Snorkeling at Cayman Kai, Grand Cayman
If you’re spending some time on the lovely island of Grand Cayman, you MUST go snorkeling. They basically make you promise to do so once you’ve gone through customs. I thought I’d take a look at some of the less popular spots as well as the hopping locations everyone frequents. For today’s post, I’m reviewing the snorkeling at Cayman Kai, a small, uncrowded beach on the north side of the tropical island.
If you’re traveling from the more populated area of Grand Cayman near Seven Mile Beach on the west side, you’ll either need to travel in a rental car or take a long cab ride all the way to Cayman Kai. I made the journey after several wrong turns and lots of doubt about whether or not I was going the right direction. Did I mention you drive on the left side of the road in Grand Cayman? AND I had a right-oriented driver's side car so it's a miracle I got anywhere in one piece.
If you're driving your rental, you’ll basically follow the signs to get to Rum Point on the north side of the island and just stop when you see the large teal-walled parking lot and teeny tiny sign that lets you know you’ve arrived! It’s about a half mile down from the popular northern beach along Rum Point Drive.
There’s a good sized parking lot that’s approximately the same size as the beach it leads to. There are bathrooms, a covered pavilion, and a lone yellow picnic table on the sand.
The beach and shallow area of the water is a bit rocky so make sure you have water shoes or socks so you’re not cutting up your feet. The shallows are also covered in pretty sea grass and is a bit murky before you get off to the deep end. Have patience and paddle out!
Initially, I came to Cayman Kai because I had read that this was a good place to park and swim out to Rum Point. However, the water was choppy because of the wind and I wasn’t comfortable swimming more than a quarter of a mile to the popular snorkeling location so I just visited each one individually.
Upon entry, expect to see a lot of sea grass. I had my own private “Little Mermaid” moment as I swam over the bending and swaying underwater foliage.
Swimming past the sea grass, you’ll reach a sandy bottomed area scattered with coral that attracts sea life. This is where the fun begins! While this wasn’t the largest area of coral on the island that I snorkeled, I have to say I saw a decent variety of finned critters.
I loved the soft coral plumes as well as the fan coral. There’s something so interesting about their movement in the ocean, particularly on this day when I didn’t have the calmest water.
What the fish lacked in size, they made up for in really beautiful color. This wasn’t an area where I was seeing large schools of fish, but I did see a nice variety of species. Here was a bright yellow French Grunt! It looked to me a relatively small guy but man, was he pretty.
One of my favorites, I saw a Blue Tang making its way through the soft coral. Those buggers are fast!
There’s also something interesting about watching black fish. I ogled these two from a distance for a while, but then I had to bother them, of course. Here they are, scurrying away from me and my GoPRo. I think these two are Black Durgon.
Like I said, it was common at Cayman Kai to see clumps of rock or coral where the sea life was clammering. So expect to see scenes like this!
The variety of sea life I saw was better than I expected; maybe it’s because Cayman Kai is not busy at all. It was very different from Rum Point where you're bumping into other snorkelers while you're exploring.
I kept seeing what I suppose were jellyfish, despite their lack of menacing tentacles. They were smaller than a fist and hard to see so I kept swimming into them! No stings for me, though and I had fun watching them make their way through the water. They’re not shy though so don’t be alarmed when they inevitably bump into your arms and legs while you’re swimming around. You can see this one in the middle of the frame—he’s that clear smudge with little white dots! (Disclaimer: I have no way to know this jellyfish was a “he.” How do you even go about finding that out? Probably not something I should Google at work…)
The highlight for me at Cayman Kai was seeing two reef squid! I didn’t really know what I was seeing at first because it wasn’t exactly what I thought a squid would look like. Sure enough, the way it moved and its tentacles gave it away. Looking online, it said that they usually swim in groups of four to thirty, but I just saw a pair of two of them finding something to eat among the coral. These ones were probably younger because they were closer to shore--apparently more mature reef squid tend to spend their time in deeper water. I was glad these two came in to visit so I could see my first squid!
I also saw my first conch in the wild! If I were braver, I would have flipped it over but one of the safety rules of snorkeling is no touching so I refrained. I could have taken it to shore and reenacted a moment from “Lord of the Flies”—just the part where I call a meeting with it, not the child-on-child violence.*
So there you have it! In my opinion, Cayman Kai is worth visiting, particularly if you’re looking to avoid the crowds at Rum Point. Just know that there isn’t quite as much to see, even if I was pleased with the variety of what I encountered. If you have the stamina and the conditions are safe, feel free to make the swim right to Rum Point from Cayman Kai—they really aren’t that far apart. I just didn’t feel comfortable doing it during my visit because of the choppy water.
*I couldn’t resist. When else do you get to use a William Golding reference?