Diving and Snorkeling

A gaudy, voluptuous tumble of marine life—lumbering grouper to fleet guppies, massive manta rays to miniature wrasse, sharks to stingrays, blue chromis to Bermuda chubs, puffers to parrotfish—parades its finery through the pyrotechnic coral reefs like a watery Main Street on Saturday night. Gaping gorges, vaulting pinnacles, plunging walls, chutes, arches, and vertical chimneys create a virtual underwater city, festooned with fiery sponges and sensuously waving gorgonians draped like come-hither courtesans over limestone settees.

Expect to pay around $105–$110 for a two-tank boat dive and $25–$30 for a snorkeling trip. The island is small and susceptible to wind, so itineraries can change like a sudden gust.

Dive and Snorkel Sites

Snorkelers will delight in taking Nancy's Cup of Tea or "scaling" Mike's Mountain, as well as enjoying Eagle Ray Roundup, Three Fathom Wall, and Owen Island. The areas around the East End are difficult to access from shore due to the jagged ironshore (boats are often preferable) but are worthwhile: Mary's Bay, Snipe Point, and Lighthouse Reef (which has stunning Brac vistas).

Two of Little Cayman's dive sites (Bloody Bay Wall and Jackson Wall) are so spectacular that they easily rank among the world's top dives.

Among the many other superlative dive sites are the Great Wall, the Meadows, the Zoo, Coconut Walk Wall, School Bus Stop, Sarah's Set, Black Hole, Mixing Bowl, Charlie's Chimneys, and Blacktip Boulevard.

Bloody Bay Wall. This beach, named for being the site of a spectacular 17th-century sea battle, was declared one of the world's top three dive sites by the maîtres Jacques and Philippe Cousteau. Part of a protected marine reserve, it plunges dramatically from 18 to 6,000 feet, with a series of staggeringly beautiful drop-offs and remarkable visibility. Snorkelers who are strong swimmers can access the edge from shore, gliding among shimmering silver curtains of minnows, jacks, and bonefish. The creatures are amazingly friendly, including Jerry the Grouper, whom dive masters joke is a representative of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. Little Cayman.

Jackson Wall. Adjacent to Bloody Bay, Jackson Wall and reef are nearly as stunning. Conditions are variable, the water now glassy, now turbulent, so snorkelers must be strong swimmers. It's renowned for Swiss-cheese-like swim-throughs; though it's not as precipitous as Bloody Bay, the more rugged bottom results in astonishing rock formations whose tunnels and crevices hold pyrotechnic marine life. Little Cayman.

Recommended Operators

Little Cayman Divers. This is a personable, experienced outfit that often customizes trips on its 42-foot Newton Sea-esta. Conch Club, Blossom Village, Little Cayman, KY3-2501. 345/928–1624; www.littlecaymandivers.com.

Pirates Point Dive Resort. This popular resort has fully outfitted 42-foot Newtons with dive masters who excel at finding odd and rare creatures, and encourage computer diving so you can stay down longer. Pirates Point Resort, Little Cayman, KY3-2501. 345/948–1010; www.piratespointresort.com.

Reef Divers. Little Cayman Beach Resort's outfitter offers valet service and a full complement of courses, with nitrox a specialty. The custom Newton boats include AEDs (defibrillators) and padded camera tables for protection. Little Cayman Beach Resort, Blossom Village, Little Cayman, KY3-2501. 345/948–1033; www.littlecayman.com.

Southern Cross Club. Each boat (spanking new Newtons added in 2017) has its own dock and takes 12 divers max. The outfit has good specialty courses and mandates computer diving. Southern Cross Club, 73 Guy Banks Rd., South Hole Sound, Little Cayman, KY1-2503. 345/948–1099; 800/899–2582; www.southerncrossclub.com.