Composed of three isles – Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman – the Cayman Islands are a British Overseas territory with some epic beaches, great diving opportunities, and (the clincher) direct flights from London.
The largest island, Grand Cayman, is at the heart of it all. Base yourself here and begin your explorations on Seven Mile Beach, to the north of George Town, the capital. This sandy stretch is dominated by the majority of the island’s hotels, and, as much activity rotates around the sea – from paddleboarding to cruising –, you’d be forgiven for not straying far beyond this flaxen patch. Still, for those seeking to explore a little further afield, botanical gardens, cultural institutions, and lip-smacking eateries await…
The Packing Edit
On Seven Mile Beach you’ll find Palm Heights, signposted by its trademark canary yellow sun umbrellas. Grand Cayman’s latest boutique hotel, the relaxed space comprises of 52 rooms, three restaurants, a gift shop, bookstore, and (soon to open) mega spa – in short, there’s a lot to see and do over the course of your stay at Palm Heights. Bursting with creative flair and oodles of character, the hotel is a cultural mecca that attracts fun-loving individuals, couples, and families alike with its joie de vivre MO. On night one, make a beeline for The Coconut Club and raise a Pink Mule to the days ahead as the shore laps just behind you.
Plotted near the northern edge of Seven Mile Beach, Kimpton Seafire cuts an impressive shape. Interiors are contemporary and colourful and the space is, in a word, palatial. Composed of 264 guestrooms and suites – beachfront bungalows are also available – the hotel manages to maintain a boutique-like atmosphere despite its scale. Still, there is an undeniable resort feel to the place – base yourself at the snaking Seafire pool (open from dawn to dusk) to be amidst the buzz. Cool off at beachside Coccoloba with a spicy margarita (and order some fish tacos for good measure whilst you’re here). The food offering peaks at Ave, a must-try dining spot plating up Mediterranean fare – there is also Avecita (a concept dining room that seats diners at the chef’s counter and is positioned inside Ave). Wining and dining aside, do make sure to carve out time for a massage at the spa – its relaxation room is a rather wow.
EAT + DRINK
This 65-cover restaurant was founded in 1997 by owners King and Lisa Flowers. Their aim was simple: to build “a restaurant to return to again and again.” Neutral interiors punctuated with dark woods provide the backdrop to the main event: the food. Promoting local produce from the island’s leading growers, The Brasserie is a farm-to-table eatery that champions delicious, fresh food. Peruse a menu that includes a refreshing watermelon salad, a decadent grilled cheese (consisting of soft brie, white truffle, and local guava jam), and the catch of the day (The Brasserie catches daily fresh seafood with its two fishing boats). Diners can choose to be seated on the greenhouse terrace, or indoors in the elegant dining room – for something more private, opt to eat in the intimate wine cellar. End your meal with the dulce de leche flan, or, for a liquid dessert, try the white chocolate martini. Side note: don’t sidestep the garden to bar cocktails and Cuban cigars listings, available viewable via on-table iPad.
Island favourite, Tillies, is a crowd-pleaser any time of day. Drop by for a breakfast of French toast or granola, or hang beachside with a couple of cocktails as lunchtime approaches. With various seating options, Tillies can be as formal as low-key as you wish; it’s up to you whether you’re tucking into a hearty sandwich or slinging back a dozen oysters from the raw bar (choose where you sit based on your mood). Come evening, Tillies’ fresh and eclectic Caribbean fare really shines – the goat curry (best enjoyed with a side of sweet plantains) is a must-order. For evening sittings, book a table indoors and dine amidst verdant planting, oodles of artwork, and other objet; it’s a whole scene.
Jessie’s Juice Bar
For a quick refuel, head to Jessie’s Juice Bar on Market Street and choose from a menu of salads, (epic) grilled sandwiches, and baked goods. Everything is made with real, nutrient-rich ingredients – a welcome change if you’ve been on ‘vacation mode’ and eating every beige carb in sight for the past five days. Post-meal, grab a cold pressed fruit or vegetable juice to go.
Fancy a quick, fuss-free bite? Head to Paradise Pizza for Neapolitan-style pizzas, hearty salads, and shawarma flatbreads. Offering up a fun Italianate scene – think gingham tablecloths and nights titled ‘Mambo Italiano’ (which combines prosecco, pizza, pasta, tiramisu, and karaoke) – it’s a light-hearted option for a low-key lunch/dinner. You can also order your pizza to go if a snack on the sand is what you’re craving.
The National Gallery of Cayman Islands
For a change of atmosphere (read: somewhere sans sand), and an insight into the local art scene, pay a visit to The National Gallery of Cayman Islands. Spanning two floors, comprising of an upper and lower gallery, discover temporary exhibitions curated by Director of The National Gallery Natalie Urquhart, amongst other notable local names. Upstairs, the National Collection provides an overview of Cayman craft peoples and artists – side note: the artist’s collective, Native Sons, are ones to watch. At the rear of the gallery, you’ll find the sculpture garden – take a bench seat and reflect on the works you’ve just seen.
Whether you’re travelling solo, with friends, or have the little ones in tow, you can enjoy a trot along GC’s bright white sands. With the Caribbean Sea in view, explore the island’s terrain on horseback, riding out into the shallows for a refreshing dip with your noble steed when it feels necessary to cool off. Local trail rides or beach rides are available morning or night in West Bay, George Town, and North Side.
Visit the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
Home to the endangered Grand Cayman Blue Iguana (you’ll spot these while traversing the grounds), the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is a uniquely beautiful place to spend an hour or two. There are series of walking trails to embark upon and the Floral Garden – spread over 2.5 acres – is dappled with hundreds of different species of tropical and sub-tropical plants. There’s also the Heritage Garden, which harbours the 20th-century Rankin Home and is surrounded a variety of blooming plants and fruit trees.
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