Cuba is a country with a unique culture and turbulent history. It’s a place everybody knows because of the Cold War and Fidel Castro, but few truly ‘know’ Cuba. In recent years, tourism to Cuba has increased significantly, for the people of Cuba this means jobs and income.
The Best Scuba Diving Spots in Cuba
The most popular places to visit in Cuba as Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Vinales, however, not many people know that Cuba is also a scuba divers paradise! Read about diving at Guardalavaca and other great places to go scuba diving in Cuba.
One of the great scuba dive spots in Cuba is Guardalavaca. Only a speck on the map, this little town is located in the Northeast of Cuba, about an hour drive from Holguin.
On the beach of Guardalavaca (which translates to guard to cow) you can find the Eagle Ray Marlin Diving Center. This dive school offers daily diving expeditions, usually one at 9am and one at 11am.
When I went diving here there were only four divers and two dive masters. I prefer diving in smaller groups so I was very happy about that. The dive masters are friendly, professional and very accommodating. They will help you select the proper gear and help you assemble it. They will also explain about the dive sites to be visited during that day and about the marine life that can expected to be seen.
Dive prices are between 25-40 CUC per dive, depending on the number of dives. The more dives you do, the lower the price per dive.
There are 26 dive sites in front of the beach of Guardalavaca, I went to three of these dive sites:
In the Cuba Lonely Planet Corona is also mentioned as a nice dive site. What surprised me was how close the dive sites were to the shore. It took only 5-10 minutes by boat to get there and I could easily see the beach from the dive spot.
Dive site 1: Sirena
The Sirena dive site is between 18 and 40-meter-deep and it was my first wall dive! I have to admit it took me a while before I was able to fully enjoy my surroundings as it had been more than 9 months since my last dive. Scuba diving isn’t necessarily difficult, but you do get better the more often you do it.
I had to refresh my skills during the first part of the dive and get back into the routine of breathing slowly, moving slowly and checking my dive console for information about my air and depth. Once I had gotten back into my ‘dive groove’ I was wowed by the impressive coral formations on the steep wall.
I also saw a huge crab during this dive, very cool!
Dive site 2: Coral Garden
As this was my second dive of the day, this site was much shallower (between 6 and 15 meters deep) than the previous one (Sirena). What I love about shallow dives is how the sunlight filters through the surface and sparkles off the colorful fish.
Another reason I like shallow dives is because I get cold quite easily and the water near the surface is a bit warmed than further down.
When I am diving in water below 26 degrees Celsius, I get really cold, usually when I exit the water after a ‘cold’ dive I can’t stop shaking…
A great tip I got from one of the dive masters I went diving with is to wear two wetsuits on top of each other (a full suit and a shorty). I don’t own one unfortunately, otherwise I would buy at least a 5mm fullsuit.
Dive site 3: Laberinto
This dive site is 15-33 meters deep and it was my absolute favorite dive site in Cuba! The site feels like a maze (hence the name) due of the massive rocks and coral formations on these rocks. I very much enjoyed swimming between the steep walls. During the dive we came across lion fish, a needle fish, stingrays and last but certainly not least, a giant lobster!
Other Excellent Dive Sites in Cuba
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit the Bay of Pigs and the Jardines de la Reina Marine Park dive sites
mentioned below. However, I hope to return to Cuba one day to go diving here as well!
Bay of Pigs
One of the most famous dive sites in Cuba is the Bay of Pigs (Bahía de Cochinos). This bay earned its place in world history as the location of the unsuccessful attempt of CIA to reverse the Cuban Revolution.
Less well known is the fact that this stunning bay is an excellent dive spot that is known for its caves. These caves contain a mix or fresh water and sea water, making it a unique place to dive.
At the Bay of Pigs you can also find the Jaruca wreck which was sunk in 1994 and by now is covered by all sorts of corals, shells and other creatures living in the ocean.
Jardines de la Reina Marine Park
The Jardines de la Reina Marine Park is a protected area and is considered as the most beautiful dive site of the Caribbean. For those not speaking Spanish, the name of the Marine Park translates to ‘the Queen’s gardens’, a very fitting name for such a stunning dive spot.
Back in 1492 the archipelago was discovered by Christopher Columbus who names them after the Queen of Spain. Nowadays the archipelago is a marine reserve and a walhalla for divers.
Mainly know for the many sharks that can be found at Jardines de la Reina, there are also beautiful corals and other fish to be seen at this unique dive location.
Diving here is truly a privilege, there are only a very limited number of visitors allowed each year (just 500) who have to obtain a special permit. There is no commercial fishing allowed, no permanent residents and only one company is allowed to operate here.
All these factors have contributed to the excellent condition of the corals found at the Jardines de la Reina. Where many dive sites around the world have suffered and even perished due to over tourism and global warming, the Jardines de la Reina has thrived and looks like it did when Christopher Columbus first set eyes on this unique location in Cuba.
Lotte is a thirty something adventurer from the Netherlands who tries to combine a full-time job and traveling the world with her husband and 1y old son. She writes about their family adventures on her blog Phenomenal Globe. Her best travel memories are road tripping around Canada, hiking the Everest Base Camp trail and scuba diving in the Perhentians.