image of Grand Cayman's Stingray City

A Visitor’s Guide to Grand Cayman’s Stingray City

Picture yourself as a tropical dancer: twirling on your tiptoes in the aquamarine tide, sashaying across glittering white sand, basking in the golden sunlight. Your stage is a place called Stingray City.

And, you’ve got a dancing partner, too. Elegant and graceful as a butterfly, mysteriously gliding through crystal waters and a colorful reef. But, it isn’t a human or even a mermaid. You’re two-stepping with a stingray.

Where is Stingray City?

image of Stingray City

Fortunately, Stingray City isn’t an apparition like Atlantis or Emerald City. It’s a real place, bobbing in the Caribbean, offshore from Grand Cayman. And it’s definitely not a beach! It’s a sandbar and diving hotspot in the Cayman Islands.

But, where is Stingray City in Cayman Island? Find it with quintessential island flair: first step, land on Grand Cayman. Second, charter a boat from Rum Point. Third, drift 2 miles out into the Caribbean sea. Fourth, dunk yourself into the North Sound.

Stingray City’s History

Stingray City in the Cayman Islands began as a simple sandbar where fishermen cleaned their catch, inadvertently feeding local Southern Atlantic Stingrays. Over time, these stingrays grew accustomed to human presence, associating boats with food. This unique interaction between fishermen and stingrays set the stage for what would become Stingray City. 

As its fame grew, it transformed into a popular tourist attraction by the 1980s. Visitors now flock to swim, feed, and interact with the friendly stingrays, making Stingray City a symbol of harmonious coexistence between humans and marine life, as well as a beacon of sustainable tourism in the Caribbean.

Stingray Ray City & Stingray Sandbar

Grand Cayman’s legendary Stingray City is made of two parts: 1. Stingray City Valley of the Rays and 2. Stingray Sandbar. Both are within a shallow protected keyhole bay called North Sound, located off Grand Cayman’s north coastline.

It’s a dreamy, wild destination where stingrays bide their time with the ocean-loving humankind. The calm, clear, warm, shallow waters make it prime pickings for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. And, it’s also the legendary Grand Cayman hub where stingray encounters abound.

Valley of the Rays

The first, Stingray City, also called Valley of the Rays, is the better destination for those who want to dip their noses below the surface. It’s an area of the North Sound suitable for snorkeling, diving, and anchoring a dive boat or catamaran. The main draw is the opportunity to swim and interact with a large population of local stingrays in deeper water, up to about 12 feet in depth.

Stingray Sandbar

The latter, Stingray Sandbar, holds greater appeal for the masses, particularly those who aren’t strong ocean swimmers, who don’t crave the snorkeling or diving experience, or who simply prefer to keep their toes firmly planted in the sand. Here, the friendly ocean giants love to be pet and handfed in shallow waters (3 to 5 feet deep). 

They are also known for rubbing against your legs, much like a puppy does. 

The stingrays are not captive and come and go as they please. It’s important to understand they are definitely wild but are somewhat domesticated, as they have been interacting with tourists in such a way for decades.

How to get to Stingray City

Stingray City Valley of the Rays and Stingray Sandbar are both located offshore, in the North Sound Harbor of Grand Cayman. This protected area is within the Barrier Reef and is much too far offshore to reach via swimming or kayaking on your own. Plus, you need special permits to enter this section of the sea. It’s only accessible by boat and is reached via guided tours.

The boat ride out to the sandbar takes about 25 minutes, and usually includes stops at other key points in the North Sound like Rum Point and Starfish Point. The tours provide history lessons, ecological insights, animal intel, safety guidance, plus any supplies you might need like snorkel gear and fish to feed the rays. The full excursion can last from 1.5 to 5.5 hours, depending on what you choose.

Best time to visit

There are numerous departure times offered by a multitude of tour companies, so it’s fairly easy to grab a boat at any time of the day to visit Stingray City. And the stingrays are always present, friendly, and snack-ready. But, it’s still necessary to make a reservation and to consider a few factors to ensure you find the best time to visit Stingray City.

One of the best tips is to book an evening tour, especially on the weekends. Stingray City is one of the biggest tourist attractions on Grand Cayman, and midday during the week can be quite bustling. These are the most common times for cruise tours to frequent the area.

So, if you’d prefer a little more space, quiet, and one on one time with the rays, choose a less popular tour time at the close of the day and on a Saturday or Sunday.

Where to Stay?

When planning your visit to Grand Cayman Island, choosing the right place to stay is essential for a memorable experience. Our rental properties provide the perfect home away from home for your trip, offering luxury amenities and prime locations near all the island’s best attractions and sights. 

Whether you prefer a beachfront villa with stunning ocean views along Seven Mile Beach or a cozy condo nestled in the heart of George Town, our accommodations are designed to cater to your needs. Make your stay in Grand Cayman Island truly unforgettable by choosing our exceptional accommodations.

Travel Recommendations

Seven Mile Beach: Renowned for its beautiful stretch of white sand and crystal-clear waters, Seven Mile Beach is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports. It’s also lined with resorts, bars, and restaurants.

George Town: The capital city is a hub of activity with duty-free shopping, local eateries, and historical sites. Don’t miss the Cayman Islands National Museum for a glimpse into the island’s history and culture.

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park: A peaceful retreat showcasing the island’s flora and fauna. It’s a great spot for bird watching, and you might also spot the endangered Blue Iguana.

Cayman Turtle Centre: An interactive wildlife experience where you can learn about and interact with sea turtles. This conservation facility offers a unique insight into the efforts to preserve these majestic creatures.

Rum Point: Known for its laid-back vibe, Rum Point is perfect for a relaxing day. Enjoy the tranquil beach, hammocks, and the famous mudslide cocktail at the Rum Point Club.

Diving and Snorkeling: The island is surrounded by incredible dive sites, including the USS Kittiwake wreck and the Cayman Wall. Even if you’re not a diver, snorkeling in Grand Cayman offers vibrant views of the underwater world.

Camana Bay: A modern and vibrant town area with shopping, dining, and entertainment options. The Observation Tower offers panoramic views of the island.

Bioluminescent Bay Tours: An evening kayak or boat tour to see the magical bioluminescence in the waters is an unforgettable experience.

Booking a Tour 

With a comprehensive list of tour types and providers, planning your adventure to Stingray City might feel like entering a blue hole! But don’t worry, we can take the guesswork out and help you simplify and plan the perfect outing to Stingray City.

Drop-in to see us at Cayman Vacation in Georgetown at 23 Lime Tree Bay Avenue. Or, give us an island hello at 1-888-208-8935. If you are just getting started on your travel planning, be sure to check out our national tourism authority, Visit Cayman Islands.