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We are cruising to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Costa Maya, and are trying to decide on shore excursions. We would like to do snorkeling on one of them, but which one has the best? Are there any problems on the islands due to the hurricaines? What else should we do on the other stops instead of snorkeling. We are 2 females leaving husbands and kids at home. Thanks for the help.
You should have mentioned the date of your cruise. If it is near term, perhaps Grand Cayman isn't going to be one of your stops after all. If the cruise isn't until next year, then you should be fine.
With that said, you will find that the best snorkeling, on any island, will be where the shoreline is rocky. Coral needs the hard surface of rock (or other hard material such as a ship wreck) to grow on. It is the coral that attracts the majority of the pretty fish. Sponges also need a hard surface where they can grow. So you won't find very good snorkeling at sandy beaches. Sure, you can wade out into the water and snorkel around. You will probably see a few fish as well, but it won't be anything like a rocky shore.
Eden rock is often mentioned as a good place to snorkel for cruisers. It is close to where the ships tender ashore in Georgetown. There are 2 dive shops close by where you can rent gear, look at a map of the site, and even do a discover scuba if that interests you.
If you have your own snorkel gear, you could go to a different snorkel site that won't have nearly as many people at it. Smith Cove comes to mind, but there are others. I would beat that if you got in a taxi and asked the driver for some suggestions, he would be happy to make some. If you do go to an out of the way site, arrange with the driver to return at a pre-determined time for a ride back. There is supposed to be good diving from shore at/near the turtle farm so the snorkeling will probably be good there. Spanish Bay resort also is supposed to have an excellent shore dive and probably snorkel site as well. Some ships offer an "all inclusive" excursion there, but you should be able to just go there in a taxi on your own for much less. Just be sure to allow enough time to return to the ship at the end of the day.
Of all the Caribbean islands, the Cayman Islands probably have the highest standard of living and the lowest crime rate, so I would feel quite safe there. Take the usual precautions, stay together, and you'll have a "grand" time.
I spent a week in the Caymans and have also had a port there on a cruise and my favorite of all is Smith Cove. This year we hit St John and St Martin and guess what, Its Smith Cove, hands down! Cozumel was close but we still love Smith Cove the best. Near shoreline snorkeling, quiet beach, smooth water, easy access and only a few miles south of the port. Better than Cemetary Beach, Edens Rock and wreck of the Cali. Easy for begiiners, children and elders.....nuf said
Have Fun, Rick and Lynn
If you are going to Cozumel, I would highly recommend going to Chankanaab Park. It costs about $10 by taxi to get there and then there is an admission fee of about $10 per person to get into the park. We have done some good snorkeling there and it is a lot of fun. We have seen all kinds of small fish plus some barricudas. We generally go as early as possible to avoid the heat in the middle of the day. After we have been there for a few hours we go back to the ship, have a shower and lunch. Then we do our shopping in Cozumel since it has the best shopping. We found the same things to buy in Costa Maya but they cost 50% more.
If you are also going to Grand Cayman we have found two options for snorkeling. You can go to Stingray City, which is lots of fun. You can just get off the ship and find a tour. Or, you can walk to a spot right near where the ships tenders dock. You get off the tenders and when you get to the street you turn right and walk a couple of blocks. There is a place that rents lounge chairs on a small man-made beach and they have a small snorkeling place. You won't see that much but it is still fun.
I guess that the fee has gone up since the last time we were there. We did Eastern Caribbean last year so we did not get to Cozumel. I like Western Caribbean better and am looking forward to going to Chunkanaab this January!