Discovering Grand Cayman's Diving Diversity

The Cayman Islands are synonymous with Caribbean diving. This is where the concept of the dive vacation and dedicated dive resort was born, and where wall diving became a thing. Fast forward 60 years and the islands that pioneered dive travel are still a favorite, offering an ever-widening range of underwater adventures for everyone from first-timers to old pros and cutting-edge tech divers.

 At 251 feet in length, the USS Kittiwake is Grand Cayman's largest and most popular shipwreck.
At 251 feet in length, the USS Kittiwake is Grand Cayman's largest and most popular shipwreck.
Turtle are frequent visitors to dive sites all along Grand Cayman's western shore.
Turtle are frequent visitors to dive sites all along Grand Cayman's western shore.

Deciding to visit the Cayman Islands is easy. What may seem more challenging for those less familiar with the islands is choosing which island, and which area, to explore. With 365 named dive sites spread across three islands, you could literally dive a different venue each day of the year. Since most of us don't have the luxury of taking a year off work to go diving, you'll need to make some choices. To get started on creating your perfect Cayman Islands Dive trip, here's a basic rundown on what to expect.

There are numerous shallow wrecks to explore, including the David Nicholson, which can be accessed from shore.
There are numerous shallow wrecks to explore, including the David Nicholson, which can be accessed from shore.

Dive Central

Grand Cayman has something for everyone, from high-end resorts on the famous sands of Seven Mile Beach to diver-centric lodges set close to the best reefs. The island's west coast is a hotbed for diving activity, and it is home to a majority of resorts, restaurants and attractions. The coastline is protected from prevailing east winds, making for comfortable boat rides to dive sites. This region also offers a tremendous variety of underwater landscapes, as a wide sand-floored plateau close to shore transitions to reefs, then walls. There are a number of wrecks to explore, including the iconic USS Kittiwake, and the more scattered remains of the Oro Verde, Balboa, Cali and Doc Polson. North and south of Seven Mile Beach, the native iron shore coast provides the best shore diving opportunities in the Caymans. Near the landmark Sunset House, a network of grottoes and fissures create underwater mazes that can fill with shimmering schools of baitfish. And there's also pair of underwater sculptures, a mermaid and the Guardian of the Reef, which are favorites for underwater selfies.

The mermaid sculpture by Simon Morris is located close to Sunset house and is a popular shore dive.
The mermaid sculpture by Simon Morris is located close to Sunset house and is a popular shore dive.
Grand Cayman's Stingray City is the original stingray encounter and considered a must-do experience for many.
Grand Cayman's Stingray City is the original stingray encounter and considered a must-do experience for many.

The Best of the Rest

As good as Grand Cayman's west coast diving can be, there's a lot more to explore when you head east, go north or stay south. One of the world's most famous marine life encounters takes place near the mouth of the island's North Sound. Here at Sandbar and Stingray city, the namesake rays aren't shy about meeting dives and snorkelers. Move into open water and you'll discover some of the most island's dramatic seascapes such as the sheer walls at the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, or the fish-laden pinnacle known as Ghost Mountain. In contrast, the island's southern coast is a realm of moderate to steep slopes cut by coral ramparts that project out into blue water. These mid-island sites see less diver traffic and add yet another element to the diving experience. Grand Cayman's less-visited East End adds intricate spur-and-groove reef formations where canyons and grottoes become fish havens, home to grouper, snapper and roving tarpon. At certain times of the year, these formations fill with massive schools of silversides, and finning through this moving cloud is an otherworldly experience. The East End offers the best chance for chance encounters with sharks and pelagics and yes, there are also walls.

The north side of Grand Cayman is known for sheer walls and pinnacles that project outward into blue water.
The north side of Grand Cayman is known for sheer walls and pinnacles that project outward into blue water.
A squadron of tarpon scatter shoals of silversides that seek refuge in Grand Cayman's coral grottoes and canyons.
A squadron of tarpon scatter shoals of silversides that seek refuge in Grand Cayman's coral grottoes and canyons.

The Charming Sisters

Known as the Sister Islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman combine a laid-back out island lifestyle with some of the best dive sites in the Caribbean. Cayman Brac is an island is home to a small local community and a premier oceanfront resort set on a pristine white-sand beach. Divers have a lot of choices that include shallow coral gardens, slopes and walls. These waters are known for abundant fish life, including curious groupers and turtles, and are also the resting place of the only diveable Russia Warship in the Western Hemisphere. Sift over to Little Cayman, and you'll really be stepping back in time, as there are fewer than 200 full-time residents living on this little piece of paradise. Divers can still enjoy 21st-century comforts at the island's landmark beach resort, and nighttime skies will be filled with stars rather than streetlights. The big attraction is the famous dive site, the Bloody Bay Wall, which plummets from reefs as shallow as 20 feet to depths of more than a mile. The underwater terrain is also known for the winding caverns that lead through high-profile reefs to the edge of the abyss. This is true off-grid diving, but with all the comforts of home when you come ashore.

The MV Captain Keith Tibbetts is a 330-foot former Soviet frigate that no lies at a depth of 65 to 80 feet off the shore of Cayman Brac.
The MV Captain Keith Tibbetts is a 330-foot former Soviet frigate that no lies at a depth of 65 to 80 feet off the shore of Cayman Brac.
Cayman Brac is known for its resident population of Nassau grouper. These fish are typically gregarious and tolerant of divers.
Cayman Brac is known for its resident population of Nassau grouper. These fish are typically gregarious and tolerant of divers.

Ready to start exploring the waters of the Cayman Islands? We can help you put together the perfect dive package. Give one of our expert agents a call at 800-330-6611 or send a note to sales@caradonna.com.

The reef line at Little Cayman's Bloody Bay Wall transitions to a vertical face at shallow depths.
The reef line at Little Cayman's Bloody Bay Wall transitions to a vertical face at shallow depths.