East coasters searching for an alternative to crowded Miami beaches this winter will be pleased to hear about a just-opened hotel in the Caribbean—in the Cayman Islands, to be precise, just a 15-minute additional plane ride from Miami. While vacationers with little ones have long appreciated the place’s crystal clear Seven Mile Beach, there’s a now a very good reason for a style-minded millennials to make the trip.
Walking off the plane at Owen Roberts Airport in Grand Cayman, the crowd is divided into two very distinct categories: Families with small children, and an eclectic bunch carrying Telfar tote bags and clear Off-White x Rimowa suitcases. While the families head to the Ritz-Carlton to enjoy a luxurious, hassle-free vacation, the city kids are all on their way to Palm Heights.
Just a 10-minute drive from the airport, the boutique hotel sits on one of the world’s best beaches. Stepping onto the property, the first thing you notice is a long aisle leading to what seems like paradise. “I want to get married here, and I want a train as long as this aisle,” one guest quips at check in. Once you take in the beach view, with its rows of canary yellow umbrellas and beach chairs, you realize you are at the hotel bar, Coconut Club, where tropical touches abound: there are sliced star fruits and dried coconut meat to nibble on, and watermelon and celery cocktails to keep you “hydrated.” But the drinks and the view aren’t even the best part. It’s not long until you realize that all of the staff at the bar are wearing Loewe fanny packs and you ask yourself “Where am I?”
Sitting nearby is Raul Lopez, the designer of Luar, and one of the 2018 CVFF finalists who happens to be the resident stylist at Palm Heights. The Loewe fanny packs were his idea. There are also Prada fanny packs (those will make an appearance during high season). Emily Bode, who was actually a runner-up in the same CVFF class as Lopez, is also involved. The Palm Heights staff are all outfitted in Bode’s signature boxy short-sleeve button downs. One version has an understated green palm tree print, another is a cheeky yellow with “Coconut Club” embroidered on the back. And the unexpectedly fashion-centric touches don’t stop there. Joe Holder, the celebrity trainer behind Bella Hadid’s abs, is one of the wellness collaborators of the hotel, alongside Nike trainer Kirsty Godso. Krissy Jones and Chloe Kernaghan, the founders of the cult-favorite yoga studio Sky Ting Yoga will also have programming at the hotel in the upcoming months.
The 52 suite rooms—all with ocean views—come with a welcoming glass of lemongrass-infused water, and… actual bedrooms. For those of us used to d houses and crammed hotel rooms, the idea of having a living room and a separate sleeping space that could comfortably fit four people (by New York standards) is unheard of. And the best part about these spacious suites? The swag. There are Palm Heights logo-printed baseball caps, shower slides, and water bottles meant for guests to enjoy during their stay. There is also a woven basket tote in each room to carry all of this merch around the property. With a hotel boutique opening in 2020, the gear will eventually be available to purchase, along with island-inspired vintage pieces curated by vintage guru and stylist, Taylor McNeil. According to Lopez, the boutique won’t be like any other hotel store—expect eccentric pieces like belly chains and vintage Versace.
There are, of course, off-site activities to enjoy on the island such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and horseback swimming, but it seems the best thing to do at Palm Heights is mingle with other like-minded guests. From the chicly curated library to the only rooftop hang-out on the island, there are plenty of entertaining areas for guests to bop around. Gabriella Khalil, the creative director behind it all, explains that there’s much to come in 2020, including the annual Cayman cookout and a New Years bash on the calendar, followed by a wellness center opening across the street, which guests will be able to access through an overpass. There is also a deserted property next to the spa that belongs to Palm Heights. According to Khalil, the team is considering an artist residency of sorts to lure a creative crowd, but even without the added programming, Palm Heights’ paradisiacal set-up and design sensibilities seem to provide exactly the right draw for Basel-goers looking to be a little less busy.