If you ever make it to the Western Caribbean island of Grand Cayman, one shore excursion not to miss is Stingray City and Snorkel. Located on the in the north south of Grand Cayman island, this sandbar is a playground for the southern stingrays who flock to the area when cruise vacationers arrive by the boatload.
The excursion includes a stop at famous Sting Ray City and a snorkel stop to dive on a barrier reef on the island.
Heading to Stingray City
Grand Cayman is a tender port so you’ll have to take a ferryboat from the cruise ship to the pier, but once you’re at the pier it’s a very simple ten-minute ride to the docks to board your boat. Our boat was a two story flat boat that held around 100 cruise passenger. After a quick safety briefing, signing a release and a quick overview of what we’ll see, we threw the lines off the boat and headed for open waters to Sting Ray City. The boat ride takes about 45 minutes to get out there but goes by really quick because the captain and the mate gets you familiar with the life jackets, underwater mask and snorkel gear.
When you arrive at Sting Ray City a crew-member will throw the anchor off the boat, secure the boat and deploy three ladders for passengers to get into the water. The water is around four feet deep (depending on the tide) but gets shallower as you walk towards the middle of the sandbar.
Holding the Stingrays
The southern stingrays flock to you like a bunch of prehistoric puppy dogs. They’re very friendly, rubbing up against you; range from little babies to a wingspan of five feet.
Cruise passengers are no longer allowed to feed the stingrays because a few years ago it was determined that they were being overfed and they put a limit on how much the rays can be fed.
After about thirty minutes at Sting Ray City you’ll board the boat and take the few minute ride to Coral Gardens, a pristine snorkeling area in 12’ of water. You’ll see all different types of coral at Coral Gardens as you’re swimming with all different types of sea life. At this stop you’ll be allowed thirty minutes to swim around the reef before heading back to land.
This excursion is great for families of all ages and we’ll make your friends green with envy when you tell them you got to swim with the southern stingrays in Grand Cayman.
While in the water the tour guide held a ray and explained to us how tame and safe they really are.
Stingray City is a very popular destination and it’s best to book early because it does sell out. Also, try to take the early excursions. There is only one Stingray City and depending on how many ships are in port, it gets very crowed. Usually the first tour leaves the pier at 8:45am.
They have a bar on the boat with t-shirts, local drinks, disposable cameras as well as an onboard photographer who gets in the water with you. You have the option to purchase your photo and the bar opens after the stingray swim.
- Bring plenty of sunscreen and a towel from the cruise ship.
- The boats have underwater cameras for sale for $20, which is about the same price you can buy them for at your local store.
- Leave the water shoes on the cruise ship. Stingrays are flat and lay on the ocean floor when not swimming, you’ll have to drag your feet when you’re walking on the sandbar and feel with your toes.
- Gratuity is not expected on the trip but appreciated. $5 dollars per person is more than fair.