The Cayman Islands Are the New Crown Jewel of the Caribbean—See Why

  • Photo by Don Riddle
    Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman Photo by Don Riddle
  • Photo by Don Riddle
    The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman Photo by Don Riddle
  • Photo by Don Riddle
    The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman Photo by Don Riddle
  • Photo by Don Riddle
    The spa at the Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa Photo by Don Riddle
  • Le Soleil d’Or—a farm with a boutique resort and spa—sits on a rustic beachfront
  • Photo by Don Riddle
  • Photo by Don Riddle
  • Photo by Don Riddle
  • Photo by Don Riddle

The Cayman Islands, long known primarily as a tax haven, are emerging as the latest laidback but luxurious escape thanks to a new wave of development that, more than a decade after Hurricane Ivan, includes extraordinary and distinct resorts.

Within the walls of the garden, nature quietly reigns. Beyond the coiled roots of trees and tangled greenery, falling water is audible, and only the most attentive ear can discern the presence of an occasional passing automobile. Despite its primordial air, this oasis has been expensively cultivated for the pleasure of its owners, who, when in residence, occupy a villa concealed in the distance behind battalions of blossoms and imposing examples of a curious form of flora known as a sausage tree, from which depend heavy, tubular, dun-colored fruit.

“They stink when you cut them open,” notes the gardener. Adorned in a straw hat and Hawaiian shirt, this gentleman conducts me along the winding paths of this private paradise. When I ask him if it’s a native plant, he laughs. “It’s from Africa,” he replies. “I guess the hippos like them.”

Nothing, I have learned since my arrival in the Cayman Islands, seems to be from here. Uninhabited until the 17th century, when motley assortments of passengers from military, merchant, and mercenary vessels alike began to visit their shores, these minute landmasses were not properly settled until the early 1700s. Over time, the population of primarily African and Anglo-Saxon descent gradually expanded to include dozens of different nationalities.

When I landed on Grand Cayman several days before, I didn’t know what to expect of my inaugural visit to this British territory famed as a tax haven and bastion of international banking. Beautiful beaches, yes, but what else? On departing the airport, however, I was greeted by something entirely unexpected: a sense of familiarity. The streets of George Town could have belonged to a South Florida suburb, save for the fact that the drivers sat on their vehicles’ right-hand sides. Having been buffeted in flight by the winds of Hurricane Matthew, which then roared toward the United States, I was surprised by the normalcy of the scene.

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