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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Compass Point Dive Resort - Grand Cayman


Planning dive vacations can require a lot of research.  You are looking for a nice resort with great diving and easy access at an affordable price.  You spend a lot of time stalking flights, emailing resorts, and comparing different weeks of travel to find the trifecta of quality, convenience and price.  Hopefully, at the end of these spread sheets and emails you find the type of resort you are looking for and most importantly, in your price range. While I researched flights, two friends headed west to Las Vegas to scout out different dive resorts and island destinations.  What they came back with was Compass Point Dive Resort in the Cayman Islands. 

Hammocks and the dock at Compass Point
Compass Point Dive Resort is a "Dedicated Dive Resort" on the quiet East End of Grand Cayman, the largest island of the "Cayman Islands".  Compass Point aims to bring Live-A-Board style diving at a land based resort.  Their motto is "roll out of bed and onto the waiting dive boat".   Far away from the crowds, easy access to some of the islands best diving, and at a great price, Compass Point had a lot of what we were looking for in a resort.  



George Town (cruise ship land) on the far west, Compass Point on the far East End. 

One of the biggest selling points is the location of Compass Point. As they like to say, Compass Point Dive Resort's location did not happen by accident and was carefully selected with the diver in mind. Compass Point is furthest away from the airport, the nightlife, the island's capital, and the cruises ships. It is closest to what some say is the best diving the island has to offer. Peace and quiet at a beautiful resort away from the hustle and bustle and right at the door of excellent diving. 

While the location offers many of these benefits, this side of the island is known for its stronger winds and rougher conditions. Because of some weather that rolled in, we ended up spending the first four days driving back to the other side of the island to dive where the wind and seas were calmer (and the dive sites were more crowded). When we finally did get to dive the East Side, we were rewarded with fantastic wall diving and pristine corals. Unfortunately, I was also set back with some really bad sea sickness due to the rougher conditions.  While the weather can be a drawback, the location away from the busy centers of the island, more pristine diving and quiet resort feel made the location a favorite feature for me.


Looking out at the dock on a windy day
Usually on a dive trip, we aren't as worried about the resort as we are well, the diving.  Truth be told, we spend the majority of the day diving and on the water and try not to be too fussy on how nice the room is or how many amenities the resort has.  At Compass Point, we didn't have to sacrifice a beautiful resort for the sake of our budgets or great diving.  When we first arrived, we were instantly impressed by the resort.  From the beach to the pools and grill areas, the resort was a little paradise on the East End of the island.  The resort has two separate beach areas with hammocks, chairs, table and lounge chairs.  While the water is not easily accessible due to a shallow rocky coast (you wont be doing any swimming off the beach here), it is a great place to relax on a hammock with a book and enjoy the island breeze and ocean views.  

There are two grill areas, charcoal grills by the beach and gas grills up by the pool area.  There are two pools, one by the restaurant geared for divers and classes, and another across the street with a hot tub for swimming and relaxing.  This pool area also has pool chairs, a bathroom, a dining area and grills.  The entire resort has Wi-Fi and there is cable TVs in the room.  There is also a large dive locker where your gear is stored, and several rinse takes for any gear you need to rinse.  

We spent the mornings diving and the afternoons in the hot tub or a quick nap in the lounge chairs- a mix of diving and much needed rest and relaxation.

Dive Pool by Eagle Rays

Pool and Hot Tub across the street
Again, we try to find nice rooms, but don't put TOO much emphasis on the layout and aesthetic of the room.  Again, we were impressed by how nice the condominiums were. The condos were large, light, and spacious with plenty of room for four people, water views from the living room and main bedroom and ours even had beach access from the first floor.  If you are going as a couple or are traveling with a group, there are two options at compass point.


Looking out the living room door to the beach




ROOM OPTION 1: ONE BEDROOM OCEAN FRONT CONDOMINIUM – 740 SQ.FT. - 9 CONDOMINIUMS $1510 per person quad occupancy (2 per room, 2 total) 

Full one bedroom condo with private bedroom with Queen size bed, full bathroom, living room and fully equipped kitchen. In the living room area there is a large entertainment center, which stows 2 full size twin beds that can pull down out of the unit, therefore having the flexibility to sleep either 2 or 4 people. Also has a private balcony or patio. 



ROOM OPTION 2: TWO - BEDROOM OCEAN FRONT CONDOMINIUM – 1225 SQ. FT. - 9 CONDOMINIUMS $1250 per person quad occupancy (2 per room, 4 total) 

Full two-bedroom condo, one master bedroom with Queen size bed, walk out balcony and attached bathroom.  Second bedroom with two twin size beds and adjacent second bathroom.  Large living room and fully equipped kitchen. In the living room area there is a large entertainment center, which stows 2 twin murphy beds.


Private deck off our condo

My only complains on the rooms were that A:  housekeeping was extra and that B:  the second bedroom was definitely on the smaller side and the closet was difficult to access.  All in all, nice fully stocked kitchen, dining table, comfortable living room, ocean views and beach access.  We were happy divers for the week. 

Wooden signs by the dock

Wooden signs by the dock

One of the main deciding factors on booking Compass Point was the affordability.  As far as trips go, we were trying to keep this one on the lower end of our budget to accommodate more of our friends on the trip. 



The resort price for our time of year for an ocean front condo (double or quad occupancy) ranged from $1250 (2 bedroom, four people) to $1510 (1 bedroom, 2 people).  What is amazing is that this price includes tanks and weights, 6 days of 2 tank boat diving, a car rental for the week (pickup at airport) and breakfast daily.  You also have a fully equipped kitchen in the condo for cooking. As low as $1,200 for a hotel, breakfast every morning and diving FOR A WEEK.  


THE TOTAL (with air fare around mid $400s): $1,741 to $2,000 plus car rental insurance, lunch, dinner, alcohol, tips, a Nitrox upgrade and any extra dives.

Kayaks available at the resort 
Grand Cayman is definitely for the divers.  With that being said, you can find some other stuff to do on the island such as shop in Georgetown, visit the turtle farm or swim with the sting rays.  If you are bringing along a non-diver to Compass Point, or want to take a day off diving, the resort offers a few activities for free. 

Snorkeling- The resort claims to have snorkeling but the beach access isn't great and the area is really shallow.  We did not do any snorkeling off the resort. 
Kayaking  (free) Sit-On-Top style ocean kayaks are available free of charge to all guests. Kayaks are launched dockside and are available from 7am to 5pm, everyday. The water was pretty rough every day we were there but I can imagine it is a beautiful place to kayak when the winds calm down. 
Biking (free)-  Cruiser style bikes are available free of charge for all guests at Compass Point. You can cruise up to the Wreck of the Ten Sail monument, or to the Lighthouse Park - a trip to the village of East End.  The bikes were nothing fancy, but more than what you need to get around parts of the island. 

View of the dock on a windy morning

The other beach on a windy morning 

Ocean Frontiers, the diving operation at Compass Point 
 
Ocean Frontiers is the diving company that operates out of Compass Point.  OF introduces you to the spectacular diving of the East End. The Dive Shop offers comprehensive training, a retail store, fresh water rinsing tanks and a dive gear storage area.  Compass Point also offers "valet" style diving.  When you arrive at the resort on your first day, you pack all your dive gear in a crate and leave it outside your door. The next morning, you walk onto the dive boat to all your gear set up for you with your crater underneath the bench.  

All you need to do is throw on some weights and one of the Dive Master's will help you get your gear on and into the water.  At the end of the day, load your gear back into the crate and leave it on the boat.  The staff will give your crate a fresh water rise and store it in the dive locker for the next day.  All you need to do is walk on and off the boat with whatever personal belongings you want to bring for the day, OF takes care of all your gear for you.  I carried my Mask, Computer and GoPro off the boat every day and everything else was ready and waiting on the boat when I got there.  


The Dive Shop at Compass Point

The staff at OF was overall friendly, outgoing and happy to help.  Most of the divemasters and captains were very knowledgeable, helpful and were excellent divers themselves.  One or two seemed a little burnt out and did not take their duty as divemaster as serious as I would have hoped.  However, the majority of the staff was a pleasure to dive with all week long.  

The Dive Shop at Compass Point

Ocean Frontiers three boats


Compass Point and Ocean Frontiers have three dive boats parked right at the end of their private dock.  Each boat has a fresh water shower, rinse tank and a separate rinse tank for cameras, a camera table, drinking water, lced Tea, Orange slices, Ginger Biscuits and fresh towels. There is also a marine head on every boat. The boats (above) are the Nauti Cat, Ocean Hawk, and Eastern Skies Top Cat.  We dove off the aluminum Nauti Cat (below) when diving off the East End. The boat was large with plenty of seating for our 14 person group to stay together.  


The Nauti Cat

There is a restaurant located right at the resort called Eagle Ray's Bar & Grill.  Breakfast is served at 6:45 and the restaurant opens again for lunch from 11:30am until 9:30pm.  While the breakfast was good, it was monotonous.  Every morning the exact same breakfast was presented:  scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage and bacon with some apples, bananas, cereals, coffee and one type of juice on the side.  It would have been nice to see some variety, and maybe even some fresh fruit from the island.  We had dinner at resort one night and I really enjoyed the Lionfish Tacos.  


Breakfast at the resort 


If you want to have dinner off the resort, there three restaurants within walking distance and one just a mile away with a shuttle.


Miss Vivines Kitchen - For all your native dishes, try Vivine's Kitchen for a great Caribbean dining experience. The menu includes traditional Cayman and Caribbean dishes such as: Ackee & Cod Fish, Ox Tail, Conch, Whelks, Fried Fish, Lobster, Curried Goat, Turtle - all served with 'Rice & Beans' and local vegetables. Located only 500 yards East of Compass Point, a pleasant 5 minute walk. Gratuities not Included. Caution- serves Grouper. Several off the group members had Vivines for dinner and enjoyed great local food at an awesome price.

Big Tree Barbecue - Again, native dishes but this time served up in a restaurant that is really just table and chairs set up in a guys front yard. They wake up early and start cooking local favorites from jerk chicken to lobsters and stewed turtle. Friendly owners and awesome sides like rice and beans, bread fruit, gingerbread, and cole slaw.

Tukka- Open daily for lunch and dinner, offering regular alacarte menu and an All You Can Eat Sunday Brunch. This restaurant is only a 2 min /1.5 mile drive from Compass Point and offers a super night out with a great selection of International and Caribbean cuisine. Try their "Walkabout Wednesdays", "Fresh Fish Fridays", or just stop by for Happy Hour and watch the Tarpon & Frigate Bird Feeding 5pm daily. Tukka offers a free courtesy shuttle service to and from Compass Point. We went for dinner one night and enjoyed some of their more exotic foods like iguana, kangaroo and crocodile.

Bombay Chopsticks- Located across the street from Compass Point, less than a 1 minute walk. A new exciting Indo-Chinese concept with burst in your mouth flavors, and now offering a "Guest Recommended Menu" based on Chef Remy's previous creations. Open at 5pm for dinner daily. We went for dinner one night and really enjoyed all the food. A little pricier but an excellent dinner out.


Beach right outside our condo
We had such a great week playing, relaxing and diving at Compass Point Dive Resort. Below I made a quick list of the PROs and CONs of our week spent at Compass Point. 

Pros

  • Very affordable with a "Dive N Stay" Package
  • Located on the quiet side of the island, spectacular diving on the East End away from the main hub and cruise ship terminal 
  • Quiet resort 
  • Gorgeous rooms right on the water - ours led right to the beach 
  • Large kitchen fully stocked 
  • The master bedroom was spacious with it's own door to the deck/beach
  • Two pools, one for diving one for relaxing 
  • Large hot tub open all hours 
  • Gas and charcoal grills available 
  • Plenty of chairs, beach loungers and hammocks to relax in
  • Built as a dive resort- gear room, rinse tanks, everything you need 

Cons
  • Room service was extra- no clean sheets or towels. Daily trash removal is the only thing included. 
  • Condo came with a welcome pack but with only enough detergent and dishwashing tabs for a day or so.  Make sure you grab extra supplies at the store. 
  • Beach was not really swimmable - rocky entrance and very shallow 
  • No house reef or real shore diving available
  • Breakfast was exactly the same every day 
  • Room with the two twins was very small and the closet could only be opened if we moved a bed 
  • Rental car package was sneaky- insurance was an additional $250 a week 
  • More experience is ideal for diving on this side of the island - may be more challenging for beginners
  • Rougher seas- had to travel to the other end to dive due to the winds and was very sea sick one day. 

 If you are heading to Grand Cayman and are looking for a dive resort, I highly recommend Compass Point and Ocean Frontiers.   An amazing price, a great resort and diving made easy through the staff at Ocean Frontiers. Thanks for a great week CPDR!



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