Grand Cayman has never quite delivered on modern design and cool vibes. While the long stretch of white sand of Seven Mile Beach and the transparent waters of the Caribbean certainly set the backdrop for an idyllic getaway, Grand Cayman (and really, much of the Caribbean) is lacking that coolness we all wish it had. With chain hotels and country-club feels in abundance, it never entices us the way, say, Tulum does. But Palm Heights, the first boutique hotel on the island, is setting the stage to make Grand Cayman the next it beach destination, and we're here for it.
"What made Cayman stand out was the diversity of the place," said the creative director of the hotel, Gabriella Khalil. "There are over 130 different nationalities but only about 60,000 people, which makes it an incredibly unique place with an equally unique energy. But the real draw was the property itself. There was something beautifully mystical and cosmic about the triangular turrets at the top of the structure, and the building offered the practicality, functionality, and space of a modernist structure with a layout that offered captivating ocean views from all angles and private-feeling outdoor spaces."
What makes Palm Heights genuinely unique is the modern design ethos, which takes inspiration from the Caribbean aesthetic of the 70s. The property sets out to embody the glamour of that era with subtle design elements designed by the likes of Mario Bellini and Ingo Maurer. "An Ettore Sottsass can be found upon entering the property among other furniture that really brings the place to life," says Khalil. The rooms are all about the views, so the colours are mostly neutral with pops of color to complement the vibrant hues of the beach and sea.
"Over 90% of the furniture is either custom or vintage to ensure that the place feels unique and fits entirely with the design ethos of the property," Khalil explains. "The overall idea is that you are stepping into the world of a Slim Aarons or Jean-Daniel Lorieux photograph."
"Sustainability is both a trend and a necessity," Khalil said, noting that sustainability, function, and aesthetics guided all of her design decisions. By borrowing many practices from the 70s, like putting in exposed concrete floors that cool down the space, they save on energy. There are also glass decanters in every room with purified still and sparkling water to reduce single-use plastic bottles. "Decisions like that have a tremendous impact on the property footprint as a whole," Khalil notes. At the restaurant, the culinary team has built relationships with local farmers and fishermen to source their products locally.
Wellness, Khalil adds, is the lifeblood of the property. There's nothing like sitting by the beach with a tropical drink in hand completely guilt-free after a workout. Resident trainers offer an active wellness program, including personal training and group classes, like strength and conditioning workouts, functional fitness, mobility, and yoga. Teachers for these classes have included Nike master trainers Joe Holder and Kirsty God as well as Sky Ting Yoga founders Krissy Jones and Chloe Kernaghan. "In general, we sought a highly collaborative approach to maximise creative input from a wide variety of people with very different perspectives," says Khalil, who also worked with CFDA runner-up Emily Adams Bode to design custom uniforms for the property (accessorised with Loewe bags, no less).
As for the future of Palm Heights, The Garden Club, which celebrates wellness as a social activity, will launch in 2020. The Garden Club is a botanical stage for a 50,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor athletic club and spa, which will host a program focusing on active wellness and regenerative well-being for the mind, gut, and skin. FOOD NY's Dong Ping Wong is designing both. There will also be new restaurants, bars, and the hotel's boutique opens in 2020. So if you're looking for the next cool beach destination, Palm Heights awaits you in the Grand Cayman. We urge you to get there before everyone else does!