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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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Finding fresh guava, foraging for almonds, swimming with sea turtles, watching locals slap down dominoes, sipping a 7 Mile Wheat beer... the amount of firsts you'll experience on a tour with Joe Tourist is incredible.

If you're looking to see a different side of Cayman, Gilbert Nicoletta with Joe Tourist will plan an unforgettable day just for you. He customizes all of his tours for individual guests, and after experiencing his All Island Tour on our last trip to Cayman, my husband and I are believers. We can't wait to schedule another tour with Gil.

snorkeling and picking guava

The adventure started as soon as he picked us up at Christopher Columbus Condos. He greeted us with fresh yellow sapote from his yard and some herbs to taste. To loosen us up for the day, he took us by the rum distillery for a tasting. I joked that I hadn't had breakfast and needed some sustenance, so Gil took us by a local food truck for some Caribbean meat pies after the distillery.

Drives between stops were fascinating as Gil told us story after story about about the social, economic, and environmental history of the Cayman Islands. Some stories were personal, others general culture, and still others hilarious tall tales. He explained why so many youth go into banking, how locals refer to time as Before-Ivan and After-Ivan, reminisced on raising Pigeons (if you had one with a "top-knot," you were the bomb), and so much more. Learning more about our home-away-from-home deepened the bond I have with this little Caribbean island. It will add to your love for Cayman too.

Jumping off the dock at Spotts Bay, we had the majestic opportunity to swim alongside several sea turtles. In the parking lot, Gil told us how the famous house-shaped graves of Cayman used to have wood pieces in the center with details engraved, but over the years the wood weathered away. He also spotted an almond tree and showed my husband, Brandon, and I how to crack them open. Brandon was a natural at opening them and I got to enjoy the fruits of his labor. ;)

Alongside the road, Gil found fresh guava for us to pick and enjoy as an appetizer before a feast that awaited us at Over the Edge Cafe. We enjoyed turtle and Cayman style bread, mahi mahi, cracked conch, farm to table veggies and more—a taster's platter full of local dishes you can only get on Gil's tours.

With full bellies, we walked into the North Side heritage day to see what was happening. Gil introduced us to local crafters that were plaiting baskets and rope with silver thatch. One of the women working on a basket told us the craft was a tradition handed down from her grandmother to her mother to her. While we were talking, another local approached the crowd, and my eyes widened in delight. It was Shelly Miller. We met at Rum Point a couple of years ago, thus proving Cayman is a small island indeed. It was fun to get to experience that as a visitor.

We continued to Starfish Point to see the sweet 5-pointed creatures and enjoy an amazing sunset. At dusk we drove by Davinoff's Concrete Sculpture Garden and then began to slingshot around the East End.

local tour guide with ccc guest

As the night settled in, Gil rolled his windows down so we could listen to some "old timers" playing dominoes at one of the East End beach shelters. He said if we heard someone slap them down that it basically meant "game over." The weather wasn't prime for the Blow Holes, but we stopped there anyways so Gil could show off the fossils in the iron shore, including one ancient crocodile.

On our way back to the condos, Gil continued to regale us with stories, my favorite being the family tradition of going crabbing after the first spring rain. He said that come May, "everybody's in the bushes" and on the side of the road looking for crabs, dreaming of baked crab-back.

Gil dropped us back off at the condos after a day filled to the brim with unforgettable stories and experiences. If you're interested in a custom island tour with Gil reach out to him on his Joe Tourist Cayman Facebook page. You won't regret it!

You can also read reviews from other adventurers over on the Joe Tourist Outdoor Adventures Trip Advisor page.

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Did you know that Grand Cayman is home to one of only a handful of bioluminescent bays in the world? Bioluminescence is a fancy name for “light-up” creatures like fireflies, glow worms, and jellyfish. In Cayman, tiny light-up creatures live in the waters off the north side of the island, a short boat ride away from Rum Point. We recently took an unforgettable tour of the bioluminescent bay led by Tom Watling, who helped us see these enchanting creatures up close.

Tom and Lisha Watling are the owners of Cayman Kayaks, who offer eco-friendly tours of the bioluminescent bay by double kayak or by boat. Cayman Kayak tours run only on moonless or low-light evenings so the experience with the bioluminescence can be as enjoyable as possible. The tours embark from Rum Point, and while it’s a bit of a drive from West Bay, it’s well worth the trip.

We took the boat tour of the bay, and the boat itself was almost as neat as the tour! Tom’s boat, Moonless Moments, might look like a regular catamaran at first glance, but it was custom designed with the touring experience and the utmost safety of the bioluminescence in mind. The boat is electric, which protects the organisms from harmful fuel emissions, and its walls are high and painted black to help block out nearby streetlights. Panels in the floor of the boat pop out, allowing tour goers to get up close and personal with the bioluminescence without swimming in the bay. Tom explained to us that everyday things like sunscreen, lotions, perfumes, and hair care products are harmful to the bioluminescence, so swimming in the bay is strongly discouraged and tour goers are advised to avoid or wash off any sunscreen or lotion beforehand.

As we entered the bay, Tom passed around a paddle to put in the water. When we looked over the side of the boat, suddenly the water surrounding the paddle lit up a bright blue. It was impressive and beautiful, and that was just the beginning of the light show. Once the boat stopped inside the bay, Tom popped out the panels in the boat’s floor, and we were able to play in the water and see the bioluminescence up close. With every swipe of my hand, dozens and dozens of little creatures lit up blue along my movements like fairy dust. Though small, the light provided by these creatures is mighty!

Tom and a friend kayak in the bioluminescent bay (Courtesy of Cayman Kayaks

Though the organisms in Cayman’s bioluminescent bay haven’t been studied officially, Tom told us that they are believed to be Pyrodinium Bahamense. Dr. Michael Latz of the Marine Institute in San Diego, California, toured the bay with Tom and noted that the organisms were very similar to those in another, extensively studied bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico—Mosquito Bay. Though he didn’t put the Cayman creatures under a microscope, he felt there were enough similarities to hypothesize that Cayman is also home to the Pyrodinium Bahamense.

In addition to the magic of the bioluminescence, getting to chat with Tom during the tour was a treat in itself. He told us that his parents first visited Cayman from Canada on their honeymoon in the 1980s and immediately fell head-over-heels for the island. It would be almost a year before they went back home at all! As a first-generation Caymanian, Tom is a strong advocate for protecting and conserving Cayman’s natural beauty. He recalls the first time he really noticed the bioluminescence, saying, “I was out on my back out on a dock looking up at the stars—the star gazing is great this side of the island. I went to shore and picked up a coconut and brought it to the end of the dock, threw it up in the air, and watched it splash. It didn’t splash as per usual, though—it glowed, sparkled, and because the end of the dock was in shallow waters, shoals of fish shot out from every direction of impact from the coconut hitting the surface. Phosphorescence! I thought to myself. Incredible!

When asked what it is about the bay that invokes such passion in him, Tom answered, “It’s the small things that makes the muscle behind my eyes tighten and my heart squeeze into tears of joy. That is what Cayman’s wildlife is all about to me—the knowledge of what you are looking at, and then getting up close to the tiny life structures and truly appreciating these life forms.”

A naturalist in every sense of the word, Tom shares his passion for nature with those on his tours. One of my favorite moments of the tour was when he stopped the boat and took the time to point out some of the constellations in the sky above, gently encouraging each of us to take a few moments, breathe in the ocean air, and be present in nature.

With Tom after our tour. 

Next time you visit the island, I highly recommend you book a tour of the bioluminescent bay—it will be an experience you won’t soon forget! And if you’re interested in helping keeping the bay happy and healthy for generations to come, you can read more about how you can support Tom and Lisha’s efforts here.


*Cover photo courtesy of Cayman Kayaks
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The blue iguana is a beautiful and important animal native to the Cayman Islands. The blue iguanas, or blues, were once faced with extinction, but are now on their way back to a stable, healthy population. We were lucky enough to get some insights into how the blue iguanas are being revitalized from Nick Ebanks. Nick is the Operations Manager of the Blue Iguana Recovery, which is an initiative of The National Trust for the Cayman Islands. The recovery itself is located on the grounds of Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park on the north side of the island, about a 45 minute drive from the condos.

The Blue Iguana Recovery Program was founded in 1990 as an effort to save the critically endangered species, whose population was down to only 30. The facility cares for and monitors blue iguanas, aids in the breeding process, strategically releases ready iguanas into the wild, and works with research institutions to help ensure genetic diversity within the wild population. In July 2018, the program hit a huge milestone when the wild population reached 1,000 blues. Though the program has successfully saved the blue iguanas from extinction, the work isn’t over. The ultimate goal is for the blues to be able to naturally breed and support themselves in the wild, thus eliminating the need for the program altogether. Nick says, “If we lose our jobs—perfect. That’s the goal.”


The very photogenic Peter

As Nick showed us around the rescue, I asked him a few questions about himself. Nick is a native Caymanian from West Bay. Though he didn’t always expect to be a conservationist, he’s grown to deeply appreciate and respect all forms of living creatures. After a period of time working with bats, he began volunteering at the iguana rescue around four years ago. After getting plenty of on-the-job experience, he worked all the way up to his operations manager position today. When asked what he likes most about his job, he said he really enjoys spending time outdoors, and working with great, like-minded people who are all very dedicated to taking care of the iguanas. He said conservation is very fulfilling and meaningful work, plus it’s an added bonus to be free from the restrictions that come along with an office job.

As we looked around, one of Nick’s coworkers, warden Alberto, joined us. Alberto showed us the “main attraction” blue iguana, Peter. Peter was born in 2003 to wild parents, but he liked to hang around Botanic Park so much that he basically adopted the staff himself! The program recruited Peter as an educational animal since he is so friendly—he enjoys being picked up by Alberto to be shown to visitors and isn’t bothered at all by attention. As I soon learned, Alberto himself is also a bit of a park star. He has a huge heart for the iguanas and is a beloved tour guide, so I’d highly recommend you request him if you stop by!


Alberto and Nick 

In addition to meeting a few of these sweet iguanas, the best thing about the tour was learning all about the animals from Nick. The iguanas blue color can change due to their environment, the sun, their food, and mood. It’s also a great indicator of overall health, so the staff monitors each iguana's color every day. One of the neatest things I saw while visiting was a small territorial spat between two roaming iguanas, Shreddy and Orro. Nick explained that Orro tread a little too closely on Shreddy’s territory, then pointed out how Orro took up a submissive posture and her color turned more light blue as a show of, “Hey, I know you’re top iguana, it’s all good here.” It was very cool to see up close!

As you might have guessed, Nick’s passion for animals and the Cayman wilderness extends beyond just his day job. At home he is fostering a dog named Vinny. He also tries to spend as much time as possible outdoors, doing everything from climbing, exploring, and observing native birds and insects to getting in a game of ultimate frisbee. “I like to keep it nice and simple—busy and simple,” he says. Once he reaches the goal of the blue iguanas being able to sustain themselves in the wild, he'd like to work with revitalizing native bird populations.


A beautiful blue enjoying basking in the sun in Botanic Park

I highly recommend you come visit the blues yourself the next time you’re on island and say hi to Nick, Alberto, and Peter. You can catch one of two daily tours given, Monday through Saturday, or you can schedule a private tour. Then you should see if you can spot some of the roaming blues in Botanic Park! Check out their website for more information about tour times.

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Allow us to introduce you to Caymanian native, Gilbert Nicoletta or “Gil” as most people know him on island.

Gil owns Joe Tourist Outdoor Adventures, an awesome company that offers eco and cultural tours of Grand Cayman and day trips to Little Cayman. The company gives guests the ability to customize and personalize their visit to the island, while sampling authentic native food, snorkeling with wild sea turtles, cliff-jumping, exploring local limestone caves and enjoying all the natural wonders of the rustic Eastern Districts.

A media professional and entrepreneur with almost 35 years experience in print journalism, television and radio, Gil has written and reported extensively on entertainment, politics, personalities, culture/travel, business and a myriad of lifestyle and hard news topics. He got his start in journalism at age 17 working with the Cayman Nor'wester magazine and then later for The Cayman Compass daily newspaper as a reporter and photographer. Gil moved to New York City in 1983, where he worked as a freelance journalist for 10 years. Cayman called him back home in 1994, where he did a little bit of everything media wise. Gil says his journalism background allows him to provide guests on his tours, with unparalleled exposure to the historical and cultural landscape of the Cayman Islands.

While talking to Gil we also discovered that he’s a passionate motorcycle adventurer. In fact, he’s taken his motorcycles across all 50 US States. He’s also ridden 24 of the 28 EU countries and last year, he rode for three months in Canada, visiting all the provinces, except Manitoba and Newfoundland.

With his love for adventure and authentic experiences, we had to ask Gil to share a few of Cayman’s best kept secrets with us, too. For old-school Caymanian ambiance he recommends Al Frescos in West Bay. To “get a phenomenal sunset in the east” he suggests heading to South Coast Bar and Restaurant in Breakers. And of course he recommends taking a tour with Joe Tourist Outdoor Adventures. The day trip to Little Cayman features a three-course meal, a boat trip to the deserted cay of Owen Island and snorkeling on Bloody Bay Wall—all of which will give you a fabulous introduction to one of our beloved Sister Islands.

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Usually when someone tells you to “go to Hell,” they don’t mean it kindly, but I promise I have the best of intentions with this recommendation. Hell, Grand Cayman, is a fun, quirky destination (technically a town!) that will leave you spoiled for choice when it comes to silly photo opportunities, unique souvenirs, and puns.

Driving down the highway to Hell takes about six minutes from the condos. When we arrived, it was far from a cold day. We stopped in at a gift shop and were soon greeted by Mr. McDoom (real name!). He gave us very stylish plastic devil horns and pitchforks to wield while he took us around. Originally from Jamaica, Mr. McDoom moved to Cayman as a child, and he and his family have owned the property for over 40 years. They love talking to the hundreds of visitors that come each day, typically large groups on cruise ship excursions. We were lucky enough to arrive at a slow time, so we got a solo tour and greatly enjoyed Mr. McDoom’s hospitality and sense of humor. Helluva guy!

American Gothic, Reimagined—2017 

Hell itself is actually a dark, jagged rock formation. Mr. McDoom explained that the formation was likely a reef at one time many, many years ago, but erosion and time wore away bits and pieces, giving it the strange volcanic rock-like appearance it has today. If you’re wondering how the attention-grabbing name was decided on in the first place, we owe it all to a British Commissioner who toured Grand Cayman in the early days of settlement. When he saw the bizarre formation, he exclaimed, “My God, this must be what Hell looks like!“ Since the experience seemed to shake him quite a bit, my best guess is that shortly thereafter he took off like a bat outta. . . well, you know. 

While visitors can’t walk on the rocks because of safety concerns, iguanas take full advantage of basking in the sun on the formation.

Hell-bent on finding some one-of-a-kind souvenirs, we made our way inside the McDoom's gift shop. Remember, there might be Hell to pay if you forget a souvenir for your friends after visiting Cayman. Luckily there are tons of options to choose from—shot glasses to t-shirts to fridge magnets to hats. My favorite part was picking out postcards to send back home to my family. Hell even has its own post office, so lucky recipients will receive their greetings with an amusing, Instagram-worthy postmark. Mrs. McDoom met us at the register, and she was wonderfully friendly. We chatted about our trip so far, and she recommended a few of her personal favorite hidden gem restaurants around West Bay. 


So if you have a little Hell to raise, make the short trip from the condos and visit with the McDooms at Hell, Grand Cayman. 

There's another gift shop across the road called The Devil's Hangout, where you may even find the devil himself. The owner Ivan is usually dressed in full devil costume and always ready for a photo opp.  All in all we think you'll have a hell of a time!

Red Hell Building with Devil in shorts

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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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