Diving in Cuba

Have you ever visited a diving destination where the word fertility is applicable to both land and water?

That is Cuba.

diving cuba
Caribbean beach with parasol in Cuba

Derived from the Taino word Cubao, Cuba is translated as “fertile land” where it is known for its agricultural produce like sugar, tobacco and coffee. This fertility is amplified on water as Cuba’s marine ecosystems are some of the world’s most productive courtesy from its northern geographical location in the Caribbean where the waters of the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico meet.

This fertility feature of Cuba has attracted tourists from all parts of the globe. It receives a fair share of the Caribbean tourist arrival where one of the popular activities you can do is scuba diving. With a mainland coastline measuring 5,746 kilometers (3,570 miles) that is further lengthened by an island province plus several small islands, Cuba is dotted with numerous dive sites where you can explore pristine reefs and enjoy the diving-conducive water parameters like good visibility and calm waters.

With this, allows us to walk you through some of Cuba’s best dive sites.

Best Dive Sites In Cuba

La Habana

Location: North coast of Cuba (Gulf of Mexico)

Level of Certification: Advanced

Maximum Depth: 25 meters (82 feet)

For wreck divers, be prepared the moment your plane lands on the tarmac of Havana as this Cuban capital city is popular for wreck diving.

Despite resembling like a natural structure on the seafloor at 25 meters (82 feet) deep, the Coral Island of Havana is actually the remnants of an old merchant vessel that is now being overgrown with corals, sponges and sea fans.

Lying on the mouth of Havana Bay are the remains of a Spanish Naval Ship – the Sanchez Barcastegui. This 101 meter (333 feet) long Churruca Class Spanish Destroyer is now resting at 24 meters (78 feet) deep and you will need to perform an anchor line descent to safely reach the remains of the wreck. Don’t forget to look at your surroundings during your descent or ascent as big game fish are often seen like tunas, tarpons, mackerels and groupers.

For newbie divers, we highly recommend you head out 200 meters (650 feet) from Habana del Este and do a shallow reef dive in Boca de Caldera. Also known as the Mouth of the Crater, this site requires you to explore a cave that leads to a coral reef at 12 meters (40 feet) deep filled with tropical reef fish like damselfish, wrasse and parrotfish.

Varadero

DIVING AMERICA CUBA VARADERO BEACH
a beach on the coast of Varadero on Cuba in the caribbean sea.

Location: East of Havana (Gulf of Mexico)

Level of Certification: All levels of certification

Maximum Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)

Located on the Hicacos Peninsula is the resort town of Varadero. This 1.2 kilometer (0.75 mile) wide headland is dotted with dive sites popular for wreck, reef and cave diving. Unlike Havana where wreck diving is limited only for those with advanced certification, wreck diving in Varadero can be enjoyed by newbies since they are shallow in depth. You can either explore the remains of the Caribe wreck lying just at 10 meters (33 feet) deep or the Neptune Wreck at 11 meters (36 feet).

For advanced divers, you may opt to explore the remains of a Russian Naval Destroyer – the Monkada BP 383 which is resting at 30 meters (100 feet) deep. All these shipwreck are lying in a perfectly upright position where its structure have been partially encrusted with corals and has been the refuge of many reef fish like snappers, emperors and angelfish. You can check out the videos for each of these shipwrecks on the links below.

 

For reef diving in Varadero, nothing beats the 30-minute boat ride and arrive at the offshore reef of Coral Gardens. With a maximum depth of only 15 meters (49 feet), newbies will surely enjoy swimming through cracks and crevices where the spaces in between is filled with sand and resembles an underwater valley filled with sergeant majors, tangs and chubs.

If you are in to blue holes, then we highly suggest you explore Ojo del Megano which is a flooded submarine cave where its roof have collapsed creating a 45 meter (148 feet) circumference hole that goes all the way down to 70 meters (230 feet) deep.

Isla de la Juventud


Location: South coast of Cuba (Caribbean Sea)

Level of Certification: All levels of certification

Maximum Depth: 42 meters (138 feet)

Also known as the Isle of Youth, Isla de la Juventad is a popular tourist destination in the Caribbean Sea side of Cuba. Aside from sunbathers, swimmers and snorkelers, scuba divers visit this second largest island of Cuba to explore amazing dive sites.

If you want to visit 2 shipwrecks in just a single dive, we highly recommend you explore the remains of a former cargo ship Jibacoa and a military ship Sparta. Both vessels were intentionally sunk and now resting on a shallow sandy bottom. Once your dive boat arrives at the site, you will notice that the upper deck of Jibacoa wreck is nearly surfacing out while the Sparta is completely submerged. You will surely enjoy diving in these wrecks as you can often maximize your bottom time courtesy from its shallow profile where it only has a maximum depth of 8 meters (26 feet).

Resembling like an underwater subway, Cueva Azul is a popular spot for deep diving in Isla de la Juventud. Initially, your dive will begin by descending into a myriad of cracks and crevices that forms a descending tunnel that leads to an exit. There are 3 established tunnel exits where the deepest tunnel, called Blue Cave, is recorded at 42 meters (138 feet) deep where you can find a 3-meter wide depression entirely filled with silver-colored glassfish. Just keep in mind that diving in Cueva Azul is only for divers with advanced certification.

Cayo Largo del Sur

Location: East of Isla de la Juventud (Caribbean Sea)

Level of Certification: All levels of certification

Maximum Depth: 15 meters (49 feet)

While being under the jurisdiction of Isla de la Juventad, this 25 kilometer (15 mile) long island resort is a stand-out dive spot in the Caribbean Sea that is worth mentioning as a single diving destination within Cuba. Of all its 30 unique dive sites, there is one spot that will shine in your bucket list – El Acuario. Newbies will surely love this shallow reef with good visibility, a maximum depth of 15 meters and explore a healthy reef filled with several species of tropical reef fish.

Many divers who have been here told us that diving in El Acuario lives up to its name where it has a close resemblance to a large aquarium. Just imagine a well-lit environment that brightens up a bed of soft and hard corals interspersed with sea fans and sponges. When it comes to its mobile inhabitants, El Acuario has a long list of species such as stingrays and sea turtles. And like an aquarium where one of its residents is an apex predator, El Acuario also has an apex predator in the form of sharks. But don’t worry as the species found here poses no threat to humans – the 1-meter long cat sharks.

Jardines de la Reina

Location: Southeast of Cayo Largo del Sur (Caribbean Sea)

Level of Certification: All levels of certification

Maximum Depth: 40 meters (131 feet)

Considered as one of the largest protected zones not just in Cuba but in the entire Caribbean which covers an area of 2,170 square kilometers (840 square miles), Jardines de la Reina is a dynamic marine ecosystem primarily composed of mangrove forest, seagrass beds and coral reefs. Also known as Garden of the Queen, Jardines de la Reina is an underwater garden paradise teeming with marine life.

Of the 80 dive sites scattered in its vast area, there are a number of spots that have been frequented by dive fanatics and enthusiasts. Generally, all dives in Jardines de la Reina are classified as reef diving. Typically, you will start diving by descending towards a shallow reef crest and usually the difference between sites lies on the vertical topography and type of thriving apex predator.

Farallon is a favorite spot for newbie divers. You can reach this massive coral mound by descending to its reef crest at 17 meters (56 feet) deep. As you reach the edge of

the reef flat, the underwater topography will suddenly shift from horizontal to vertical as you will be descending further down following a vertical limestone ledge filled with corals, sea fans and goes all the way down up to 30 meters (100 feet).

Popular for deep diving, Vicente is a unique wall diving site in Jardines de la Reina where you can descend up to 40 meters following a vertical limestone structure covered with black corals. In exploring the walls of Farallon and Vicente, you will never miss to encounter the big boys of the deep as Caribbean reef sharks abound in these sites.

If you want to see larger species of sharks like hammerhead sharks and silky sharks, then we highly suggest you visit and explore Pipin. This coral mound, that runs perpendicular to the shoreline, has a unique reef crest composed of caves and canyons which all leads to a vertical drop-off. Grunts, sea turtles, tarpons and spotted eagle rays are often seen at the vertical ledge.

And if you are diving in the right time and with the right diving conditions, you might see the passing by of hammerhead sharks. Even if you are about to end your dive, your shark interaction still continues in Pipin as Silky sharks often accompanies your group as you do your safety stop.

And lastly, your visit to Jardines de la Reina will not be complete without doing the Crocodile Interaction.

The mangrove forests and seagrass beds of Jardines de la Reina is a refuge for American Crocodiles where you can interact and come face to face with this semi-aquatic reptile.

But take note that you will not be diving with the crocodiles. Instead, your boat will slowly navigate through the shallow waters of the seagrass beds where the crocodiles are often found lying motionless with their heads partly exposed out of the surface.

Scuba Diving Conditions in Cuba

diving cuba
Caribbean beach with parasol in Cuba, Playa Ancon Trinidad

Diving is basically a year-round activity in Cuba. However, if you want to experience the best diving conditions like a 30-meter underwater visibility and a 28 O C ( 82OF) water temperature, then you should avoid coming in during the rainy season which runs from May to October.

Meteorological data also shows that Cuba has a hurricane season that runs from July to November and is often hit by this severe weather condition at least once in two years.

With this, we highly suggest you visit and go diving in Cuba anywhere from December to April which also coincides with the dry season.

While bringing your own scuba diving gear is highly advised, there are lots of dive shops in Cuba that offers rental equipment. Often located near a jump-off point or along the coast near a particular dive site, these dive shops also offers guided underwaters tours and certification courses.

Liveaboards are fast becoming a fad in Cuba where you can go on a voyage for a week-long diving adventure to Cuba’s prime diving spot. With regards to exposure suits, a 3mm wetsuit is often used when you go diving in Cuba. But during the rainy cold months, where water temperature may drop to 25OC (77OF), you may opt to wear a wetsuit with a thicker material.

We hope you enjoyed reading this highly informative article about diving in Cuba. But reading this article alone is not sufficient and an actual hands-on experience is highly recommended.

So what are you waiting for, turn off this browser, book a flight to Cuba and sign up for an amazing diving holiday. When you get back, don’t forget to share your stories with us by leaving a message in the comments section.

Buen viaje!

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