A widespread passion for local fare and a multicultural population are the driving forces behind the Cayman Islands’ rich culinary scene.
If you best associate the Cayman Islands with its reputation as an off-shore banking haven, you’re certainly not alone but you’re also missing out on a too-often-overlooked Caribbean gem. This collection of three islands in the western Caribbean Sea is home to stunning white sand beaches, a blissful lack of all-inclusive resorts, and, most importantly (from our admittedly biased perspective), an exciting dining scene.
The Cayman Islands may not be the only destination to dub itself the ‘culinary capital of the Caribbean’ (we see you, Barbados), but few other islands can match Cayman when it comes to the sheer diversity of restaurant choices. The Cayman Islands are home to over 100 different nationalities, resulting in culinary offerings that range from Italian and Mexican to traditional local fare.
These aren’t your bland, international resort restaurants either, with the island’s laid-back lifestyle attracting top chefs, mixologists, sommeliers, and restauranteurs from around the world. We focused on the largest island, Grand Cayman, during our trip, but you can bet we’ll be returning as soon as we can to explore the others. These are the best restaurants in the Cayman Islands.
Opened in 1997, the Brasserie is a trailblazer on the island when it comes to farm-to-table fare. The restaurant grows its own vegetables, herbs, and other produce in an on-site garden, plus owns two fishing boats, which delivers daily seafood catches. The Brasserie also has a 50-hive apiary that produces raw organic honey, while a chicken coop provides organic eggs. The restaurant also scores big when it comes to sustainability, using chicken manure as garden fertilizer, transforming unsold bread into bread crumbs, and fermenting and preserving extra fruit, among other environmentally-conscious initiatives. The Brasserie’s daily-changing menu highlights its ultra-fresh ingredients, coupling it all with top-notch wines stored on-site in a climate-controlled wine room.
This upscale Italian restaurant pairs picture-perfect views of Seven Mile Beach with scratch-made bread and pasta (which just might sum up literally everything we want in life). Luca’s sleek interior is more big city than toes-in-the-sand, decorated with marble floors, leather banquettes, custom wood panelling, and hand-blown glass fixtures. Although the dishes are Italian, fresh seafood and locally-sourced produce add a sense of place and showcase the island’s bounty. Their wine list has been recognized by Wine Spectator, with the on-site cellar holding north of 5,500 bottles. The same owners also run Ragazzi, another long-running island favourite.
Agua draws on Italian and Peruvian influences for its seafood-heavy menu. First opened over a decade ago, the restaurant relocated to the Camana Bay neighbourhood in 2018, where breezy natural woods and a muted, blue-accented colour palette play up its waterfront views. There’s an emphasis on housemade ingredients like pasta and everything is artfully plated and full of bold flavours. The lengthy list of ceviches, which includes a ‘Cayman style’ ceviche featuring a daily seafood catch, tomato, orange, scotch bonnet pepper, and plantains, are a high point.
Another excellent, locally-driven restaurant — but one that’s significantly more affordable than the Brasserie — Cayman Cabana focuses on ingredients sourced from the island’s farmers, producers, and fishermen. Dishes are ever-changing but generally draw inspiration from traditional Caymanian and Caribbean flavours. Ranging from burgers with housemade red pepper jelly to roasted or blackened snapper, the food is fresh and flavourful but approachable. The waterfront location is casual by day but the restaurant dials up the elegance factor after dark.
West Indies Wine Company
This wine bar-meets-shop in Camana Bay offers one of the largest wine selections in the Caribbean, with over 80 wines available by the glass. Serving yourself is half the experience here, with customers given a prepaid smart cart that’s used to choose and pour your own glasses from high-tech Napa Technology wine station machines. West Indies Wine Company also offers light snacks to pair with your wine, including flatbreads and meat and cheese boards. There are regular live music nights and happy hours, plus you can also buy bottles to take home.
This sort-of-still-a-secret spot is one of the best restaurants in the Cayman Islands to try traditional Caymanian food. Set in a rainbow-hued shack, Heritage Kitchen serves fritters, coconut grouper, barbecue ribs, fish soups, and other homestyle dishes. There are a few wooden tables in front of the hut for seating or many diners plant themselves on the nearby sea wall to enjoy the water views while they eat.
The Cayman Island’s only craft brewery, 1981 Brewing is named for the nautical coordinates of the islands. Their trio of flagship beers, including the Kolsch-style Island Session ale, are crushable brews perfect for sunny island days. You can sample beers, as well as pick-up growlers, specialty brews, or tour the brewery at their taproom and headquarters; or you’ll see their beers at numerous bars and restaurants around the island.
This polished beachfront spot at Kimpton Seafire Resort is one of the best restaurants in the Cayman Islands for cocktail fans, with a top-notch program that emphasizes fresh-pressed juices and locally-grown fruits, veggies, and herbs. The open-air restaurant is set directly on Seven Mile Beach, making it a gorgeous spot for savouring sunset cocktails. It’s worth sticking around, however, to try Coccoloba’s food as well. The menu blends Caymanian ingredients with culinary inspiration from Mexico.