Shipwrecks for divers to explore? Check. Friendly stingrays? Check. Beautiful water year-round? Definite check. These Carribean islands have a water sport for every swimmer, at every skill level.
Photo: Mirko Zanni / Getty Images
With calm waves and clear water, there's no question that the Caribbean is an awesome place for water sports like diving and snorkeling. The harder question—once you decide to plan a trip—is figuring out where to go, exactly. There are 7,000 Caribbean islands spanning almost 30 countries, each with their own culture and adventure opportunities. And while you'll find no shortage of places to get your feet wet between Cuba and Caracas, the Cayman Islands are a convenient pick that suit swimmers of all levels. Between the three islands (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman), you'll find some of the best beginner-friendly scuba-diving in the world, competitive open-water swims for all levels, and snorkeling tours loaded with marine life. (Related: Meet the Scuba Divers Encouraging More Women to Start Diving)
Plus, there are plenty of direct flights to Grand Cayman from the East Coast, South, and Midwest (sorry, Cali). Nonstop service runs from Atlanta, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Charlotte, so it's easier than ever to wake up in paradise. Here's why every swimmer should consider a trip to the Cayman Islands. (P.S. Did you know there are new ways to break a sweat at the airport?)
Test the open waters.
Open-water swimming can be intimidating: There are often waves, murky water, and competitive athletes who look like they mean serious business. But the Flowers Sea Swim draws in elite athletes, newbies, and families alike, so you can go as hard or as easy as you want. You'll swim a mile straight down Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach, which is more than just a beautiful thing to look at every other breath: It also makes for super easy sighting. (ICYDK, sighting is when an open-water swimmer scans the course so they don't veer off in the wrong direction—and it's a lot easier when you're swimming parallel to a beach.)
Swim with stingrays.
If swim caps and freestyle aren't your speed, snorkel in the "Stingray City" for a less competitive experience that's still out of your comfort zone. Swim with dozens of stingrays that you can pet, feed, and kiss (we know it sounds gross, but don't act like you don't want that 'gram). Most major resorts will be able to book a tour for you, or you can check out explorecayman.com.
Explore beneath the surface.
The Cayman Islands are home to almost 400 dive sites, including shipwrecks like the USS Kittiwake, vibrant coral (check out the Bloody Bay Wall on Little Cayman), and underwater statues (see Atlantis in Cayman Brac, which contains sculptures planted by a local artist, and mermaid Amphitrite in Grand Cayman). That, plus its near-perfect clear water, explains why the World Travel Awards named the Cayman Islands the Caribbean's Leading Dive Destination for the seventh year.
Kayak after dark.
You know how fireflies light up your yard in the summer? Algae, bacteria, and other marine life can emit a similar glow in the water, and there's a high concentration of these creatures off of Rum Point in Grand Cayman. Check out Cayman Kayaks to plan a tour.
Loving these photos our guests Victor captured on tour! This is our guide swimming in the bay as a demonstration. We strongly discourage guests from swimming if they have not showered/rinsed off before entering the bay as the chemicals on your skin/hair are harmful to the bay. We take great care in trying to preserve these fragile organisms! #caymanislands#bioluminescence #biobay #savetheworld #protectnature