Cayman Islands | Your local guide to the Cayman Islands

How Rapid Development is Changing Grand Cayman’s Luxury Appeal

How Rapid Development

I’m not rich by any measure, but I make a comfortable living and live in one of the wealthiest counties in the US, Fairfax County. I live in Northern Virginia, and within Northern VA are top 3 out of 5 wealthiest US counties. According to Beckers (Jan, 2024 stats) and, here are US Top 5 wealthiest counties:

  1. Loudoun County, Northern VA — $170,463 median household income
  2. Falls Church, Northern VA — $164,536 median household income
  3. Santa Clara County, California — $153,792 median household income
  4. San Mateo County, California — $149,907 median household income
  5. Fairfax County, Northern VA — $145,165 median household income

All this to say that we are the target market of the Cayman Islands tourism industry.

The Cayman Islands have always been my idea of a perfect vacation, so much so that I don’t even look anywhere else. I visit the Cayman Islands regularly. Alas, during my recent visit to Grand Cayman in May 2024, I was struck by how much the atmosphere had changed since my last trip, a little over a year previously. The traffic during rush hour was at a standstill. Even when it wasn’t rush hour, the traffic situation was surprising. Everywhere I looked, new developments had sprung up. I almost didn’t even notice the Coldwell Banker office along Seven Mile Beach, which used to be surrounded by empty lots but is now flanked by towering new developments on both sides.

I understand that development can be a sign of progress and growth, but I couldn’t help feeling that Seven Mile Beach has started to look more like Miami, known for its dense high-rises and bustling urban atmosphere. The once spacious and serene Seven Mile beach is now lined with large buildings crowding each other, shoulder to shoulder, which makes me wonder if the Cayman Islands are losing sight of its luxury appeal. Parking in general was terribly but particularly, along Seven Mile Beach, adding to the frustration.

Changes in Cayman Planning Laws

Several laws have contributed to the surge in high-rise buildings in the Cayman Islands, particularly along Seven Mile Beach. The Development and Planning Law has undergone significant amendments, most notably the 2022 revisions, which have relaxed height restrictions and increased density limits in prime areas. These changes have paved the way for the construction of taller buildings and more intensive development projects​

Additionally, the Coastal Works Law has been adjusted to streamline the approval processes for developments near the shoreline. This law now facilitates quicker and easier permissions for constructing large structures close to the coast, further encouraging developers to maximize their investments in these high-demand areas​.

While these legislative changes aim to promote economic growth and address the needs of a growing population, they are also transforming the island’s landscape at an unprecedented pace. The new regulations allow for 10-story structures in hotel and tourism zones without requiring extensive additional approvals, which has led to a rapid increase in high-rise buildings that some argue detracts from the island’s traditional luxury appeal​.

The draft national development plan, known as Plan Cayman, also highlights the need to balance development with environmental preservation and quality of life. This plan outlines new zoning categories and stricter guidelines for sensitive coastal areas, aiming to mitigate some of the adverse impacts of rapid development​. These legislative and planning changes underscore the tension between economic growth and maintaining the island’s unique charm and appeal as a luxury destination.

Will I Visit Again? Yes, but…

One of the things I love about vacationing in Cayman is that I always feel rejuvenated when I get back to Northern Virginia, ready to dive back into the rat race. But this time, I did not feel rejuvenated when I returned. Instead, from the airport drive, I couldn’t help but notice all the open spaces in Northern Virginia. The contrast was stark, making me realize how much the natural integration and open spaces back home contribute to my sense of well-being.

While I forever hold a deep love for the Cayman Islands, the recent surge of developments have left me feeling disappointed.  As a visitor yearning for the past charm of Cayman, I couldn’t help but think about the benefits of incorporating more natural and open spaces into the island’s development and architectural designs. Concepts like biophilic architecture, which integrates natural elements, abundant light, and vegetation, have been shown to promote health and well-being. By embracing such designs, Cayman could maintain its appeal as a luxury destination. Recapturing that sense of tranquility and natural beauty might involve prioritizing open spaces, preserving natural landscapes, and harmonizing architectural designs with the environment. Sustainable development and thoughtful urban planning could help balance growth with preservation, making Cayman a haven of serenity once again. This will ensure that the unique charm and natural beauty that make the Cayman Islands special are not lost. Without this balance, the islands will risk losing its premier luxury destination status, if it hasn’t already.

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Fevi Yu, Web Administrator

A frequent visitor to the Cayman Islands with extensive knowledge of the local business environment. As a web and content curator, Fevi serves numerous clients across various industries in the Cayman Islands.