Scuba Diving in Cuba
In Cuba, visitors can choose from a long list of adventures and experiences Yet, there’s one activity that Cuba’s not known for, but should be: Scuba diving.
Cuba is a world-class diving destination and it should be on every diver’s bucket list. For one, Cuba is home to the world’s second largest reef ecosystem, behind only Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Plus, the country’s environmental policies have preserved the reef and the health of the waters.
Ready to plan a diving trip in Cuba? We’ve highlighted some things you should know, the best spots, and what to expect when scuba diving in Cuba.
Why Scuba Dive in Cuba
There are so many reasons Cuba is one of the world’s best diving destinations. Here are some reasons this should be at the top of your destination wish list:
- Cuba’s Massive Reef System – In the 1990s, Cuba became proactive about coral loss, and took extraordinary moves to protect thousands of acres of marine habitat. Three decades later, Cuba has one of the Caribbean’s most vibrant reef systems.
- Fewer Divers – Cuba’s protected marine wildlife areas allow a select number of divers in each year. One of the best is the Jardines de la Reina (The Queen’s Garden), a national park which is located on Cuba’s southern coast. It’s the best spot to see Hawksbill turtles, sharks and tropical fish, and fewer than 1500 divers are allowed to explore the area each year. This is great, as you won’t be battling crowds when diving here.
- Incredible Conditions – Visibility in many places measures 100+ feet. Not to mention, the water’s always warm.
When to Dive in Cuba
Cuba’s an incredible diving destination any time of year, as water temperatures and conditions are great no matter the weather. But usually, divers prefer the dry season, which lasts from November to April. A few things to consider:
- Water Temperatures – Temperatures hover in the high-70s to low-80s during the winter months. In the wet season, temperatures are in the 80s.
- Wet Suit Requirements – During winter, a 5 mm wet suit is recommended. When waters warm up, a 3 mm dive suit will likely suffice.
- Weather – Winter weather in Cuba mirrors most of the Caribbean. Temperatures hang in the high-70s and 80s in winter. Heat and humidity peak in July, when temperatures climb into the 90s.
5 Best Places to Dive in Cuba
Cuba remains an undiscovered dive spot in the Caribbean. But that’s not for a lack of incredible walls, tunnels, wrecks and reefs to explore.
All across Cuba – from the protected parks along the southern coast, to the islands in the north – you’ll find incredible diving destinations. Here are some of the best spots for scuba diving in Cuba:
- Jardines de la Reina
As mention, the “Queens Gardens” is one of Cuba’s must-dive reefs. It’s a massive protected ecosystem, almost three times of the size of the Florida Keys. And thanks to the protection, the waters are rich in biodiversity; in fact, it’s sometimes called the “Galapagos of the Caribbean.” This is the best place to encounter marine wildlife, including hammerheads, leopard sharks and sea turtles.
- Interesting Dive Sites: Farallon is a favorite site. It’s a massive mountain of corals, that tops out at 15 meters and drops to the seafloor at 30 meters. Several tunnels cut through the Farallon, and it’s great spot for seeing rays, turtles and reef shark.
- Cayo Largo
Cuba’s largest outlying island offers plenty for divers see, including more than 30 walls, tunnels and caves to explore. Plus, the shallow depth – about 30 meters in most locations – make this a great spot for beginner and intermediate divers. Common species you’ll see here include barracuda, reef shark and grouper.
- Interesting Dive Sites: Check out Cueva del Negro, a beautiful corralled cave in 25 feet of water. The cave is perfect for seeing grouper, barracuda and tuna. There are more than 30 sites in total.
- Maria la Gorda
The small village of Maria la Gorda is home to Guanahacabibes National Park, a top Cuban diving destination. The park is served by several international diving centers that offer guidance to more than 40 dive sites. Maria la Gorda is the best for quiet, undisturbed diving away from the crowds.
- Interest Dive Sites: Ancla Del Pirata, a massive 2-ton anchor, is a popular site that’s populated by sponges, corals and a variety of fish. El Salon is another, a cave in 20 meters of water that’s very close to shore.
- Cayo Coco
Cayo Coco and the Jardines del Rey archipelago is known for its tunnels and caves, and it’s one of the best dive locations along Cuba’s northern coast. Many dives sites are in about 20-30 meters of water, offering great dives for divers of all levels. Here, you’ll see plenty of vibrant corals, as well as several species of colorful tropical fish.
- Interesting Dive Sites: Los Tiburones is one of the region’s best and most challenging sites. It’s known for its narrow tunnels that are rich in aquatic life, including barracudas, yellowtail and shark.
- Punta Frances
Located on Cuba’s Pirate Coast, Punta Frances isn’t as well-known as other spots. Yet, the national park is home to a number of amazing underwater landscapes. From ship wrecks, to small caves and reefs, this is a great place to go.
- Interesting Dive Sites: The Canarreos Reef is a world-class site and one of the most biodiverse reefs in the Caribbean. Some 600 species of fish call the reef home, and you’ll find a variety of tunnels and walls to explore.
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