Grand Cayman Snorkeling Guide

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Located in central Caribbean Sea is the British Overseas Territory of the Cayman Islands. With 95% of the territory’s population, Grand Cayman is a diver and snorkeling paradise. At over 22 miles (35 km) long, there are many options to snorkel from shore across the island. Most locations are on the west side, along with Georgetown and Seven Mile Beach. There are many options for beginners to advanced snorkelers across the island. From simple artificial reef structures in shallow water off Marriott Resort, to the USS Kittiwake shipwreck that starts at 40 feet (12 meters) deep, Grand Cayman offers everything to everybody. Please explore this extensive snorkeling guide of the island. We feature over 20 locations across the island. Each location has been personally snorkeled, mapped, and video recorded. There is a digital google map link below, compatible with app on your phone. There is also video of each snorkeling spot. Go on a tour! decide which location is appropriate for your skill level or vibes.

We also offer downloadable pdf maps that include extra detailed information about each location. We just want to share the love of snorkeling and answer the ultimate question: “where do you go snorkeling?”

 

Many cruise ships visit the island. As a cruise ship passenger there are great snorkeling options within walking distance…

There is a spectacular reef at Eden Rock, just a 7-minute walk from the dock. You can rent snorkel gear there. The reef is a little further out, but is remarkable. It is very rare to see such a great reef right inside a town. Please go check it out. If you are staying for a couple days, you should rent a car. The island is large and offers great snorkeling options across the island. Depending on your group size, a small island car is the best choice. Small and easy to maneuver the narrow streets, easy to park.

Traffic is bad during rush hours on the island. It’s bad enough, you should plan your day around it. Luckily it doesn’t last too long, just those couple hours in the morning and afternoon on weekdays. East of town at the roundabout near Hurley’s grocery store is where the city traffic subsides during rush hour. Everything east of there is easy all day. Your USA based national cell phone plan should work on the island at no extra charge. Use the map below to open in google maps app. Simply click the snorkel spot and hit directions! There’s also a video link for each spot.

Grand Cayman Snorkeling Map

(Click the box on the map header to open in Google Maps app)

 

Click to jump to each location: 

 

 

Bob Soto "Cheeseburger" Reef

Straight off Burger King in town is a spectacular reef. It seems strange that an amazing reef is right in a town harbor, but it’s true. The reef starts in 10 feet of water and slopes to 30 feet and beyond. Small reef islands develop into deep underwater canyons with a sandy bottom. All skill levels can enjoy this reef. To access, you need to enter the water just north of Burger King at the public beach next to the helicopter tours. Swim back to Burger King and then straight out. The reef covers a large area so you can’t miss it. The reef is located right below a main harbor area, watch out for boats.

Note: The locals prefer to call this reef Bob Soto’s instead of "Cheeseburger", after a pioneering local diver.

 

Bodden Town

Fairly good shallow reef. It sits in 3 to 5 feet of water, so beginners will have fun here getting up close with the reef. Standing on shore and looking out, the reef sits behind the breaking water. There is also some reef to see just beyond the breaking water if you can squeeze past the shallow breaking point. There are also scattered coral islands closer in from the breaker. These coral islands are the only hiding place for marine life, so make sure to investigate them. There may be larger sand and grass areas between the coral islands, if you find yourself in these areas, turn and head back towards the breakers. You can start at Governors Beach and snorkel all the way to the public boat launch. You can also stop anywhere along the sandy shore and walk back to where you started.

 

Cali Wreck

Shallow shipwreck right in the center of town. The sinking ship became a navigational hazard, so it was blown up years ago. There are scattered pieces rather than a complete ship. Still fun to explore, close to shore and in shallow water make it easy to reach. There is also some reef nearby the wreck. Rackam’s restaurant nearby feeds tarpon every night, so there is a good chance you will come across some snorkeling here. Located right in town, cruise ship passengers are just a short walk away. The wreck is located almost directly off Divers Down dock, they do charge $10 USD to use their facilities. You could also enter the water from a small public beach area to the south.

 

Cemetery Reef

The best snorkeling reef on 7-mile beach. There is a rocky area with some fish close to shore, but the best area is about 200 yards out. It’s a large area so just swim straight out from shore and you will find it. The reef is not one continuous area but isolated towers and patches with a sand bottom in between. You can see the speckled reef patches from the satellite imagery. Depths are just over 10 feet and the coral is healthy and diverse. It’s a great reef to snorkel and easily the best reef on 7-mile beach.

 

Coral Gardens

Coral Gardens Beautiful healthy reef just off Rum Point. The reef covers a relatively small area, but has some of the best coral heads on the island. It’s a little far from shore, so access is typically from boat. Usually you pair a stop here with a trip to nearby Stingray City. Because it’s a smaller reef area, it can get busy with snorkelers from tour boats. The reef is beautiful though.

You could potentially reach here from shore with some considerations. It’s about 850 feet out and busy with tour boats. Make sure you have the skill level to get out here and back, and make sure you are visible to the tour boats. It’s a small patch of reef far from shore, the best way to locate it, is observe where the tour boats park. They also typically hit the reef in the morning and clear out by noon. It's a long way out here from shore I don't recommend swimming, perhaps use a kayak.

 

Divetech / Poseidon Statue

A dive shop with shore access, just south of Turtle Reef. They have a similar drop off wall close to shore. They also have an underwater Poseidon statue that sits about 50 feet deep. The drop-off wall and surrounding reed are not as impressive as nearby Turtle Reef, but snorkelers can have fun floating over the drop-off wall and free divers can have fun diving the statue.

 

Eden Rock

Dive shop with access to shore snorkeling and diving. Located near in the center of town, they have a spectacular reef not far off shore. The reef has diverse structure, coming up to 10 feet deep and dropping down to 30 feet. There are several canyon and caves with overhangs that free divers will have fun with. Beginner snorkelers will have fun here to observing the underwater structure. If you are a cruise ship passenger, you can easily walk over here from town. There was no charge to use their facilities if you have your own gear. You can also rent snorkel gear from them.

 

Gamma Wreck

Fun shipwreck in shallow water and next to shore. Parts of the wreck actually stick out of the water. The ship is mostly intact and about 30 feet long. You will find many fish around the wreck. It’s a popular spot and has been for years. It’s a fun little wreck for everyone and a great afternoon location to watch the sunset. How To get to the Gamma Wreck. Located just outside town, it is easily accessible through a public beach access lane. Park at The Warf Restaurant and Bar, the public beach access lane is immediately next to the parking lot. Park on the far north east corner to leave room for restaurant patrons. Walk out to the beach and turn right (north). Walk for a bit to a concrete building foundation, the wreck should be visible above the water just past that. The best entry seemed to be from that building foundation. It’s flooded and you can swim out to open water from there. It’s a longer snorkel to the wreck, but it avoids most of the sharp coral entry.

 

Geneva Kathleen Wreck

Shipwreck in shallow water that is hard to find with only a few scattered pieces over a larger area. Consider it underwater archaeology, a treasure hunt and it becomes more adventurous. The wooden ship was pulled across the breakers in 1929. Only the iron pieces of the ship remain today. You can just see the dark shape of the main wreck while standing on the cliffs. You should think about doing this first before getting in the water, as it might save you some searching time. It also gives you a good idea how far from Barefoot Beach entry point you need to be. There is an overgrown lookout walkway on the cliffs above. Follow this to the shore point marked on the digital map. Turn the GPS on your phone and line up with the point in Google maps. Look straight out from shore and closer to the breakers. There are white sand patches and darker areas of sea grass. The main piece of wreck is about 400 feet from shore and just inside the breaker. Coral is growing on the main wreck piece, so it appears darker than the sea grass and anything else around it. It’s a small patch so look sharp. There is a “buoy” attached to it, but don’t place your trust in that. I found the wreck before the buoy. While I was snorkeling around, I would stick my head above water and look for the darker patches, that’s how I found it. As you come towards shore from the main patch of wreck, you can find other scattered pieces. They are all in sand patches so zigzag though those areas and look sharp. You can find small pieces all the way to the cliffs. Additionally, you can use this line of debris to find your way to the main wreck area.

 

Governors Beach

A mediocre reef straight off the public Governor’s Beach Park on 7-Mile beach. It’s not that great, but it’s one of the few reef areas along 7-mile beach. The reef is an isolated patch located about 400 feet offshore. Since it’s an isolated patch, it's slightly hard to find. The reef is visible on satellite imagery. There should be a marker buoy towards the back end of the reef. From shore, try to swim straight out from the southern half of the park. Look for the darker patch from shore. But hey! Don’t let me dissuade you from the reef, if you are staying right nearby go check it out. But I really think Seafire Reef is a better choice along 7-mile beach.

 

Kittiwake Wreck

Very popular dive and snorkel location that is accessed by boat. The ship was intentionally sunk straight up at shallow depths for snorkelers to enjoy. Originally only 20 feet to the top, tropical storm Nate in 2017 knocked the ship over and it now sits about 40 feet to the top. Water clarity is excellent, and you can easily see the ocean floor at over 60 feet. Even with this, it is still considered a snorkel destination. Free divers will have an absolute blast. There are many places to swim explore all over the large ship. Holes were cut all over the ship and recreational divers are allowed to penetrate the wreck with a dive instructor. Don’t forget to spin the wheel for 7 years good luck! The Kittiwake is a very popular destination and many tour operators offer a trip out here.

 

Marriott's Reef Balls

Marriott Resort placed a series of artificial concrete reef balls right offshore in shallow water. It’s nothing spectacular but there is a fair diversity of fish around. The structures appear fairly new, so they haven’t grown much coral yet. It’s a nice easy beginner area and one of the few snorkel areas long 7-mile beach. You do not need to be a guest to access the beach through the resort.

 

North Side Reef

Expansive reef area stretching across much of the north end. Starting at Rum Point and going to Old Man Bay, there are several public entry points to the water. Those entry points are marked on the snorkeling map. The reef is not very dense, but it’s a large area to explore. Chances are, you would be the first to explore in a while. When snorkeling out from shore, its shallow for a while with grassy areas. Coral islands can be scattered farther apart. In the winter, waves can be steady on the north end as the barrier reef is located deeper. But starting at Rum Point and heading east until the second public access point the barrier reef is shallower offering more protection to the reef. The reef can be healthier in this area. If you are not staying on the north end with water access, you will have to use the marked public entry areas. These entry points vary from public parks with facilities, to simple access lanes to the water. These public beach access points are all marked with brown signs. Most of the north end is private property. If you are a more advanced snorkeler, think about a one-way snorkel between entry points, or from where you are staying.

 

Seafire Reef

 Very shallow strip of reef right next to shore and about 1,000 feet long. It actually has more to offer than I speculated, while viewing it from shore. It also doubles as a great night snorkel location. There is some mild diversity in healthy coral, but a surprising amount of marine life for its location. The coral rocks have lots of cracks and breaks which offer many hiding places for marine life. The reef is marked with a couple buoys and starts just north of the tall Seafire residence building. You should snorkel the ocean side of the reef. It is very shallow to cross the reef, so start on one end or at the buoy marking the middle. Try to one-way snorkel the reef. There are signs stating the public cannot park right at Seafire, but there does not appear to be any enforcement. There is also a public park just south of there you can walk from. It’s also not a far walk from Governor’s Beach park should you decide to snorkel both locations. Night snorkeling here is excellent. The reef is easy access right next to shore, and shallow depths allow marine life viewing up close. Plenty of cracks in the rocks hide lobsters and other marine life.

DAY SNORKEL

 

NIGHT SNORKEL

 

Smith's Barricade

Great local beach hangout, the type of place you could spend an afternoon. A couple sandy entrances to some coral wall snorkeling and a couple isolated coral islands. Nice easy beginner snorkeling and some good times. People commonly stay well past dark, especially on weekends. Think about doing a sunset snorkel, waiting till after dark, then doing a night snorkel. Swim along the wall in either direction. To the north (right) is more entertaining underwater topography. To the south (left) is better coral. There did not seem to be much to see out deeper away from shore. The water can get churned up here on a windy day and visibility drops.

 

Snorkel X

Boat trip to the east end reef offered through Ocean Frontiers. The boat drops you off for a one-way snorkel while zig-zagging through coral heads. The boat picks you up father down the reef. It’s a shallow snorkel behind the breakers in about 5 feet of water. As a snorkel boat trip, the coral here is not incredibly amazing because you can see similar reef from shore in many other places on the island. There are larger spaces between coral heads. However, nurse sharks can be commonly seen along this route. The reef is also undisturbed on this side of the island.

 

Spotts Beach

Public Beach with some limited reef behind the breakers. Sea turtles are known to cruise through the grassy areas. You can also pass through the shallow breaker area to a spectacular reef. This area is farther out, so evaluate your skill level before attempting. In about 30 feet of water is a healthy reef broken up by sand mazes. This area is rather extensive so it’s not hard to find. Simply go straight off the park dock. There should be a buoy for dive boats just past the breakers. That is a reference point. The good part of the reef starts on the far side (south) of the breakers. Free divers will enjoy this area.

 

Starfish Point

Not really a snorkel location, but a great chance to see starfish. Public park and beach area set up to preserve starfish habitat. Right offshore, starfish can be seen in in shallow water. It’s possible to view them by only getting your feet wet. Snorkel opportunities are limited at this park.

 

Stingray City

The most popular tour on the island. Feed, touch and interact with large stingrays from a shallow sandbar. The stingrays are friendly and tame. They will even bump into you to get your attention in hopes you feed them. Great way to interact with wild marine life. You will have to take a boat out here and there are numerous tour operators to choose from. There are several variations of tours as they pair Stingray City with other stops. If you are a snorkeling enthusiast, try to pair the trip with a stop at nearby Coral Gardens just off Rum Point.

 

Sulfur Vent

Strange and unique geological feature on the north end. In shallow water right offshore, is a sulfur thermal vent. The water comes from deep in the earth and smells like rotten eggs (the typical sulfur smell). The water is probably heated, but it’s not warm to the touch, the ocean water around it might be warm enough to make it feel neutral. I couldn’t feel a difference in heat, but it might change, so don’t take my word for it. As a bonus, the water that comes out of the vent is fresh water. When it interacts with salt water it causes a “fuzzy water effect” known as halocline. That is how you locate it.

The thermal vent is close to shore, but occupies a small area, so it is hard to find. On the north end, the parking area is unmarked and small. Best way to get there is click the point on the digital snorkel map and drive there. Once there, walk down the path to the water. While standing at the shore and looking out to the water, the vent is straight ahead 30 to 40 feet out, and slightly right (east) of the path. The best entry appears to your left (west). Get in the water and line up with the path from the car. Swim out about 30 to 40 feet. Swim slightly to the east and look for the “fuzzy water”. The water might be murky, so you will have to be close to locate it. Its located in about 5 feet of water. There are three or four distinguishable vents in one spot. They are about five feet apart and lie along a crack in the rock. Follow that about 15 feet east and you will find another small vent.

 

Sunset Cove

Patch of reef about 300 feet off Coral Cove Resort. It’s in shallow water around 10 to 15 feet. The reef is in fair condition and good diversity. You can see the dark patch of reef from satellite imagery. That is actually how I found it, by browsing imagery. To get out here, swim through the Coral Cove beach breaker area and head straight out and slightly right (north). It is a longer swim out, so make sure that is in your skill level. There is a 200-yard buoy on the southeast end of the reef patch, use that as a reference point as you swim out. I would rate this reef as second best along 7-mile beach, after Cemetery Reef. Bring a personal marker buoy if you come out here so you can be seen by passing boats. Boats are “supposed” to stay outside the 200-yard buoy, but they don’t always follow the rules. Jet skis are rented nearby, and tourists will zoom around this area. If you walk along the beach here from Marriott Resort, you will see signs saying you cannot enter Coral Cove’s beach or walk through. That is not entirely accurate, the beach is public. Out by the road they even have a “Public Beach Access” sign. What they mean is, don’t use their facilities like pool and hot tub if you are not a guest. But that is the same rule everywhere, you are perfectly ok to use the beach.

 

Sunset House / Amphitrite Statue

Resort with great water access. Along with the reef, the main attraction is an underwater statue of Amphitrite, goddess of the ocean. The reef here is a little deeper so beginner snorkelers might not enjoy. The good parts of the reef are around 20 feet deep. The reef extends in either direction for quite a distance and starts not far from shore. The statue sits deeper in 50 feet of water and is easy to find. Free divers will enjoy diving at it. The folks at the dive shop can show you how to get there. Beyond that, there is a small shipwreck in about 60 feet of water. It’s marked with a buoy so it’s easy to find. Overall, the good parts of the reef are a little deeper here, but easy shore access and a few extra things to find underwater make this a good location.

(Sunset House dive map)

 

Turtle Reef

Restaurant and dive shop with shore access. They have a great drop off wall close to shore starting around 30 feet deep. It’s a little deeper for the average snorkeler, but the drop-off is fantastic to look at. Free divers will have fun reaching the wall. Simply swim straight off the restaurant to reach the wall. The best areas appear to be to the left (south) along the wall. The wind in the winter months primarily comes from the north and can cause large swells here. They routinely close the shore access if conditions are too rough. You should call first to see if the shore access is open, especially if driving up from Georgetown. Restaurant is called The Cracked Conch.

 

 

Hey, check this out:

For even more detailed information on these snorkeling sites, download our Grand Cayman Snorkeling Map. Full color maps in .pdf version. Extra notes, tips and tricks to maximize your experience. Download for offline use and take with you to the snorkel spot.





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