Snorkeling Grand Cayman

by Tom Turner
(Jamestown, PA USA)

My wife and I have a lot of experience snorkeling Grand Cayman. We have a timeshare on the island, hence we snorkel there every year. In 2003 or 2004, Grand Cayman was devastated by Hurricane Ivan, and there was a dramatic decline in the quality of the reefs, but they are coming back and every year we see great improvements to the sights and views.

One of our favorite snorkeling sites is right downtown in Georgetown. It is called Eden Rock. You enter the water at the Paradise Restaurant. They feed the Tarpon at the restaurant, so you are usually immediately met by 3-4 foot Tarpon. They are pretty cool. As you swim out, you go through a nondescript area for quite a ways. Then you start to hit the coral heads. They rise up to as shallow as ten feet. There are lots of fish and many types of coral and sea ferns, etc. Then you come to the edge of the coral heads and it drops off 50 feet or so to a sand bottom. This drop is magnificent.

There is a yellow buoy that you can see from the restaurant. Use this as point of reference, swim to the buoy and you will come to the coral heads. Cruise ships park right here (out far enough so they aren't a concern), but it can be very picturesque snorkeling around with a cruise ship as a back drop. Also, these coral heads go off to the left for quite a ways. We have always wanted to swim the shore heading west and then around to the south to follow this line of coral heads, but every time that we have had the time to do it, the currents were not cooperative. One of these days.

Another great snorkeling spot is called Hamburger Reef. Head north from the previous spot and go up to Burger King. Go in at Burger King (just find a spot where you can access the water) and swim out. There is a shipwreck out there (the Calli, I think) that has a lot of wildlife living around it. From there, you can find the coral heads that are out there and swim north following the coral as far as you want to go. There is great coral and wildlife all up through there.

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a "bait ball"? We found ourselves in the middle of one in this area. It was kind of unnerving. All I could think about was a hungry barracuda coming through just biting, but it was a real experience. This reef will run out somewhere up around the start of 7 mile beach. Also, this is a good one to avoid when cruise ships are in. At least from about 10 AM until 2 PM. All of the snorkel excursions off of the ships go here. Actually, if you go late in the afternoon, you can be snorkeling around as the cruise ships depart Grand Cayman. That can be pretty neat, too.

Next, getting away from the real tourist spots, at the far north end of the island is a restaurant called the Cracked Conch. It is right across (and down a little) from the turtle farm. They have a waterside bar that has a ladder down into the water. You can leave your stuff there and use the ladder into the water. This area is different, but very interesting with lots of wildlife. We watched about an 8 foot hammerhead shark at this spot one time. The person working there told us that there is a pair of them that hang out there because the turtle farm releases turtles there and they like the easy food. Interesting.

There is a really deep trench just off to the north of Grand Cayman. I believe the closest that it gets to shore is just off from the "Queens Monument". You can find the Queens Monument by heading out of Georgetown on the main road to the east, follow this along the coast about 10 miles or so to the main north-south road called Franks Sound Road. Take this north past the botanical gardens. You will come to a right hand turn near the north end of the island. I think this is called the Queens Highway. Take this east a mile or two and you will come to the Queens Monument on the right side of the road (it can be easy to miss, so you have to watch close). Park somewhere along there where you can reach the shore.

If you swim off to the north, about a half mile out is the drop. I suppose it is similar to the drop that Galen and Nicole mention in Bonaire, but it is magnificent. It is like a world of blue. All you can see is blue. They say that if it is bright and clear, you can see down along the edge of the trench about 300 feet. This is pretty spectacular, and the snorkeling sights getting there and back are worth while, also.

There are many other sites that we have found that we like to go to but these are the best, in our opinion. There is a spot just west of Boddentown that we have tried to snorkel every time that we have been there. It has big cliffs and looks real interesting, but the waves have always been too big to venture out along the cliffs. One of these days.

Also, it would be nice if the first two sites that I speak of above were not right in the main developed area of the island, but if you go when the cruise ship crowds are not there, it is wonderful snorkeling.

In closing, I would just like to say that we had been around the Caribbean quite a bit, but it took getting to Grand Cayman to convince us to purchase a timeshare (and we have no plans of trading it for different locations). We really enjoy being able to rent a car, and go off snorkeling on our own without needing to hire a boat to take us out. You can pretty much snorkel from shore anywhere on Grand Cayman.

Read Tom's 2011 snorkeling Grand Cayman report.

Comments for Snorkeling Grand Cayman

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Nov 27, 2010
When To Snorkel Grand Cayman
by: Galen & Nicole

Great post Tom. Thanks for all that detail. Grand Cayman is now officially on our list of spots to snorkel.

What times of the year would you consider the best for snorkeling Grand Cayman?

Nov 28, 2010
Grand Cayman
by: Anonymous

We have been to Grand Cayman in November, February, March and April. I would say that February is the best for the months that we have been there. That could be skewed a bit by what we are escaping in Pennsylvania for that time of year. March and April are nice, but it has always been windier in March and April in our experience.

Mar 01, 2013
Confirmed in Grand Cayman...
by: Cary Bennett

Well, we just finalized our plans for Grand Cayman. Flights are booked and we will be staying at the Grand Caymanian June 8th - 15th this year. Since we are utilizing a time share exchange, we have to go with the dates that are available. I am hopeful that we will be early enough that hurricane season will not be very active. I have been reading up here and another good site that I found that has some sites that are not mentioned other places. I will keep a snorkeling diary, as I did for Aruba last year, and will post our experiences here!

Very excited! Until then, happy adventures to everyone!!

Jun 18, 2017
St. John
by: Brad

Have you ever been to St. John in the USVI? Curious how the snorkeling compares? Thanks.

Jun 19, 2017
St. John
by: Tom Turner

Yes Brad, we have been to St. John. We were there in January of this year, and I have not posted my snorkel report yet. St. John has great snorkeling and we had a wonderful time there. Any drawbacks we had for the island were all people related or road related. We found the snorkeling to be great. If you go, you need to use the snorkeling guide for St. John on this site; it will save you tons of time. I think that you also want to stay on the east end, in the Coral Bay area. This will save a lot of drive time.

Our next trip is Bonaire, but then we need to get back to the Cayman Islands. It has been a few years since we have been there, and I do really enjoy the snorkeling there. Have fun!!

Jun 19, 2017
Thanks
by: Brad

Thanks for the quick response and the suggestions for traveling to St. John. I'm sorry I wasn't clear in my question but we have traveled to St. John 3 times so far and plan for many more trips in the future.

However we are thinking about going to Grand Cayman sometime soon for the first time. We love everything about St. John especially the snorkeling and the crazy jeep driving. I'm wondering if there is any snorkeling on Grand Cayman that is similar to what you would find on St. John? Particularly if there is snorkeling right off the shore without having to swim out a ways? Thanks again for all your help.

Jun 19, 2017
Tom & Jan's Many Shore Snorkeling Reports
by: Nicole & Galen

Hi Brad, Tom & Jan have shared many stories about the shore snorkeling in particular on Grand Cayman. Please read through those. The first link is at the bottom of the original story on this page and the continuing links are the same on the others.

Jun 19, 2017
To answer your question...
by: Tom Turner

Hi Brad,
Grand Cayman is really quite different from St. John. For one, it is flat and the driving is effortless when you are out of town. It is quite crowded on the west end, and pretty much crowd free once you get east of Boddentown.

I would definitely recommend a snorkel trip to Grand Cayman. There are enough shore access snorkel spots that you can spend two weeks and never get bored. You might even want to work in a trip to one of the other islands. Cayman Brac has some good snorkeling. We have never been to Little Cayman, but understand it is good also.

I would suggest reading the 5 posts that I have on Grand Cayman. I supply a lot of information on finding the various sites. Also, read the comments. There is some additional information there. I will be glad to answer any questions that might arise from my posts regarding specific information. Remember, salt water cures everything!!

Sep 13, 2017
Smith's Cove
by: Anonymous

What about Smith's Cove? I have seen pictures with people jumping off rocks and some say there is good snorkeling there too. I would love to do some small "cliff" jumps and snorkel. Any comments on that spot?

Thanks.

Sep 13, 2017
Smiths Cove
by: Tom & Jan Turner

Smiths Cove is one of the spots that we always wind up at when in Grand Cayman. It is a pretty decent snorkel spot with quite a bit of wildlife. The underwater terrain is different in that there are "rolling" mounds under the water. The real coral will be found by swimming out to the dive buoy that is a bit to the left as you stand on the beach at the Cove entrance. It is probably out 300 or 400 yards. If you go in and swim either direction along the shore, there is lots of coral and wildlife along the way. I think it is better going to the right. It was here that we saw the only Lemon Shark that we have ever come across. It is very easy in and out unless the waves have some size to them.

As far as rock diving, the rocks here are not real high, maybe 6' at most. The water is not real deep, so I think that it is a jump in feet first situation. We have never jumped off of the rocks but have watched lots of people doing it.

Smiths Cove is the exit for a long drift snorkel that we will usually do when in Grand Cayman. We go in at the Paradise Restaurant at Hogs Stye Bay, which is right downtown where the cruise ships park. Swim to the left and it is about 2 miles or so to your exit at Smiths Cove. You will see lots of wildlife and plenty of coral along the way, along with some unique sites such as the mermaid statue which is off from one of the dive centers, I believe. There are some bare spots along the way, but you scoot through them quickly.

I hope this helps. Remember, salt water cures everything.

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