Almont Travel Inspiration

Why We’re Heading to the Cayman Islands This Fall

The boutique hotels, beachfront meals, and farmers’ market finds that make these islands a perpetual Caribbean favorite.

The three Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman) have roots deep in the Caribbean – literally. This British Overseas Territory actually comes from peaks of an undersea mountain range stretching northeast from Belize to just south of Cuba. White-sand beaches and calm turquoise waters set a relaxing scene for sunbathing and beachcombing, while a surrounding barrier reef draws scuba divers and snorkelers to explore the Cayman Islands’ 365 dive sites (one for every day of the year) and colorful marine life. 

Beyond the shore an exciting crop of restaurants, from beach barbecue shacks to fusion fine-dining, are scattered among the resorts lining Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach, providing plenty of centrally located options.

While the U.S. East Coast has long enjoyed easy access to the Caribbean, beginning November 5, new nonstop air service between Los Angeles and Grand Cayman’s capital, George Town, will make it easier for West Coasters to connect. We’ve rounded up some of the coolest spots to eat, shop, and stay.

Where to Stay on Grand Cayman

Trend-setting travelers have put Palm Heights resort, which opened in 2019, on the map. With just 52 suites, the boutique property punches above its weight in amenities: four restaurants (including a pizza place and a sushi spot), three pools (including the island’s only heated outdoor pool), and a sprawling spa featuring bioelectrical treatments, an infrared sauna, and sound-healing sessions.

Guests can expect to mingle with an international cast of characters, from yogis and professional athletes hosting wellness retreats to musicians flown in for intimate performances. Palm Heights’ talent residencies bring pop-up projects from artists with Caribbean connections, including fashion designers, visual artists, acclaimed ballet dancers, and a Ghanaian chef who incorporates Cayman produce into West African-style meals.

The resort’s breezy-hip vibe keeps most guests from leaving the property for too long. Beachfront suites decked out in subtle sand-and-seashell hues keep all eyes on the vibrant colors outdoors. Palm Heights founder and creative director Gabriella Khalil (a contemporary art curator) wanted to “create a sense of nostalgia and heritage.” She and her team pulled it off with lush palms, privacy hedges, unexpected contemporary-art installations, and vintage ’70s vibes, from the furniture throughout the resort to the titles and magazines in its well-stocked library.

The Best Restaurants on Grand Cayman

Palm Heights’ beachfront Tillies restaurant (short for Antilles, the archipelago that includes the Cayman Islands) drew chef Jake Tyler Brodsky away from New York City’s three-Michelin-starred 11 Madison Park to set up shop in the Caribbean. Menus range from Sunday roasts with grilled salmon, ribs, and mac and cheese to Thursday night burgers-and-bubbles. Brodsky’s favorite: the market fish (usually snapper) deboned, butterflied, and served whole. 

Outside the resort, Brodsky recommends a four-mile ride north to West Bay’s Heritage Kitchen, a laid-back fry shack with a blackboard menu, pastel-striped picnic tables, and fishing nets hanging from open-air rooftops. “Heritage Kitchen serves a great escovitch fish [marinated, fried, and topped with pickled vegetables] for an authentic local experience,” says Brodsky.

Nicknamed “the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean,” The Cayman Islands bring in flavors from all across the region. For a taste of Trini – as in Trinidad, famed for its mash-up of Indian and Caribbean cuisines – grab lunch at Singh’s Roti Shop in George Town. Pair a pint of pale Caybrew lager with Caribbean favorites such as curry shrimp, stewed chicken with red beans, or two pieces of fried flatbread sandwiching spicy chickpeas known as “doubles.”

Where to Shop on Grand Cayman

Stop by the Cayman Farmers’ Market, in George Town (daily except Sunday) for fresh lemonade, smoothies, and a variety of coconut-flavored treats on your way to the seaside. There, local artisan Eileen McLaughlin sells handwoven straw hats and bags for beachgoers alongside rustic, handcarved wooden Wari boards, made for an island board game of strategically moving beads, similar to the mancala-style games popular across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.

Cayman colors have even inspired designers in the U.S. Midwest. Chicago-based Laudi Vidni’s line of Vivid Cayman handbags and leather goods incorporates island-inspired shades, including fiery sunset red, teal for the sea and the endangered Grand Cayman blue iguana, and a metallic plum that references coral reefs and orchid petals. Still to come: a green leather called Verdant Cayman, inspired by the local flora and fauna, that Laudi Vidni co-founder Laura Kofoid (a frequent visitor) says is best appreciated from above when you fly into the islands.