Your Day Trip to Stingray City: Swimming with the locals
For decades, lucky tourists visiting the clear and calm waters of Grand Cayman Island have been lured out to sea to visit the incomparable Stingray City. This shallow sandbar, and popular destination is located off the North Sound of the island, and is home to a large population of wild Southern Stingrays. Visitors to Stingray City can swim and interact with these gentle creatures in their natural habitat and have an experience like no other. Sound fun? It is, but there are still things to know, before you go!
We’ve assembled a handy guide to planning a day trip to Stingray City, including what to expect, how to prepare, and tips to make the most of your experience.
Getting to Stingray City
Stingray City is accessed from the North Sound of Grand Cayman, with the boat launch being about 15-minutes from the island’s capital – George Town.
There are several tour operators that offer half-day or full-day tours to Stingray City. Many of these tours include transportation from your vacation rental, and some even include snorkeling or other activities in addition to your time at the sandbar.
When to Go to Stingray City
The best time to visit Stingray City is between April and October, which is the island’s dry season. The water is warmer and clearer during this time, and there are fewer crowds. However, it’s important to note that stingrays are present year-round, so you can still have a great experience even if you’re visiting outside of the dry season.
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.
What to expect in this truly remarkable location
When you arrive at Stingray City, you’ll be greeted by a large group of stingrays gliding gracefully through the shallow water. The guides will give you a brief overview of how to interact with the stingrays, which includes holding out your hand with a piece of squid (provided by your guide) for them to feed on and stroking their backs. They can also help you take a picture if you want to.
The stingrays are wild and are not trained to perform tricks or stunts, so your interaction with them will be natural and unscripted. You can expect to spend about 30-45 minutes in the water with the stingrays, depending on the tour you choose.
Are stingrays friendly?
Southern Stingrays, the kind that is typically found in Stingray City, are generally considered to be friendly and docile animals. They are wild creatures, but they have grown accustomed to being fed by visitors and tend to be curious and approachable around people. They are also accustomed to the human presence since the place has been a touristic spot for a long time. Stingrays in Stingray City have been trained to associate human visitors with food, which means they can be attracted to swimmers and boats coming to the area.
However, it’s important to remember that these are wild animals and should be treated with respect. They have the ability to defend themselves if they feel threatened or disturbed and they might sting as a response to that. So, always follow the instructions of your guide and do not do anything that makes you or the stingrays uncomfortable.
Preparing for Your Swim
Despite their friendly behavior, stingrays are wild animals, so there are some safety precautions you should take. First, be sure to wear appropriate clothing and footwear—something that you don’t mind getting wet in and that can be worn in water is recommended. Second, always follow the instructions of your guide and do not do anything that makes you or the stingrays uncomfortable. And be sure to bring a towel and sunscreen.
Stingray Ray City and Stingray Sandbar
The legendary Stingray City on Grand Cayman is divided into two parts: the Valley of the Rays and Stingray Sandbar.
Valley of the Rays
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 12 feet in depth.
Stingray Sandbar holds greater appeal for the masses, particularly for 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 petted and handfed in shallow waters (3 – 5 feet deep). They are also known for rubbing against your legs, much like a puppy does.
Easy tips for making the most of your experience at Stingray City
You should bring appropriate clothing and footwear that can get wet, a towel, and sunscreen. For an Instagrammable moment, bring a waterproof camera or phone case to take pictures of the trip.
There is no age limit for visiting Stingray City, but children under the age of 8 may require a life jacket and must be accompanied by an adult. It is up to the tour company and guide to decide if a child is ready to safely participate in the encounter.
Yes, it is safe to swim with the stingrays in Stingray City, as long as you follow the instructions of your guide and respect the animals. Stingrays are docile creatures that have grown accustomed to human interaction, but it’s important to remember that they are wild animals and should be treated with respect. Guides will provide safety precautions and guidelines that should be followed.