A Dose of the Ocean
Hop over to the Westin Grand Cayman for warm waters and a taste of luxury
STORY: Lia Picard
Living in a landlocked city hours away from the beach can be tough. So when the call of the ocean got too strong to ignore, I hopped on a plane and flew south to Grand Cayman—a quick two-and-a-half-hour flight—for a stay at the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa.
Normally, I’m not a fan of box hotels, but the Westin Grand Cayman isn’t a traditional chain hotel. After a recent $50 million renovation, the space sparkles. The lobby greets you with a coastal palette and view of the Caribbean, letting a sense of calm wash over you. After checking in, I immediately changed into my swimsuit and hit the beach. You can easily spend your time lounging around the freshwater pool (I may have visited the swim-up bar a couple of times!), but the magic of a trip to Grand Cayman is in the sea. Other major resorts in the area are either across the street or set back from Seven Mile Beach, but here, you practically stumble onto it once you step out of the hotel.
Through the hotel’s partnership with Red Sail Sports, you can rent kayaks, wakeboards and other beach toys, but the excursion offering the most thrills is the WaveRunner Snorkel Safari. After a quick lesson, my group and I hopped on our WaveRunners and jetted off to three different snorkeling spots, where we spied everything from sea turtles to stingrays, and even an eerily cool barracuda. And just getting around was fun: Bouncing over the waves on these racy watercrafts was freeing and empowering. For a gentler watersport, complimentary stand-up paddleboard lessons are offered every morning, when the water is mostly flat.
One attraction synonymous with Grand Cayman is Stingray City. The famed sandbar has attracted tourists for years, thanks to the schools of stingrays that congregate there. Rather than visit with a large charter company that takes 50-plus people at a time, I went with Cobalt Custom Charters, whose owners tailor the trip to your liking and keep the group size intimate. After snorkeling at a reef and visiting Starfish Point, we headed to Stingray City later in the afternoon, which meant fewer crowds. It’s a little intimidating to hop in the water with these barbed-tail creatures, but these particular stingrays are used to humans. We even got to take turns holding a stingray on our chest—in exchange for a fishy snack, of course.
After a sun-drenched day, a visit to the hotel’s Hibiscus Spa is a must. Massages and facials are offered, but I found heaven in the Rain Shower Experience, which entailed a raw cane sugar scrub and a body mask of collagen-boosting noni oil (noni is a tropical fruit in the same family as coffee), followed by a refreshing Vichy shower.
Hardcore vacationing can make you work up quite the appetite. Fortunately, you don’t need to stray off property to get a great meal. The waterside Tortuga Beach Grill and Bar is ideal for those who don’t want to change out of their swimsuits. (Hint: Try the fish tacos and a Bahama Mama.) For something more upscale yet unpretentious, head to Beach House. Executive chef Sandy Tuason brought his expertise from restaurants such as Le Cirque in New York and lets his artistic flair shine, especially when it comes to seafood dishes. I feasted on the jerk-marinated island wahoo with sweet potato gnocchi, garden greens and coconut broth, and the way the jerk spices mingled with the soothing coconut notes was perfection. Just like the rest of the trip.
Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa