Cuba needs no introduction. The Pearl of the Antilles, as it is called, is a blend of cultures, traditions, history, and nature. Lying between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, it has an island with an extensive coastline that offers an abundance of options when it comes to leisure activities. Notably quieter and less crowded than its Caribbean neighbors, it is also a premier scuba diving destination.
Cuba is home to one of the most beautiful and intact coral reefs in the Caribbean. There are numerous species of coral, including the rare black coral or the elephant ear coral, to be seen here. It is estimated that there are about 50 species of coral and up to 200 species of sea sponges found in the waters surrounding the Cuba territory. The lack of human activity and strong marine protection laws have also helped keep the reefs untouched. Furthermore, Cuba offers the rare opportunity of getting in the water with saltwater crocodiles, which is not as scary as it sounds.
Diver and giant jellyfish at Jardines de la Reina. Photo by q phia
Note that a number of Cuban dive schools now offer the option of obtaining your scuba diving certification from major US-based scuba diving organizations such as PADI or SSI.
Cuba can be dived year-round, but the optimal diving season starts in November and lasts until late April. It coincides with the dry season when the seas are calmer and visibility is the best you can get. The hurricane season starts in May and lasts until late October and may affect diving activities in certain areas. If you visit during this time, you may still find good conditions in the south and western regions of Cuba.
The water temperatures in Cuba range from 25° C/77° F in January to 30° C/86° F in August/September.
The currents on Cuba’s northern coast are stronger and have large tidal coefficients than what you’d find in other regions.
The visibility on most of the dive sites often exceeds 30 meters (100 feet).
Named by Cristopher Columbus in honor of Queen Isobel of Spain, the uninhabited archipelago consists of 250 pristine islands. This Natural Marine Park is remote and untouched, accessible only by liveaboard. It is considered the number one diving region in Cuba with over 80 dive sites around the islands. The area is well-known for its amazing shark dives, with Caribbean reef sharks and silky sharks being a guarantee on many of the spots.
Varadero is a popular beach destination for locals and tourists visiting Cuba, but there’s plenty to do underwater as well. The peninsula’s rich waters are filled with marine life that includes eels, rays, reef sharks, and even dolphins. There are a number of dive centers serving the area, and they know all about the great places you can dive here. Good region for wreck diving. A 2-hour drive from Varadero, Bay of Pigs is another good diving region with a few caves worth exploring, including the cenote El Brinco.
A quiet and secluded spot for divers, Cayo Largo del Sur has steep walls, beautiful reefs, caverns, and wrecks. There are over 30 dive sites around the island and the surrounding cays. Most of these spots are shallow with calm water, which makes them ideal for any level of diver. The reef features hundreds of species of coral and sea sponges, with rich and diverse marine animal life that includes whale sharks, eagle rays, large schools of fish, and small critters.