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We are in the planning stages for a trip to Grand Cayman in late April/Early May. It looks like we will have both divers and a non-diver adult and a 3 year old with us. After reading the many helpful posts on this board, I have learned a lot but we are in need of more information. We have narrowed it down to either the East End area (Reef Resort), a villa in the north's Cayman Kai/Rum Point area or a hotel in the much visited west area. I understand the diving is excellent in the East End area but could not find a good summary of the north's diving and a comparison between the different areas for diving. We are leaning toward a villa rental in the north's Cayman Kai area. Are there any good restuarants up there? Grocery store? What is the diving like? Are the dive sites reasonably close or do you have to motor over to the East? Is there any shore diving? Are there any dive operators in the Cayman Kai area? Where do they operate out of and will they pick you up on the beach at your villa each day? Does anyone have any recommendations for dive operators up there? For the non-diver and our son, are they any fun things for them to do in the north as well as in the East End? From the north, I understand there is a ferry to Georgetown area; how is the ferry ride compared with driving back to town? Also, is the diving any good on the west side should we end up there? Thanks to any and all who can give any insight on these questions.
We are in the planning stages for a trip to Grand Cayman in late April/Early May. It looks like we will have both divers and a non-diver adult and a 3 year old with us. After reading the many helpful posts on this board, I have learned a lot but we are in need of more information. We have narrowed it down to either the East End area (Reef Resort), a villa in the north's Cayman Kai/Rum Point area or a hotel in the much visited west area.
I understand the diving is excellent in the East End area but could not find a good summary of the north's diving and a comparison between the different areas for diving.
When looking for information, compare North Wall to East End to West Side/South Sound. There is a large "NO DIVING" zone between Rum Point and Old Man Bay that stretches much of the norths shore. That's why you won't find a description of diving in that area.
We are leaning toward a villa rental in the north's Cayman Kai area. Are there any good restuarants up there?
Restaurants are limited in number. Cecil's at Kaibo Yacht Club is excellent. Rum Point Restaurant is good. There is a bar and grill at each location for lunch too. Further east to Old Man Bay is Over the Edge, a great location, with decent food but occasionally slow service. It's a lot cheaper than the others.
Chisolm's is a small market in Northside at Hutland that will do for a few items. Even smaller selection is available at the Old Man Bay grocery (it's so small that tourists stop to take photos!) Most folks staying on East End or Northside will but groceries at one of the large groceries in Georgetown before making the drive out. Foster's IGA is by the airport, and Big Hurley's is a bit closer at Grand Harbor - still a 40 minute drive to Cayman Kai. Closer is Lil' Hurley's in East End village. It's bigger than Chisolm's or OMB grocery.
What is the diving like?
To generalize, the walls are more sheer and the coral is healthier on East End. More likely to see bigger critters on the North Wall. Some shallow sites on East End have deeply scored canyonways with numerous tunnels which aren't found to the same extent on the North Wall.
Are the dive sites reasonably close or do you have to motor over to the East? Is there any shore diving?
No tremendously long boat rides. Most sites are within 30 minute ride of a dive shop. Most are quite close to shore except North Wall sites which may be a couple miles from land. Even though sites are close to shore, there is no shore diving in Northside (Cayman Kai) and very little in East End. This has to do with unsafe shore entries and extis more than anything.
Are there any dive operators in the Cayman Kai area? Where do they operate out of and will they pick you up on the beach at your villa each day? Does anyone have any recommendations for dive operators up there?
Only one operator in Cayman Kai - Red Sail Sports at Rum Point. They do not pick up. Most villas in Northside (Cayman Kai) do not have a beach and/or have a shallow shoal reef just offshore that would ground a boat.
For the non-diver and our son, are they any fun things for them to do in the north as well as in the East End?
Snorkeling abounds at several locations. Take the little one to Stingray City. Olbrich Botanical Gardens and the Mastic Trail (hiking) are both in Northside district and only a few minutes from Cayman Kai.
From the north, I understand there is a ferry to Georgetown area; how is the ferry ride compared with driving back to town?
Ferry is a passenger only ferry connecting Rum Point to the Hyatt on Seven Mile Beach. Much shorter than driving into town. It's a limited schedule, doing about 5 round trips per day.
Also, is the diving any good on the west side should we end up there? Thanks to any and all who can give any insight on these questions.
The west side and south sound offer good diving. It is much more crowded with many more dive operators and cruise ship passengers. Much more traffic too.
Thanks Drew for all the great information to my questions. It really sounds like the East End is the way to go for great diving. While I could dive all day long, I am concerned that that it may not be the best area for the non-diver in our group and the other two divers are usually 2 am tank divers. I think everyone would enjoy the peacefulness, tranquility and the area of the East end or North side but they will grow restless. If we opt for the West side in an attempt to satify everyone's wants, what type of diving can I expect? I understand the West is more heavily dived due to its proximity to 7MB, but is it good diving? I don't to go all the way to the Caymans and have just okay diving. Thanks,
I will add to Drews report by saying there is a new small dive resort on the Northwest end called Cobalt resort, which was only 15 minutes to town and most family attractions, but is off the beaten path (no curise ships) with the best Northwall diving from their two dive shops. In April we were staying on the East End but did all our diving with Divetech at Cobalt resort. Next time we will stay there. What impressed me most about Divetech was that all their staff were instructors and how freindly they all were. I would have to also say the reefs and marine life at Cobalt were better than most East end sites I have visited and the night dive at Turtle reef is island known to be the best.
There are some awesome dive sites on the west side, like Trinity Caves, Big tunnels, Orange canyon & the log books goes on. Your family will have a great safe vaction no matter where you stay and dive on Grand Cayman.
Thanks for the recommendation. Assuming we stayed on seven mile beach, it sounds like we could drive to the Cobalt for our dives each day. What kind of traffic should we expect to/from seven mile beach and Cobalt in the early morning hours and around lunch time?
If you stayed on the west end of 7 mile beach (lots of great Condo's, no hotels and no crowds), there is no traffic and would only take you maybe 5 minutes to get to Divetech. Then you are also only 10 minutes to all the shopping and restruants. Divetech could probably recommends to you some Condo's that would fit your family needs and budget. Talk to Nancy, she owns Divetech and has all the scoop on where to stay and what to do.
Also, Divetech has van's that offer free pickup and drop off for customers on 7 mile beach, so your non-divers would then have a car. They even ran me to Diver supply to get my dive computer fixed.
Check out grandcaymancondos.org for info on condos here. With a family, it would be a good idea to stay in a condo rather than a hotel. Eating out is very expensive here so that kitchen will come in handy. Discovery Point Club, London House, Christopher Columbus and Victoria House are all nice places located on a nice area of 7 Mile Beach.
Believe me, you will have a great time diving the North and West Sides of the island. North is sheer and full of bigger critters like Eagle Rays and sharks. We've been chasing Mr HammerHead all week. West Side is not as sheer, but loaded with fish life. Pick a smaller operation to go out with as they tend to frequent the less dived areas on the West Side. Plus it's alot more fun diving with just 6 or 8 folks rather than a herd.
Yes, Cayman has a real "rush hour" but you'd probably avoid most of it by going against the flow.
Much of the local populace lives in West Bay and Bodden Town. These folks commute into the Georgetown area in the morning and out again in the evening. Getting out of Georgetown to East End can be a real nightmare in the evenings.
Going from the condos along the north end of Seven Mile Beach into West Bay in the morning is going against the flow of traffic. Going back to the condo in the evening is also going against the flow.
Of course, there is no traffic on East End at any time of day.