Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Laura Cooper
Dive into the Cayman Islands, a three-piece archipelago consisting of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. The islands claim to have a different dive site for each day of the year, but what is even more amazing is the emphasis they place on protecting their marine life. Grand Cayman is the largest of the three islands, boasting beautiful beaches, luxurious resorts, ritzy restaurants, and the financial city of George Town, the Cayman Islands’ capital. The famous Seven Mile Beach has earned the honour of “Caribbean’s Best,” with its flawless white sand, calm, clear waters, and visibility of 100 feet or more. Grand Cayman is a perfect scuba diving spot and makes for a well-rounded beach vacation. Cayman Brac is popular for deep-sea fishing, cave exploring, and rock climbing while the smallest island, Little Cayman, is known for its unspoiled wildlife, bird-watching, and tranquility. Together, the Cayman Islands are a nature lover’s paradise, known as one of the best diving spots in the Caribbean and an upscale vacation destination.
Who should visit?
Grand Cayman is the most visited island out of the three: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Each island is surrounded by a shallow coral reef and their secluded location makes them ideal for spotting uninterrupted marine life. The islands offer three diverse coastlines for beach lovers, from the famous Seven Mile Beach of Grand Cayman to the rocky shores of Cayman Brac and the interesting diving formations of Little Cayman.
Grand Cayman has dive sites for both novices and experienced divers, though it has become more recently known as a technical diving destination. Scuba diving in Grand Cayman is celebrated for its advanced wall dives, colourful coral reefs, intriguing wrecks, shore diving, and visibility usually 60-100 feet or more. You’ll spot turtles, eagle rays, barracuda, moray eels, stingrays, and tropical fish like parrotfish, butterfly fish, angelfish, and yellowtail snappers.
For non-divers, there is much to be enjoyed as well: beautiful beachfront resorts equipped with the finest amenities, a relaxing atmosphere, and many attractions to discover away from the beach. Known for its culinary excellence, foodies will love the fresh seafood, jerk stations, and an irresistible melting pot of Caribbean flavours. Grand Cayman is a unique destination for those who have already explored many popular Caribbean spots and who want an alternative tropical holiday. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are great for those seeking eco-tourism and a more peaceful and intimate environment.
Popular Dive Sites
Stingray City, Grand Cayman: The most obvious dive site is Stingray City, a go-to spot on any diver’s and snorkeler’s list. In this 12-foot dive, tourists can play with the fascinating creatures and touch their underbellies and wings in the shallow waters as they gently pass by. The stingrays await tourists to feed them and swarm in for food and a kiss. They have been pampered like this for years by boats of people so there is no need to be scared – though you may hear excited screeches from tourists. There are many organized day trips to Stingray City that include gear, a local guide, lunch, and transfers.
USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman: This former U.S. Navy Submarine Vessel spent a half-century in service before purposely being sunk in 2011 as the latest wreck in the Cayman Islands. While the marine growth is minimal, it is easy for divers of all levels to explore inside this 76-meter vessel, sitting upright just 64 feet deep. This is a great snorkeling site as well, since the smokestack is only a dozen feet below the surface. Inside you’ll get to discover the mess hall, hospital station, and ammunition lockers between the five levels.
Babylon, Grand Cayman: Beginners will see plenty on the top of this 40ft wall, but those who dive deeper can spot the astonishing black coral, gorgeous purple sea fans and giant barrel sponges. Because it’s one of the most remote sites on the North Wall, you’ll spot lots of marine life like parrot fish, eagle rays, barracuda, and turtles.
Bonnie’s Arch, Grand Cayman: Along this wall you’ll spot branching gorgonians and fascinating tube sponges as you approach the large, mesmerising archway about 70 feet down.
Bloody Bay Wall Marine Park, Little Cayman: With steep and exhilarating drop-offs, swim-throughs, vibrant colours, and lots of marine life, there is much to catch your eye at Bloody Bay Wall. The wall starts at 20 feet and goes down to an astonishing 6,000 feet. Here you may spot bright elephant ear sponges, bioluminescent corals, eagle rays, turtles, lobsters, groupers, and triggerfish. You may even see the occasional seahorse.
Captain Keith Tibbetts, Cayman Brac: This 100-meter Russian warship purposely joined the waters in 1996 hailing from Cuba. In 2004, the wreck was broke into two by Hurricane Ivan and is now home to barracudas, groupers, moray eels, and colourful tube sponges.
How to get to the dive site
There are dive sites surrounding the entire island of Grand Cayman, though you’ll find more towards the west side. There are also many dive operators to choose from. Arrange a scuba diving trip from home with the help of your travel agent or book it from your Cayman Islands hotel.
If you’re not PADI Certified, you will have to complete an instructional program with a Dive Master before heading out to sea. If you want to get certified during your trip, you can complete a 3-day course and do the theory portion from home prior to your trip.
Dive shops provide all the equipment and training. Before diving in open waters, this 4-hour resort dive course will teach you safety procedures and how to use the equipment. The course includes a 2-hour pool and theory session and one tank boat dive in the afternoon. Then, if you would like to continue your underwater experience and come face to face with spectacular tropical fish, choose from a one or two tank dive on a Grand Cayman scuba diving day trip.
Going to a remote site like Babylon on the North East side of Grand Cayman can take about an hour from the West Bay hotels because you have to drive around.
Do-it-yourself shore diving is also available from some dive resorts. With the self-guided computer diving, advanced divers can dive without a guide as long as they have a buddy system. Underwater photo and video are also popular in the Cayman Islands. Many shops offer equipment rentals, instruction, and film processing.
Before or after your diving adventures, acquaint yourself with other highlights of the islands. The Cayman Islands are known for their stunning natural wonders. Aside from diving, hiking, fishing, and bird watching are popular.
Visit the Cayman Turtle Farm for turtle encounters, nature trails, education centers, spotting colourful butterflies, and swimming with marine life in Turtle lagoon.
Queen Elizabeth ll Botanic Park is another spot for nature enthusiasts where you can walk the trails and admire the orchids, parrots, and iguanas, not to mention stunning exotic floral gardens.
The Mastic Trail, for those wanting a scenic two mile walk (about three hours long), passes through a two-million-year-old woodland, rare trees, and wildlife like birds, butterflies, lizards, frogs, hermit crabs, and non-poisonous snakes. It brings you from 10 feet to 60 feet in elevation. The Mastic Trail is available as a guided tour for those who wish to walk with a guide or can be explored independently.
Once run by pirates, Bodden Town is situated on a coral reef and natural harbour. Its caves are said to be where pirates hid their treasures and is an exciting place for kids to explore. There is also a mini zoo, pool for freshwater stingrays, Pedro St James House, the oldest building on the island dating back to 1780 which is now a museum, and the historic Mission House.
In George Town, head to Tortuga Rum Co to taste mouth-watering rum cakes that are famous all over the island and have expanded to Miami, Jamaica, Barbados, and Bahamas. Historical points of interest in George Town include Fort George Historic Site, Public Library, Town Clock, Heroes Square, National Museum, and Elmslie Memorial Church. George Town also has some of the finest shopping and dining of the islands.
Grand Cayman has three challenging golf courses: The Jack Nicklaus-designed, 9-hole Britannia Golf Club, the 18-hole championship golf course, North Sound Club, and the 9-hole Greg Norman-designed Blue Tip at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman hotel.
Day trips like a romantic Grand Cayman Catamaran Dinner Cruise, comprehensive West Bay Sightseeing Tour by coach bus, family-friendly Grand Cayman Dolphin Encounter, and exciting 90-minute Atlantis Submarine Expedition can be all be booked and arranged in advance.
For fascinating bird watching, head to the Booby Pond Nature Reserve in Little Cayman or the Parrot Reserve in Cayman Brac.
Indulge in romance, relaxation, and loads of recreational activities during your stay in Grand Cayman. Enjoy water sports, well-appointed accommodations, a beachfront location, and rum cocktails or an ice-cold beer. Now, that’s a vacation.
The Westin Grand Cayman, 4 star: This resort offers a diving course which includes a two-hour pool and theory session, an afternoon 1-tank boat dive, all scuba equipment and instruction. They also offer the PADI eLearning Open Water 3-day program to become a certified diver (if you complete the theory at home prior to the trip). Between dives, take advantage of the oversized outdoor pool with swim-up bar, luxurious private beach cabanas, children’s activities, and rejuvenating spa.
Holiday Inn Resort Grand Cayman, 3.5 star: With a dive shop, daily excursions and complimentary scuba lessons on-site, and the closest location to Stingray City, the Holiday Inn Resort is a great option for scuba divers. The convenient and complimentary shuttle departs hourly to Seven Mile Beach, Foster’s Grocery Store, and George Town so visitors can discover the excitement of Grand Cayman. Back on the resort, you’ll find a pool, tennis court, a restaurant and pool bar.
Sunshine Suites Grand Cayman Island, 3.5 star: Just a short walk to the ocean, Sunshine Suites includes 130 well-furnished suites, complete with a fully-equipped kitchen with a large fridge, stove top, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, cookware, dishes, and utensils. The hotel also offers complimentary continental breakfast, free Wi-Fi and use of the business center, and is just 200 yards (0.2km) from the beach. For divers, packages that include dives are available for 4-7 night stays (for example, a 4 nights/3 dive package).
The best time to visit is during the winter when the weather is warm and dry, averaging 24C. But the most affordable time is May through October when there are fewer crowds, more humidity, and some rainy days. Water temperatures average 26-28C year-round.
Visitors to the Cayman Islands typically stay for one week at a resort, or extend their cruise vacation with a couple of nights in Grand Cayman before or after.
The easiest way to travel the Cayman Islands is with a vacation package that includes your flight and hotel. Grand Cayman is the most popular destination in the Cayman Islands. Hotels here are not all-inclusive, though some do include breakfasts. If you would like to experience more than one island, our travel agents can help you plan a customized trip and include inter-island flights.
Most Canadians see the Cayman Islands on a cruise. The George Town port is a stop on many Western Caribbean cruise itineraries and has three terminals: North Terminal, South Terminal, and the Royal Watler Terminal. Shore excursions such as bike tours, island sightseeing tours, food tastings, submarine expeditions, visits to Queen Elizabeth ll Botanical Park, and others are available to reserve online.
Grand Cayman is the largest of the three islands, at 76 square miles, surrounding the shallow, reef-protected North Sound lagoon. Cayman Brac, 89 miles northeast of Grand Cayman, is just 14 square miles, while Little Cayman, located 5 miles west of Cayman Brac, is just 10 square miles.
The easiest of the Cayman Islands to get to is Grand Cayman, located south of Cuba. The Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman is the main airport. Airlines like WestJet and Air Canada offer non-stop service to Grand Cayman from Toronto.
Cayman Brac also has an airport: Charles Kirkconnell Airport. Inter-island service is provided by Cayman Airways and Cayman Express. A plane ride to Little Cayman from Grand Cayman takes approximately 40 minutes, while a ride from Cayman Brac takes approximately 15 minutes.
On Grand Cayman, taxis are readily available from the airport and the taxi stand at the George Town ship port. Car rentals are available as well as renting mopeds and scooters to explore the island on your own. Remember, cars drive on the left side of the road here. Bus fares start at CI $1.50 (US dollars are also accepted) and there are a few bus stops around the island. The bus terminal is adjacent to the Public Library in George Town.
Hotel: Ranging from $135 per night to $690 for luxury hotels like the Ritz-Carlton
Vacation Packages (flight + hotel): $1100-$1350
Scuba Diving Approximate Costs:
- learn to dive course ($100)
- full PADI open water certification ($450)
- one-tank boat dive ($70)
- 2-tank boat dive ($100-120)
- guided shore dive ($60-80)
Language: English with a Caymanian dialect
Currency: Cayman Islands Dollar (CI$) is the official currency. The US dollar and Credit Cards are widely accepted. Duty free shopping is available.
Electricity: 110 volt