Beneath the surface of the tranquil waters of the Cayman Islands is an awe-inspiring beauty rivalling few other places on Earth. Having featured in many travel blogs and magazines, Cayman has left an impression on divers across the world. But what is so special about diving here?

There are 160 dive sites spread across Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, and with them all just a quick flight away from each other, you can explore them easily. From shipwrecks and coral reefs to stingrays and sharks, these dive sites feature a bounty of wildlife. Take a read below for our top picks here in the Cayman Islands.

The USS Kittiwake Wreck, Grand Cayman

Just 60 feet down looms the 1,780-ton shipwreck of the USS Kittiwake. The Kittiwake was a Chanticleer-class submarine rescue vessel sunk in 2011 to form an artificial reef in West Bay. Peppermint shrimp, arrowhead crabs, schools of horse-eye jacks, turtles and groupers have found themselves a home in the Kittiwake. The ship’s five decks make it a fascinating site to dive, full of nooks and crannies. Having once been a vessel dedicated to serving divers, it seems a fitting continuance of her valiant career.

Stingray City, Grand Cayman

Despite its name, Stingray City isn’t somewhere you can drive to (yes, this has been asked before). Located in waters little deeper than 12 feet, Stingray City is a must-do dive excursion for budding and experienced divers. Upon entering, you’ll find yourself face-to-face with the southern stingray. You’ll also find schools of snappers, jacks and tangs lazily swimming around as you plunge into the shallow water.

Devil’s Grotto, Grand Cayman

Located just off Eden’s Rock diving center in George Town is a series of underwater caves dubbed “Devil’s Grotto.” Divers get the magical experience of swimming through and exploring small caves and tunnels. A popular destination for both snorkelers and divers, Devil’s Grotto is easily accessible from George Town waterfront and never fails to impress those who dare to enter. What’s more, the silversides return to Cayman in May, and it is a show you don’t want to miss as schools of these tiny fish dart and dash through the water to avoid the tarpons that slip through the depths all around you.

Blacktip Boulevard, Little Cayman

Earning its name for the frequent sightings of blacktip sharks that have made a home on the reefs, Blacktip Boulevard is one of the most talked-about dive sites in Little Cayman. Alongside blacktips, you’ll no doubt find Caribbean reef sharks, eagle rays and maybe even manta rays if you are lucky. Venture into the crevasse, if you dare, to hunt for the big-eyed squirrelfish, lobsters and a variety of other creatures that hide down there.

Flights from Grand Cayman are only a hop and a skip across the water to this little bit of paradise.

MV Captain Keith Tibbetts, Cayman Brac

On the northwest side of the Brac lies the wreck of the MV Captain Keith Tibbetts, a 330-foot long Koni II class frigate built by the Soviet Union which once belonged to the Cuban Navy. This small frigate lies in 70 feet of water, marked by diving buoys. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan struck the Caribbean and split the wreck in two, although both sections are still accessible. The wreck is reachable by surface swim or dive boat and makes for a great photo opportunity. And with its turret guns still in place, there will never be a better opportunity for you to snap a selfie at the controls of a Cold War-era gun emplacement.

Here in the Cayman Islands, you will find numerous diving companies registered under PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors) who operate across all three islands. New divers can start from the very basics with the (Junior) Open Water qualification, which teaches the basics of diving, along with theory and practical tests. More experienced divers can embark on obtaining specialized qualifications such as the rescue divers’ qualification, which combines first aid with diving and enables one to help a fellow diver-in-distress. PADI also enables divers to progress in specialized fields, such as wreck and nitrox tank diving. These courses vary in length and price, depending on which you choose, though all are very enjoyable and reasonably affordable.