One of the biggest names in luxury travel, Ritz-Carlton, recently embarked upon a campaign to redefine the term. What if your visit to a Ritz-Carlton property isn’t just a luxury for you, but for the island as well? That’s the thinking behind Give Back Getaways, a Ritz-Carlton initiative designed to improve both the guest and local experience by giving clients the opportunity to help with neighborhood projects like nature conservatories, children’s centers and more. At one of the chain’s most luxurious Caribbean properties,The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, guests have the opportunity to help save one of the world’s most endangered lizards—as well as taste world-class innovative seafood, relax in indulgent, world-class spa settings, and enjoy some of Ritz-Carlton’s world-class luxury service.
giving back, cayman-style Most casual visitors to the island of Grand Cayman aren’t aware that they’re visiting the only home of the endangered blue iguana, a startlingly colorful species of lizard that flourished on the island before the advent of travelers, bringing with them cars, pets and foreign species of lizard that effectively decimated the blue iguana population. But the Ritz-Carlton, in partnership with the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, hopes to change that. The Blue Iguana Recovery Program tour package gives visitors a firsthand glimpse into the efforts to rebuild the blue iguana population on the island, complete with up-close encounters with the lizards.
Guests taking the tour take a drive (in Ritz-Carlton’s luxury SUVs, of course) across the island to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, home to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program. On their way there, tour guides from the resort’s Ambassadors of the Environment program brief clients on the iguanas: defining features and characteristics, their history on Grand Cayman, reasons for their depleted numbers, and how the recovery program plans to help. Before arriving at the park, the SUV stops at a field populated with flowers and grasses—gourmet cuisine for the lizards. Guests and tour guides will spend a few minutes gathering flowers for the iguanas to eat while guides answer any questions guests may have and share stories of their own experiences in the park. (Some guides, enchanted with the creatures, volunteer with the program on their own time.) When guests have gathered a feast for the creatures, it’s off to the botanic park, home to the last remaining blue iguanas in the world.
At the recovery center, warden John Marotta greets the guests and gives a brief tour of the facility: young lizards (anywhere from 1 to 3 years old) in the front cages, with older iguanas in the large breeding areas to the back. Clients then have the opportunity to feed the young iguanas with the flowers and grasses they’ve just gathered. It may sound mundane, but watching an endangered animal happily chomp on food you’ve personally gathered is a surprisingly rewarding experience.
After feeding, the group sets out with GPS, binoculars and log sheet to record blue iguana sightings throughout the park. This iguana-finding mission doubles as a tour of Grand Cayman’s vast flora and fauna, with sightings of Cayman parrots and other indigenous species. The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is a truly gorgeous, manicured garden with spectacular colors and scents throughout; not surprisingly, many iguanas, like the tourists, choose to spend their days in this idyllic setting soaking up the sun and colorful scenery.
back to luxury Back on property, clients will find themselves in one of Ritz-Carlton’s most well-appointed Caribbean properties. The property stretches from Seven Mile Beach all the way across to the resort’s Blue Tip golf course, with spacious rooms offering either ocean or green golf course views. Private terraces come standard on every room, and the property offers plenty of connecting rooms for convenient family bookings. Another family option: the suites, comprising master bedrooms and large living areas with pull-out sofas. In the oceanfront suites families all the conveniences of home within the luxury of the Ritz-Carlton as they come equipped with washers and dryers and full kitchens—not that there’s any pressure to cook for yourself on property.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman provides plenty of tempting dining options, from the casual Bar Jack beach bar and grill set poolside on the ocean side of the property, to more upscale options couched in the elegant atmosphere of the Blue Tip side. Periwinkle, an open-air restaurant nestled next to the marina, offers comfort food like wood-fired pizza and seafood pasta dishes. But the standout dining venue here—and, in fact, in Grand Cayman—is Blue, the Eric Ripert restaurant offering fresh and uniquely prepared seafood in an elegant upscale setting. Clients can choose from a 3- or 6-course meal, with such tempting options as tuna foie gras (the house specialty), a trio of conch ceviche and crab salad—and those are just the appetizers. For a main course, clients can choose practically any fish in the sea: tuna, mahi-mahi, cobia, wahoo, swordfish, red snapper, you name it. Desserts are equally as varied, and equally as tempting—the chocolate trio, with a chocolate mousse, chocolate ice cream and molten chocolate cake is a house favorite. It’s nearly impossible to avoid overindulging, no matter how many courses you order.