PALM HEIGHTS IS a far cry from your run-of-the-mill resort. To stay at the cool 52-room, all-suite hotel situated on a stretch of Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman feels like an extended stay at your most cultured friend’s summer home.
No space is wasted here. Every square inch is a flourish of maximalist cool reminiscent of a 1970s leisure den. A curated stack of first-edition art books and vintage copies of Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine — selected from the in-house collection cheekily dubbed Library Fetish — greet you on the coffee table of your suite. Any toiletry you might’ve forgotten in your flurry of packing is ready and waiting in your room, allowing you to forgo Colgate for a tube of Marvis and ditch the Dove bar for Aesop’s Geranium Leaf Body Scrub. Should the tuft and firmness of the pillow not meet your fancy, there’s a bedside menu with options ranging from normie to niche, including V-shaped pillows for reading in bed, king-sized bolsters that wick moisture, and coconut-infused memory foam with aromatherapy properties.
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To stay at Palm Heights is, in no uncertain terms, to risk never wanting to leave — your visit might induce you to lean into your company’s remote work policy indefinitely. The genius use of foliage, privacy hedges, and stately palms make each corner feel happened upon and exclusively yours. The grounds of the hotel are lush, verdant, and deceptively intimate, making the sprawl of the property — which includes three dining environments, two salons, and one endless beachside vista — feel cozy. The beach and ocean tide is a mere stone’s throw from the marble-topped Coconut Club bar, which is just over the hedges from two pools and a hot tub, all around the bend from the fine-dining institution Tillies, named after the constellation of islands that Cayman belongs to in the Caribbean Sea.
To get the look and feel of the property just right, founder Gabriella Khalil enlisted interior experts Courtney Applebaum and Sarita Posada, who specialize in homes and hotels, respectively. “We didn’t want Palm Heights to feel like a hotel. We wanted it to feel like a residential space,” says Khalil. “The idea was to have vintage pieces, found pieces, objects that were sourced over time, so it felt like it was created like a home.” The trio filled the space with iconic midcentury-modern furniture by boldface names like Mario Bellini, Alvar Aalto, Gae Aulenti, Bruno Rey, and Tobia Scarpa, to name a few. “Between the three of us, it was this constant dialogue of keeping a balance,” says Khalil.
Palm Heights’ singular approach to interior design carries over to other experiences on the property. The resort hosts a series of residencies across disciplines, inviting international creators in food, wellness, sports, arts, and culture to stay at the property, relax, and work. Recent residents include contemporary classical pianist Karim Kamar from London; Somali Olympic boxer, activist, and model Ramla Ali; and Akia Dorsainvil, DJ and founder of the Black, queer collective Masisi. “Doing the residency program was always part of the vision,” says Khalil. “It was really, really important to us that we were creating these cultural moments within the hotel. It happened very organically.”
Director of food and culture Gerardo Gonzalez and executive chef Jake Tyler Brodsky oversee a fluid culinary program that encompasses a proper high-tea service, handcrafted sushi, and Neapolitan-style pizza. Their Supper Club series features multi-course dinners with a side of performance art after dark, with renowned cellist and vocalist Kelsey Lu among the recent contributors. The weekly Mambo Italiano night, hosted by Palm Heights’ in-house vibe-maker Bambi Grimotes, transforms Paradise Pizza into a bustling family-style dinner punctuated by a belt-your-heart-out karaoke session.
Forthcoming expansion phases include the Garden Club (a sprawling open-air spa complex with a marble Turkish hammam) and a boutique to feature their designer collaborations (which currently include caftans and robes made with Marrakshi Life and a terry cloth beach jacket by Bode). Plus, there will be a full sushi restaurant, a test kitchen for more culinary tinkering, an immersive nightclub, and, as Khalil implies, whatever other fun ideas might come to mind.
While many island resorts can veer into a homogenous monoculture — with stale ideas about what it means to experience the Caribbean — the folks behind Palm Heights are creating hospitality for those willing to put down the piña colada and embrace something new. For Khalil and her team of fearless curators, it’s not a destination — it’s a free-spirited, artistic way of life, built one hotel suite at a time.
Deidre Dyer Writer
Deidre Dyer is a writer, editorial director, and brand consultant. Her clients include brands such as Nike, Converse, Instagram, and The RealReal. Dyer’s writing has appeared in Vogue, GARAGE, SSENSE, and Riposte magazine. She is currently an editorial and publishing manager at Netflix Queue.
Aya Brackett Photographer
Aya Brackett is a commercial fine art photographer who shoots portraits, still-life, food, travel and conceptual work.