In search of great barrier reef dives? Family-friendly beaches? Low-key romance? All-inclusive resorts with pre-planned itineraries? The hotels on this three-isle archipelago—just an hour's flight from Miami—have it all.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
This 365-room standard-setter in western Grand Cayman has every luxury you’d expect from a Ritz-Carlton: classic interiors (think botanical prints and beige and cream accents that echo the beach in both guest rooms and residential towers); name-brand pursuits including Jean-Michel Cousteau nature tours, a Greg Norman golf course, Nick Bollettieri tennis pros who coach on night-lit courts; five restaurants including one by Eric Ripert; a La Prairie Spa that books caviar skin treatments; and 144-acre grounds right along Seven Mile Beach, considered one of the best sandy stretches in the Caribbean. The time to visit is January, when the resort hosts the ninth-annual Cayman Cookout, a weekend of cooking demos and incredible meals led by the likes of Anthony Bourdain, Daniel Humm, José Andrés, and Emeril Lagasse.
The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach
It may sit just down the beach from the Ritz, but the 343-room Westin holds its own in terms of luxury stays along Seven Mile. This month, the resort unveils a newly open lobby with sweeping views of the beach as well as an expanded freshwater pool (now the island’s largest) with its own buzzy swim-up bar. While the Kid's Club puts on scavenger hunts and pirate plays, adults can spend their free hours sunning in one of the beachside cabanas or taking a glassblowing class before dinner at one of the hotel's seven restaurants and bars. (We recommend spending at least one night dining at Beach House, which recently earned Wine Spectator's 2016 Award of Excellence). Nightly turndown, which features local rum cakes, sweetens the deal.
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Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort
It’s largely a family affair at this attractive Marriott, whose all-inclusive option makes vacations that much more stress-free. Spacious, adjoining rooms with pullout couches and private balconies allow for ample breathing space, there’s a water toy-filled pool and dive center, and, for tweens and up, more mature pursuits like jet skiing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and soaking up the sun (and local culture) on Seven Mile Beach. Stingray City and the Cayman Turtle Centre, great local wildlife encounters, are also just minutes away—though parents might have arguably more fun back at their home-away-from-home thanks to unlimited meals and drinks (including cocktails), a swim-up bar, and a tranquil spa where body scrubs and facials cleanse every sun-zapped woe.
Le Soleil d'Or
Cayman Brac, one of the archipelago’s outlying islands once dominated by villa rentals, is a glorious respite from the usual hubbub of Grand Cayman and Seven Mile Beach. Today, peace-seekers escape to this isle to hole up at Le Soleil d’Or, an intimate six-room boutique on a bluff with its own 20-acre organic farm, where days involve cooking classes in the communal kitchen, lounging at the beach club, getting a farm-to-spa treatment that might incorporate house-grown lemons or avocados, snorkeling in the surf, and not much else. If the three-bedroom main house sounds too crowded for you, opt instead for the two-story villa or impossibly more private ranch-style cottage, awash in Spanish tiles and bougainvillea.
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Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa
The November opening of Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa signified a handful of firsts: Kimpton’s first international property, Grand Cayman’s first new hotel in over a decade—even the spa's hammam is a never-before-seen feature for the island. The 266-room tower brings Kimpton’s signature swank to Seven Mile Beach: think mod décor, pops of color and texture in the staff uniforms and accommodations (including its three swish beachfront bungalows), and Ave, the Mediterranean tapas restaurant featuring an exclusive chef’s table that's become a notable addition to the island’s burgeoning culinary scene. Dishes to try: the conch chowder, jerk duck carpaccio, and spice-roasted squash with bok choy.