Hillenbrand Purchased a Failing Property on Little Cayman 20 Years Ago and Transformed it into a Beloved Resort
“It was love at first sight. The Southern Cross Club and Little Cayman have been in my heart and on my mind ever since.” Peter Hillenbrand is describing the moment in1981 that changed his life forever. He was on a dive trip to Little Cayman with his father but he began to dream about possibilities. And when the opportunity to buy the resort came up years later, Hillenbrand didn’t hesitate.
“The Southern Cross Club was a run-down resort when I took over management in May of 1995. And it was a rather huge task to see its potential and put in the work – mentally, physically, and financially – to bring it to what it is today,” he says.
Today the award-winning Southern Cross Club, a rare cocktail of elegance and rusticity described as barefoot elegance, is consistently voted one of the best resorts in the Cayman Islands. It’s stunning location, distinct personality and outstanding service barefoot keep its guests returning year after year, and most of them refer to it as “home.”
For his work and dedication to the Southern Cross Club, Little Cayman and the environment, Peter Hillenbrand, owner of the resort was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association during the annual Stingray Awards gala. Deeply honored by the recognition of his peers in the industry, Hillenbrand says he has not done this alone.
“The Southern Cross Club is the proudest achievement in my life, but it is not for me to take the credit. Without the many people who worked with me and put everything into building the mission and the resort, I would never be receiving this award,” he said.
Hillenbrand singles out General Manager Jennifer Mills and Neil van Niekerk who have been with the resort for years and have been very instrumental, along with many others, in making the Southern Cross Club the success it is today.
“Pete thoroughly deserves his Lifetime achievement award; we are all extremely pleased for him and proud of him here at Southern Cross Club. He is a great boss, a much-valued friend and someone for whom I have the utmost respect. I congratulate him on this milestone and look forward to what lies ahead.”
As for the success of the Southern Cross Club, Mills says they take their cue from the boss.
“He is a very unique individual; an unusual combination of entrepreneur, high profile business man, environmentalist, conservationist and easy going- fun loving guy. Pete is a motivated, enthusiastic and ambitious person who is very hard working and not afraid to get his hands dirty when necessary. He is passionate about the environment and the tourism industry alike; someone who strives for success but not at the expense of moral reasoning,” she said.
Mills says Hillenbrand also embraces and respects the environment around him, the community in which he lives, and he shows immense generosity and kindness to his neighbors, friends, family and employees.
‘The rare blend of these characteristics, beliefs, and the vision that Pete encompasses are what drive and shape the Southern Cross Club; emanating down the chain of command through management to the Staff and in turn to the Guests,” she said. “Pete has helped create the resort’s personality, its’ “vibe” – making it the very special place that it is.”
Peter Hillenbrand, who is also a board member for the Central Caribbean Marine Institute a research facility based on Little Cayman, is not finished with his dreams for the Southern Cross Club and Little Cayman.
“I look forward to continuing to improve on my product, and to hopefully help guide the direction of Little Cayman’s continued development. There are no accessible places like Little Cayman left in the Caribbean. What she is, and what she means to those of us who love her, is precious beyond compare. It would be devastating to me to see her take a direction other than the laid back tranquility and pristine natural environment that our guests are so in love with.”
About the Southern Cross Club
The casually sophisticated Southern Cross Club Fish & Dive Resort is Little Cayman’s original resort. It features 14 beachfront bungalows complete with a top-rated, professional in-house diving and fishing operation. A unique blend of rusticity and elegance the resort is often described as “Barefoot Luxury”. Little Cayman is renowned for its breath-taking coral reefs and pristine environment, and the Green Globe certified Southern Cross Club sets sustainability standards to protect it. The resort was awarded the 2013 Cayman Islands Tourism Association CEPTS Stingray Award for its exceptionally good stewardship of the environment and its ongoing commitment to preserving it. Guests to the Southern Cross Club can expect friendly and diligent service, delicious award-winning food, inviting rooms with breath-taking views and a comfortable dive boat ― a few of the things that bring them back year after year. The resort’s beach-based location also provides flats fisherman with access to Bonefish and Permit just minutes away.