Diving in the Cayman Islands
World-renowned for its warm, clear waters and sheer wall dives, the Cayman Islands have much to offer divers. Whether you’re in the mood for deep or shallow dives, reefs, walls or wrecks, the Caymans have it all. Little Cayman’s famous Bloody Bay Wall Marine Park is arguably one of the world's best dive sites. The Cayman Islands are recognized as the birthplace of recreational diving in the Caribbean. The warm, calm waters, 100 ft. plus visibility and breath-taking variety of marine life offer a world of exciting logbook entries. In general, the weather is good all year and the cool tradewinds ensure it doesn’t get too hot. Peak season runs between December and April, while the rainy season runs from May to November, but generally the short afternoon showers aren’t enough to hinder any vacation activities. The average summer temperature is 80 degrees, dropping to 75 degrees in winter. See the current weather here.
Grand Cayman has over 160 dive sites ranging from steep walls adorned with vibrantly colored sponges and corals to the “The World’s Best 12 Foot Dive:” Stingray City, where friendly Southern Stingrays swim around divers waiting to be fed. Grand Cayman’s reefs are unspoiled: gorgonians and hard corals thrive in the clear, warm waters, and most dive sites are just minutes offshore.
Cayman Brac’s miles of shallow reefs are inhabited by a multitude of marine life, unafraid of divers. The 330-foot Russian warship #356, complete with four deck guns, was intentionally sunk off the island’s west end in 1996. Renamed the MV Capt. Keith Tibbetts, she is the only divable Russian warship in the Western Hemisphere. The Tibbetts is a unique and exciting addition to the Brac’s other underwater attractions, which include two other wrecks, an ancient anchor embedded in a wall; miles of healthy shallow reefs featuring elkhorn corals and abundant fish populations; and miles of colorful sponge and coral laden drop-offs.
Little Cayman’s most famous dive attraction, Bloody Bay Wall, offers one of the finest drop-offs in the Caribbean. Plunging to depths of over 6000ft, these exhilarating walls are covered with brightly colored sponges, sea fans and corals. There are spectacular formations of yellow tube, strawberry and orange vase sponges and tangled masses of scarlet rope sponges. Gracefully gliding along the wall, you may see eagle rays and other, larger denizens of the deep. Though famous for her walls, the island also offers pristine shallow reefs hosting an incredibly abundant and diverse collection of marine life, which don’t seem to be afraid of divers. Don’t miss out on night dives where you’ll find octopus roaming the reefs and squid darting back and forth, flashing colors and, occasionally, mating.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
A valid passport with at least 6 months of validity remaining is required. No Visas are required for U.S. and Canadian citizens. Check the entry and exit requirements here.
Vaccinations are not required for entering the Caribbean if you’re coming from the U.S., Britain, or Canada. Please check with your doctor or visit the Center for Disease Control’s web site here for more information.
Culture and Customs
The culture of the Cayman Islands is a blend of American, British and West Indian traditions. Preserving the traditions and art forms unique to the Caymans is becoming an increased focus in the islands. There are many new venues and events dedicated to the arts including “Cayfest,” an annual arts festival held every April to showcase local artists and traditions. Another widely popular event is the Pirates Week Festival (held in October) which celebrates the island's swashbuckling history and is the largest annual festival. The Batabano Carnival is an annual 4-day carnival held near Easter, including a parade, singing, dancing and plenty of Caribbean food. The Cayman Jazz Fest and Food & Wine Festivals also draw large crowds.
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Electrical current is 110 volts AC, 60Hz. American style two-pin plugs are standard.
Modern telephone service is available 24 hours daily on all three islands.
There are many Cyber Cafés now available in the Cayman Islands, and many hotels have computers with internet service available for guests.
The water is of good quality and safe to drink.
Language & Currency
English is the official language. The local currency, is the Caymanian dollar, and US currency is generally accepted as are major credit cards. Check the current exchange rate here.
The Cayman Islands are on Atlantic Standard Time, 1 hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States. The Islands do not observe daylight saving time, so when the United States changes to daylight saving time, the time in the Caymans and the east coast of the U.S. is the same.
History, Art, and Culture
The islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman were discovered by Columbus in 1503 and named 'Las Tortugas' ('the turtles', in Spanish), for the abundance of sea turtles he found around the islands. During the course of the next hundred years the islands became known as "Caymanas", which is derived from a Carib word for crocodiles. The islands were a popular stopping off point for sailors to take on fresh water and food. Cayman also became a refuge for pirates and a focus for their raids.
Sir Francis Drake was the first English visitor to the islands, in 1586. In 1670, the islands became British under the Treaty of Madrid. 1788 saw the famous incident know as the Wreck of the Ten Sail, when a convoy of British ships on their way to Britain from Jamaica hit the reef in East End, and the local population showed great bravery in rescuing all those aboard. Legend has it that a member of royalty was among those saved and in gratitude King George III granted Cayman freedom from conscription and/or taxation.
In 1863 Cayman was placed under the direct control of Jamaica, but when Jamaica became independent in 1962, Cayman opted to remain a dependant territory of the British Crown. Read more about Cayman culture here.
Location and Size
Grand Cayman, the largest of the three Cayman Islands, lies in the far Western Caribbean, 480 miles south of Miami and occupies 76 square miles. The sister islands of Cayman Brac (14 square miles) and Little Cayman (10 square miles) are 89 miles to the northeast of Grand Cayman. Grand Cayman is approximately 22 miles long and 8 miles at its widest point, reaching a maximum elevation at East End of 60 ft. Cayman Brac is 12 miles long and just over a mile wide and has the most dramatic topography of the trio. Its majestic Bluff rises west to east along the length of the island to 140 feet at the eastern tip, ending in a sheer cliff. Many mysterious caves are carved throughout this awe-inspiring natural attraction. Little Cayman, only 10 miles long and a mile wide, is flat, reaching a maximum elevation of 40 ft. The three islands are limestone outcroppings, the tops of a submarine mountain range called the Cayman Ridge, which extends west southwest for the Sierra Maestra range off the southeast part of Cuba to the Misteriosa Bank near Belize.