The Cayman Islands Are the New Crown Jewel of the Caribbean—See Why
Grand Cayman’s sister islands, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, attract more diving enthusiasts than seekers of well-appointed accommodations. However, a recently established boutique resort on the latter persuaded me to leave behind the comforts of the Ritz-Carlton and Kimpton Seafire to immerse myself in a different ambience.
Cayman Brac’s massive limestone bluff, which rises 140-plus feet above sea level, lends the island the appearance of a floating fortress—a characteristic that, along with its caves and springs, made it a favorite rest stop for pirates, who quenched their thirst with fresh water and feasted on turtles and iguanas.
I, too, was there for food and drink, though of a considerably more refined caliber. Le Soleil d’Or, situated on a rustic beachfront, offers guests the absolute privacy enjoyed by castaways but without the deprivations. Essentially a farm with a boutique resort and spa attached, this relaxing destination specializes in farm-to-table cuisine of exceptional quality.
On arriving at reception, I noted the property’s un-Caribbean appearance. A whitewashed edifice with a tiled roof, balustrades, and magenta plumes of bougainvillea, the hotel might have been transplanted from the Costa Brava in Spain. After I checked in to my bungalow—an expansive white cottage with a swimming pool and a secluded beach—the staff invited me to be seated in the Mango Restaurant, where I got my first taste of the establishment’s raison d’être: the farm. Practically everything the resort serves is culled from 20 acres on the precipice that looms above Le Soleil d’Or’s main building. A light lunch of crispy spring rolls accompanied by potent sprigs of basil, tender cucumbers, and sweet peppers perked up my palate; and thus refreshed, I asked my mixologist, an enthusiastic young woman named Angel Robledo, to arrange a tour of the farm.
My guide drove me up a steep road to a heavy wooden gate, where we traded our SUV for a golf cart that he steered along carefully raked gravel paths. The stone-bordered beds of fragrant citrus, spiny pineapple, burgeoning melons, and sundry esoteric plants suggested not a farm but a manicured botanical garden in which everything was orderly as well as edible. Even the chicken coop pleased the eye, devoid of the blemishes usually associated with such facilities. The guide sped along with mounting enthusiasm, stopping only to pluck some tart fruits resembling green cherries for me to try, as two lethargic blue iguanas, having already partaken themselves, looked on.
Later that evening I learned that the farm yielded liquid bounty as well. After dinner, Robledo suggested I try one of her specialty cocktails. Minutes later, she returned with a small sherry glass containing a dark liquid topped with foam, a sprinkle of brown dust, and a wedge of dried coconut. The portion was small, but the flavors were profound—chocolate, brown spices, and hot pepper. “My Extravaganza,” she announced. “Everything in it is from the farm.”
The farm at Le Soleil d’Or reinforced for me the resilience of the Caymanian people, who have, through the centuries, transformed these expanses of limestone, sand, and mangrove swamps into vibrant and colorful havens. No indigenous cultures were displaced to make this possible; indeed, the islands seemed a triptych of blank canvases for continual creation and re-creation.
My account of the farm prompted one of the executives attached to the Kimpton Seafire to arrange my visit to this private garden on Grand Cayman, where the gardener, an uninhibited narrator, now recounts for my benefit an incident involving a visiting notable and the wife of a local dignitary who were nearly caught disporting themselves in the foliage during a tea party. Changing the subject, I point to a palm tree that looks as if it has been knocked over on its side and ask if this was the work of Ivan. He shrugs indifferently.
“It’ll keep growing, as long as it has roots,” he says. By way of proof, he leads me to a clearing where, before a small waterfall, three nearly intertwined palms, once prone, curve gracefully skyward, their trunks patiently defying gravity and the forces of nature to thrive. And so it is with these islands.