous retro beach-house hotel, Palm Heights, is plotted right at the centre of this wowing seven-mile stretch. Drawing a style-minded crowd, the hotel is a mecca of design; spaces are their own havens, and bedrooms offer ocean-views and copious chill vibes. Complete with palm-lined pool and a slick shoreside setup of sun-loungers and sunshine-yellow parasols (under which many a rum-based cocktail can be sipped) leaving the confines of this little-chunk-of-heaven hotel is, admittedly, a challenge. But with such beautiful neighbouring surrounds, it’s imperative that you do explore beyond the PH compound.

We sat down with Gabriella Khalil, the Founder and Creative Director of Palm Heights, to get her insider take on Grand Cayman, and its neighbouring isles.


Essential items to pack?

I recommend packing all of your favourite items for long beach days and chic casual meals. Essentials would include: sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and a beach bag.

The best time to visit the Cayman Islands is…

December to March.

Our first pitstop should be… 

Heritage Kitchen is a casual, colourful, tiny restaurant overlooking the Caribbean Sea that serves amazing local seafood and Caribbean favourites over wooden tables.

Your favourite hotel to check-in at is… 

Though biased, it’s got to be Palm Heights – there is just nowhere else that feels like home!

For an early morning workout head to…

For tennis, head to Cayman Islands Tennis Club. For yoga, I love Bliss Yoga and when I feel like spinning, I use Ride Live Cayman. However, I’d also say a morning run along Seven Mile Beach, followed by a swim in the sea is just the best way to start your day.

Where should we go for breakfast?

Jessie’s is a wonderful café located in Camana Bay. They have amazing smoothies, juices, coffees and a great breakfast and lunch menu.

How about for a long, lazy lunch?

Kaibo at Rum Point.

And for dinner with friends?

It has to be Tillies – right on the beach, it has a really special atmosphere and is full of travellers and locals alike. It’s a perfect place for delicious food and the setting is ideal for groups of friends.

A must-try spot for date night? 

Ristorante Pappagallo is an Italian restaurant with an old-world charm and classic Caribbean décor, including a silver thatched ceiling! It is one of my favourite restaurants on the island.

Your favourite restaurant…

Budget: I’m loving Peppers – it has an authentic Jamaican jerk cuisine, and they often have live music. There’s also Paradise Pizza – a pizza truck serving fresh pizza, pasta, and all natural wines.

Blow Out: The Tasting Room, where you have a private dinner at the Chef’s Table, which I love to do with a group. There, or Blue by Eric Ripert.

The drink to order at the bar… 

I recommend a wine tasting experience at Grand Old House.

The best place for people watching… 

Sunset hour on Seven Mile Beach, as everyone is out walking, swimming, chatting, and watching the sunset.

The culture spot to rave about…

The National Gallery has an amazing art collection and is always putting on interesting exhibitions.

The best place to treat yourself is… 

Try a sound healing session with Janine Martins. Janine is an energy healer on the island and her sound healing under the open sky is something I highly recommend.

For great shopping head to…

Camana Bay.

The one place only locals know about… 

Smith Cove.

For the best views head to…

Anywhere along Seven Mile Beach – the sunsets are incredible.

For a change of pace try… 

A picnic at Barkers Beach.

Great day trips include…

Take out a boat and visit Starfish Point, Stingray City, and stop at Rum Point. Definitely do some snorkelling along the way too.

A book to read before we go (or while we’re there)?

Pictures from Paradise: A Survey of Contemporary Caribbean Photography. While you are on island check out the unique and vintage book selection at Library Fetish (this is the book shop at Palm Heights).

How should we spend the final day of our trip?

Horseback riding along the beach is one of my favourite experiences on the island.

What’s your Cayman Islands secret? 

I love going to the farmers’ market at Cricket Grounds on Saturday mornings. It offers fresh coconuts, oils that are all locally made, and all natural, beautiful hand-crafted objects, as well as fresh delicious produce.

In a word, the Cayman Islands are… 

Magical.

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