The Cayman Islands has an amazing range of snorkelling sites across the three islands. Below is a list of the top snorkelling sites in the Cayman Islands, what to expect from each area, and snorkelling tour operators.
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Snorkelling in Cayman is safe, free and unforgettable. The oceans in Grand Cayman are beautiful, especially our tropical fish, and people from all around the world travel just to dive in our oceans.
Not only does the surrounding coral reef provide a rich garden of coral and attract crowds of tropical fish, the reef creates a snorkelling oasis protected from choppy waves, dramatic currents and dangerous predators. While you may see the occasional harmless nurse shark, larger sharks are extremely rare in Cayman and shark attacks unheard of.
As beach access and swimming in the sea are both free of charge in Cayman, snorkelling is entirely free. The one exception is the USS-Kittiwake shipwreck, where you will have to pay CI$4 for entrance to the marine park with approval from a dive company.
Please snorkel responsibly and never attempt to touch the coral or the marine life. Coral is made up of living micro-organisms which take thousands of years to develop and can be damaged with a single touch.
You can find world-class snorkelling spots wherever you turn in Grand Cayman, but for your convenience, we have gathered the top 20 underwater spots:
1. Cemetery Beach
A 5 to 10 minute swim from Cemetery Public Beach, this site is easy to get to with minimal currents and waves, making it the perfect location for beginners. Expect an expanse of coral and tropical fish including Snappers, Sargent Majors, Jacks and the occasional moray eel, turtle or stingray.
2. Governors Beach
Just 30 yards from the beach at Governors Beach, a white buoy marks the coral reef. The water tends to be calm and free of strong currents. While the reef isn't huge, it is bursting with aquatic life - hoards of fish and the occasional stingray or lobster.
Best known as a widely-popular dive site, the USS-Kittiwake is also ideal for snorkellers due to its shallow depth and crystal-clear water. Gaze down at this 251ft decommissioned military ship nestled in the sand and overflowing with marine life.
You will need to find a licensed operator to enter and pay a fee of CI$4 for snorkelling, but the experience of seeing this huge, intact shipwreck is well worth the price.
4. Cayman Turtle Centre
To snorkel worry-free from currents or waves, and for guaranteed turtle and fish sightings, visit the lagoon at the Turtle Centre.
This is a great place for first-time snorkellers to find their sea-legs and get up close with the green turtles. You will need to purchase entrance to the Cayman Turtle Centre.
5. Cheeseburger Reef
Rumoured to be named after the adjacent Burger King, the Cheeseburger Reef is a classic Grand Cayman snorkel site. It's located in central George Town, just a short swim from the shore. Expect enormous reef formations and a great variety of fish!
6. Eden Rock
Begin at the Eden Rock dive centre and swim out to the mooring balls marking this snorkel site. Explore tunnels and overhangs, where grouper and large tarpon hang out (which at six feet long can be intimidating, but we assure you they are shy and completely harmless). In the summer months, the caves fill up with millions of tiny silversides - a very impressive and magical spectacle!
7. Sunset House
Swim out from Sunset House to see coral reefs, fish, turtles, stingrays and, if you're lucky, nurse sharks. You can also swim out to the Mermaid.
In November 2000, a stunning 9ft bronze mermaid weighing 600lbs was placed and secured just off Sunset House. Amphitrite is her official name, and she is the Siren of Sunset House. She stands upright in 50ft of water making her accessible to both snorkellers and divers. For the less confident snorkeller, there are sea pools within the iron shore where you can swim and snorkel, and you can also rent gear from the on-site dive shop. Sunset House is also a great spot for a night dive.
8. Smith Barcadere (Smith Cove)
Sheltered by the iron shore, this snorkelling spot is safe, shallow and has plenty of fish and coral to enjoy. Stick to snorkelling along the rock edges, where the iron shore creates interesting rock formations with lots of little gulleys and inlets. Be cautious of the current, and avoid getting into the water if it seems too strong.
9. Spotts Beach
This is the best spot on the island to snorkel with green sea turtles. The turtles are friendly, but do not attempt to touch them. Expect a variety of tropical fish including parrot fish, snappers, jacks and there have even been lionfish sightings! Not recommended for beginners due to the strong current.
Do not swim out to the reef! The current nearest the reef, particularly near the cut in the reef, is known to be dangerous.
10. Rum Point
Calm and shallow waters make this an ideal spot for beginners. There is a small reef to the right of the dock and many fish congregate under the dock. However, keep in mind that the water can get murky at times (due to people kicking up the sand), and this can affect the visibility.
11. Cayman Kai Public Beach
Please note that this is the beach on the right before you get to Rum Point (and not to be mistaken with Kaibo public beach). The beach itself is often littered with sea grass and flotsam as it faces the prevailing wind. This location is best for a drift snorkel as the east to west current will gently push you towards Rum Point. Expect depths of 3ft-10ft and lots of fish and soft corals.
12. Barrier Reef
Close to Stingray City in the North Sound, this area boasts the highest density of healthy coral in Cayman. Snorkel with dozens of different species of fish and drift above the rich variety of coral. This location can only be reached by boat, is relatively shallow right up next to the reef and you have to be very careful that your flippers do not brush and damage the coral; at some points the reef will only be a couple of feet below you.
13. Coral Gardens
Further along from the Barrier Reef, the Coral Gardens are found in 10ft to 30ft of water. These are large coral heads rising up from the sea floor and are home to a great variety of tropical fish including parrot fish, jacks and snappers. If you're lucky, you might spot a turtle, the very occasional eagle ray and a moray eel.
Since barracuda are very territorial, one will have marked out a patch that is theirs near the coral head, so you are likely to see a barracuda and a few needle fish. Also, since the Coral Gardens are so close to Stingray City and The Sandbar, you will probably see a juvenile stingray or two.
We advise you to use a tour operator as this site is difficult to locate on a boat by yourself.
14. Turtle Reef (Macabuca)
Turtle Reef is an easy-to-access shore dive with a mini-wall. Snorkellers can follow the edge of the wall, taking in the colourful reef fish, soft corals and the occasional sea turtle and stingray. Its really nice to have lunch at Macabuca afterwards!
15. Lighthouse Point
After a short swim from the shore, snorkellers can enjoy the mini wall and thriving reef at Lighthouse Point. You'll also see the Guardian of the Reef Statue. You can rent gear at the on-site dive shop, Divetech.
16. Cobalt Coast
Located at the far North-West tip of Grand Cayman in the district of West Bay, Cobalt Coast is a relaxed dive resort with a jagged iron shore coast and a long concrete dock. The snorkelling here is wonderful, as is the diving, and it is punctuated by mini walls where huge tarpon congregate.
17. Wreck of Cali (Cayman Cabana)
Less than 70ft from shore, off Cayman Cabana, the wreck of a 244ft freighter lies in 20ft-30ft of water. Sunk in 1948, over the years numerous fish and corals have made their home in and around the wreck. As you snorkel out you will see parts of the wreckage scattered over the ocean floor.
18. The Reefs in East End
There are many exciting snorkelling sites in East End but most of them can only be reached by boat. Talk to a local dive operator like Ocean Frontiers who run snorkelling trips to places like the South Channel Gardens, Sunset Reef, Ridgefield Reef, Sunrise Reef, Cannon Reef and Pooh Corner. Please make sure to NOT swim out to the reef opposite Morritt's Tortuga in East End: the currents, especially near the cut in the reef, are incredibly strong and you could easily get into difficulties.
However, the swimming under Mimi's dock at the Morritt's is amazing. There you will find a cornucopia of different fish and they will very confidently let you swim among them. It's a great thing to do with children!
In George Town, conveniently located on the seaside, you will find a mass of coral heads, caves and abundant fish life.
In the North Sound, you will find the world famous Sandbar and Stingray City, where you can feed and interact with stingrays in only 3ft of water. The Coral Gardens are nearby, where you will find corals and fish. Both sites are only accessible by boat.
On Seven Mile Beach, the main snorkelling area can be found at the north end of Seven Mile Beach at Cemetery Reef, which is about 300ft offshore, but often in less than 10ft of water.
Down the road from the Cayman Turtle Centre is Lighthouse Point and Cobalt Coast Dive Resort in West Bay, which are great sites to find elusive sea turtles.
The walls of Little Cayman’s Bloody Bay have several snorkeller-friendly spots, where you can expect to see anything from parrot fish to sea sponges, and even queen conch.
Jackson’s Point Beach is home to a stunning coral reef, sea turtles, rays and fish.
With a high tide, you can snorkel both inside and outside, the Owen Island reef, where you may encounter a ray or a shark as well as it health marine life.
We have been told that the snorkelling at Point of Sand is also amazing, although you should not snorkel here at dusk (or at night) as it is frequented by sharks.
In West End, snorkellers can visit anything from shipwrecks to reefs. Buccaneer's Beach is located here, which has an amazing array of options for snorkellers such as a small protected pool full of
small fish and a reef that is home to fish, turtles, rays and sharks.
Along the South Coast of Cayman Brac, there are three main snorkelling sites that are all closely located near each other.
Pillar Coral Reef, Fry Cave and Heady’s Reef are slightly deeper sites (around 20 to 50ft deep), but still thriving with marine life, even in the shallower areas.