USS Kittiwake Snorkel & Dive Review (Grand Cayman 2024)


In this article, we discuss what it is like to snorkel and dive at the USS Kittiwake in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. 


What is the USS Kittiwake?

The USS Kittiwake is an ex-US Navy ship that was sunk in Grand Cayman in 2011.

The Kittiwake was active in the US Navy for over 50-years, acting as a submarine rescue vessel.

picture of the kittiwake shipwreck underwater

The Cayman Islands government reached out to the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) to ask if they could have an old vessel to create an artificial reef in Grand Cayman.

After a multi-year long process, the USS Kittiwake was finally given to the Cayman Islands government, and was sunk in Grand Cayman in 2011 to create a new dive and snorkel site.


Where is the Kittiwake located?

The Kittiwake is located about half a mile offshore from Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman.

image of map of Grand Cayman showing kittiwake's location on west side of island

This is near the north-end of Seven Mile Beach, on the west-side of the island.

Below is a Google Map showing the exact location of the Kittiwake:


Is the snorkeling & diving good here?

The snorkeling and diving is excellent at the Kittiwake.

This is the most popular scuba diving site in the Cayman Islands. It is less common to snorkel here, but many people who can’t dive still enjoy the experience of snorkeling.

There is a wide variety of marine life, such as groupers, sponges and jacks. If you are scuba diving, then you can enter the different sections of the ship, and explore areas that can’t be seen whilst snorkeling.

Below is a video showing someone scuba diving at the USS Kittiwake:


Can you swim to the Kittiwake from shore?

No, you cannot swim from Seven Mile Beach to the Kittiwake.

It is about half a mile from shore to the Kittiwake. Even if you were physically fit enough to swim this distance, it would still be a terrible idea as there is a lot of boat traffic in the area, meaning you would most likely be hit by a boat.

aerial picture showing 7 boats tied to buoys around the kittiwake wreck

In order to dive or snorkel at the Kittiwake, you need to pay a tour or dive company. These companies will then take you to the Kittiwake via boat. Check out our list of the top 10 scuba dive companies in Grand Cayman, as most of these companies offer trips to the Kittiwake.

If you are looking for snorkel spots that you can reach from shore, then check out our article where we review the top 25 snorkel spots in Grand Cayman. Most of the snorkel spots mentioned in our article can be accessed from shore.


Can beginners snorkel & dive here?

The Kittiwake is suitable for beginner snorkelers, but not for beginner scuba divers.

Snorkeling at the surface is easy since the water is typically calm without waves. If you wear a life jacket, then you can float on the surface and view the wreck beneath you.

picture of person scuba diving with kittiwake shipwreck in the background

It is more difficult to dive here since there is a lot of swimming involved. It also requires some skill to scuba dive through the different sections of the Kittiwake. This may be too challenging for a complete beginner.


How deep is the water?

The max depth of the water at the Kittiwake is around 65-feet.

It is about 20-feet from the top of the wreck to the surface of the water.

picture of kittiwake from the air

If you snorkel at the Kittiwake, then you can swim above the wreck, and view it from the surface. The only way to go down to the wreck itself and see the different sections up-close is by scuba diving.


What is the best way to visit the Kittiwake?

You need to take a boat to get to the Kittiwake. It is too far to swim to from shore.

picture of two scuba divers jumping into the water from a boat

There are a lot of great dive companies that offer both scuba diving and snorkel trips to the Kittiwake. Check out our article where we review the top ten dive companies in Grand Cayman. All of these companies offer trips to the Kittiwake.


Final thoughts

If you enjoy scuba diving, then the USS Kittiwake is a must-do dive site in Grand Cayman.

This is also a great spot to snorkel at, but since the water is about 65-feet deep, you can’t get up close to the Kittiwake if you are only snorkeling.

If you are looking for other great snorkel spots, then check out our article where we review the top 25 snorkel spots in Grand Cayman.

Also check out our article where we list the top 15 beaches in Grand Cayman.