SCUBA Diving Cuba
20 January 2020
Cuba lies between the Atlantic to the North and the Caribbean to the South. It has traditionally been quieter than many Caribbean islands because of the difficulties of getting here from America.
There are many diving areas along Cuba's 5646 km of coast. The Isle of Youth (Isla de la Juventud), for example, is a marine reserve which is sheltered from the prevailing South East winds. It has caves, drop-offs and wrecks. Some of the best diving though is at the Jardines de la Reina archipelago, which you reach by liveaboard.
The coral reefs, sea grass beds and mangroves in Cuba are amongst the most intact marine ecosystems in the region.
Nearly 100 of the world's 500 shark species are found around Cuba. The Cuban government is currently developing new measures to both protect the most vulnerable species and guard against overfishing of all shark species in Cuban waters. In 2019 they changed the fishing regulations to "adhere to international codes and conventions of responsible fishing", a move which has been praised by environmentalists.
When to Go
November to April is the dry season; May to October the rainy season. The best time to dive Cuba is between December and April, although prices will be higher then. The average water temperature is 25 oC. January to March have the coolest water - it reaches its maximum temperature in July to October. In the colder months you will need a 5 mm wetsuit, but 3 mm is often enough in summer. The East coast is subject to hurricanes from July to November. In general Cuba experiences one hurricane every two years.
Arriving in Cuba
Take out comprehensive travel, diving and medical insurance before you travel. You will be expected to show your insurance policy on arrival in the country.
For a holiday in Cuba you'll need a tourist card before you travel. Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period beyond this is required.For more information and advice about visas, contact the Cuban Embassy.
Cuban Street by Johnny Harris
The only currency accepted in Cuba is Cuban pesos. You can exchange American Dollars, but will be charged 13% to do so. Take British pounds, Euros or Canadian dollars instead.
Incidently, Cuba is one of world's most literary countries according to researchers at Manchester University.
Find a Cuba liveaboard: book now, pay later
Click a location on the map to read about the diving there.
Jardines de la Reina - Gardens of the Queen - is an archipelago extending 150 km along the coast of Cuba and offers one of the best diving spots in the world. In the 1990s Cuba designated the gardens as a marine reserve. Now a national park, activities here are restricted. Only several hundred divers are allowed each year and the site has abundant and healthy sea life. You dive here from a liveaboard.
"Healthiest, biggest, most colorful fish in the Caribbean. Very healthy reef. All the individual sites were were excellent, some very unique. "
Nancy (USA), 2017
"Big animals, wild, healthy corals and sponges. Castro was right about this. "
Stacey Carr, 2012
" A very large marine reserve, pristine condition. Many sponges, but little hard coral. Not a large amount of fish life, but we were not there at the best season, which is Nov to April. Easy diving, little current. Many close encounters with large groupers, silky and carribbean reef sharks.
It's not cheap, it's a long way to travel from Havana to Jucaro but the reefs are pristine, and they are little dived. I have dived in a lot worse places. I don't think it has the marine diversity of the Red Sea or of Asian dive areas, however few divers, a very natural environment, and many sharks is a big plus.
The warmth of the Cuban people, the possibility of spending time in Havana, make this a special holiday. "
Sally Laurens (Switzerland), 2012
" Imagine 250 virgin coral islands set in a sea of turquoise and jade. Los Jardines de la Reina (The Queen's Gardens), some 60 miles off the mainland of Cuba, is a completely undeveloped natural wilderness, extending over 75 miles. "
Find a Jardines de la Reina liveaboard.
"The diving was excellent and I saw a proliferation of sealife. There were Eagle rays, Giant Barracuda, large French Angels, big Hog Fish and a multitude of other species. A large Bull shark was seen by another group although I unfortunately missed that! There were some good deep wall dives with a variety of soft and hard corals The barrel sponges were enormous and every dive was enjoyable (I did about 5 days). The school on Cayo Largo was Padi registered and the mini bus picked me up at my hotel."
"Fantastic...we enjoyed every day. The condition of the reef is brilliant, warm blue green water, great visibility and plenty of proof that the Cubans respect this fantastic natural resource and are doing plenty to take care of it. We saw abundant life and the biggest grouper I have ever seen.
Accommodation is clean and comfortable and the food is varied and delicious. The Camaguey Archipelago is especially scenic and we enjoyed many sunsets with the Flamingos who after a few days, actually ignored us allowing some great photos.
The local Cuban scuba personal (at Cuba Blue Diving Centre) are much nicer than the Cubans of Florida who have taken capitalism to new lows.
Local Cubans ensure the diving is something special. They are professional and offer great value. All the international organisations are represented and the total experience left us feeling connected and thoroughly exhilarated by the experience. We now realise it was the absence of the American Influence that allowed us to enjoy the place the people and the beautiful diving."
Mick and Fiona
"Hi, my wife and I have just returned from Cayo Coco and dived with the Blue Dive Center, we were new to diving and took the SNSI easy diver course, the instructors were very caring and very patient.
The actual diving was awesome and we were lucky enough to have 3 wild dolphins visit us for a few minutes at 12m down which I will never forget. The amount of life on the reef was amazing from grouper to lion fish.
Well worth visiting as visibility was 20-30m and warm waters."
"I dived around Cayo Coco in November and was very disappointed, the sea was very rough and the marine life non existent. Did 2 dives of the town of Trinidad on the other coast and the diving was no better. Wouldn't recommend."
Paul Harris, 2009.
"We dived in Cuba last year during a 3 week stay and it was the best we have experienced so far. It has the 2nd biggest reef in the world only beaten by Australia, (so the instructors informed us). And we saw loads of everything, including reef sharks and a big grouper that was a good metre across.
The cost of each dive was about £15 with our own equipment. And it was from the beach onto a hard boat for about 15 to 20 minutes off shore. PADI is not well represented on the island but I believe this is due to the political situation with the yanks. But all instructors we met were very experienced and friendly. This was from the North East side of Cuba.
Options on accommodation are very limited, and fully inclusive seems to be the most popular. The Cubans are rationed with their food, so don't expect restaurants or burger bars: practically everything is hotel based. The hotel next to ours actually had FREE diving every day. so consider this carefully when booking. It was a downer for us to pay £15 each every day when the rest of the divers on the boat paid nothing! The reef is around the Holguin area which is also where the airport is. E-mail is quite rare in Cuba although I did find an address of a marina in Holguin that claims to have an international diving school there, although we never used this school, it might give you some more info: firstname.lastname@example.org
We paid about £1,300 each for a three week stay, (obviously two weeks would be less) and I promise everyone who goes to Cuba will agree it is an experience of culture they are unlikely to ever forget."
Steve and Bev
"Different to Red Sea, but as good in a different way. No drop offs but huge canyons.
Corona - Big grouper who are VERY diver friendly.
Grand Canyon - 25-30M gullies and canyons.
The Chain - Old submarine net left over from the Bay of Pigs troubles ( I believe) 10 - 40M beautiful coral growth. "
I Boardman (England), 2010
"My Wife and self went to Cuba and stayed in Varadero. The diving was good (where we were, sometimes current would stir up the sea and reduce vis a little) lots of wreckage from ties with USSR (military stuff). Marine life was good. We went to Bay of Pigs one day for no extra cost and that was on par with any where. Supervision was very good, particularly for any novices who were looked after with tender care. We are experienced divers in a group of 6 and the least experienced came first which we accepted. The diving appears to be state owned and instructors fear for their jobs, I think. "
"Dives all pretty similar. Wall dive with soft coral, easy access from shore with no difficulty achieving equilibrium...no ear pain! We went down 60 or so feet as befits our status as novice divers. There was lots more to explore for another 70 feet or so. Added benefit, bring or rent snorkeling gear and enjoy for hours after your dive! Lots of coral heads very shallow to explore. "
Janis Falco (USA), 2017
"Shore dive. Reef is mostly dead until you get to the wall. Lots of corals and sponges on the wall but not much for fish. "
Albert Allison, 2016
"I went there in April and logged 22 dives over 2 weeks. There are 5-6 spots along the cost so if you are there for a week you may be lucky to be taken to a different spot each day. Some spots has more fish, some more coral, sponges are abundant everywhere. Visibility in range of 15-25m, water temp 25 degree C. All dives are "deep" dives according to PADI standards, typically to a depth between 20-30m. Diving is of shore following the shore drop-off. Diving staff from the hotel diving center are very experienced and friendly. Beginners are taken care of, all dive with instructor. A dive with full rental gear cost $25 (CUK). Bus leaves from the diving center (National Diving Center - Hotel Playa Giron) at 9:00 and bring you back after 2 dives at around 2-3 pm. I would recommend a 5-6 days stay to see all spots.
There is not much to do in Playa Giron except diving (or snorkeling). It is a "lazy" country village with sandy beaches and cheap cold beer. Closest town (Cienfuegos) is about 1.5 hour bus drive."
"I dove in the Bay of Pigs and it was such a waste of time. The reef was pitiful, so few fish and marine life. I would not go there again. "
Calla Fireman, 2009
"Fabulous 30 m swim through. Small coral gardens at 6 m then drop off down a fantastic coral encrusted wall with Tuna, Barracuda etc. etc. swimming around close by. Absolutely superb diving with 30/40 m vis, fabulous wall dive, lots of big marine life about in large quantities, quality corals. "
"Maria La Gorda has nice dive sites but they were not so special. After amazing dives in Jardines de la Reina and Bay of Pigs, I felt the overall diving experience in Maria La Gorda was disappointing. The sea in Maria La Gorda was very easy to dive: no current, no waves, with fine visibility. Maria La Gorda was certainly not a place for a long-term scuba diving holiday and certainly not an International class diving services as they claimed. There was no interaction between the scuba divers and their dive guides either like having good pleasant communication. In sort, the dive center (Centro Internacional de Buceo Maria La Gorda) was lacking of safety, ignore the marine preservation and no friendly services. I would never return to Maria La Gorda."
Indah Susanti, Indonesia, 2015. You can read Indah's blog here.
"Great diving! Quite a variety of reef life although not many large fish. We did see a few turtles and a very large nurse shark. The reef appears healthy even after hurricane Ivan. The jungle on land with all the iguanas and bird life made it interesting topside too. There were less hard corals than in the Bay of Pigs but a lot more fish."
Rodrigo Sala, Canada
"Amazing coral gardens ! "
"Not great - some good rays and lobster, but reefs quite dead, not many varieties of fish. I will stick to indo-pacific rather than Caribbean in future! Doesn't live up to East Africa/East Timor/Fiji"
Gemma Steel, 2006
" A 12m dive, I saw moray eel, grouper, angle fish, puffer fish, trumpet fish and so many others that I cannot remember the names but it was an amazing dive!"
"A 12-14m dive even better than La Academya as this is where we saw the dolphins, apparently the instructor has only seen them there once before. The reef itself was incredible, with so much life and so many different fish and corals that an hour went by much to fast."
"The Christopher Columbus. Spectacular wreck full of stories. Depth: 29 meters. Strong surface and bottom current. Was an armored cruiser of the Spanish Armada which received its name in memory of Christopher Columbus, the fifth Navy ship to be named after the almirante.2 entered service in Genoa, Italy in 1896 and was sunk in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1898 during the naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba. "
Javier Baez, Ecomargroup, Cuba, 13 November 2012
"Depth: 22 meters. Strong surface and bottom current. Steamship: 3,362 long tons (3.416 t) Length: 322 ft 9 in (98.37 m) Beam: 44 ft 2 in (13.46 m) Depth: 27 ft 3 in (8.31 m) Propulsion: 1 × triple-expansion steam engine. Merrimac was built by Swan Hunter shipyard as SS Solveig in Wallsend, England, in November 1894. She was purchased by the US Navy in April 1898. Rear Admiral William T. Sampson ordered her to be sunk as a blockship at the entrance of Santiago Harbor, Cuba, in an attempt to trap the Spanish fleet in the harbor. On the night of 2–3 June 1898, "
Javier Baez, Ecomargroup, Cuba, 13 November 2012
54ft sailing yacht with 5 cabins that can accommodate up to 8 divers. Explores the Canarreos Archipelago. The crew speaks English, Spanish, and Russian.
The cuisine aboard the Vision III Liveaboard is a mix of Cuban and International, with fresh fruits, juices, soups, salads, sandwiches and fish, seafood, beef or chicken for entrées. The crew will even cook any fish you catch during your sail.
Diving aboard the Vision III you will explore the beauty of the Canarreos Archipelago. You will be able dive new dive sites with amazing walls, drop offs, huge schools of fish and sleeping sharks, and when not diving there is the chance to explore the islands and national parks in the area.
"That's us back in the UK now, please pass our thanks on to Olek and Guinness for an incredible days of diving. It was one of the highlights of our trip and particularly because the areas we were taken to are quite untouched it made it very special. (Olek - skipper, Guinness - divemaster)"
Six cabins, catering to a maximum of 12 guests, the Halcon offers a personal experience. Visits the beautiful Jardines de la Riena
Dive the famous Jardines de la Reina Marine Park with marine biologists. Optional snorkelling with small crocodiles. Available for children aged 10 and older. Drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) are complimentary while onboard. Photo centre with a digital video and still photo editing computer.
"Best snorkelling so far!! And the divers that went with us knew the exact spot to see all the fish and beautiful coral"
Tina Main, April 2019
Atlantis Varadero Scuba Diving Center is located at the beach of Blau Varadero Hotel. They offer daily trips by 40-ft boat to reefs, wrecks, wall, cave and night dives. Certification courses also available. Small groups of divers and personalised service from experienced instructors.
"I have been working and living in Varadero, Cuba for more than four years now and after some disapointments with some dive ops in Varadero, i meet the guys from Atlantis Varadero at Blau Varadero Hotel on fan trip organized by the hotel and my luck just change. i have been diving with this guys regulary for over a year and its always lot of fun, excelent service, beautiful dives by boat, always small groups of divers and i can escape from the office anytime i need to clear my head, it just take me two hours break and thats it. In country like Cuba when usually everything its very slow, is hard to believe thats possible."
Paul Thompson, July 2017
"My wife and I dived last week with Atlantis Varadero, the instructors in this place were outstanding, we did a couple of dives from their base at Blau Varadero and even when we were not staying in the hotel was no problem since the diving center it's right at the beach and the boat leave directly from there, the dives were Reef dives, the first was 20m deep, a nice place with some passages and tunnels and the second dive 10m, nice Reef with lot of sea life. The good thing about this diving center and what we like the most it's that all dive sites are just 5-10 minutes of navigation so you just need an hour an half to do a dive. We will come back to dive there for sure if we get back to Varadero in the future."
Peter Lutz, June 2017
West half of Cuban island
"I had greats dives in Laguna de los Peces, Punta Perdiz, Cienfuegos, Playa Ancon. Even near to Havana, Playa el Salado has a great reef..I had help from an expert instructor named Nelson he knows all the best places in west part of the island ...he is cmas instructor"
"Great dive trip with the varadiving shop in Varadero, Cuba. My husband and I did 5 dives with these guys, very professional staff, the equipment was good. All diving gear and transportation was included on the price.
The first 2 dives were at the Coral Beach near Varadero, it was all nice from beginning to end. The next 3 dives were at the Bay of Pigs in the Caribbean sea in Cuba, these were wall, reef and wreck dive.
We stayed in a very nice cosy new apartment situated in the heart of Varadero and about 20 meters away from the main street. The apartment is across the road from the beautiful sandy beach and situated just a few seconds away from restaurants, shops and amenities. It sleeps a total of 3, compromises of a large bedroom (with air condition), bathroom, kitchen, small dining/living room and large sun terrace, with an outside cooking/washing space. Maid service, change of towels and linen is included. The owners offer optional breakfast and dinner
I'm very happy and highly recommend this shop in Varadero I never expected to have such a nice diving holidays in Cuba. "
"Hello! My Name is Yasser, I manage a dive-op in Varadero a very busy touristic destination on the north of Cuba close to the Varahicacos Ecological Reserve. We have great dives in the area which are under-represented on the web due to the internet problem in Cuba.
Varadiving makes Cuban diving holidays easier to plan than ever, no need for you to book through the Government run beach resorts and hotels.
Varadiving can arrange: - Diving trips - Dive packages - Diving courses - Snorkeling trips - Accommodation in Varadero - We help you create a package for your own convenience.
We have equipment for 20 divers - 5 cars with private drivers for the trips - 6 instructors all with more than 10 years experience, from different organizations: CMAS, ACUC, SSI, PADI (our PADI instructors do not teach in Cuba due to the American embargo).
All our dives are privates so we do not mix you with other divers of different experience unless you wish to. If you are a single diver and want a car with a driver and an instructor only for you that isn’t a problem for us.
The Varadiving team will be very happy to take you to any of our beautiful diving sites, safe, fun and relaxed dives are waiting for you! "
Yasser Suarez (Varadiving)
Playa Coral Diving Cuba is a center with extensive experience in scuba diving training and fun diving. Their diving centre is along Varadero, Playa Coral. They dive sites suitable for both experienced and inexperienced divers, for scuba diving training and for night dives. Their training programme is open to all levels of diver.
Tel: (+53) 52704079, (+53) 53699079
Calle 59 y 60
Tel: +53 7-613481
"Equipment was old. "o" ring was missing on quick connect to BCD and divemaster said just go with it. No change facilities at shore. Operator did not have enough seals for all the tanks so between dives they were scrambling to change them to the new tanks. Second dive we had to use different size tanks so adjusted on bcd. Nowhere to sit between dives. Sharp rocks and broken coral on walk from bus to dangerous entrance to water. "
Albert Allison (Canada), 2016
"25m super great dive. Staff very nice. Reef worth the trip, will go again.
Also south at Playa Larga very good wall dive "
R Henry , 2009
Hotel Playa Giron
Península De Zapata 43000 Matanzas
"The dive shop in this area takes divers to many different locations that are accessible from the shore. The staff are amazing and especially helpful if you need extra attention due to your age. My partner and I came here after certification on Grand Cayman with the wonderful Ocean Frontiers on the east end of that island country. We wanted a more affordable option and turns out we feel in love with guided shore diving. You get the all inclusive kit with guide for 25 Cuc and the 5th dive is free.
The skill, care and overall experience were excellent. If you go, be prepared for mosquitos. During predictable times during the day the are worse than others.
We ate every meal at our Casa, Justa and Chino. The setting is primate but the food is excellent and plentiful and you quickly feel that you are part of their family. There is the added benefit that one of the dive masters lives upstairs so coordinating the free dive pick ups and drop offs are so easy.
Excellent value for money. "
Janis Falco (USA), July 2017
"Diving staff from the hotel diving center is very experienced and friendly. Beginners are taken care off, all dive with instructor. A dive with full rental gear cost $25 (CUK). Bus leaves from the diving center at 9:00 and bring you back after 2 dives at around 2-3 pm. "
"Phenomenal operation. Dive masters, Noel and Eduardo, are among the best we have been with -- they truly know their area and everything that lives there. We would highly recommend this boat and crew to other divers. And the Gardens of the Queen -- healthiest reef we've seen in a long, long time. Let's help keep it that way. Great value for money. I had problems with a knee while on the trip and the crew could not have been more concerned or nicer in helping me with whatever I needed. Great crew to work with. "
Nanch (USA), 2017
"On visiting Jardines de la Reina with Avalon Cuban Diving Centers we found misleading information about the standard of the safari boat, the itinerary and the conditions. Instead of anchoring at different dive spots, we were permanently moored next to the workshops and staff accommodation, in the middle of a mangrove swamp. The diving was planned by the guides without consultation with the divers, limited to 2 a day, of 45 min each, no night dives. We were not allowed the time to explore for micro life in the shallows at the end of the dive.
I would like to go with a different operator, but Avalon is the only licensed operator in the marine reserve. "
Sally Laurens (Switzerland), 2012
Ciego de Avila
Tel: (53) 33 301680
"There is a dive centre on the beach at Cayo Guillermo and it seems to me that their prices are similar to the UK. I paid $35 USD for one dive (my first ever). This included boat fees, an escort and kit hire. "
Hotel Jardines Los Cocos
Ciego de Avila
Tel: +53 33 308179
"snsi easy diver course-180cuc, refresher course-25cuc. 1 dive including equipment rental-50cuc, the more you do the cheaper it is. I would recommend it to all grades of divers.
Accommodation sol cayo coco, around £700 for 14nights all inclusive, great value!"
Blue World Dive Centre
Playa Pesquero beach
"Been diving with this operator over a period of 4 years, very safety conscious and great guys. 230 CUC per 10 dive pack. Good accommodation on Playa costa verde, good value excellent staff."
I Boardman (England), 2010
Tel: +53 7 280-2588
Fax: +537 280-2588
The only dive centre in the area.
Pinar Del Rio
Tel: +53 48 77 13 06
"The kit is very bad, old and leaking. No depth gauges worked and no dive computers. Centre attitude terrible"
Malcom B, January 2018
"Perhaps it was not the dive sites that made my diving experience in Maria La Gorda was disappointing; but more into the dive center management, Centro Internacional de Buceo Maria La Gorda. The dive center in Maria La Gorda, the only one that available in the area, ignored the comfort of the scuba divers as customers and more over, they did not care about safety and marine preservation by conducting mass-diving (one dive site could be entered by 30 scuba divers with two dive guides/masters!)."
The sea in Maria La Gorda was very easy to dive: no current, no waves, with fine visibility. It was perfect for beginner scuba divers and the dive center knew it. It ran three dive times per-day plus night dive at 8pm. The first two dives aimed for deep diving (until 30 meter or so) and the third dive aimed for shallow dive. The bottom time was 45 minutes regardless how much air the scuba diver still have in his/her tank. I have been diving in several countries and usually the dive centers would let scuba divers to dive for one hour if our air was still enough (not less than 50 bar). In several dives, my tank was still around 100 bar (and more) after 45 minutes diving, but yeah, since it was a mass-diving with only two dive guides, I had to surface with the rest of the group. Arrghh, this dive center stole my diving time!"
Mostly we dove with more than 10 scuba divers and one dive guide in the morning dives – which aimed for advanced and experienced scuba divers. The third dive was the worst, as beginner scuba divers also joined and plenty of them. In our experience it was more than 25 scuba divers and our last dive was even worst, more than 30 scuba divers in one boat and all dive in one dive site…gossshh..it was horrible!"
Did the dive center ever consider how much stress these 25+ scuba divers caused to the corals and fishes in the respective dive sites?! I was so pissed that I wrote a long letter to the dive center about how lousy the way they practicing the scuba diving in a preserved area. They should limit the number of scuba divers in each dive sites. And regardless how easy the ocean condition was for diving; it was not safe to have just two dive guides/masters with such big group!"
Indah Susanti, Indonesia, 2015. You can read Indah's blog here.
"Equipment a bit leaky but friendly staff."
"Dive operator attached to hotel - dangerous instructors! Too big for their boots, too macho, literally jumped in and swam down before anyone else left the boat, no mention of buddy checks - very friendly, but seriously would not recommend a beginner to go here if you don't know what you are up to! Good boat - platform for entry/exit etc"
Gemma Steel, 2006
Tel: +53 24 30316
Tel: +53 24 30030
" Stayed at Justa and Chino's. Chino and Lilli provide great food and service. Justa is the Mama and she will help in any way she can. Alexander, the older son, will coordinate your dive experience. He is excellent! "
Janis Falco (USA), July 2017
Lonely Planet Cuba Travel Guide
E-book and paperback.
More places to dive in the Caribbean.
Please send us your comments on Cuba. Do you want to recommend a diving centre or dive site? Let us know. Have a question - we're waiting to hear from you.