On the map you can hardly see them… three little dots somewhere in that great blue swathe that is the Caribbean Sea. Look closer, and those three dots gradually become the Cayman Islands, still tiny but glorious – especially when strolling barefoot through the softest, whitest sand along Seven Mile Beach. I had been promising myself a holiday on Grand Cayman for almost 15 years (my cousin used to live there) – but never managed a visit.
When I eventually arrived, the island was a revelation. All my preconceptions were blown away by the sheer gentle loveliness of the place.
Turn away from the beauty of the beach and there is a dramatic hinterland of mangrove forests and evergreen woodland. Dip your toes a little deeper in the translucent turquoise water and there is unrivalled scuba diving and snorkelling to enjoy.
With a bit of luck you can spot hawksbill turtles both in and out of the blue, and when you head for Stingray City you can swim with the rays, who are so laid-back they will even eat from your hands.
Rum is as much a part of a Caribbean holiday as the sun, sea and sand, but Caymanian rum is something else.
The leading brand is called Seven Fathoms, because it is matured below the sea.
It’s the secret ingredient of the many sensational Seven Mile cocktails on offer – the Swanky, the Mule or simply on the rocks – but my favourite is The Caymanite, a sublime mixture of Seven Fathoms rum with pineapple, lime juice and black pepper.
I had plans to pop over to the other two islands, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, but the beach was too enticing. However, I did manage a helicopter overview, a spot of retail therapy in George Town – a truly chic capital – and a sundowner and a shop at the latest attraction at Camana Bay, an architectural joy of shops, cafés, studios and restaurants where cosmopolitan tastes meet Caribbean cool.
I would have stayed longer but the beach kept calling me back, although I was a little affronted when somebody suggested I should go to Hell.
Once I had recovered my composure I did indeed visit Hell, an extraordinary natural reserve of black limestone that you can see from viewing platforms.
But paradise kept beckoning and the call of the sand was too strong, so I headed back to the Ritz-Carlton, which not only has the most delicious seafood at Eric Ripert’s Blue restaurant but also Silver Rain, possibly the most glamorous spa in the Caribbean.
It’s one of the few La Prairie spas in the world, offering a superb range of anti-ageing face and body treatments.
The wonderful thing about the Cayman Islands is that everyone is catered for. For families, it’s safe and fun with lots to do; for foodies, it has fantastic restaurants; for couples, it’s the ideal romantic escape with luxury hotels and dreamy locations; and for sybarites it’s ultra-pampering.
Best of all, everything is easy to find, easy to get to and easy to enjoy.
Seven Fathoms rum
Seven Fathoms rum is synonymous with the Cayman Islands. Hand-crafted in small batches, the light-amber liquid is aged under water.
Down in the depths, the humidity and temperature are ideal for maturing rum, while the waves and tides mimic the rotation of a barrel, effectively “massaging” the spirit. The distillery in George Town welcomes visitors.
A huge range of tempting cocktails can be made from Seven Fathoms rum. Here’s a recipe from OJ, a disc jockey who sometimes tends the bar at Surfside Beach on Seven Mile Beach.
By Jo Foley Courtesy The Telegraph