South of Cuba and west of Jamaica, Cayman Islands is a tropical trio sitting pretty in the Caribbean Sea. Grand Cayman is the largest at 35 km long and 12 km wide with postcard-perfect beaches, spectacular snorkelling and top-shelf restaurants. Cayman Brac is a hot spot for divers while on Little Cayman privacy is regal and iguanas have the right of way.

With year-round temperatures near 30°C, the islands are a win-win for a sunny getaway.

“In the fall we have three to five flights a week from Toronto — Air Canada up to three and WestJet up to two,” said Raymond Mathias, business development manager in Canada for Cayman Islands Dept. Tourism (CIDT). “In the winter we’ll have eight flights a week, Air Canada offering five and WestJet offering three, with easy connections from Montreal.”

Inviting with a boatload of savings, the islands are popular picks as the mercury drops at home. “Our ‘Fall Only in Cayman’ campaign offers up to 45 per cent off and the fifth and seventh night free with packages by Air Canada Vacations and WestJet Vacations,” added Mathias. —

Cheeseburgers in paradise

Inspired by all-things Jimmy Buffett, Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman fronts a cove on Seven Mile Beach. With a lot of limes and more than a few lost shakers of salt, the 285-room resort welcomes families, couples and singles looking for changes in latitudes and a change in attitudes. A seashell away from the Owen Roberts International Airport, the resort is kitschy cool with a big blue flip-flop at the entrance, crowing roosters the wakeup call of choice and yes, plenty of cheeseburgers in paradise.

With room only and all-inclusive options, take your pick from Keys for a cuppa Cuban coffee, Frank & Lola’s for jerk chicken pizza and at the 5 o’clock Somewhere Bar & Grille; it’s always happy hour. For those with a yen for Asian fare, Eating House 1503 by Chef Roy Yamaguchi hits the sweet spot with sushi, dumplings and fall-off-the-bone ribs.

“As a nod to our guests from Quebec, our chefs prepare poutine with Cayman cheese curds and a drizzle of Caribbean spice,” said French-fluent general manager Dimitris Cosvogiannis. “Vacation accessories aim to please, like four pools, bicycles, kayaks, Parakeets Kid’s Club and brand new spa opening in November.

Red Sail Sports offers dive trips and catamaran sails and for night owls, margaritas are shaken and stirred at the License to Chill Bar, bands busta move in the lobby and steel bands get groovy on Saturday night. —

Slowpokes and stingrays

One of the most coveted swaths in the Caribbean, Seven Mile Beach — which more accurately measures 5.5-miles or just less than 9 km — is a stretch of white sand on the west coast of Grand Cayman. “First time visitors should take a stroll at sunrise, visit Cayman Crystal Caves, kiss a stingray at Stingray City and try snorkelling as the water is crystal clear,” said Mathias of the CIDT.

A must-see for divers, USS Kittiwake is Grand Cayman’s most impressive underwater wreck. Sunk in 2011, the 1945-vintage submarine is today an artificial reef hosting underwater critters like horse eyed jacks and goliath groupers. The most popular attraction, Stingray City, is where giant sea creatures that look like giant dinner plates glide through the shallow water foraging for food and posing for photos with tourists. —

Catnip for nature lovers, Cayman Turtle Centre and Island Wildlife Encounter, is home to a turtle lagoon, predator reef and a free-flight aviary for meet and greets with colourful birds. —

Banks, bargains and big boats

With a global reputation as a financial hub, George Town impresses with centuries-old Barbie-pink cottages, shiny corporate buildings and duty-free Gucci, Versace and Tiffany. Busiest when the big boats are in town, the capital city is the go-to for fine dining, cocktail sipping and sightseeing. “Grand Cayman has about 300 offshore banks, 200 churches and expats from more than 100 countries,” said Jackie Ebanks, owner of Jackie’s Historical Tours.

For sips and snacks, Tortuga Rum factory is where those sticky cakes doused in dark rum are made and samples are on the house.

To Hell and back

For the bragging rights alone, make a beeline to Hell, on Hell Road in West Bay. A pitchfork’s throw from George Town, the macabre field sprinkled with million-year-old spikey black limestone peaks is not only a unique attraction but also a real place with a post office, blood red hibiscus and Devil’s Hangout that stocks hot sauces that could melt the polar icecap.

Montreal Chabad connection

For those celebrating Chanukah, Chabad Cayman Jewish Community Center under the watchful eye of Montreal-born Rabbi Berel Pewzner hosts holiday parties and services. Calling Grand Cayman home for six years, the Rabbi recommends the island to his fellow Canadians. “This is a great vacation choice because it’s safe, clean, ideal for families and easy to get to.” —

Save the date

January 16 to 20: Cayman Cookout is foodie heaven with a roster of rock star chefs including Montreal’s own Normand Laprise of restaurant Toque fame. —

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