While the Cayman Islands closed for international tourists during much of the pandemic, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman took the opportunity to spend those two years renovating across its sprawling 144 acres.
This marks a significant update for the resort and the brand — the only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star winner in the Cayman Islands is one of the marquee properties in The Ritz-Carlton’s portfolio.
“In the last 17 years that it’s been opened, it has become one of the iconic Ritz-Carltons,” said Chris Gabaldon, senior vice president of luxury brands for parent company Marriott International, about the Grand Cayman resort. “Of 112 beautiful hotels, there are a few that stand out as icons.” Gabaldon said it ranks among the elite Ritz-Carltons, like those in Naples, Laguna Niguel and Tokyo. “It’s wonderful to watch the evolution of an icon.”
Designed by New York City-based Champalimaud (which did the interiors of grand hotels like Raffles Hotel Singapore and The Pierre, A Taj Hotel, New York), The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s new look takes inspiration from the island’s tropical landscape and rich heritage. Guests usually plant themselves along the aquamarine waters of Seven Mile Beach during the day but, once the sun sets, the revamped Silver Palm Lounge becomes the sizzling gathering spot. The lobby lounge is saturated in a bright pale green, the color that’s on the underside of the silver thatch palm. Unique to the Cayman Islands, silver thatch is the national tree and was the backbone of the country’s economy until the 1960s. In the center of the lounge, above white circular seating, a cluster of round light fixtures recalls the thatching patterns of locally woven baskets.
The all-over green not only makes Silver Palm eminently Instagrammable, but adds vitality to the space and the adjacent airy white lounge. Adding to its convivial vibe, Silver Palm keeps a collection of rare rums (try Seven Fathoms, which is aged two to four years in white oak bourbon casks anchored 42 feet, or seven fathoms, underwater) tucked away in a custom-made hardwood cabinet. Silver Palm pairs rum with chocolate made from regional cacao, it doles out hand-rolled Caribbean cigars and serves an inviting afternoon tea (including a special version for kids).
The silver thatch motif can be found throughout the Grand Cayman hotel. Navy shadows of thatch fronds line the gray hallway rugs leading to the deep-blue room doors. Inside the accommodation’s foyer, overlapping gray palms cover the wallpaper and a large rope basket waits to hold your wet beach and pool towels and items — thatch rope was one of the country’s top exports.
The bedroom pulls colors from Grand Cayman’s deep-blue evening skies and the soft cream of its sand while mixing contemporary coastal (like the navy and ivory striped rug) with midcentury British Caribbean touches (the four-poster bed in some rooms was considered a luxury during that period). The thatch palm pattern pops up again in the black screens framing the glass doors to your balcony. To make it feel more homelike, the desk previously in the room was replaced with a round dining table, banquette and brown-leather-strap chair. The neutral décor gets a jolt of color from Jan Barwick’s vivid art depicting ching chings, a local term for Greater Antillean grackles, a bird with two endemic subspecies known for its distinctive song and wily antics.
Art is a hallmark at the hotel — it has the largest and longest-running gallery on the island. The hotel gallery strategically joins the two resort towers so that you can browse the pieces of various locals as you trek from one side to the other. Artworks also are dotted throughout the property — at the elevator banks, admire Cayman artist John Reno Jackson’s evocative abstract works. As you keep your eyes peeled for art, be sure to look down — the carpeting features silver thatch palms, banana orchids and other native plants.
Although much has changed in the 369-room resort, many of its prized amenities remain. The Ritz-Carlton retains its standing as a culinary destination with its Blue by Eric Ripert restaurant. The hotel also hosts the genial chef’s Cayman Cookout, an annual food festival. The 2023 cookout lineup, set for January 12 to 16, includes luminaries from the food and drink world like José Andrés, Antonio Bachour, Daniel Boulud, Jennifer Carroll, Adrienne Cheatham, Tom Colicchio, Dominique Crenn, Kristen Kish, Emeril Lagasse, Aldo Sohm and Andrew Zimmern.
Blue gets top epicurean billing, but the hotel’s Taikun sushi restaurant is not to be missed and continues to be a favorite for regulars. Order some sake and the omakase to savor indulgent bites like miso-brown-butter-baked scallops, wagyu nigiri with wasabi mayo and a garlic chip, and salmon foie nigiri topped with tobiko.
Another draw at The Ritz-Carlton is the Four-Star La Prairie Spa, a futuristic sanctuary where you can be pampered with superb treatments from the famed Swiss skincare brand. Heading outside, you can tee off at the Greg Norman-designed nine-hole golf course or take in activities like mangrove kayaking or reef snorkeling through Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment, an immersive program that teaches a greater respect for nature. Ambassadors of the Environment was first launched at the property and has since expanded to a handful of other Ritz-Carltons.
The new makeover adds to the longstanding favorites to revive this iconic destination. Marc Langevin, the hotel’s general manager said, “We are back in the game.”