If you are planning your Grand Cayman snorkeling holiday, you are in the right place to get all the necessary information you need to know before your trip. Find out what are the best beaches to visit, where to swim with turtles and get some useful travel tips to the Cayman Islands!
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Grand Cayman snorkeling beaches
- 2 Best snorkel spots in George Town
- 3 West Bay snorkeling places
- 4 East End snorkeling beaches
- 5 Where to snorkel on North Side?
- 6 Best Grand Cayman snorkeling near cruise port
- 7 Grand Cayman snorkeling conditions
- 8 Grand Cayman travel tips for your snorkeling holiday
Best Grand Cayman snorkeling beaches
The Grand Cayman is one of the best places to snorkel in the Caribbean with perfect conditions for water activities year-round. Thanks to the characteristic of the coastline that features small coves and shallow water coral reefs, one can find excellent shore snorkeling all around the island. No matter you stay around the famous Seven Mile Beach, in West Bay, George Town, East End or North Side, our guide will tell you what are the best beaches to snorkel.
Top 15 Grand Cayman snorkeling places:
- Eden Rock
- Devil’s Grotto
- Sunset House
- Cheeseburger Reef
- Smith Cove
- Spotts Beach
- Governors Beach
- Cemetery Beach
- Turtle Reef
- Rum Point
- Cayman Kai Beach
- Barefoot Beach
- Collins Beach
- Stingray City
- +Starfish Point
Not only the marine life is beautiful but the island has excellent shipwrecks too! Find all the information in our Grand Cayman shipwrecks guide!
Best snorkel spots in George Town
The best off-beach snorkeling with a perfect central location in George Town, just a short walk from the cruise ship terminal. The Eden Rock marine park features wonderful corals not so far from the shore, and many interesting creatures to observe. There are always plenty of fish around including butterflyfish, sergeant majors, parrotfish and barracudas. Often nurse sharks rest between the rocks! From time to tome turtles and stingrays also swim by. The onsite diving center offers parking, lockers, ladder for easy entry/exit and allows to use their facilities too.
It is a deeper reef Between Eden Rock and Sunset House and mostly known as a dive site, but thanks to the incredible visibility you will see fantastic coral formations, canyons and swim-throughs while swimming on the surface too. To get to Devil’s Grotto, enter the water at Eden Rock and swim to the left about 165 ft/50 m from the shore where you see the caverns. The Devil’s Grotto is famous for having schooling fish and huge tarpons around!
A well-developed shore diving site with on-site resort, restaurant and dive center. Divers and snokelers can use ladders for safe water enter/exit. The area is deep, the average depth is between 30-50 ft (10-15 m) except the sandy shoreline with an average depth of 15 ft/4.5 m. But don’t let the deeper water stop you from putting Sunset House to your Grand Cayman snorkeling list, because the clear water allows you to see the beautiful reef and even the mermaid statue in the depth of 50 ft/15m from the surface too!
Fun fact is that this pretty shallow reef was named after the nearby Burger King restaurant, but like this, it is easy to locate. The Cheeseburger Reef offers easy and enjoyable snorkeling for adults and kids. Thanks to its central location, snorkeling at Cheeseburger Reef is popular by tourist staying in George Town and daily cruise shippers. To get to the reef, follow the path between Burger King and Lobster Pot Dive Center and swim about 100ft/30 m from the shore. What to see here: nice coral heads in about 2-15 ft/0.5-4.5 m deep water with small fish around, sometimes nurse sharks hide between the rocks.
Probably the most popular beach of the island. Smith Cove is visited mainly by locals who love to hang around here after work and watch the sunset, but a must-see for tourists too! The area itself is very impressive with a small sandy beach between the rock formations as well as a top snorkel place! After getting to the water swim towards the marker buoy to find the abundant reef. It is also worth to snorkel along the coast in the shallow water where you can observe vibrant soft corals and spot nurse sharks! Facilities like benches, shower and toilets are free to use.
A well-known, yet less touristy pretty beach about 20 minutes rive from George Town center. This pretty beach is not only a perfect spot to watch the sunset but also the best place to swim with turtles in Grand Cayman! A big sea turtle population lives in this sea grass covered area so you can encounter several turtles while swimming around. The corals are not the nicest, but still you can observe hard and soft coral colonies and small fish around. The sea conditions often rough around Spotts Beach with high waves and strong underwater currents, therefore not recommended for weak swimmers or small kids. Free parking and a restroom available as well as some tables and benches.
West Bay snorkeling places
If you are looking for a good spot to snorkel in the Seven Mile Beach, visit the Governors Beach. Although the popular 7MB doesn’t have an extensive reef system, around the Governors Beach there are several pretty coral patches that attract marine life into the area making it a decent snorkel spot. Swim about 100-165 ft/30-50 m from the shore to find the reef and enjoy observing the Caribbean marine life!
Visiting the Cemetery Reef marine reserve must be in your Grand Cayman snorkeling vacation itinerary! This tranquil beach can be found in the quieter part of the Seven Mile Beach, therefore it is not too busy as the areas closer to George Town. The sand is powdery fine and there are big sea grape trees around that provide shade. The natural reef starts about 165 ft/50 m from the shore, before you find some artificial reef items. The water gradually deepens. As you swim towards the buoys, instead of small coral patches you will find bigger underwater pinnacles. On top of spectacular corals and colorful fish species, expect to see turtles, stingrays and nurse sharks.
The Turtle Reef at Macabuca Grill near the Grand Cayman Turtle Farm is considered as the best dive site on the island but this nice, shallow reef close to the shore also provides adults and kids with excellent snorkeling! You can see a wide variety of fish like parrotfish, filefish, barracuda, grouper, often octopus, stingray and yes, and of course also turtles! Accessible through the Sun Diver Cracked Cronch.
East End snorkeling beaches
A less frequented beach at East End that is worth to visit if you like to stay away from the crowd. Restrooms, cabanas and free onsite parking available. The little wooden pier offers easy entry/exit. The Colliers Beach is rather recommended for sunbathing and relaxing, snorkeling is not so good comparing to other beaches but looking around in the shallow water can be enjoyable for first-time snorkelers with the possibility to see small fish, stingrays, sometimes squids.
A very small yet lovely beach in the middle of abandoned development sites on Queens Highway. Heading to Barefoot Beach could be a good decision when the other side of the island is windy. Snorkeling here is good, but not exceptional. By calm water conditions, it is a nice place for beginners where they can observe small coral formations and various fish species like porcupine fish, trumpet fish and sergeant majors. If you swim to the right parallel to the shore, you might see the remains of the Geneva Kathleen wreck too, in front if the stone staircase. In the winter period the current might wash sea grass and rubbish on the shore.
Where to snorkel on North Side?
Known also as Queen’s Monument snorkel site or Connolly Cove. This shallow lagoon is located between the Northern Lights Condos and Babylon Reef Grand Cayman Villas. There is no clear beach access nor designated parking area, therefore only few people snorkel from the shore besides the guests of the nearby villas. Despite the remote location, the Babylon Reef is often mentioned as one of the nicest snorkel beach in the island with shallow water, colorful corals, playful fish and often stingrays around.
If you want to experience the quiet, less developed yet spectacular side of the island, we recommend spending a day at Rum Point. It is not only a relaxing place with an authentic Caribbean style restaurant and pretty cocktail bar, but also a top Grand Cayman snorkeling spot! The water is usually very calm and current-free here since it is sheltered by the barrier reef offering an easy and safe snorkeling experience. You can snorkel on both sides of the pier, but we recommend swimming to the right. To find the nicest corals, swim about towards the barrier reef where you will find healthy hard and soft coral colonies and interesting marine life including a variety of fish and sea stars. Often big stingrays from the nearby Stingray City are also cruising around!
Tip: Don’t miss out the Bioluminescent tour to experience swimming among glowing planktons!
Cayman Kai Beach
A secluded beach on the northern tip of the island that offers a nice view and excellent snorkeling for those who are ready to make it to the close-by barrier reef! Our opinion is that the Cayman Kai Beach was our best Grand Cayman snorkeling experience with ideal conditions like extremely clear water and diverse marine life, but it is only recommended for advanced snorkelers and carrying a marker buoy is a must for your own safety! If you feel fit and comfortable swimming long distances, you might do a Cayman Kai-Rum Point drift snorkel. Enter the water at the Cayman Kai Beach, swim about 1000ft/300 m to reach the reef then let the current take you towards Rum Point and just enjoy the rich marine life! It is a long tour (takes about 2 hours to get back to the Rum Point Jetty) but so rewarding!
The iconic Starfish Point is one of the most famous places in Grand Cayman where hundreds of sea stars can be found in shallow water! Although this beach is about 1 hour drive from the Seven Mile Beach, it is worth to visit especially if you are with kids who find these creatures fascinating. To get there, turn left at the Rum Point sign and drive on the Water Cay Road. You will see the parking area at the end of the road where you can park for free. Best is to go early in the morning before boats arrive. Although most tour guides say that you can touch the sea stars and feel free to take them out of the water in order to take some photos of them, we don’t think touching sea creatures is a nice thing so please, observe them in the water only.
Of course, our snorkel spots list cannot be complete without mentioning the famous Stingray City. The area consists of shallow sandbars off the shore North Sound and accessible by boat only. To get there, you need to sign up for a Stingray City snorkel tour. The local story stays that stingrays started to gather in the area because the fishermen cleaned the fish in the water. The news quickly spread and soon this place became a tourist attraction where swimmers and divers can hand-feed and pet the stingrays. (We didn’t visit Stingray City because we don’t like to support tours if feeding is involved.)
Best Grand Cayman snorkeling near cruise port
If you arrive by a cruise and have limited time on the island doesn’t mean you need to miss out snorkeling! Instead of joining expensive boat trips, consider visiting some of these snorkel spots that are within walking distance from the cruise port:
- Eden House
- Devils Grotto
- Cheeseburger Reef
- Cali Wreck
- Wreck of the Gamma
Grand Cayman snorkeling conditions
This tiny yet lovely island is proud to offer excellent conditions for snorkeling and diving year round. Grand Cayman is famous for the incredible water clarity, you can easily see the bottom of the sea while snorkeling even in deeper water. The average visibility is 100ft/30m, rarely goes under 80ft/24m and can reach 150 ft/45m! The sea temperature is between 86-78 F (30-25 C), the warmest in August-September and the coldest in February-March.
Jellyfish are not common but occasionally some species and also sea itch might be present. To avoid skin irritation/getting stung as well as protect yourself against sun we highly recommend to wear rash guard for snorkeling! If you use sun care products make sure to bring reef safe mineral sunscreen! Strong wind, waves and undercurrents are uncommon, except cold-front and tropical cyclone periods. If one side of the island is windy, you just simple need to drive to the other side for favorable conditions.
Grand Cayman travel tips for your snorkeling holiday
If snorkeling is your main priority when booking your Grand Cayman holiday, you might consider a few factors to make the most of your vacation. Let us help you with some tips on when the best time to visit the island is, where to stay and how to get around.
Best time to travel
Grand Cayman weather is hot and humid year-round. The busiest period is between December and April when most tourist arrive for a winter beach vacation. Except higher hotel prices and more traffic. Smaller beaches might be packed. The off season is between May and November when you can get lower hotel rates and better prices throughout the island. Summertime can be bring more rainy days and occasionally storms. Should you arrive in the hurricane season, make sure to follow the weather forecast!
Grand Cayman hotels
Although the island is small and you can drive around within an hour, but it is good to know what the different areas offer when deciding where to stay in Grand Cayman for snorkeling. The Seven Mile Beach hotels are popular, offer a central location, easy access to the island’s most beautiful sandy beaches as well as there are some good snorkeling spots in walking distance like the Eden Rock or Cali Wreck. But this area is often busy, stay here if you enjoy going out and visiting restaurants. You can choose resorts like The Ritz Carlton, Westin or Kimpton and also condominiums.
If you want to stay away from the busiest part of the island, we recommend staying in the West Bay, East End, North Side or Rum Point. These are residential areas with a few guesthouses, villas and condos offering everything you need for a relaxing Grand Cayman snorkeling holiday: tranquil beaches, less tourists around but you definitely need a rental car to arrange shopping.
To explore the island on the most convenient way rent a car! Most international car rental companies operate an airport office. The roads are in good condition, parking is free (except some downtown areas). Scooter and bike rental are also available. Don’t forget that the Cayman Islands are British Overseas Territory so you will need to drive on the left side! It is safe (and cheap) to use public transport too. The mini buses leave from the main George Town Bus depot and connect all areas of the island.
Since Grand Cayman is one of the most popular Caribbean cruise destination, everything around the port is built for tourists! You can find here most international brands’ outlets as well as local souvenir shops. But be careful what you buy because the products are pretty expensive here. Visit the nearby bigger supermarkets or malls to get better prices.
If you arrive for a longer holiday, calculate with 25-35% higher prices than in the US. Shop in big grocery stores like Kirk in George Town near Seven Mile Beach or in Foster’s Food Stores that has several bigger and smaller outlets throughout the island. Kirk and Fosters offer a wide selection of hot foods all day at affordable prices. Eating out is considered expensive comparing to the US and most restaurants charge 15% extra for the service. Therefore, staying in an apartment is a wise decision where you can prepare food!
Cayman Islands currency
The official currency is the Cayman Islands Dollar CI but US dollars are accepted almost everywhere. (USD is worth 20% less than CI, keep this is mind). You can pay in dollars for excursions as well as in small eateries or souvenir shops. If you pay with US dollars, you might get the change in CI. To avoid this, pay by credit card. It is safe to use your card. Most supermarkets, petrol stations, restaurants accept major cards. Don’t forget to check the validity, your signature on it and always have your ID with you because you might be asked to prove your identity.