The BEST Grand Cayman Snorkeling Tour – Stingray City Review
There’s really no question as to if you’ll want to go on a snorkeling tour on Grand Cayman because it’s one of the main things to do on the island besides relaxing on the beach. Rather, the question becomes, what is the best Grand Cayman snorkeling tour?
In this blog, I am going to share my experience with Stingray City Cayman Islands and go over all the reasons why we had such a great time on our Stingray City, Coral Gardens, and Starfish Beach Tour! By the end of this guide, my hope is that you will be well-informed of what to expect and be able to decide if this is the tour for you!
Additionally, if you want to compare your options there will be a section at the end that goes over some other great Grand Cayman snorkeling tours!
Grand Cayman Snorkeling Tours FAQ
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.
About Grand Cayman Snorkeling Tours
Pretty much all of the Grand Cayman snorkeling tours last for around 3 to 4 hours, stop in the barrier reef for snorkeling, and visit Stingray City to hold, feed, and interact with stingrays, but not all of them go over to Starfish Point.
While most do, some do not, but I’ve found that the price point for the tours that go there, such as the one we went on, is really no different than the ones that do not!
More time snorkeling would be the only factor at play here. If seeing and searching for starfish in the shallow waters doesn’t interest you at all then this time could be better-spent snorkeling so I would instead recommend this Stingray City Experience which has two snorkeling stops instead of just one.
It is also $10 USD cheaper at just $59 USD.
I personally really enjoyed seeing all of the starfish up close! So if this interests you too make sure it is part of the snorkeling tour itinerary that you choose!
Most tour companies also offer hotel pick up and drop off so if you do not have a rental car and need transportation this is another detail to look out for when booking your tour.
About the Stingray City Snorkeling Tour
To try and figure out which Grand Cayman snorkeling tour I wanted to book I did a few google searches and read reviews and ultimately decided on the Stingray City, Coral Gardens, and Starfish Beach Tour with Stingray City Cayman Islands and I’m so glad I did – it included a bit of everything!
Leading up to booking the tour I was a bit indecisive and while the reviews on it were great so were many of the other tours.
In hindsight, my dad and I have no complaints about this tour! It was very memorable and one I would highly recommend.
It cost $69 USD and lasted for 3.5 hours. You can book our exact tour here.
What is included
Snorkeling gear, transportation to and from your accommodation, soda and/or water, and stingray interactions and feeding are included in the price of the tour.
For an extra cost, you can choose to purchase the pictures that a professional photographer will take of you when you get to hold a stingray at Stingray City.
The prices of pictures vary based on how many they took but it will typically range between $40 to $60 USD. You must purchase pictures before leaving the boat so don’t forget to go look at your pictures. You will be sent your pictures through e-mail within 24 hours. If you pay cash you get no receipt only if you pay with a card.
What my Snorkeling Tour on Grand Cayman was Like
Our morning began by driving our rental car to get to the starting point of our tour. It was easy to find and there was lots of parking. If you are driving and not using the shuttle service they appreciate it if you let them know when booking so they know who to account for.
Once there, we boarded our small tour boat. I would say there weren’t more than 20 people.
It definitely felt like we all had our own personal space which was nice! Then, it was around a 20-minute boat ride to our first stop – the Coral Reefs which are some of the most colorful reefs in the Cayman Islands.
They gave snorkel masks and fins to whoever wanted them and then warned us to be very cautious around the fire coral… which later on my dad ended up scraping his ankle on some because he was a bit too daring.
It caused an immediate burning stinging pain due to the venom that is released (not deadly but may be serious if you have an allergic reaction) and later it developed into a small rash and itched for a few hours afterward. Thankfully, it was nothing worse than that but definitely be careful!
The guide also asked if anyone wanted to use a life jacket. This is a great option for those who don’t know how to swim, aren’t highly skilled, or don’t have a lot of stamina. While my dad is an average swimmer he didn’t want to run out of energy and struggle out there so he took a life jacket.
Moments after, we were off and exploring on our own! The waters here were so clear and I was amazed at how many different things I was seeing from the moment I put my head underwater.
There were lots of tropical fish out here!
There were so many different types of tropical fish, sea creatures, and different types of coral to look at. It was beautiful!
In most areas, the water level was perfect where it was shallow enough to get a good view of the reefs without having to dive at all but still left enough space between you and the coral.
We had around 30 minutes here to snorkel, which I know doesn’t seem like a lot of time but for me, it felt like plenty. I was able to cover a large part of the area and even circle back to some of my favorite spots before our captain called everyone back to the boat!
Our second stop was Stingray City which I was so excited about but also a little nervous for!
Getting to Stingray City from the Coral Gardens was another 25 minutes on the boat. It’s a sandbar that is only 3 to 4 feet deep (0.9 to 1.2 meters). The water here is unbelievably clear and felt like bathwater.
Now, a lot of people (including myself at first) have a negative misconception of stingrays and think of them as dangerous, especially after the death of Steve Irwin in 2006. An incident like that is extremely unlikely and in fact, stingrays have a reputation for being gentle.
The only time when they might strike is if they are suddenly disturbed. Since they burrow beneath the sand in shallow waters you just need to shuffle your feed to avoid stepping one.
Interacting with the stingrays
There are two main ways you can interact with the stingrays. You can hang out in the group circle with the guide which is where you can hold and feed them or instead, you can get away from the crowd and snorkel with them off to the side by yourself.
I had never touched a stingray before and I definitely wanted to see and pet the one for myself so my dad and I joined the circle.
The instructor brought one of the friendly stingrays around from person to person. When it was my turn to hold it he instructed me on how to hold my hands and what and what not to do.
I turned around so he could give me a “back massage” with its smooth and velvety belly and turned around to give it a kiss because according to local legends gives you 7 years of good luck! You better believe I gave it a big ole’ smooch, and I have the photo to prove it.
After everyone had time with a stingray it was feeding time!
I got to feed it a piece of squid by making a fist with my hand and letting the fish poke out of the hole in my palm and then placed my hand underneath his mouth as it swam toward me. It felt like a tickling suction when he took the fish from my hand! That’s why you don’t want to leave your thumb out or they’ll give you a finger hickey as they call it.
Despite the fact that it was a bit touristy it was a bucket-list-type experience that was much cooler than I would’ve imagined!
As I mentioned above there is a professional photographer that takes pictures of you with the stingray and you can purchase them at the end for around $40 to $60 USD (depending on how many pictures)! I didn’t end up doing this because I didn’t like the way my hair was looking in the candids (beach hair, am I right?) but the quality looked to be really good!
You can book the same tour that we did here!
Starfish Point was our final stop of the day. This shallow beach is a hub for tons of starfish – they were everywhere!
I waded right in and picked up one of these amazing creatures. It was so cool seeing all of their intricate details up close.
Animal Safety Tip: Please DO NOT remove the starfish from the water for ANY reason!!! Even though it’s been said they can live for up to 5 minutes above the water they could die much sooner. Being out of the water exposes them to the air and begins the suffocation process while adding stress to their body which can also kill them. Think about how much stress one starfish might experience if every tourist takes it out of the water.
Unfortunately, even those there are a few signs posted on the beach and our guide told us not to do it I still witnessed several people on my tour doing it when the guide wasn’t looking to take Instagram pictures.
The only thing that made it a little difficult to find the starfish was when a lot of people had already roamed through an area causing debris from the bottom of the ocean to be stirred up which made the water murky. So I suggest walking slowly to prevent this as much as possible!
Booking Information for Grand Cayman Snorkeling Tours
We saw this baby jellyfish too!
We got really lucky booking a couple of days before we went on our tour especially since it was around Christmastime when there are a lot of tourists visiting the area.
There was only the later time slot left so we had to go during the hottest part of the day but I’m happy to report that I did not get burned. For this reason, I would recommend booking your snorkeling tour on Grand Cayman online in advance.
If you also want to go on the tour we joined with Stingray City Grand Cayman you can book it here before it sells out for your dates.
What to bring on your Grand Cayman Snorkeling Tour
It depends on which tour you book with but our Stingray City Snorkeling Tour provided all the essentials there are a few additional things I would recommend bringing with you!
- Sunscreen – you don’t want to forget this!
- Snacks – Even though it’s only a 3-hour excursion it would’ve been nice to munch on something!
- Waterproof phone case or GoPro – for those underwater shots of course!
Other Snorkeling Tours on Grand Cayman
While I highly recommend booking a tour with Stingray City Cayman Islands there are obviously many more amazing tours out there that might suit your preference better! Check out these recommendations below or you can browse all of the Grand Cayman snorkeling tours here.
Stingray City, Coral Garden, and Barrier Reef with lunch – This tour is for snorkeling lovers! Instead of stopping at Starfish Point, you’ll head to a second snorkeling spot in the Barrier Reef! It also visits Stingray City and then finishes at a Yacht Club for a fresh seafood lunch. It costs $99 USD per person. This tour definitely is great value for the money.
Bioluminecent Night Snorkeling Tour – This is an experience unlike any other! The boat will take you out to Bioluminescent Bay where you’ll see some of the bioluminescent from the surface but once you snorkel underneath the water the visuals become even more spectacular! This is a tour not to miss while on Grand Cayman. It costs $135 and lasts for 2 hours.
Private Snorkeling & Stingray City Boat Charter – If you’re bringing your family or coming with a large group then chartering your own boat might make a lot of sense. You will have your own private captain to transport you to the main spots that a commercial tour would visit. This tour hits the Barrier Reef, Stingray City, and Starfish Point. The upfront cost is a lot at $660 USD, but the more people you bring on board (up to 8 people) the lower the cost per person becomes.
Other Excursions on Grand Cayman
So what’s next on the agenda after your snorkeling tour on Grand Cayman? There are more than a handful of other things to do in this Caribbean paradise. Here are some of the most popular.
Rum Distillery Tour – Sample Cayman rum and other liquors from one of the island’s only distilleries. You’ll get to go behind the scenes of the facilities and learn what production processes make their rum special. Then, eat a Caymanian meal at a local restaurant and try rum cakes from a factory. This tour includes transport to and from your hotel and tastings for $67 USD. For 2 of the best things – food and alcohol it’s well worth going on this tour!
Cayman Crystal Caves & Attractions – This combo tour will allow you to check out 3 of the island’s most famous attractions including the stalactite and stalagmites inside the Crystal Caves, Mission House which is the original house used by teachers and missionaries in the 1800s, and Pedro St. James Castle which is the island’s oldest surviving stone structure. This half-day tour is great for history lovers!
Beekeeping Adventure – Learn about the impact bees have on the ecosystem at a local apiary. You’ll get your own beekeeping suit to wear to a working beehive and be involved in harvesting honeycomb and more. The best part is you’ll get your own jar of honey to take home with you. It costs $67 USD and lasts 2 hours. It’s a unique tour to check out on Grand Cayman!
Where to Stay on Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
So I’m not going to lie, The Cayman Islands are an expensive place to vacation to. When we booked last-minute flights as part of a Christmas deal the one thing we didn’t realize is that we were committing to staying in one of the most expensive countries in the world. However, I’ve done my best to give you options for all types of budgets.
Budget – Locale Hotel Grand Cayman
Finding a hotel for under $300 USD a night is a tall task in the Cayman Islands. The Locale Hotel is one of the few options you can get starting at $269 USD a night. It’s in a fantastic location right across the street from 7 Mile Beach and the hotel provides you with towels, beach chairs, and umbrellas! Rooms are spacious, modern, and have a kitchenette. Breakfast is included and there is a pool.
You can book this hotel here on Booking.com.
High Budget – The Westin Resort
This is the beachfront hotel we stayed and while it was expensive at $899 USD it was incredible! Some of my favorite parts were the swim-up bar, large pool, ping pong table, and a tasty restaurant. Rooms are comfortable and most have an ocean view. The value for the price is definitely inflated for the area but overall it’s an enjoyable stay.
You can book this hotel here on Booking.com.
Luxury – Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa
If you want to go big this hotel will please. It is priced at a lofty $1,200 + USD a night and has a private beach, a beautiful large pool, 3 restaurants, a bar, and a spa. The beds are rated to be extremely comfortable and include robes. Bikes are free to use and the help desk is 24 hours. Kimpton Seafire Resort is the place to pamper yourself!
You can book this hotel here on Booking.com.
My Final Word on Grand Cayman Snorkeling Tours
I’m so happy you’re here and took the time to read my blog! Taking a snorkeling tour on Grand Cayman was an incredible experience and one I won’t soon forget!
If you weren’t convinced to book a tour with Stingray City Cayman Islands before reading this guide I think you might be now. Regardless, I can’t wait for you to experience any one of these tours for yourself!
If you like tropical environments I have some other related blogs listed below that might be of interest.