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It’s one of Grand Cayman’s most popular destinations—Stingray City. Whether you’ve been coming to Cayman for decades or you’re planning your very first time, Stingray City offers unique joys to experience each and every visit. We've put together a rundown of the highlights to help you plan your next trip! 

The “Founding” of Stingray City

The sandbar now known as Stingray City initially attracted these alluring creatures when fishermen stopped their boats there after fishing excursions. While cleaning their catch of the day, the fishermen would often throw the scraps overboard. Before too long, stingrays began to show up to take advantage of all that free food! Over time, generation after generation of stingrays made the trek to the sandbar for a snack, and eventually they grew familiar and friendly with people. 

Nowadays it’s the tour groups who bring the tasty treats that keep the clan of stingrays coming back to visit each day. This year the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation completed their biannual “stingray census” at the sandbar, and they counted 115 stingrays—the largest number ever recorded!

All together there are two sandbars that make up Stingray City—one that is roughly three-feet deep and one that is much deeper. The shallow sandbar is the most popular destination since visitors can comfortably stand while they interact with the stingrays. The deeper sandbar offers the opportunity to dive and swim alongside the majestic creatures. If you’re a diver, you should definitely check it out to experience Stingray City from a whole new perspective.

The Full Experience

Located in North Sound, Stingray City tour-goers get to enjoy incredible open-ocean views on the boat ride there. There are usually several excursions and boats visiting Stingray City at any given time, making it a vibrant and fun atmosphere. The water in North Sound is crystal clear and stunning, so visitors will have a fantastic view of the stingrays as they swim by—some might even brush up against your leg! If you’re uncomfortable with wading out into the water, watching the rays swim by from the boat is still an unforgettable experience.

Before visitors exit their boats and enter the water, they are taught what we like to affectionately call “the Stingray City Shuffle.” Since stingrays swim and frequently rest close to the water’s sandy bottom, it is possible to accidentally injure a ray by stepping on it. While the residents of Stingray City are very friendly, stingrays do still have barbs on their tail that can sting. As a guest coming into the stingrays's home turf, it’s important to be as respectful and mindful of their natural environment as possible. Just keep an eye downwards and shuffle your feet along the sand to keep our swimming friends safe and happy!



If you visit with a tour guide who has experience on how to properly handle the stingrays, they'll help you get up close and personal with one of these incredible animals. Many long-time guides even recognize particular stingrays—several have names, so be sure to ask who you're meeting! You can gently pet the stingray's back while it's being held by a guide, and remember, if you give one a kiss, it's seven years of good luck! ;) Many tour companies also employ photographers who will take photos of you posing with the stingrays for an additional fee, so you won't have to worry about getting your personal camera wet. 

Tour Options

There are many ways to book a tour to Stingray City, from private options for small-groups to large tour excursions. Here are some more in-depth stories about a couple of our recommendations, if you’d like a place to get started on your research. 

Share Your Memories

We hope we've covered the basics of a trip to Stingray City and have you convinced it's a must-do item for your next trip. Have you already visited Stingray City? Do you have a favorite memory from your visit, or did we miss any tips you’d like to share? Are you a first-timer with some specific questions? Let us know in the comments below!

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When I arrived for a tour of the Crystal Caves, I expected to just learn about things like stalagmites and stalactites. But thanks to tour guide Donovan Ebanks, I came back from the excursion with a new appreciation for the history, flora, and ecology of Grand Cayman.

As he drove the tour group down a winding road, Donovan told us that the caves are located 62 feet above sea level, which is the highest point on Grand Cayman. There are over one hundred caves across seventy-five acres, three of which were open to the public at the time we visited with more openings to come in the future. 

Donovan grew up around three miles from the Crystal Caves on his grandfather’s fifty-acre farm. He eventually made a move to the United States, where he worked as a bartender in San Diego for around twenty-five years. He ended up back home on Grand Cayman when a San Diego connection recruited him to come work as a tour guide for Crystal Caves. As a child, Donovan explored the caves with his friends, so it felt like there wasn't anyone better to show us around. 

Along the pathway, Donovan stopped to point out the red birch tree. He called it the living fence post, but also the Tourist Tree. “Why do we call it the Tourist Tree? Cuz it’s red and peelin’.” He knocked away a few peels of bark and waited for our laughter.

That wasn’t the only funny joke Donovan had up his sleeve, however, and he would frequently make a joke, wait a beat, and then exclaim, “Just kidding guys!” Donovan was great with the kids on the tour, making sure to explain certain facts just to them so they didn’t feel left out.

Once inside the first of three caves, Donovan explained how he and his friends would come explore the caves. Before the caves were cleared out for visitors to enjoy, they were filled with rocks and red sand, which meant no clear walkways or paths. Donovan said he’d crawl through the caves on his hands and knees, playing with his friends and gaining them all amateur-spelunker status. He was sure to warn us that the red sand is impossible to get out of clothing, so we should be careful. While he didn’t mention getting in trouble as a kid for coming home covered in stains, I did wonder how his grandfather must have felt about it!

Outside each cave and along the walkways, Donovan would stop to point out specific trees and plants and their many uses. “Take a look,” he’d say and would let us gather around. He explained that the green papaya is the best world’s meat tenderizer. Amazingly, the fruit off soursop trees can be made into a tea that helps fight high blood pressure and even has  properties that can prevent cancer. The ironwood tree provides wood as sturdy as the name suggests—Donovan’s grandfather’s house was framed with ironwood and withstood many hurricane seasons in Grand Cayman.

Donovan also explained how the bounty of the land provided the island with economic opportunities in early settlement days. Leaves from the Silver Thatch Palm were weaved into ropes and hats that were sold to traders, as well as used for roof thatching at home. The Silver Thatch Palm is indigenous to the Cayman Islands and is not only the national tree but also makes an appearance on the country’s flag.

Inside the caves, Donovan showed us some of the more noteworthy formations and shared the fun names the staff and other tourists had come up with, including the cathedral room, the Statue of Liberty, and the dragon. There was even a formation that looked like a head and was wearing a pair of sunglasses. "These caves are very much alive," he told us, explaining that the water droplets that sprinkled us in the head meant the stalactites were growing, albeit very slowly. "If you get hit with a water droplet, it's seven years good luck!" By the time we were through, I'd saved up enough good luck to last me several decades. 

While the Crystal Caves were beautiful, I was most interested in Donovan’s knowledge of the island. His stories brought a new appreciation for the Cayman people, their resourcefulness, and the landscape of the island itself. I wasn't the only one—at the end of the tour, another guest from New Jersey turned to me and said, “I think what Donovan had to say about all the plants was the best part.”

Check out the Crystal Caves for yourself, and if you see Donovan, be sure to ask him about his dance moves. :)

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My first trip out to Stingray City was a huge day of firsts for me—first time on a boat in the ocean, first time petting a stingray, first time holding a starfish, and first time snorkeling. Even on a day full of amazing new experiences, getting to meet Winston, crew member extraordinaire, stands out as one of the highlights. 

The first thing that made me smile about Winston was his ability to guess my shoe size just by looking at my feet. He took a quick glance and then handed me a pair of snorkeling fins (which to my surprise weren’t called just "flippers") that fit on the first try. He laughed and said that people with “little heels and ankles” were by far the hardest people to fit. My shoe store trips would be significantly easier if I had Winston along! 

As the boat began to take off towards the Coral Gardens, we were quickly greeted by lots of cold, salty splashes of seawater. Most people squealed and shouted at being suddenly soaked, but Winston opened up his arms, closed his eyes, and smiled as the waves splashed him. “Ahh, you all should enjoy this now because you won’t get any of this on the ride back.” I, like my fellow passengers, was initially a little jarred by the splashes, but seeing Winston enjoy the waves and encourage us to enjoy the experience turned my attitude around. 

Since he seemed to have such a positive outlook on being at work, I asked Winston how long he’d been doing boat tours. He’s been working for Stingray City for about eight years. Winston worked in construction for several years after moving to Cayman from Jamaica for better opportunities for his family. I asked which he liked better and with a big smile he said he liked giving tours much better—he gets to be outdoors in a beautiful, laid back atmosphere, and gets to meet lots of people from all around the world. Of all the destinations on the boat tours, he said he enjoys Star Fish Point the most because of the fun but relaxing atmosphere and how much kids enjoy the spot. 

Once we arrived at Stingray City, Winston also served as our stingray ambassador. As a few stingrays began to swim by our group, one guest got a little freaked out by the rays being so close. She screamed, flailed, and even tried to escape back onto the boat, but Winston took the time to calm her down. He explained that there was nothing to be afraid of, and slowly guided her over to the stingray. After a few moments, she seemed to calm down a little, and by the time we were finished she even gave the ray a little kiss for luck! As Winston said, “You have to kiss the stingray—it’s seven years good luck!” 

All too soon it was time to get back on the boat and leave the stingrays behind, but as I asked Winston if I could give the ray a goodbye pet on the fin, he replied with his signature, “Of course!” Throughout the whole day, any request a guest had—Will you take a photo? Can you explain how starfish eat?—Winston always replied with a cheerful, “Of course!” His kindness and enthusiasm made an already incredible experience even more special. 

Whether it was manning the ship’s anchor, explaining how to use snorkel gear, or wrangling stingrays, Winston did everything with a genuine smile and generous spirit. Every time I think back on my big day of firsts, Winston’s smile is a big part of my memories. The first trip won’t be my last time hanging with stingrays for certain, and hopefully it won’t be my last time getting to visit with Winston. 
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