by Candyce H. Stapen
The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, an AAA Five Diamond property, stretches across a main road on Grand Cayman, occupying 144-acres that reach from the ocean side to the North Sound on the inland side, called the “resort side.” The ocean side fronts a wide, beautiful stretch of famed Seven Mile Beach.
When the Ritz first opened, the $500-million property brought top-tier luxury and service to Grand Cayman, along with prices to match. Among the 365 rooms are 24 one-, two- and three-bedroom residential suites, complete with full kitchens. These units, as well as a tower of privately owned properties not in the rental pool, face the ocean. Check-in for the residential suites is at a special desk on the ocean side.
For families, the key to enjoying the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman resort is understanding the resort’s layout. More guestrooms are on the resort side, facing the golf course or pool, than on the ocean side. Ocean views are possible, but those rooms and suites go for a premium. An enclosed, air-conditioned tunnel connects the resort’s two sides. Families with young kids may prefer the oceanfront suites. For other families, the walk to the beach presents no problem.
Our Editor Loves
- Starfish Cay
- Ambassadors of the Environment
- Luxury amenities and services
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Like all Ritz-Carlton properties, this one offers oversized accommodations. The rooms come with good-sized marble bathrooms with double vanities, and a separate shower and tub, handy for young kids. The in-room refrigerator is stocked and there are fluffy bathrobes, a DVD player, free Wi-Fi and a coffeemaker.
Tip: Book a Club Level room for access to the Club Lounge, where you'll find complimentary food and drink throughout the day. The Ritz-Carlton is the only Grand Cayman resort with a club lounge.
Basic rooms, whether oceanfront or resort view, come with a balcony and are 480 square feet in size. There's plenty of room for a crib or a cot. If traveling with young kids, ask for a POLO (Protect Our Little Ones) kit. The electrical outlet plugs, a night light and a tub spout cover help baby-proof your room.
Along with individual rooms, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman offers a variety of suites, including one- to three-bedroom residential suites that are owned, but placed back in the rental pool. These units are the following sizes: 1,200 square feet for a one-bedroom, 1,800 square feet for a two-bedroom and 2,400 square feet for a three-bedroom. Each unit comes with a washer and dryer, a full kitchen with black granite counters, a living area with a sleeper sofa, a separate large master bedroom big enough for a cot or a crib, plus, in the larger units, additional bedrooms and baths. Families seeking more space than a standard room, but less than the 1,200-square-foot, one-bedroom residential suite, should consider the Harbour Suites. At 960 square feet, the unit has two balconies, a living area with a sleeper sofa (good for young kids), a large master bedroom and one-and-a-half baths.
For ultimate seclusion and privacy, book one of the 11 suites in Seven South, a new wing that was added to the resort in recent years. Options include two-room suites or the crown jewel of the resort, the Grand Cayman Penthouse.
This was our first time in Grand Cayman. The hotel was was very nice. It has several different restaurants there. The foods were decent. The service for the most part were excellent. 99.99% of the staffs from the front door to the receptionist to the room attendant, and the tennis attendant were great. I had one bad experience with a staff, but not worth mentioning, because I do not want one person ruin it for the rest. The beach was beautiful. Soft and white sand beach. And the water is very aqua blue. The pool and beach attendants were very nice and helpful. They would ask where you want to sit, and then they would set up your chairs with towels on it. I like the facts that they have all the sunscreens and lotions available both by the pool and by the beach. Love the complimentary ice cold water that they have there at the lobby, pool, and the beach. The food at the restaurant by the pool were very tasty. We ate lunch there almost every day. Buffet selections were excellent. Love the fresh orange juice. It reminded me of the sweet orange juice I once had at a hotel in Paris. Service were very prompt. Italian restaurant and the Japanese restaurants were very good. Service again were great. The most memorable thing for me was the beautiful beach and the aqua blue ocean water, and the tennis attendant. He was trying very hard to take care of all the guesses that were coming and going. He would insist on driving us back to the lobby when we told him that we would walk back because we saw he had quite a few of people that he had to check in. They have the adult pool and less crowded there. Nice hammock to sit or lie on. They also have a water park with slides for small kids. Very nice for little ones. They have a game room with AC which have a pool table, ping pong, video games, and TV where the bigger kids can go and play. The room and amenities were nice. You can get a free lesson on how to sail. Kayak, floating tricycle are free. Over all, it was a very nice stay.
If you're looking for a luxurious Ritz Carlton experience with your wife or partner in the Caribbean, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a beachfront Marriott hotel/convention center with some resort amenities for you and your children in the Caribbean, this hotel might be for you. Set your expectations appropriately - this hotel and its amenities are adequate at best for a Caribbean resort, but certainly not deserving of a Ritz Carlton flag.
My wife and I have made numerous, repeat visits to Ritz Carlton properties through the years. We will never return to this hotel. (I worry that Ritz Carlton standards are eroding following Marriott's acquisition).
We visited at the end of low season/beginning of high season (early November, 2019).
At check-in, the front desk staff would not honor the terms of our reservation, which we booked through AmEx Fine Hotels and Resorts (including bed size, view, or guarantied late check-out). In fact, throughout our stay, the front desk staff generally could not be trusted to follow through on any request, small or large. (After a ten-minute argument at check-in we were finally afforded a room with the bed and view we had booked/prepaid. The absurdity of this argument at check-in set the tone for our long weekend stay.)
Of course, all was not terrible. The breakfast buffet at Seven was great. The poolside staff was prompt and attentive. The poolside Pina Colada was well made. I've awarded this hotel the rating of "Poor" instead of "Terrible" for these reasons.
However, the pool(s) are small, over-chlorinated and not at all becoming of a five (or even four) star hotel/resort. And generally the hotel is too big - with weddings, meetings and events ongoing at any one time - to afford any individual guest the service and attention one should expect from a Ritz Carlton hotel.
So be forewarned. And if you're intent on visiting the Grand Cayman, consider the Kimpton down the road.
Ambassadors of the Environment
For children fascinated by the ocean, its wildlife and ecology, the Ritz-Carlton's Ambassadors of the Environment (AOTE) is a find, and is one of the prime reasons for families to stay at -- or visit -- The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. The educational program created by Jean-Michael Cousteau, Jacques Cousteau's son, offers six of more than 40 themed experiences each day. Three modules are geared for ages 4 to 7 and three target ages 8 to 17.
The program divides into morning (9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), afternoon (2 to 5 p.m.) and evening (6:15 p.m. to 9 p.m.) segments. Parents are encouraged to share these activities with their kids. All activities are available for an additional charge.
Cousteau's series is pure "edu-tainment," made even more so by an array of computers, video microscopes and digital cameras. In addition to experience working with children, the counselors are naturalists with college degrees in ecology, marine sciences or related fields.
The principle that "everything is connected" underlies Cousteau's program, and an important tenet is sustainability. Located on the resort side, the Heritage House, AOTE's 2,700-square-foot center takes a practice-what-you-preach approach. Energy comes from solar panels mounted on the roof, the floor consists of recycled materials and the small store sells purses made from recycled drink cartons. Outside of the Caymanian-style island cottage, kids get up close to gardens, including a tactile, sensory garden, a low maintenance sand garden, and an organic plot nourished by compost created from restaurant leftovers.
Fun With the Sun and Sea Turtles Discovery Lab
The diverse activities and hands-on approach keep kids engaged. In Fun With the Sun, young children create solar prints and eat cookies they've baked in a solar oven. In the Sea Turtles Discovery Lab, kids, after finding out about these age-old creatures, create crafts, walk on the beach pointing out trash that causes these critters to get sick and then via satellite, track "Murph," a tagged green sea turtle. In addition, youngsters can splash like a turtle in the outdoor kiddie pool adjacent to the Heritage House.
Mangroves, Stingrays, Reefs
In the Mangrove Kayak Adventure, ages 8 and older discover the importance of these estuaries by paddling through them. In Starry Nights, kids peer at the skies through a telescope. On the Stingray City outing, kids take a boat to the sandbar to meet the stingrays. Although wild, these sea creatures with three to five-foot wing spans have become somewhat acclimated to people.
In addition to the Ambassadors of the Environment program, families staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman enjoy the beach, with plenty of chaise loungers available. Beach umbrellas are free, available on a first-come basis, a nice touch for those with babies.
Starfish Cay is essentially a water park, with a zero-entry splash pool, waterslides, giant splash buckets and water hoses. Families will also find the most adorable, kid-sized lounge chairs and picnic tables at Starfish Cay! Next to Starfish Cay, you'll find another kid-friendly pool.
Also fun are the family-friendly, outdoor movies shown every evening in Periwinkle Park, a sandy patch nearby Periwinkle, the resort side pool eatery. Sit back in your lounge chair, cuddle up in a shawl, grab some popcorn and enjoy "Shrek," "Home Alone" and other family fare.
Golfers can swing through the Ritz's nine-hole Blue Tip course designed by Greg Norman. Year-round, kids 15-years old and younger play for free after 4 p.m. as long as they are accompanied by a paying adult. This lessens the cost of teaching your teens the game. During select seasons, the resort also offers junior golf clinics.
Sports and Recreation
On the "Great Lawn," a green stretch on the resort side, The Ritz-Carlton sometimes sets up a volleyball net. Families can also rent a private session on the 20-foot, rock climbing wall located near the Heritage House. The hotel's tennis center is operated by Nick Bollettieri's company. Although the resort does not offer special clinics or programs, parents could always book private lesson for the budding stars. A full basketball court is available for games.
Children under 5, with a paying adult, eat free in all of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman's restaurants! Children ages 5 to 12 can eat favorites such as chicken fingers, fish fingers, spaghetti and meatballs, hamburger, pasta and more for half-price. The hotel also offers 24-hour room service.
This al fresco restaurant features Italian cuisine with lots of family-friendly options like pizza and homemade pastas. Pizza-making classes are offered for kids on select days.
Seafood and steak is featured at this chic restaurant.
For sushi, sashimi and sake, this is one of the best places on the entire island.
This bar lounge offers fine wines and live entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings.
BarJack, the eatery between the sea and the ocean pool, serves sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs and other beach fare for lunch.
The property's signature, fine dining restaurant is Blue by Eric Ripert, an AAA Five Diamond restaurant -- the only one in the Caribbean. At The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, the top chef known for New York's Le Bernardin serves seafood with flair. The food is best appreciated by families with older teenagers and adult children.
This unique dining option allows guests to learn the art of cooking while creating a multi-course meal alongside top chefs. It's great for family reunions and/or multi-generational getaways!
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The $75 daily resort fee per room entitles you and your kids to complimentary use of water tricycles, rafts, kayaks and paddle boats, as well as snorkeling gear, use of the basketball court, splash pools and DVD library. All accommodations feature complimentary high-speed internet.
The resort reduces the amount of gear required for trips with kids by providing complimentary strollers, cribs, car seats, bed rails, baby swings, baby bathtubs and potty seats, as well as highchairs and night lights. Request these in advance.
For those who seek both sea breezes and privacy, tented cabanas can be rented for about $350 per day. These come with chaise lounges, table and chairs and a waiter ready to fetch you drinks. Oddly though, most of the cabanas line the sand right in front of the main pool, so these canvas oases pick up the pool noise.
Ask about the hotel's scavenger hunt upon arrival! Kids are encouraged to search for clues in return for a prize from the treasure chest in the lobby.
The hotel has a 9,000-square-foot fitness center with all manner of equipment. It's open all day.
Art of Smart Timing
Like most Caribbean resorts, high season runs from around mid-December to mid-April, with the Christmas and New Year's holidays commanding the highest prices. In general, low season runs from mid-April to mid-December.
Grand Cayman is easy to reach, as many airlines provide service to Owen Roberts International Airport, about a 75-minute flight from Miami. From the airport, the hotel is about a 15-minute drive.
Renting a car will be your easiest option for getting around the island, but taxis and buses (vans) are readily available at the hotel.
For Mom and Dad
The spa offers a full line of indulgent massages, wraps and treatments. Ages 14 to 17 may get a massage with a parent present.