Stingray City, Cayman – A Review
Stingray City is perhaps the most popular attraction in the whole of the Cayman Islands. It is located in the North Sound part of Grand Cayman, and it is well-known as being something of a tourist trap – but, unlike many other ‘tourist traps’, it is perhaps one of the few that is worth it.
The ‘city’ is a shallow sandbar, but it’s worth a visit because you can get up close and personal with the Atlantic Southern Stingrays in the water, and you can even feed them. Getting close to the stingrays may seem like an intimidating thing, but it’s actually completely safe – if you follow the instructions that the guides give you, then you’ll have an amazing experience without any need to worry.
You can easily explore Stingray City, either on a snorkeling trip, or on a scuba trip. There’s no need for fins – in fact you are advised not to wear them because they can harm the Stingrays. If you aren’t a confident diver, you should book a tour so that you can be accompanied and given safety advice. If you don’t want to go under the water yourself, then try taking a tour in a glass bottomed boat.
You can see and do most of the stuff that’s worth seeing and doing in the Stingray City in half a day. Even a two hour visit will give you a decent taster of the main attraction, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore elsewhere if you wish.
A trip to Stingray City is a once in a lifetime experience, and it’s something that really lets you bond with nature. Even people who are normally nervous about going into water often find that the desire to get in there and to play around with the Stingrays is incredibly powerful. It’s something that is a lot of fun to do, and the warm, tranquil waters make this far more accessible than learning in other places.
If you move away from the ‘city’ a bit, you can go jet skiing and enjoy other water activities, so there’s plenty to do once you’ve done the main tour. In addition, the rest of they Cayman islands are not far away, so you can go and explore them as well.
Excursions are offered in a number of forms at different price points to support people who want the full ‘treat’ experience and those who just want to get out into the water for a few minutes.
Most of the water is quite shallow, and because Stingray City is such a popular tourist attraction the stingrays themselves are perfectly comfortable around humans. They will swim right up to you, and do not mind being, gently, touched.
The only thing that you need to be aware of is that there are a LOT of visitors to the area. It’s really, really busy – especially during the more popular holiday months, and most definitely during the day. If you’re wanting to have a nice quiet trip, and get some really good photos of the stingrays, then you will need to pick a quiet time of year to visit and you will probably want to go out early.
There are private charters on offer throughout the day, and if you go out nice and early in the morning you’ll be able to get some really nice photos, and swim with the stingrays in peace.
If you’re visiting the Cayman islands on a cruise, and are at the mercy of the ship’s tour bookings, then be prepared for a bit of a disappointment. With luck, it will just be your ship’s people out there and you’ll be able to find a quiet corner to enjoy things. Click here to see the number one tour operator in the Cayman Islands. If it’s peak time, though, there will be a sea of people around you – and that will impair your view, and greatly reduce the chances of you getting to do anything exciting with the stingrays.
Perhaps the most affordable way to see the stingrays is to take a glass-bottomed boat out, and then jump into the water for a bit of snorkeling if there’s time. There are some really affordable tours out there, and if you go during the off-season when it’s quieter, the boats will often offer steep discounts to try to fill themselves up.
After you’ve been out to the sandbanks, you can go to the beach bars and relax for a while, or just rest on the beach. There’s certainly no shortage of places to relax on the Cayman islands.
If you’re staying on the island instead of coming by cruise ship, then you will find that there are tour operators that will pick you up from some of the main hotels, such as the Marriott, and take you to the dock and then take you out to the sand bank.
Try to be reasonable with your expectations though, especially if it’s busy. The photos that you see in the brochure are the best case scenario for what you can expect to see. On busier days it could be rather different – the stingray don’t mind humans, and they will come up to you, but when the water is really crowded and the sand is disturbed, it can be hard to see them – so you might only pick up a couple of them, moving fast, instead of seeing a large number of them, slowly milling around like they do in the photos.
Even if life isn’t always like the photos, that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth visiting the sandbanks. They are still wonderful to look at, and there’s good snorkeling opportunities nearby too, so you’ll find that you’ll pick up lots of great memories.
Stingray City is a family friendly attraction. It’s well worth a visit for solo travelers, couples, and families with kids that are old enough to swim. Even teenagers will appreciate the destination – although it is fair to say that they will probably be loathe to admit that!