Photo by Cathy Church
Cayman Islands diving is unquestionably among the best scuba diving in the entire Caribbean. But choosing which Cayman island to dive, what parts of the Cayman Islands to dive and what Cayman dive operators to dive with, all mean the difference between the most spectacular and affordable Cayman Islands dive vacations, verses the ordinary and often pricey Cayman Islands diving vacations.
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Cayman Islands diving is sheer wall dives, abundant shallow reefs with hundreds of species of tropical fish and corals, shipwrecks covered with coral filled with fish, and world famous Stingray City dive. You can also snorkel at the Cayman Stingray City or the shallower Sandbar.
Cayman Islands diving conditions are the product of millions of years of geological miracles, creating an underwater mountain range larger than Mt. Everest, with only the most minute peak exposed as land. Most Cayman Islands dive sites are wall dives, which is their primary stock in trade. However, all Cayman Islands dive sites are interesting in the extreme, thriving with sea life, and consistantly crystal clear visibility often exceeding 100 feet!
Cayman diving conditions
Grand Cayman dive conditions are largely determined by weather and sea conditions. In general, the east side of Grand Cayman is the windward side of the island and received the most wind, and consequently the roughest seas. While wave heights average 1-2 feet on Grand Cayman's west side, wave heights on the east side of Grand Cayman average 3-6 feet. That's quite a difference, especially to those prone to motion sickness or anyone with any negative dive factors, like dehydration, hangover, sleep depravation, greasy breakfast, you get the drift! If you are not up for big waves and rough waters, plan any easterly diving a few days in advance after checking the forecast and then hope the forecast is correct! If it's calling for easterly winds, it's going to be rough on the east side, it's that simple.
With prevailing easterly winds, the obvious lee side of Grand Cayman is its west side, which is primarily Seven Mile Beach. Most Cayman Islands dive operators keep one or more boats in a location equally accessible to north or west side diving. Depending on the prevailing Cayman Islands weather and sea conditions, wave heights will vary from 1-3 feet on the west side and 2-4 feet on the north side, both well within the comfort zone of all passengers. Grand Cayman west side diving consists of two distinctly different dive adventures. Cayman's west side walls are among the most vertical in the world, as a result of the Cayman Islands strattling a massive mountain top amid the vast Cayman Trench, immediately dropping to the abyss of the
Diving Cayman Brac is best described as somewhere in between Grand Cayman diving and Little Cayman diving. Cayman Brac divers are rewarded with medium depth shipwrecks and unique man made creations like Atlantis but Cayman Brac wall diving is not as dramatic as Little Cayman or the north and west wall dives of Grand Cayman.
The East End diving in Grand Cayman is also quite good, but the waters there are usually much rougher than other parts of Grand Cayman, and it is a relatively long drive, with no free pick ups from Cayman dive operators. You can stay in East End on Grand Cayman for Grand Cayman East End diving but options for diving and lodging are extremely limited, and it is a very long and fuel costly drive to get to any of the many other fantastic dive sites, attractions, restaurants and other activities that make Grand Cayman famous.
We can offer the following advice to help Cayman divers pick the right place to stay, based on what is most important.
If your MAIN concerns are:
Diving in the Cayman Islands, Cayman Islands Dive Resorts, Cayman Islands All Inclusive Diving, the best photography, the longest dives, the most diverse dives, and the greatest amount of diverse Cayman Islands dives. And you are not interested in lots of great restaurants, many other activities, tours and attractions.
Then a Little Cayman dive resort will be your best choice.
Little Cayman diving is without a doubt the best of the best, with their Bloody Bay Wall dives that start as shallow as 15 feet!
There are four main Little Cayman dive resorts. After trying all of the Little Cayman diving resorts, and based on the accumulated reviews and data of the web, we have ranked them for you, based on:
Value for Price
Dive Quality - Includes dive site selections, freedom of diving, dive customer service, boat quality, number of passengers, number of divemasters, air quality psi and selections, onboard snacks and beverages.
If your MAIN concerns are:
Diving in the Cayman Islands but staying at a resort or hotel instead of a dedicated Cayman Islands Dive Resort, good dive photography options, average length diverse dives, the greatest amount of Grand Cayman dives. And you ARE interested in lots of great restaurants, and many other activities, tours and attractions.
Then a Grand Cayman resort or condo is your best choice.
Do NOT go to any Grand Cayman all inclusive dive resorts! We have tried them all, Sunset House, DiveTech, and 2 others now closed. The all-inclusive prices do not end up being any less extensive than choosing your accommodations, dive operations, and restaurants ala carte. Plus you need a car. So you don't want to restrict yourself to diving the same shore dive every day! And it is not short of crazy to go to an island like Grand Cayman that is known for its hundreds of spectacular and very diverse restaurants, and then dine at the same all inclusive cafeteria type of restaurant all day, every day? Crazy, if you think about it, but some people do still go, but most of the all inclusive resorts on Grand Cayman have shut down, and what remains are in pretty rough and ready kind of condition.
There are a LOT of condos, resorts, hotels, motels, private homes, and villas to choose from on Grand Cayman. Until we get our accommodations website up and running, your best bet is to stay away from the mega-places like Expedia, that have a bad habit of taking your cash and then not having your room ready when you get there! And then who do you complain to? The hotel never heard of you. So for now, you should contact the places directly. Just search Yahoo or Goggle for "Cayman Islands Condos" or "Cayman Islands Hotels" or whatever you prefer. Then contact the place directly and you'll be surprised at how many of them will work out a special deal just for booking direct. But you have to ask for it! There is another site, that has a unique type of reservations feature, not like any of the others. It's called the Activity Guide, who is actually one of the many Cayman Islands guide books. But they do have a way of quickly putting you directly in touch with what they think are the best places to stay.
If you choose Grand Cayman for diving, you need to pick what part of the island to stay at. I know this sounds kinda complicated but unless you want to roll the dice, you need to do a little work. But the rewards are high, considering the whole quality of your Cayman Islands dive vacation is at stake!
So first decide if you want a resort, condo, or private home, then decide what part of Grand Cayman appeals to you. As far as dive vacationing on Grand Cayman, it can be broken down into three basic areas. Seven Mile Beach, East End, North Side, and even East End and North Side are very similar, so the only real choice is whether you would rather have less traffic or more variety. It's that simple, but you can't have both. So if you want to do all of the restaurants, activities, and other stuff that Grand Cayman has to offer, then you need to be in the Seven Mile Beach area, or budget plenty of very expensive gasoline, and lots of time spent driving around in traffic. On the other hand, if you prefer to get away from it all, completely, and not eat at many restaurants, not do many other activities, then stay at North Side or East End.
There are a few other things you should know. There are over 20 Cayman dive companies, but only TWO to service all of North Side and East End. One is Red Sail, which is a pure cattle boat operation out of Morritt's Tortuga Club, that usually only takes their timeshare clients anyway. The other one is Ocean Frontiers, which does have a good reputation but also the highest diving rates in the Cayman Islands! Last we checked, they charge well over $100 per dive, while most other Cayman Islands dive companies charge at least 20% less. Ocean Frontiers claims superior service, superior dive sites, superior dive boats, superior everything to get that extra 20% or more! They do need superior boats, because the water is so rough in that part of the island. As far as everything else being "superior", well we have compared them with as many other Cayman dive companies as were available as of April 2010, and Ocean Frontiers ranked about in the middle.
On Grand Cayman, you do have the option to sort of get away from it all, and still be fairly close to everything like shore diving, shopping, restaurants, and all the other attractions. You can stay at the North end of Seven Mile Beach, where they have a variety of condos and at least one resort, and be away from most of the traffic and noise, and hustle and bustle, but still very close to most of the best things Grand Cayman has to offer, especially the shore diving!
Just to sum all that up:
If you are advanced and want to spend at least half of your vacation time diving in the Cayman Islands, and do not care too much about anything else, stay at Pirates Point or Southern Cross on Little Cayman. Pirates Point costs quite a bit more, but it's worth it if you want much higher quality and variety of food.
If you want great dives, but not necessarily the very best Cayman Islands dives, and want to do other activities, have a lot of excellent diving options, and have the privacy of your own condo or hotel. Then dive Grand Cayman, book a hotel or condo, and then...
Yep, choose a Grand Cayman dive company that best suits your Cayman diving needs.
There are over 20 dive companies on Grand Cayman, ranging from the most personal, caring, mom and pop type of dive operators, ranging all the way up to full blown cattle boats. Red Sail Sports epitomizes cattle boat diving in Cayman and everywhere else they operate. Red Sail and several other similar Cayman dive operators charge the highest prices and go to the worst dive sites on Grand Cayman. This of course begs the question, why would anyone dive with them? The simple answer is, convenience. Lots of people want to wake up in the morning, walk a few strides to the beach, and get on a boat. They don't consider how many other divers will be on the boat, what quality of Cayman dive sites they will be visiting, what the dive company is charging compared to other operators in the vicinity, what level of experience the divemasters have, what their safety record is, or really anything else besides the convenience factor.
Fortunately, on Grand Cayman it is really not inconvenient at all to dive with much smaller and more dedicated Cayman dive operators. Most of the smaller operations offer vastly more personal and experienced service, go to far more exciting and diverse Grand Cayman dive sites, offer much lower prices and often include discounts for multi day or multi person packages, and boast perfect safety records.
AND they pick you up for free, right on that convenient beach!
More as an example than a matter of fact, Red Sail Sports has - on more than one occasion - left passengers behind! That's right, finished the dive, pulled the anchor and headed back to shore, leaving 1 or 2 people still underwater. Including at least one time at a night dive! The passengers survived, but only after a very long cold dark swim to shore. One poor group had to swim all the way back from Stingray City after a Red Sail snorkel trip, a distance of over 10 miles! Most Red Sail divemasters are fresh out of a dive training school and are there for the fun, surely not the money because of the very low wages they are paid. If this sounds shocking or scary, welcome to the world of corporate diving! Not just Cayman diving but almost anywhere in the world where there are large resorts you will find large dive companies that pay a lot of money to be the in-house dive operation. The companies are not chosen by the resorts based on anything other than what they are willing to pay and how many people they are able to squeeze on the boat. These stories are all true and unfortunately more common than people would ever expect. We have no incentive for fabricating anything because we are not affiliated with any Cayman Islands dive company, we accept no advertising, and we have nothing to gain financially. Our simple goal is to assist as many potential Cayman Islands divers as we can, through the benefit of our Cayman dive experience, and the many years we spent diving in the Cayman Islands.
We have done all the work, including Cayman Islands dive research, compilation of Cayman Islands Diving statistics and Cayman Islands diving reviews from our years of diving in the Cayman Islands and throughout the top Cayman Islands Diving websites and Cayman Islands Dive review forums.
you pick out a place to stay, then you go dive in the Cayman Islands and you have fun!
soon! This website is being updated daily, as of:
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