It was the cherry on top of an already perfect, tropical sundae: parking on a deserted beach in Grand Cayman before dawn to catch the sunrise while the rest of the island slept followed by an early morning snorkeling session with no one for company but a band of sea turtles.
It was a morning that could salvage any vacation on life support, save for the fact that this trip was already filled with stingray swimming, personal watercraft riding and poolside pampering.
After a while, fam trips start to blur together. So when one truly stands out, it's for good reason. On a recent trip to the Cayman Islands, the Westin Grand Cayman proved itself to be a cut above the rest. Its $50 million renovation certainly didn't hurt.
The swim-up bar is part of a redesigned pool area at the Westin Grand Cayman.
Last fall, the Westin put the finishing touches on the second phase of a property wide renovation that has left the resort with a fresh, sleek look combined with a laid-back, beachy vibe. All of the 343 rooms (which start at $229 in low season) were given floor-to-ceiling makeovers. The swimming pool area was redesigned with a swim-up bar, and the lobby got a Cayman Coffee Exchange, with on-the-go snacks and refreshments.
And while the resort truly does look fresh, bright and beautiful, it's the experiences that put it in a league of its own.
The resort sits on Seven Mile Beach, which finds itself at the top of many top 10 beach lists each year. This alone puts it at the heart of Cayman's offerings, especially with Red Sail Sports having an office right on the property. I arrived a WaveRunner newbie and left a cult convert, bouncing off small waves like I moonlighted as a professional.
All of the resort’s guestrooms were remodeled.
The resort also arranges day trips to Stingray City, a series of sandbars where dozens of friendly stingrays gather daily. But for me, it was the assistance of one particular staff member that showed me why this hotel was all about customer service. He arranged for us to drive off at 4:30 in the morning to a secluded beach where only local kite surfers gather at dawn.
We parked the Jeep, set up our GoPros and waited patiently for the sun to explode on the horizon. On our way back to the hotel we popped by Sports Beach, another spot frequented by locals, where we donned snorkeling gear and chased massive sea turtles. And this was all before 8 a.m., leaving me plenty of time to order a big room-service breakfast and make it to the airport.
There are few hotels with employees as passionate about where they work. The Westin's location and experiences give travelers a true sense of place, and now they have a new look to match their already A-list attitude.