With beautiful seashores, world-class luxurious resorts, very good meals, low crime and near-flawless climate, the Cayman Islands have all of the necessities for an ideal tropical trip. If solely this carefree nook of the Caribbean wasn’t so geographically undesirable from the West Coast.
Beginning Nov. 5, the Cayman Islands can be GU now not with the launch of the first-ever nonstop service to and from the West Coast. With direct flights out of LAX, Cayman Airways (caymanairways.com) not solely eliminates the required layover, however in lots of instances a redeye to Charlotte, Miami or Atlanta that made for an much more arduous journey of 8 to 11 hours on American, United or Delta. No marvel Californians reportedly made up solely 4.2% of Cayman’s complete guests in pre-COVID 2019.
Weekly flights via not less than mid-March signify a “conservative entry into the brand new market,” in accordance with Fabian Whorms, president and CEO of Cayman Airways, the flag-carrying airline of the British Abroad Territory.
“The potential is there for 3 [weekly] flights,” he stated, including that the preliminary schedule of 8 am Sunday departures from Los Angeles that get into Grand Cayman at 5 pm allows vacationers to verify into their resort and luxuriate in a full first night. On the backend, 3:45 pm Saturday flights from quaint and clear Owen Roberts Worldwide Airport (GCM) work nicely with resort check-out occasions, and have passengers again in LA at 7 pm
Flights of 6 hours outbound from LAX and 6 1/4 hours inbound from GCM are the shortest Southern California passengers will ever expertise and the longest within the 54-year historical past of Cayman Airways, which additionally serves Denver, New York (JFK), Tampa and Miami within the US
One other attention-grabbing level about these new nonstops is that the space and flight occasions are practically equivalent to flying from LA to Hawaii, one other tropical trip vacation spot with comparable islandic attributes to Cayman. Which begs the questions: Waikiki Seashore or Seven Mile Seashore? Kalua pork or jerk rooster? Whale watching or Stingray Metropolis? Aloha Spirit or “Caymankind”?
These are now not simple questions for Denise Lodato of Cypress, who was visiting Grand Cayman for a 3rd time, every time by way of cruise ship.
“Earlier than I heard concerning the nonstops from LA, I might select Hawaii and it would not even be shut,” the 65-year-old stated whereas exploring George City, Cayman’s capital metropolis. “Now that I might have the ability to get right here in six hours, I’d think about spending not less than every week within the Caymans. First I might have to be satisfied there’s sufficient to see and do.”
That is a good concern for cruisers whose consciousness of what Grand Cayman has to supply is probably going restricted to a cruise line’s record of shore excursions. Folks arriving by ship make up 75% of holiday makers, in accordance with the Cayman Islands Division of Tourism. The bureau expects that quantity to lower with the rise of nonstop flights from the US, which accounted for 83% of all visitors in 2019.
The Cayman Islands are rather more than a spot to work together with stingrays, dolphins and turtles, although you may not know that with these animal-featured actions making up 13 of the 19 shore excursions provided by Carnival Cruise Line in Grand Cayman. Then once more, there’s simply a lot you are able to do in a seven-hour window, a reality not misplaced on Kenneth Bryan, Cayman’s minister for tourism and transport who championed the LA route.
“These new flights permit West Coast vacationers to spend much less time in transit and extra time experiencing our award-winning seashores, luxurious inns and resorts, charming boutique villas, distinctive journey and sights, and our globally famend culinary scene,” Bryan stated.
Taking the honorable minister’s cue, let’s discover a few of what’s so famend, luxurious, charming and distinctive about Grand Cayman.
What to see and do
The undisputed No. 1 attraction is Seven Mile Seashore, a surprising stretch of sandy shore synonymous with heat, turquoise waters, light waves and a wealth of water sports activities. Some spots are extra crowded than others, particularly when cruise ships are in port, however with roughly 5.5 miles of alluring shoreline, this deceptively named seashore has sufficient room for everyone.
In case you favor to not rub elbows with extra vacationers than sea life, verify the Cayman port ship schedule earlier than reserving an tour to Stingray Metropolis, Cayman Turtle Heart, Starfish Seashore and Coral Backyard. As a result of cruisers aren’t afforded a night on the island, they miss out on such nighttime actions as a bioluminescent tour off Rum Level. An hour-long drive from George City is rewarded with a memorable journey by kayak or electrical catamaran if going with Cayman Kayaks (caymankayaks.com). Present-and-tell shows on astronomy and jellyfish are cool, however Cayman Kayaks’ naturalists are conscious of why we’re paying $70 per particular person for a 90-minute tour: the tens of millions of single-celled plankton referred to as dinoflagellates that give off mild when disturbed within the water at evening. This phenomenon happens at just a few locations all over the world, together with at uncommon occasions from LA to Baja California, however Grand Cayman is acknowledged as a primary place for this illuminating expertise.
Talking of bests, for way of life buying on Grand Cayman it is Camana Bay and its 65-plus boutiques, eating places and bars, health and wellness choices, seven-screen cinema, 75-foot statement tower and family-friendly environment. For natural world, it is the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park (botanic-park.ky), the place visitors have included newly topped King Charles III and his not too long ago deceased mum for which the 65-acre sanctuary is called.
The spectacular Cayman Islands Nationwide Museum (museum.ky), constructed within the 1830s, is housed within the territory’s oldest surviving public constructing — a must-see to really admire the native tradition, folks and historical past. Additionally value a go to: Pedro St. James (pedrostjames.ky), website of the oldest present stone constructing in Cayman and a three-story nice home restored to its 18th century grandeur; the Nationwide Gallery (nationalgallery.org.ky) with spectacular and provocative items; and a brand new gallery in The Grove that includes the eclectic work of Honduran artist Carlos V. Garcia.
The place to remain
Seven Mile Seashore is the hub of Grand Cayman’s most luxurious resorts. The beachfront Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman (ritzcarlton.com/en/inns/caribbean/grand-cayman) is totally renovated since COVID and beautiful in and out. Subtle the place it must be, informal the place it needs to be, the Forbes Journey Information 5-Star property is beautiful. Notable options embody a nine-hole Greg Norman-designed golf course, pickleball courts, kids’s waterpark, artwork stroll spotlighting native expertise, and a nightly rum, cigar and cacao pairing expertise.
The modern, open air-designed Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa (seafireresortandspa.com), additionally on Seven Mile Seashore, was the primary resort to be constructed on Grand Cayman in a decade when it opened in 2016, and since then it has gained an impeccable status worthy of its AAA 5 Diamond score. The swimming pools are among the many most inviting within the Caribbean, and for the children there may be Splash Park, a colourful and thrilling mini-water park that opened in spring.
Resort-meets-Airbnb is a becoming method to describe the 14 quasi-new luxurious cottages at Botanica (botanica-cayman.com). Formally opened a 12 months in the past after the COVID pause, the family-owned property goes for a vibe that embodies the slow-paced gentleness of Cayman life and scoffs at what the homeowners name “chain-manufactured escapism.” Seven Mile Seashore is a five-minute stroll away.
The place to eat
The one factor unfavourable about Grand Cayman’s meals scene is that almost all of island guests by no means expertise it. When cruise meals is pay as you go, it is comprehensible in the event that they determine to return to the ship hungry. Non-cruisers, nonetheless, are in for a number of the best high-quality eating within the Caribbean.
Among the many grandest eating places in Grand Cayman is Calypso Grill (calypsogrillcayman.com), Chef George Fowler’s dockside treasure serving up chic, French-influenced ceviche, mahi mahi and heat sticky toffee pudding. The waterfront Grand Outdated Home (grandoldhouse.com) makes tasty use of a 1908-built former plantation home. The conch fritters, wahoo ceviche and brief ribs are glorious lead-ins to an outstanding seafood curry entrée at this Grand Cayman establishment.
Additionally really helpful: Cimboco (cimboco.com), a neighborhood gem with an thrilling menu of indigenous dishes topped by the Instagram-worthy banana leaf roasted snapper; Agua (agua.ky), an Italian-Peruvian eatery at Camana Bay; and Taikun, an upscale sushi home inside the six-restaurant Ritz-Carlton that delights visitors with such surprises as table-grated wasabi and a Bonsai Tree dessert that is virtually too fairly to eat. Nearly.
When to go
Whereas packed cruise ships come and go year-round, Cayman’s inns are busiest from late November to mid-April when the local weather is dry and comparatively cool. On the Ritz-Carlton, for instance, occupancy hovered round 30% throughout this author’s tranquil keep in mid-October, however beginning with Thanksgiving weekend the resort is predicted to be at close to capability for the primary full peak season for the reason that pandemic.
Like with practically all trip locations, the most effective resort charges are discovered throughout the shoulder season, which in Cayman is Could via August. That is additionally when the specter of storms is minimal, so go determine. Rooms low season begin at round $480 (together with resort payment) on the Kimpton Seafire, for instance. A backyard view unit on the Ritz-Carlton can vary from the $600s low season to just about $1,800 at peak occasions. A one-bedroom deluxe cottage at Botanica ranges from $330 an evening to $1,100 relying on the season.
Much less fluctuation is discovered within the air. Nonstop roundtrips to and from LAX on Cayman Airways’ new fleet of B737-8s are at the moment promoting for as little as $506 plus taxes and charges. Getting in type is commanding fares nearer to $2,500 for all-inclusive enterprise class service that comes with the flexibility to verify in a beneficiant three baggage of 55 kilos every. The airline additionally extends Caymankind to adults with rum punch made with Grand Cayman’s personal Seven Fathoms, which is aged in wood barrels seven fathoms below water. Toasting to the beginning of an important Caribbean trip or a protected journey house with free-flowing native rum — it is the one method to fly.