Hi, we've been to CN x2 and love it. We're considering trying CSS but, I had a couple of questions:
1) Can I take my Open Water Scuba certification at CSS?
2) We love the beach and the ocean. We prefer being in the ocean water rather than the pools. I know the Ocho Rios beaches aren't the same as Negril but, can we still go in the ocean easily at CSS (without water shoes)?
simple answer to both questions is YES!
need more details...
1) the dive team at CSS is fantastic and do the certifications. if I remember correctly the Open Water Cert costs ~$350 (plus or minus $25)
2) the A/N beach you will need water shoes from what I hear, and the main beach is fine. there is some patches of see weed and you do need to be careful of sea urchin's. for what it matters we never wear them. *hint* if you enjoy floating in the ocean like we do then I recommend bringing a rope about 2.5' long and attach a karabiner on each end. put it through the floatie and attach yourself to the buoys!
I believe you can get your certification at CSS. I know they have scuba classes and from what I've heard the diving is very good. There is even a night dive!
The beach at CSS is easily accessable without water shoes but you can bring them if you're more comfortable. We don't use them while there. We will be back at CSS for 10 days from September 4 - 14...and can't wait! This will be our third trip. The grounds are absolutely beautiful! You will love it!
The main beach is pretty sandy until a little ways out where there is a patch of some seaweed near where the sunning platform is anchored. You do need to watch your step, as there are a few sea urchins out there, but they are easy to see except in the seaweed. Beyond the floating line of buoys, it begins to transition into a seaweed and coral covered bottom - but by that point the water is over your head anyway. One nice aspect of CSS is there is some decent do-it-yourself snorkeling out past the second line of buoys, but you have to be careful around the channel the boats use to get in and out. The snorkeling right off the beach is going to be pretty much nonexistent at the sandy beaches in Negril. The au naturel beach has a fairly rocky bottom throughout.
Another thing you will find is that the water temperature is cooler at both of the CSS beaches than at Negril. For the main beach, this is because the entire cliff that the upper half of CSS sits on is a big porous limestone formation riddled with freshwater springs that flow directly into the ocean, and this spring water is much cooler than the surrounding ocean water. When the seas are calm, the difference in salinity between the spring water and ocean water actually causes the two to layer out and creates a visible halocline near the surface of the water. For the au naturel beach, the cool temperatures are because of the spring-fed White River that enters the ocean parallel to the beach.
We never wore water shoes on the main beach. We usually wore water shoes on the au naturel beach.