The largest and most-visited of the three Caribbean islands that make up the Caymans, Grand Cayman is best-known for its tax breaks but there’s much more to this idyllic island. Combining calm, clear waters, some of the best beaches in the world, pristine coral reefs and waters teeming with fish, corals, turtles and rays, it serves up some of the best underwater adventures in the Caribbean. From shipwrecks to secluded coves, we’ve cherry-picked seven of the best places for snorkeling in Grand Cayman.
Where are the best places for snorkeling in Grand Cayman?
There are two seasons in the Cayman Islands. December to April is the dry season, which offers the warmest and sunniest temperatures, while May to late November is the rainy season. Tropical storms can churn the waters between August and September, so it’s best to avoid these months.
1. Seven Mile Beach
Frequently voted one of the best beaches in the world, the award-winning Seven Mile Beach combines sparkling turquoise waters, sugar-white coral sands and gently rolling waves. Peppered along the beach, you’ll find some of the island’s best snorkeling spots, including Cemetary Reef and Kittiwake Shipwreck.
2. Wreck of the Cali
Floating around 40 years from George Town harbour, the Wreck of the Cali is one of Grand Cayman’s most popular diving spots. It’s relatively shallow at around 15–20 feet deep which, when combined with excellent visibility, makes it a prime snorkeling spot too. The wreck is now an artificial reef, home to corals, sponges, tarpons and tropical fish.
In 2021, authorities limited snorkeling and diving access to the site, so you’ll need special permission from the Port Authority to visit the site. Other popular wreck snorkeling sites include the USS Kittiwake and the Wreck of Gamma.
This shallow sandbar on the northwest corner of the Grand Cayman’s North Sound is teeming with southern Atlantic sting rays. Locals say that, historically, local fishermen would clean their catch in the sandbar, attracting the majestic creatures. Visitors are allowed to feed, touch and pet the fish, so they’re used to humans too. Most of the specimens span over six foot.
To reach Stingray City, you’ll need to book an organized excursion from Grand Cayman. Most tours last around 2.5–3.5 hours and prices include food and drinks.
4. Eden Rock & Devil’s Grotto
Eden Rock boasts some of the best off-beach snorkeling close to George Town. The waters here are brimming with parrotfish, barracuda, sergeant majors, butterflyfish, as well as the odd nurse sharks. Keep your eyes peeled for titles and stingrays too.
Devil’s Grotto is slightly deeper than Eden Rock, which makes it a popular dive site. It boasts brilliant visibility, so snorkelers can can swim through colourful coral formations, swim-throughs and canyons close to the surface too.
5. Coral Gardens
Beloved for its calm waters, the shallow reefs around Coral Gardens are rich in marine life. You’ll need to organize a private boat or guided tour to reach them, but it’s worth the extra effort. Highlights include moray eels, lobsters, schools of tropical fish and nurse sharks. Many tours combine Coral Gardens with a trip to Stingray City and Barrier Reef too.
6. Smith Cove
A ten-minute drive from George Town, Smith Cove is loved by locals. Also known as Smith Barcadere, the small public beach features unique rock formations, sandy shores and calm waters. The waters surrounding the rocks are packed with schools of tropical fish and colourful corals. It’s an excellent spot for beginner snorkelers and less confident swimmers too.
7. Cheeseburger Reef
So-called because it’s located right next to a Burger King, Cheeseburger Reef offers world-class snorkelling in the heart of the capital. Easily accessible from the port, you can reach the reef by swimming around 30-yards from the shoreline. The coral heads are popular with snapper, sea turtles, tarpons and other tiny reef fish.