By Pamela Jacobs
Every once in a great while I come across a place that truly has something to offer everyone in such a way that it inspires me and surprises me, even at my most jaded and hard-to-impress moments. I was recently invited down to Dragon Bay in Grand Cayman, and here I discovered such a place, where beauty, class, luxury, sophistication, and excellence come together in the most impressive and sublime ways.
While I was there, I was wondering—when I write about this, how do I tell this story? Is it travel, real estate, leisure, food? I realized it’s all of that rolled into one fabulous package, which is why this article is intended for everyone who likes the better things in life.
Dragon Bay, 360 acres of paradise, located on Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman, is a luxury Ritz Carlton resort. It’s also a complex of innovative, highly luxurious, one-of-a-kind homes that anyone looking for a vacation property would be thrilled to reside in. It’s also home to the Residences at the Ritz Carlton—magnificent apartments housed within the Ritz Carlton building that are awe-inspiring and breathtaking. But that’s not all. Included under this Dragon Bay umbrella are restaurants of superior quality, one of which is operated by the famed chef who you might know from a NY favorite, Le Bernardin. If that’s not enough, there’s a spa that invites “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” from spa-goers who’ve seen their fair share of great spas. Finally, there are sports facilities and events that are good enough to bring some of the world’s best every year. Combine all of this, and you have Dragon Bay, a place like no other.
I was at Dragon Bay to experience their annual Legends tournament, a tennis tournament featuring names such as Courier, Krickstein, Arias, Safin, and Edberg, all competing in Dragon Bay’s tropical paradise. This was enough to make me happy to be there, but what I experienced that weekend was so much more. I was also lucky enough to have a chance to pick the brain of Dragon Bay’s owner, an inspiring visionary, Michael Ryan, who calls Dragon Bay “a fourteen year overnight success.” He shared with me his vision and design for a community that is all-encompassing yet simple in its basic structure, a luxurious environment in a “magical setting” where residents and guests feel at home, and contribute to the plan. Many of Dragon Bay’s details were inspired by the direct feedback of its owners, and this is an ongoing aspect of its planning.
But let’s go back to the beginning. Michael Ryan saw an opportunity on an unspoiled beach on a picture-perfect island, and envisioned a residential and vacation community that would reach from the ocean to the bay, all connected by water in between. He partnered with the Ritz Carlton, a company whose level of luxury and expertise needs no explanation, and they built the hotel directly on the ocean. Here, guests find 365 perfectly appointed rooms and suites, each overlooking the ocean or the gorgeous property, each so comfortable and tastefully done there is no detail forgotten. Guests also enjoy two swimming pools, a pool bar, restaurants, lounges, the Silver Rain Spa, four tennis courts (three clay, one grass) and access to Nick Bolletieri-trained pro’s, a Greg Norman designed golf course nicknamed “the Caribbean Monster,” and all of the unmistakable special touches exclusive to the Ritz Carlton Brand. Kids and adults can learn about and experience the island’s bounty with the Ambassadors of the Environment program, specially designed by Jean-Michel Cousteau. This unique program, which is a model for sustainability and environmental conservation, teaches guests of all ages appreciation of the environment through a variety of fun experiences.
Michael Ryan’s vision then extended into the Residences, 69 impeccably designed, stunningly beautiful homes housed within the Ritz Carlton building, offering breathtaking Caribbean views, unique interior designs, and access to the Endless Service Program, which includes the use of luxury cars and yachts, butler service, private chefs, housekeeping, and many more invaluable amenities that are offered to Dragon Bay’s residents. Each of the Residences is large, stunning, and the absolute perfect place to call home (or second home). These were the first Ritz Carlton Residences anywhere.
But it doesn’t end there. In fact, that’s just the beginning. As I stated, Mr. Ryan envisioned a community that reached from sea to sea, and encompassed the width of the island, so he built a series of canals linking the two bodies of water, and then built the one of a kind, awe-inspiring DeckHouses, 19 private estate homes offering private island living, with expansive water views and floor-to-ceiling windows, infinity pools, private beaches, fixtures and details that really have to be seen to be appreciated, and access to the aforementioned Endless Service Program. These five bedroom, five bathroom masterpieces are some of the finest residences in the Caribbean, if not the world.
Once again, it doesn’t end there. Mr. Ryan, the consummate visionary that he is, dreamt of a community of homes within the bigger Dragon Bay community, a harbor village that would be inspired by some of the greatest harbor villages in the world. He set out on an 11 month cruise around the world, specifically for the purpose of researching. “That’s my kind of research,” I told him. He came back bursting with ideas, and modeled the next phase of Dragon Bay, called Secret Harbor, after Penang, Singapore, Hedra (Greece), and Crete, and took the best design principles from these harbors, studied why they worked so well, and incorporated them into the design of Secret Harbor. Now under construction, Secret Harbor will include 56 properties in its first phase of construction, and the second phase will entail another wave of property builds, totaling 125; all are to be designed within the structure of a British Colonial Harbor Village, with an exclusive clubhouse featuring Turkish mosaic tiles, an infinity pool, access via Dragon Bay’s waterways, and the option for the Endless Service Program.
And when Secret Harbor is completed, Michael Ryan won’t stop there. Plans are in the works for a boutique hotel, the Inn at Dragon Bay, private beaches, and more. My advice would be to get in now, while there’s still real estate available, as you won’t soon find anywhere else quite like this masterpiece of tropical island living.
While there, I got to tour the entire property and see firsthand just how spectacular this place really is. I also got to just enjoy Dragon Bay living. From the comfort of my oceanfront room, I stared out at the tranquil turquoise sea and understood how Mr. Ryan was able to envision the perfect paradise here.
I started each day at 7, the poolside restaurant offering an extensive and delicious breakfast buffet, where I had, hands-down, the best pancakes I’ve ever had. I also enjoyed the omelets, fresh juices, and pastries. From there, I spent my time loving life in the tropics. I couldn’t get enough of the swimming pools and picture-perfect beach, and got an amazingly wonderful massage at the Silver Rain Spa. The spa facilities are some of the most beautiful and luxurious I’ve ever seen, and special touches such as a choice of music during my treatment, a table of delicious edible treats, and spa staff members that seemed to know what I wanted before I did, made it an unforgettable spa experience. Come to think of it, everything at the Ritz Carlton at Dragon Bay was like that.
The Legends Tournament was a one-of-a-kind experience that I was thrilled to have while down there. It was also the perfect example of special things that Dragon Bay residents and guests have access to. In addition to watching the tennis matches, I was delighted with the gourmet buffet every day of the tournament, the VIP party held at one of the Deckhouses where Chef Eric Ripert cooked for the lucky guests, and the Whites Party that concluded the event. All was simply perfect.
Perhaps one of my favorite treats that weekend was dinner at Chef Ripert’s restaurant, Blue, located in the Ritz Carlton. At this spectacular culinary gem, the only five diamond restaurant in the Caribbean, Eric Ripert offers the most delectable and inspired seafood dishes imaginable, and the meal is a journey to food heaven. It’s one more reason Dragon Bay is so special.
Of course, the rest of the food choices are amazing at well. 7, home to those to-die-for pancakes, also offers an outstanding dinner, complete with top quality steaks and some of the best upscale comfort foods I’ve had (think lobster mashed potatoes and truffle mac and cheese). Periwinkle surprised me with just how great the pizza was (great pizza outside of New York?), and Taikun has excellent, fresh sushi. I ate very well that weekend.
Dragon Bay is the best of luxury travel, dining, and living, all rolled into one. If you’re looking for the perfect Caribbean vacation, you’ll be thrilled with your stay. If you’re considering buying a vacation home, you won’t find better than (or even close to) Dragon Bay. In fact, go there on vacation, and see if you can leave without being tempted by all that Dragon Bay’s residential options have to offer. It’s an investment in happiness that will prove there is such a thing as perfection.
For more information visit dragonbaygrandcayman.com Call 345.815.7777 or email
firstname.lastname@example.org for information on sales. Call 345.943.9000 for Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman reservations.