It's no secret that Grand Cayman's North Wall is the most prestigious diving area on an island known for outstanding wall-diving. Add to this the fact that the North Wall is home to Stingray City and Sandbar - two of the most legendary stingray encounters in the world - and it's easy to see why divers on Grand Cayman eventually head for the North Wall.
I suspect that the owners may have had this in mind when they chose the site for the new 231-room Holiday Inn. Located on West Bay Road, this new addition is now the northern-most luxury resort on Seven Mile Beach, and the one closest to the North Wall and Stingray City. Its location is ideal for divers, as they spend less travel time getting from the hotel lobby to the dive boat.
This Holiday Inn, however, is not like your usual stateside Holiday Inn. This splendid five-story resort offers two restaurants, a large freshwater swimming pool and a beachfront dive center, as well as a beach snack bar. This Holiday Inn also offers all of the amenities and services that you would find at a luxury island resort.
The rooms are spacious and beautifully decorated. The beachfront rooms offer a spectacular view of Seven Mile Beach and the Caribbean Sea. Every day you can see dive boats moored directly in front of the hotel at such sites as Aquarium, Paradise Reef and Trinity Caves. In the evenings, guests are treated to nature's most spectacular light show - the Cayman sunset that sets the sky ablaze.
Holiday Inn has joined forces with Red Sail Sports to provide a full range of dive services, including PADI training courses, scuba equipment rentals and daily dive boat trips. Red Sail is one of the island's largest chains of dive operations, maintaining a fleet of dive boats and the largest staff of certified scuba instructors and dive boat skippers.
Red Sail recently acquired a new 48-foot Pro Custom dive boat specifically for catering to Holiday Inn dive guests. This high-speed craft can carry 20 divers and cruise at more than 20 knots, making it one of the fastest dive boats on the island. Based at Safe Haven, the boat is just minutes from the hotel. Named the Tropical Wave, this custom-built boat can reach the North Wall in 13 minutes.
Tropical Wave has a large dive platform on the stern equipped with two dive ladders to make re-boarding easy. It has a freshwater shower and two freshwater rinse buckets - one for camera equipment and the other for dive gear. A platter of chilled fresh fruit is served after each dive as an added treat.
Dive Cayman's Great North
Eagle Ray Pass is best known for its abundance of spotted eagle rays as well as a family of tarpon that hang just under a ledge near the lip of the drop-off. Tarpon Alley is regarded as the North Wall's premier location for large schools of tarpon that hang almost motionless in the long canyon ways that lead from the sand flat to the drop-off.
Gale's Mountain features a large hump of coral that rises up from the edge of the drop-off and has black coral trees growing at Grand Cayman's shallowest depth. White Stroke consistently offers the best visibility, often more than 120 feet. Hammerhead Hill is appropriately named for a resident hammerhead that frequents this area.
Afternoon dives are usually one-tank excursions to North Sound, a shallow region separated from the open ocean by a coral barrier reef. This is the home of two of Grand Cayman's most famous diving and snorkeling sites - Stingray City and Sandbar. With depths ranging from 7 to 15 feet, visitors are entertained by family groups of congregating stingrays, often 15 to 20 stingrays in a group.
Every day, experienced divemasters demonstrate the feeding technique for these creatures and explain the natural history of the animals. This trip can be the highlight of a week's vacation and can be enjoyed by the entire family as the depth is ideal for both snorkelers and scuba divers. There are a variety of other residents besides stingrays, including several large green moray eels, an inquisitive porcupinefish and a band of yellowtail rascals.
Red Sail Sports offers a selection of scuba vacation packages that include a stay at the Holiday Inn Grand Cayman, two-tank morning dives and many other amenities.