Whenever you're in a group of divers you always hear how great the diving is in Grand Cayman. It's earned a reputation as one of the world's premier dive destinations. The reef system virtually surrounds the entire island and diving is good almost anywhere. (The red lines on the map indicate the most popular dive areas.) There are hundreds of dive sites, each appropriately named and most described by one publication or another. Grand Cayman is known for its fabulous "wall" dives. Within a short distance from shore the depth plunges dramatically to over 6,000 feet making for some impressive wall dives. Most reefs are to far from shore to be reached by shore diving and must be accessed by boat, however, there are several good locations for shore diving.

By far the most popular dive sites are located on the west end of the island between George Town and the tip of West Bay. This isn't necessarily because it's where the best diving is, it's a matter of logistics. The majority of the island's hotels and resorts are located along 7 Mile Beach and the west end dive sites are simply easier and quicker to reach by boat from those locations. Most dive operations offer all day trips to dive the much further away East End. There are also dive operators on the East End that you can make arrangements with if you prefer a shorter boat ride.

Shore dives: Along the northern stretch of the west end you will find some shore diving, one notable location is Turtle Reef located next to the turtle farm, but most of the diving in this area is accessed by boat. Just south of George Town, actually beginning in George Town and extending to the south, you find easy access for shore diving. Most of these locations are affiliated with one of the local dive operations (Eden Rock) or dive hotels (Sunset House, Soto's, etc.), and it is common courtesy to rent your tanks from them when diving there. Diving the reefs located close to shore can be somewhat disappointing as they have, over the years, been over-dived, and much of the coral is dead. It's still diving though and there is still abundant marine life to observe. While diving the reefs at Sunset House we have spotted sharks, squid, octopus, turtles, Tarpon, Barracuda and a variety of angels and other tropicals. While the coral life may not be spectacular we have never been disappointed.

These close to shore reefs are perfect for night diving as they provide easy access and there is an abundance of life to observe and photograph.

Shore dives are relatively inexpensive if all you need is tanks and weights. Tank rentals are about Cayman $6.

Boat dives: To reach the truly spectacular dive locations it is necessary to make boat dives. The diving is generally spectacular along the island's reef system with brilliant corals and lots of tropical marine life, but it is a bit far to reach from shore with few exceptions. Most of the local dive shops offer two-tank morning dives and one-tank afternoon dives. The most popular sites along the northern tip by West Bay and 7 Mile Beach can be accessed within a twenty to twenty-five minute boat ride.

About $$$$$$: To say the least I was shocked when I approached Red Sail Sports on my latest trip and inquired about a dive package for unlimited diving and was advised they did not offer such packages. I was even more shocked when they told me the cost of the the morning two-tank dive was US$ 85 per person and the afternoon one-tank dive US$ 55 per person. Based on three dives a day (the minimum we usually make on our dive vacations) the cost for six days of diving for my Anne and I would have been US$ 1,680, well above what you might expect. Tell me, does Red Sail Sports think us divers are made of money?

Without question if you are going to Grand Cayman on a dive vacation make arrangements to stay at one of the local dive hotels that offers unlimited dive packages. I'm positive the costs will be much more in line with expectations. Checking out Sunset House's web page you will find dive packages that include breakfast, two-tank boat trips (except day of arrival and departure), offshore diving every day (except day of arrival and departure), tanks and weights, a complimentary locker to store your gear, transfers to/from airport and several other amenities, all for 8 days/7 nights from $969 to $1,179 per person (April to December) depending on selected room type. Considerably cheaper than just diving with Red Sail Sports!