Photo: Curtis & Renee
1. There’s a spot aptly called Stingray City.
If you’ve been lucky enough to spot some stingrays on a dive or snorkel trip before, Stingray City will undoubtedly outdo those experiences tenfold. The stingrays began gathering in this area decades ago when fishermen would clean their catch and now flock here daily to feed on squid from the hands of divers, snorkelers and even swimmers in the shallow water. Don’t even think about going here without a waterproof camera.
2. It’s home to one of the healthiest reefs in the Caribbean.
Grand Cayman and its sister islands, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, are actually the peaks of a massive underwater ridge. Solid environmental protections have served the marine life well and divers can expect a colorful reef and generally pristine dive conditions at all 365 dive sites — yep, that’s one for each day of the year. The Dive 365 Initiative was created in 2008 to alleviate the environmental impact of diving at more popular sites, giving divers more opportunities to explore new dive sites around the islands and discover “secret spots of some of the destination’s top dive masters.”
3. The diving is so good that some of the world’s best divers choose to live here.
In fact, the Cayman Islands are home to the annual International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, and each year since 2001, a handful of divers are inducted in recognition of their contributions to the sport of scuba diving. Inductees include the impressive likes of Jacque-Yves Cousteau, and local residents include legendary divers like Ron Kipp, Dr. Guy Harvey, Cathy Church and Bob Soto, who opened Grand Cayman’s first dive resort in 1957.
4. Diving on a budget is possible.
The Cayman Islands certainly have a luxe reputation, but there are also plenty of lodging options and dive shops for budget travelers, especially during the low season (mid-April to mid-December). Of the 40 dive shops on the islands, many — including Sunset House, Cobalt Coast, Pirates Point, and Cayman Brac Beach Resort — offer discounts and packages throughout the year. The Legends and Lions programming also offers dive packages in the weeks leading up to the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame Ceremony.
5. Foodies are welcome.
As any diver knows, refueling after a day in the water is key during a dive trip, and Grand Cayman’s cuisine makes dinnertime a daily highlight, even after a day on the water. The island is an eclectic blend of cultures, from Blue Cilantro’s French and Mediterranean dishes to The Waterfront Urban Diner in Camana Bay. Naturally, the fish is fresh as can be, and most restaurants maintain a refreshing ambiance of chic island vibes.
6. Time is of the essence.
After years of pressure from the cruise line industry, the Cayman Islands’ premier recently announced plans to build cruise berthing facilities in George Town Harbour. Supporters of the plan say this move is critical to the islands’ economic future and relevance in the cruise line industry as it will allow them to dock mega-ships, but opponents argue the environmental impact of dredging in George Town Harbor and the surrounding area will be severe. For now, cruise ships anchor nearby and shuttle visitors to the island, but the new dock will allow for walk-on access for many more visitors per day, and since at least some damage to the reef is certain, the new dock is sure to affect the island vibes both on land and along the reef.