This sand snob found a new favorite in Grand Cayman. Not being divers I wasn’t sure what my family would do on a recent trip to Grand Cayman. Grand Cayman is flat, over developed, expensive (everything is imported), definitely not my cup of tea. Or so I thought…
As a travel professional I often feel pressured to see and do as much as possible. Afterall, our greatest tool for planning exceptional escapes is our first hand experience. Sometimes I run around so much that I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation! On Grand Cayman I was able to enjoy a guilt-free beach holiday. After 2-3 days of exploring the island, I had pretty much seen it all so could enjoy the rest of my time soaking up the sun with the family.
Where to sleep…
We spent the first few nights at Coral Stone Club. A small, independently owned condominium complex on Seven Mile Beach (SMB) with 32 three bedroom, 3 bath units available to rent on a daily basis. Located in three, three-story buildings, each of these 1800 square foot units have the same layout and offer views of the ocean. A few things to take note – because these units are all individually owned you’ll find the décor, bedding and kitchen amenities vary. Unlike some of the larger condo complexes here, you can select and book a specific unit at Coral Stone Club. For families with small children I recommend selecting a ground floor unit. We found this incredibly helpful when our young son was taking a nap, I could still sit on our terrace with a book, see the ocean and still be within earshot. For those looking for a quieter location, select a top floor unit which have vaulted ceilings and unobstructed ocean views. This is a true self-catering condo complex and the staff is virtually non-existent. When we arrived on a Saturday one of the housekeepers let us in the unit with the instructions to check-in at the desk on Monday. I also didn’t find the staff at the front desk all the insightful when I asked for their personal recommendations on things to see & do. Keep in mind though that the majority of people staying here are either owners or vacationers that have been coming for years. Hanging out by the pool is the thing to do in the afternoon as the owners come together like long-lost friends and welcome us new timers. They are the real wealth of information with insider tips on things to see and experience while in Grand Cayman. We stayed in unit # 5 which we found to be very cozy and well-appointed. You could tell the owners are here frequently as there was every kitchen utensil and gadget imaginable available. You might find it odd that I was so impressed with that but if you’re like me - a person who frequently stays in condos or private homes with extended family you’ll appreciate that. We also appreciated the screened in porch and spent a lot of time here enjoying meals and playing games. The grocery store is across the road within walking distance and you can feel free to bring the cart back to the unit. The store will send staff later in the day to collect the carts from the neighboring condo properties. The real highlight here I think is the beach. Coral Stone Club enjoys an incredibly wide, clear section of beach with just the right balance of natural tree shade and beach loungers. I would recommend a stay at Coral Stone Club in a heartbeat for families looking for an upscale-yet-down-home beachfront vacation. This would also be a great spot for 2-3 couples to share a unit and enjoy a relaxing holiday. Rates start at $695 per night. Plan your visit in the summer months and receive your 6th night free!
Our next stop was the Caribbean Club just a few doors down. If you’ve been to Grand Cayman you may recall the Caribbean Club of old which was made up of several cozy beach and garden cottages. After hurricane Ivan the new owners completely tore down and rebuilt three luxurious towers bringing a whole new level of luxury to SMB. Having spent several days at Coral Stone Club where I felt the accommodations were already quite nice, I did not expect the opulence of Caribbean Club. Separated into three towers that are in U shape facing the ocean, all units are huge at 2500 square feet with three bedrooms and three baths and very richly appointed. Caribbean Club operates more like a hotel in that they do have full staff with daily maid service, concierge and room service available. Their on-site restaurant and bar Ristorante Luca serves up a delectable mix of Italian cuisine and fresh seafood and is a great spot to enjoy music in the evenings. Each of the units are individually owned and decorated and feature a large verandah facing either the pool or ocean. Because of the layout of the property if you are in a pool view unit, be prepared to be right on top of your neighbors. Not much privacy to be found here when all units basically face each other. The ground floor ocean front villa suites are particularly fantastic as you literally walk 4 steps off the verandah and have your toes in the sand. Our particular unit was very luxurious but not as personalized or that child friendly (think glass tables and plenty of breakables). Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Caribbean Club and I would recommend this property for those traveling with older children, young adults or several couples looking for luxury accommodations with a bit more options in the way of dining and entertainment. Rates start at $650 per night in low season for a Tower ocean suite.
Another great option is the more moderate Lacovia complex in lower SMB. Closer to George Town, this complex resembles more of an apartment building with ample parking, a garden pool in the center of the complex and a range of accommodations from 1-2 bedroom units with either garden, pool or ocean views. Each unit is individually owned and decorated with some units very moderate and updated and others…not so much. Each unit we saw was very clean, comfortable and included all the amenities one would expect of a rental. What makes Lacovia such an appealing option I think is the quiet atmosphere, fantastic beachfront location and price. One bedroom units start at just $290 per night in low season which for this quality of accommodation in Grand Cayman is a good deal. Great option for couples, families or single travelers looking for a place to escape it all.
For private events or those looking to hide away on Grand Cayman you may want to consider Cotton Tree located in a quiet residential community at the very north end of West End. Comprised of four modern Caribbean 2-bedroom, 2 bath cottages that can accommodate up to 16 guests with either garden or ocean views this compound is an ideal hideaway for those looking to plan a family reunion, corporate retreat or destination wedding. While the property itself is oceanfront there is not much beach to speak of however they do have a large fresh water swimming pool, beautiful garden setting for weddings and I think that the serene location and complete seclusion make up for any lack of beach. Plus, you’re only a 15min drive to the heart of SMB. Rates start at $650 per cottage, per night in the office season with special rates for week-long stays or entire property rentals.
Also worth mentioning is the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman. The only five diamond resort on the island and the best choice if you are looking for a full service resort. With consistent Ritz Carlton services and amenities this resort offers a full service spa (consistently ranked in the top 2 in the Caribbean) and several of the best restaurants on the island. Even if you don’t stay at the Ritz, make plans for dinner at 7 Prime Cuts & Sunset or BLUE by Eric Ripert which offers fine dining and a romantic atmosphere. It is important to note that the main hotel is located across the street from the beach so if you book garden or resort view rooms, you’ll need to walk to the beach by way of their air bridge. They do have an oceanfront tower right on the beach which is what I would recommend if your budget allows. This is the best option for honeymooners looking for luxury. Rates start at $299 per night in low season with 5th night free. Oceanfront rooms start at $579 per night.
Must do’s in Grand Cayman:
- Rent a car and explore the coastal areas outside of the congestion of George Town and SMB. You’ll find small communities, beautiful coastal scenery and historic sites such as Pedro St. James Castle that are worth a visit. Note: Caymanians drive on the left side of the road. If you’re not comfortable driving, book a tour or higher a driver through one of the many local tour companies.
- Garden lovers will enjoy the Queen Elizabeth II Botantical Park
- Escape the crowds and snorkel off of Cemetery Reef located north of SMB in the West End
- Experience Boatswain’s Beach, a 23 acre marine park and turtle farm. The kids will love it!
- Go underwater with Atlantis Submarine. A great way to see the expansive ocean life for non-divers! Departs from George Town
- Take the time to learn more about Grand Cayman’s past at the Cayman Islands National Museum in George Town
- 7 Prime Cuts & Sunset. Fine dining steakhouse located at the Ritz Carlton. For a romantic evening, make reservations for sunset and request a table on the patio. Open for dinner only and reservations are highly recommended.
- Reef Grill at the Palms. Surprising find located on the beach offering Contemporary American cuisine. I recommend a table in the upstairs open air section where you can still enjoy the music from downstairs but take advantage of the ocean breezes and spectacular views.
- Luca @ The Caribbean Club. Upscale, modern Italian & seafood restaurant with great food, music and lively atmosphere.
- Chicken Chicken! Affordable and convenient family restaurant serving Island cuisine family style.
- Order in! If you’re staying in a condo on SMB and don’t feel like cooking or going out at night get delivery! Order from some of the most popular restaurants in Grand Cayman and have them delivered by way of www.finedinein.com for a $6 delivery charge plus gratuity.
Contact me to plan your next vacation to Grand Cayman!