Islands in the sun -By Aruna Rathod
As far as luxury is concerned, the Cayman Islands are one of the top Caribbean getaway destinations. The pristine white sandy beaches and crystal clear sea makes it the ideal place to relax and get away from it all.
Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1503, when a chance wind blew his ship off course and he was thrust westward toward two very small and low islands – Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. By 1530, the islands were called the “Caimanas”— derived from the Carib Indian word for the marine crocodile that formerly inhabited the islands. Some early residents were believed to be pirates that settled down looking for a more peaceful life. Today Cayman Islands are a great destination for visitors from all over the world.
Grand Cayman: Cosmopolitan Grand Cayman Island is the largest of the three Cayman Islands and what you can find is complete relaxation, exquisite dining, and exciting nightlife! The underwater with accessible reefs is a great way to experience marine life and the famous Seven Mile Beach, the crescent-shaped natural wonder with boundless capacity for relaxation and breathtaking beauty, is mesmerizing. With sand stretching as far as the eye can see, Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach is often rated as one of the most beautiful beaches in all the Caribbean and the least populated.
Once you are done with the beach, keep a day aside for the luxury of George Town, where colourful traditional Caribbean-style buildings meet high finance corporations, and finish the day off with a sunset cocktail. Enjoy duty- free shopping on signature brands such as Versace, Tiffany, Gucci, and more. For a local flavour, visit the local vendors and craftsmen throughout the districts who work from their homes and are always happy to spend some time helping you find that perfect gift.
To enjoy the raw tropical beauty, visit the Eastern districts of Grand Cayman as well as the Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park where you can learn about the rare Blue Iguanas.
With over 50,000 residents, Grand Cayman is approximately 76 square miles. It is on Grand Cayman that you will find some of the most popular Caribbean activities, attractions, and festivals, including the popular Pirates Week and the colourful and exciting Batabano. Other popular attractions include the Cayman Islands National Museum, Rum Point, Pedro St. James, Bodden Town, the first capital of the Cayman Islands, Cayman Turtle Farm, and the National’s Trusts Mastic Trail, a 2 mile traditional footpath through unspoiled woodlands.
Cayman Brac: Brac is for those looking for adventure! Named for its breathtaking 140 ft bluff, the “Brac” is a rugged and charming 14 square miles, with plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with the most dramatic scenery, exotic flora and fauna.
The island’s community are called “Brackers” - less than
1,800 but very inviting. Ask them and they will help you out by first showing you the Bluff, the breathtaking view from the lighthouse located on the Bluff, as well as the limestone caves and sinkholes.
You can also indulge in underwater adventure at Cayman Brac’s crystal clear, warm waters that provide awe inspiring wall dives, shallow diving and wreck diving.
Cayman Brac is a bird watcher’s paradise. Lush green forests throughout the island are home to over 200 species of birds. Bird watchers will also delight in the 180-acre parrot reserve which hosts the rare, endangered Brac Parrot. Frigate birds, brown boobies, and peregrine falcons can also be spotted in their natural environment.
Little Cayman: The least developed and the smallest and most tranquil of the three Cayman Islands, Little Cayman epitomizes the definition of “an island getaway.” Seclusion and striking scenery makes it the perfect honeymoon island and a top Caribbean destination.
With a population of less than 170, most of Little Cayman remains uninhabited. Only ten miles long and one mile wide, this island getaway offers you a rare combination of sun drenched solitude, glistening beaches, and miles of untouched tropical wilderness. On Little Cayman, you are assured of total privacy and relaxation. Bask on empty beaches with soft white sand, and listen to palm leaves swaying.
To move around, you could rent a scooter, or bike and meander your way around the island, just remember that iguanas have the right of way. The remote South Hole Sound Lagoon is great for a private swim in water that is every shade of blue, or row out to tiny, deserted Owen Island to enjoy a view of nature in its most pristine form where you can
enjoy an island getaway experience so real, you’ll feel as if you were the last person on Earth.
Live in luxury: Luxury Cayman Villas takes luxury to a whole new level, offering a deluxe holiday in the comfort of your ‘own home’.
Each villa has its own 24-hour support team, guest services manager and dedicated concierge to arrange all the little details for you, whether it’s making dinner reservations or organising an excursion. There is also the option to have a private chef come to your villa and cook for you; perhaps it’s a special occasion, you have specific dietary requirements or you just don’t fancy doing the washing up. You can also request your villa to be pre-stocked with groceries for the week, have the option to be fast-tracked through airport security and customs when you land, and be met by your private transfer to ensure that you are on holiday as soon as you set foot on Grand Cayman. Totally committed to the environment, all properties have LED lighting and solar panels and wind turbines are used to generate power.
The Ritz-carlton Grand Cayman located in Grand Cayman also provides a luxurious island escape. Located on the worldfamous Seven Mile Beach, it is home to the Grand Cayman Penthouse, the largest suite in the Caribbean with 8,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor living space located on the top floor of the hotel. The wraparound outdoor terrace, with dining table, fire pit and outdoor private shower, offers stunning views over the sea and the villa even comes with its own beach cabana for those lazy days in the sunshine. Eating out: Not only is the Ritz-carlton Grand Cayman home to luxurious accommodation but it is also home to the restaurant ‘Blue’ by world-famous chef Eric Ripert. This seafood restaurant boasts of six or seven-course tasting menus along with à la carte dining, a large collection of fine wines and craft cocktails. The restaurant also has two private dining rooms for those special occasions.
Agua restaurant also offers gourmet seafood in a friendly and welcoming setting. The menus change regularly, depending on the catch of the day, and their signature ceviche dishes are deliciously light and fresh.
For waterfront dining head to the Grand Old House. Located in the south of Grand Cayman, this old plantation house has four private dining rooms, an award-winning wine and Cuban cigar list and a panoramic seafront terrace. The menu consists of traditional Caymanian flavours and all dishes are made using local produce.
Sport yatch – explore in style: The best way to explore the Cayman Islands is by boat so why not charter your own 42’ or 29’ Sea Ray sport yacht? Cayman Luxury Charters offer day charters of their magnificent yachts, whether it’s for exploring, heading to the Stingray City sandbar to swim with the wild stingrays or just to relax. They even offer sunset cruises to watch the spectacular Cayman Islands sunsets – renowned for being beautiful and romantic. How to get there: The best way to reach Cayman Islands is from the US, London or Toronto. Eight different airlines fly into Grand Cayman from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Fly to the Cayman Islands with British Airways and you’ll touchdown in the Caribbean in just over 12 hours. After a brief stopover in Nassau in the Bahamas, it’s just a short hop to your final destination.
Air Canada offers non-stop flights from Toronto to Grand Cayman every week, twice a week.
The main passenger airport in the Cayman Islands, Owen Roberts International Airport, is located on the largest of the Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman. Cayman Brac also has its own airport, Charles Kirkconnell Airport. These two airports serve as the Cayman Islands main ports of entry for visitors. Little Cayman is served by daily inter-island flights.
Photo credit - Lawson Wood
Images courtesy: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.