Now that it’s cold across much of the US, it’s clearly a perfect time to talk about warm weather and the tropical island paradise of Grand Cayman! (Yes, it could be that I’ve been spending too much time freezing in my lovely home state of PA.)
The Cayman Islands are made up of three islands in the Caribbean: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. They sit south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica, and just an easy plane ride from the east coast—and actually a not-so-bad ride from the west coast either! Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands and only about 22-miles long, making it a quaint little island getaway with still much to explore.
I stayed at the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa and not only enjoyed the beautiful newly renovated resort, turquoise water, sunshine, food, and water activities; the locals who worked at the resort also made my Caymanian experience a memorable one. If you’re considering a trip to Grand Cayman to beat the cold blues, here are my top reasons why Westin Grand Cayman rocks:
1. Passionate, diverse staff
It’s true: Hotel staff can make or break a trip. From the bellman and the concierge to the housekeeper and the chef, I met some proud and friendly locals at the Westin. Kirk the bellman greets every guest into his home, as he calls the hotel. I watched for a while as Kirk’s charming words lit up all the faces that walked through the front door…even those of the people who looked like they were in a hurry. The Westin also employs a diverse staff with about 26 different nationalities represented.
Tip: The concierges are extremely accommodating. Leslita will go out of her way to get you the experience you want. If tours are full, they may even offer to show you around Grand Cayman themselves on their day off. How’s that for hospitality?!
2. Best location in Grand Cayman
The resort is perfectly situated on Seven Mile Beach, which is known to be the nicest beach in Grand Cayman. You could stay at the resort and enjoy this gorgeous beach for some relaxation time, but the resort is super close to many of the best activities on Grand Cayman. Owen Roberts International Airport is also close, about five miles from the resort.
Tip: Start each of your nights with 2-for-1 drinks during happy hour at the Westin’s Beach Bar for sunset views with a beverage in hand.
3. Local approval
When the locals flock, you know it HAS to be good. I spoke with locals at Camana Bay during a night of shopping and good eats. Several people reported visiting the resort for the excellent food and spa.
The resort spa, Hibiscus Spa, has 12 treatment rooms with a private massage couples suite, nail salon and beach massage cabana for those who want to experience their massage closer to the ocean breeze and waves. It also has a separate relaxation area for guests to rest and enjoy complimentary tea and a range of superfoods and snacks. I had the Lomi Lomi “Cayman Style” massage along with the deep tissue massage because I clearly needed both! They used Kerstin Florian organic oils which I loved. I ran into more locals than usual here treating themselves to spa days, as it was a holiday and they didn’t have to work.
Tip: You can find local art hanging on the walls throughout the waiting room of the spa. They can connect you to the artist if you’re interested in purchasing any of the paintings.
Beach House, the resort’s signature restaurant, is centered around foods from the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Asia. The restaurant has beautiful views of Seven Mile Beach. We met with Executive Chef Sandy Tuason, who uses local, sustainable fish and produce from the islands in creating his menu items. You can’t go wrong with any of the seafood on the menu—and the lamb dish was amazing as well!
Tip: Word on the street says Westin’s Sunday brunch is the best brunch around Grand Cayman. I couldn’t stay until Sunday but when I return, it will not be missed!
4. Seven Mile Beach views—from the lobby
Not only do you walk through the resort doors to be greeted by Kirk, the nicest bellman around, but you’ll also get quite stunning view of the lobby contrasted with the beautiful, blue waters of Seven Mile Beach. This resort is the only one on the island to have these incredible water views from the lobby.
5. Newly renovated resort
In January 2014 the Westin finalized a $10 million renovation, which included a revamp of the Beach House, Ferdinand’s (the resort’s Caribbean cuisine restaurant), guestrooms, the fitness center, guest reception, the meeting and event space, beach cabanas, the concierge, and the lobby.
A cool art collection was also installed in the lobby. The new colors of the resort are beautiful island blues, and the dark hardwood floors complete the guestrooms.
6. Tons of activities nearby
The resort has a lot of great water activities operated by Red Sail Sports located on the property. Paddleboarding, wave runner adventures, snorkeling, diving, and trips to Rum Point and Stingray City are all great options to consider while in Grand Cayman.
The Rum Point dinner cruise is a must, with the amazing sunset it offers on your way over to Rum Point for a meal at Rum Point Club Restaurant. I met a couple from Wisconsin who had recently picked up and moved to Grand Cayman and they told me this is their favorite date activity on the island!
Tip: Rum Point Club Restaurant is famous for its mudslides, ceviche and seafood hot-pot dish. Yum!!
If you think stingrays are cute and want to swim with them (or in my case briefly dip your body in the water and touch them), take the Stingray City breakfast cruise on a 65-foot catamaran. Since it’s early, you’ll get to feed and swim with the stingrays before the other boats get out there. These stingrays are very friendly and as folklore has it, if you’re brave enough to kiss a stingray you’ll have seven years of good luck! In case you’re wondering, a stingray feels like a wet portobello mushroom!!
Finally, before you leave Grand Cayman you should check out some island culture. I found a local who offered to drive me around the island and show me Pedro Castle, the blow holes, Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, and the wreck of the ten sail. It can take as little as a few hours to make your way around most of the island with a couple short stops!
All photos courtesy of Caitlin Martin.