Cuba is the biggest island in the Caribbean, bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida.
In Cuba, like in other marine-rich areas worldwide, the 20th century witnessed the advent of a new adventure sport: scuba diving. The original impetus was to protect underwater ecosystems.
With 5,476 km of coastline and over 4,000 small islands, Cuba is not only the largest island of the Caribbean, it’s also a diving paradise. There’s no secret why: the coral reefs are pristine, the waters unpolluted, and the variety of flora and fauna impressive. Maximum diving depth is 150 meters and the coral reefs and numerous offshore islands (cayos) act as barriers against strong coastal currents. Another advantage to scuba diving in Cuba is the favorable water temperature, averaging between 24 º C and 28.5 º C year round, for which a 3mm wetsuit is perfect. The crystal clear waters permit an average visibility of no fewer than 30 meters.
Cuba’s top scuba dive (and snorkeling) destinations are (in any order):
• Cayo Largo - Archipiélago de los Canarreos - Off Cuba’s southern coast
• María la Gorda and Cabo de San Antonio - (Península de Guanahacabibes) – Southwest corner of Pinar del Río (province)
• Cayo Levisa - Archipiélago de los Colorados - northwest part of Pinar del Río (province)
• Santa Lucía – Northern part of Camagüey province
• Punta Francés - El Colony - Isla de la Juventud, off Cuba’s southwestern coast
• Bay of Pigs (Playa Larga and Playa Giron) –southern portion of Matanzas province
• Sierra Mar - southern Santiago de Cuba province
• Varadero – peninsula off north coast of Matanzas province
• Cayo Santa María – off northern coast of Villa Clara province
• Cayo Coco - Jardines de Rey – off northern coast of Ciego de Ávila province
Cuban seas are home to more than 50 species of coral and 200 species of sea sponges. Gorgonian sea fans, sea turtles, crustaceans, groupers, tarpons, snappers, barracudas, surgeon fishes, anemones and numerous shipwrecks are also found here. With a little bit of luck you’ll see some enormous mantas and whale sharks. Wreck and tunnel/cave diving are other possibilities.
All the aforementioned dive sites have a certified Dive Center. Shore dives are possible in the Bay of Pigs and Santa Lucia, while the others are equipped with dive boats. Dive masters are accredited by the major international schools (e.g. SSI, ACUC, CMAS, ESA, FCAS).
The higher ranked all-inclusive resorts often include an introductory dive class in their all-in package. Visitors wishing to get certified can sign up for an ACUC, SSI or CMAS diving course (it is impossible to get PADI certification in Cuba due to US governmental restrictions).
Hyperbaric chambers are available in Havana, Matanzas, Isla de la Juventud and Santiago de Cuba.