By Rita Cook / The Ellis County Press
An island encounter that allows for as much or as little as you feel you need to do, Cayman Islands, which consists of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman is a must for your bucket list this year.
And for foodies, the gastronomy is enough to keep you well-nourished and healthy. In fact, Cayman Islands is home to a strong epicurean scene and there are more than 200 restaurants or eclectic eateries that are waiting to entice you. I was told the place is often called the “Culinary Capital of the Caribbean.”
My magical encounter actually took place on the smaller island of Cayman Brac, which lies northeast of Grand Cayman with isolated white sand beaches and rugged, scenic cliffs that reveal nature at its finest.
If you want serenity you can do no better than Cayman Brac for your holiday and it is just a short flight from Grand Cayman.
I landed at the tiny airport in Cayman Brac and was whisked away to my island home of Le Soleil D’Or. As I read the story of Le Soleil D’Or I fell in love with the place even more than I had expected. Not only is your every whim catered to in this tiny boutique hotel, but the location is just steps away from the Caribbean Ocean.
My room was large as if I was staying in someone’s exquisite home. The bathroom was also oversized with a bathtub that I couldn’t help but indulge in around midnight. Even though I was alone on this trip I found the romance in the sound of the ocean waves inviting and the beauty of such a peaceful existence in this place perfect for a meditative evening that was all about “me.”
For dinner, my room had a patio leading to the pool where a small table was set nearby for a delicious and healthy meal.
It is all about lights and color at Le Soleil D’Or and the way it combines to create perfection. This décor is combined with the fact that there is a 20-acre organic garden at the top of the hill above the property. You can tour the garden in the afternoon and learn all about what is being grown on Cayman Brac. As the folks alluded to at the property, it is a one-of-a-kind window into sustainable farming on the island.
Actually, this little beachside resort is all about farm-to-table wellness and it is an oasis you will not want to leave. I took one of my meals at Le Soleil D’Or’s Mango restaurant where I was overly pampered with the fresh bounty from the garden. If you stay awhile you will also notice the menu changes regularly to keep guests more than delighted at breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can also take a cooking class at this boutique hotel and discover the gourmet side of you that you perhaps never knew existed. The chef will teach you all about preparing a meal from the fresh bounty on the island and you can even pick your own herbs and produce to use in the preparation. In this case, you really do know where your food comes from as you prepare it to your liking.
Cayman Brac offers many ways you can spoil yourself in addition to discovering the gastronomy. From diving, snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, biking, hiking, fishing, bird watching, caving, or just discovering the island’s natural pool and history, the island is indeed a paradise ripe for exploration.
I would have been happy just sitting by the Le Soleil D’Or pool contemplating life all day myself, but the island folks with their smiles and their stories awaited as I took a four-hour tour to discover all that Cayman Brac has to offer.
After a few days and sufficiently relaxed I took a small plane back to Grand Cayman to get a peek at this largest of the three islands and learn about the gastronomy awaited me there.
At least for one meal head to the Brasserie since this farm-to-table atmosphere will pull you in with the promise of a clean meal with ingredients gathered from the on-site garden. What the kitchen does not harvest from the restaurant garden is still found locally as part of Cayman’s Farm-to-Table movement. Brasserie was founded in 1997 with the idea the owners wanted to open the sort of restaurant they would love themselves.
I actually spent one morning at Camana Bay discovering what was called “Slow Food Day” giving me the chance to try food samplings from local purveyors and restauranteurs. For lunch I enjoyed a restaurant at Camana Bay called Mizu where I indulged in Asian fare. Signature dishes included Japanese spiced tuna, green curry salmon and Thai red snapper. Located on the water in this bustling Grand Cayman location, Mizu is laid back and offers a lunch or dinner in an ambient atmosphere before hitting the beach for some afternoon playtime.
You might also want to consider taking part in the Flavor Tour at Camana Bay where guests are taken on a dining adventure. On the tour you learn about the local ingredients that are prepared Cayman style and you also have the chance to end the evening with a taste of one of the 80 vintages at West Indies Wine Company.
In January there is the Cayman Cookout and Taste of Cayman and during the year there is plenty of healthy ways to eat and enjoy the landscape.
Dinner locations that I recommend above all others are both Morgan’s and Calypso Grill. You also do not want to miss brunch at the Caribbean Club where you can stay all day and enjoy Cayman’s finest taste coupled with one or two, or more mimosas.
One night I happened upon the Cayman Cabana Oceanside Restaurant, another must if you want to really feel the island vibe while eating and dancing. This restaurant offers oceanside dining with a multi-tiered waterfront patio and views of the ocean. More farm-to-table of course and located in the heart of Georgetown – I was happy when I heard they had a brick oven for homemade pizza and craft cocktails for watching the sun as it went to sleep in the evening.
While on Grand Cayman I stayed at the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa. The resort sits on one of the widest and most expansive portions of the famed Seven Mile Beach on the western shore of Grand Cayman. In fact, there is 700 feet of white sand here overlooking the Caribbean and it is nearby local restaurants, beach bars and the airport, which is just five miles away.
A recent renovation has given the property a new life, with a lobby that offers panoramic views inspired by Caribbean. The management was not as attentive as I would have hoped, but even so, the location can’t be beat. And while I encourage smaller boutique, local experiences when traveling I do highly recommend the Hibiscus Spa on property at the Westin where the magic of a massage will revive you for another round of gourmet perfection.
One more stop on your way to the airport that must be mentioned, take a Seven Fathom Rum Tour. It is a great way to get ready for the trip home and you can pick up some of the local rum to take the memories back with you.
While most visitors to the Caribbean think only of water sports, beaches and bars, don’t sell yourself short in Cayman Islands because it might just be one of the best meals you ever experienced.