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Best Snorkeling Excursion in Grand Cayman

I head out for spring break soon, and my family voted to cruise again. That has me going through photos from my “birthday” cruise a couple months ago. As much as I drool over the food, it was the Grand Cayman snorkeling pics that had me stopping and thinking. I paid for my own cruise and excursions and love sharing my travels with you. Some links in the post are affiliate link that earn me a small commission if you purchase through them.

Grand Cayman snorkeling

Our first stop last cruise was Grand Cayman. I had never been, and my friend and I didn’t decide what excursion to take until after we boarded the ship. After talking to the excursions desk, we decided we couldn’t lose regardless of what Grand Cayman snorkeling trip we took.

Are you heading out on a cruise soon? Check more tips and links at the bottom of this article to make the most of your vacation!

In the end, we chose the cheapest option. And no, we didn’t regret a second of it. Because the Grand Cayman snorkeling right off the shore is great. The price for this shore excursion is lower because you simply walk five or so minutes to the shop and drop in point rather than needing a boat transport.

Translation? Lower cost + time to explore the town because you don’t have a long trip to get to your snorkel site. Winning!

Want to book this yourself? If you head to Grand Cayman, look for the Shipwreck Shore Snorkel. Really, from everyone I’ve talked to, you can’t go wrong with any Grand Cayman snorkeling options.

So yes, this snorkel happens within sight of the Carnival ship. You actually snorkel around a wreck where others also SCUBA and get closer to it. There are shipping lanes nearby, but the guides do a great job of watching where people are and ensuring we’re all where we belong. When I accidentally swam further than I should while following fish, the guides quickly called me back.

To get to the snorkel site, you walk just a few blocks from the meeting point. When the guides picked us up, they said it was a five minute walk, but truly it took us more like two minutes.

What Happens When You Arrive?

Once we arrived, the multiple guides and employees passed out masks, fins, and snorkels. Both masks and fins came in adult and kid sizes. The fins adjust in the back so that you don’t have to get the exact show size, which made this process go much faster than other experiences I’ve had.

While you try on your fins and mask to ensure they fit – and swap them out if needed – the guides explain the Grand Cayman snorkeling trip you’re about to undertake, They share what fish you’re likely to see and what you should expect along the way.

Once we knew what fit, we walked inside the shop to lockers where we safely stored our belongings while snorkeling. Each locker gets secured by a zip tie that you cut off when you finish your Grand Cayman snorkeling experience. The lockers fit shoes, clothes, purses, etc with ease, as they’re fairly deep.

You have the option to wear a life jacket, but unlike most snorkeling I’ve done with cruise ships, they did not require this. I appreciated that, as it let me dive down to get close to the fish and coral and explore more easily.

Before you head to the water, the guides give you a squirt of mask wash to ensure you don’t have fog issues. This holds true whether you bring your own equipment or use theirs. And yes – if you have your own snorkel equipment, you can bring it and use it.

How Is the Grand Cayman Snorkeling?

Once you finish the orientation, you simply walk down the pier to enter the water and swim out to the wreck. You have the option of walking down the ladder or doing a giant stride into the water to the left of the ladder. I chose a giant stride because it’s faster and easier.

Snorkel ladder in Grand Cayman

Put your head into the water immediately. I was shocked to note that I saw fish immediately. You don’t need to swim all the way out to the wreck to see amazing fish. Keep your head down as you swim out.

The snorkel site has a dock about 50 yards out from shore if you need a break. That counts on the way to the wreck, on the way back, or during your snorkel. In our group, none did.

Getting to the wreck of the Cali

Although the guides told us we would see the wreck about 100 yards from shore, you see the start of pieces almost immediately past the dock. The wreck itself is extremely spread out and also has coral forming in the area.

The wreck of the Cali lies near a shipping channel. There’s a reason she sank where she did! The safe swimming area is bounded by white buoys so you know the boundaries. Additionally, the guides ensure you don’t drift beyond the snorkeling area.

Most importantly, we saw a ton of fish. I saw schools of huge tarpon that hung out between coral groupings near the wreck. They let me dive close to them and follow them without scattering, definitely a cool experience.

Blue tang Grand Cayman snorkeling

Beyond that, we saw trumpet fish, parrot fish, lion fish (pest), and so much more than I can list. I loved the variety of fish and colors we experienced. We were also lucky enough to see a sting ray along sandy area just before heading back to shore.

Read This Next:  The Best Roatan Shore Excursion

How Are the Guides?

I love to snorkel. What I don’t love about snorkeling is when we have a cruise group and we all follow each other. Inevitably, I get kicked in the face and constantly have to change direction to avoid people who don’t see me. To be honest, my friend and I chose this excursion partly because it had the fewest people signed up (in addition to the cost).

This Grand Cayman snorkeling experience included none of that. We had about 30 or so in our group, but we had plenty of room to explore. Rather than doing a drift snorkel or follow a path, you explore where you choose in the area of the wreck. I had only one issue where a person dove to explore then didn’t look before coming up and bumped into me.

That alone made this snorkeling trip worthwhile!

We had two guides swimming around and watching out for our group. The two guides kept an eye on who swam where and ensuring you stay out of the shipping channel. They both had life preservers for anyone who gets tired. One small child spent the majority of the time on one of the rings, and it was a nonissue.

That said, if you are not a strong swimmer, this isn’t the snorkeling trip for you. You swim 100 yards from shore in water that varies in depth but up to 30 or 40 feet. While the water remained calm, you need to be mentally comfortable with that space and depth.

What is the Wreck of the Cali?

The Cali was a ship that had diesel engines added as that technology became more standard. Unfortunately, the engineers didn’t install them well. They vibrated and shook apart the ship. She sank barely off shore. When she sank, she was tall enough and in shallow enough water that she remained partly above water.

As I note above, she sank near a shipping lane, which caused safety issues. Now comes the fun part….

The British government was in charge of Grand Cayman, so they made the decision to blow up the ship so she wasn’t an obstruction. Communication, however, wasn’t the strong suit in the 1940s. Though they were supposed to send 5 tons of dynamite, they misunderstood and sent 50 tons instead.

Do you know what happens when you overshoot by a factor of 10? Needless to say, the Cali isn’t a pretty wreck. Instead, she’s spread across a wide area. The good news is that you can see a lot of the interior pieces of the ship in good condition that you can’t typically see in wrecks.

Ready to have a great day in Grand Cayman? Don’t forget to book now!

Tips for Grand Cayman Snorkeling

When you swim back to shore, do so at an angle. There is a slight current, so you need to swim to the right of the pier. Do that, and you’ll have no issues. If you aim to swim straight in, you drift to the left and have to more forcefully swim against the current.

Wear a rash guard. When you snorkel for an hour, you sit with your back exposed on the surface of the ocean. The sun reflecting off that can quickly create a nasty sunburn. I always wear a rash guard anytime I snorkel.

Bring what you need to explore the town after your Grand Cayman snorkeling experience. Once you emerge from the water, dry off, and snip your zip tie, walk around. You have plenty of time to enjoy, and you don’t need to go back to the ship first.

Don’t forget your cash! Your guides work hard, so add money to the tip jar before you leave.

Don’t forget your sunscreen either. Many people applied it while the guides gave the history of the wreck of the Cali. That said, if you use spray sunscreen (only one family did), please step far away and downwind from the rest of the group. That stuff spreads everywhere and many people don’t want to inhale it.

Bring your underwater camera. Me? I forgot to pack mine, so a huge thanks to one of the Cayman Diving guides, Javier Perez who provided the underwater photos for this post. Whether you use a GoPro or plan to use a waterproof case for your phone, don’t forget to bring it! While the cruise ship sells both in the photo area, you pay a premium.

No matter what if you plan on any Grand Cayman snorkeling, book the Shipwreck Shore Snorkel ($34.99 per person) and have a fantastic time!

See all the fun snorkeling options in Grand Cayman and find the one that fits you here.

Looking for more cruising tips?

Have you experienced Grand Cayman Snorkeling? What did you love best?

Best shore excursion for Grand Cayman snorkeling

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Tuesday 12th of February 2019

Thank you for the info on snorkeling at the ship wreck. Is there a beach to spend the rest of your time on after you are finished snorkeling?


Thursday 14th of February 2019

There isn't a beach right by where you snorkeled unfortunately. It's a pretty rocky coast right there. You usually have extra time (depending on your itinerary and time in port), so take a cab to one of the other beaches. Seven Mile Beach is the most famous but not *right there* from the port.

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