Passing through the gate at Cotton Tree, a year-old boutique hotel in Grand Cayman where I recently spent a few nights, one passes into a world apart from the rest of the island. The four cottages painted sea foam green and powder blue and named for trees found on the property sit nestled on the edge of the sea, surrounded by manicured gardens and natural foliage. Each has two bedrooms, two bathrooms (with Elemis bath products), a sitting area, and a full kitchen well-stocked with snacks and drinks (alcohol is on hand, for a fee); all but one have sea views. Interiors forego the stereotypical island décor in lieu of sophisticated prints and dark wood furniture, with Caribbean artwork and black and white photos of Grand Cayman on the walls.
The unusually chilly weather meant it was a bit too cold for a dip in the pool during my visit, although the adjoining hot tub was a welcome retreat after an afternoon of snorkeling. Though just a few yards away, the beach is pretty rocky (and watch out for sea urchins) because its a protected turtle nesting site but the hotel offers free shuttle service to nearby West Bay Public Beach, as well as other island attractions and restaurants. You can also borrow a bike to explore the neighborhood.
There is a tiny on-site spa hut, and treatments are a bit pricey ($120 for a body scrub, $175 for a massage). Cotton Tree can arrange all manner of other activities both at the property and around the island, from scuba diving to an on-site art class to a catered meal by the sea with an expert wine consultant (who helped the Ritz put together its wine lists). Owner Heather Lockington, a Cayman native, is also quick to recommend a restaurant or activity.
Overall, Cotton Tree is definitely at the luxury end of the spectrum, both in terms of price and in what you can expect from your stay. With a staff willing to cater to your every whim, I found it very difficult indeed to leave this oasis and return to real life.
Through April 15, take advantage of the introductory winter rate of $665/night.
For more on what to do while youre there, check out our Grand Cayman Travel Guide.