Top 5 Scuba Diving Sites in Cuba

Bay of Pigs, Maria la Gorda, Jardinesde la Reina – this Caribbean paradise is home to many spectacular dive sites. Terry Ward shares her favorite places for scuba diving in Cuba.


Photo © iStock/Rostislavv

For scuba divers, Cuba is a Caribbean destination apart. Where neighboring islands have experienced diminished fish species from overfishing, Cuba’s reefs have been astonishingly well preserved, and are the most dazzling in the entire region.

When you go diving in Cuba you’re often going where relatively few divers have gone before.

Nowhere else in the Caribbean feels as pioneering as here, so make sure your certifications are up to date and dive in for the underwater experience of a lifetime.

Diving in Maria la Gorda

Start your dive explorations on the peninsula furthest west in Cuba, in Maria la Gorda, where international dive centers front the sheltered Bahia de Corrientes, one of the island’s best-protected zones for diving.

The area falls within the Guanahacabibes National Park, and is home to around 50 excellent dive sites that include features like plunging walls, swim-throughs and caves.

At the dive site called Lost Paradise, you can fin amongst shoals of jacks and barracuda. Keep an eye out for patrolling stingrays, too.

And at the Gorgonian Garden, divers delight at the sight of hulking Nassau groupers.

Dive along Punta Frances: Cuba’s fabled Pirate Coast

Punta Frances, located along the “pirate coast” on the Isla de la Juventud, is another must-do for divers.

Advanced divers can submerge into a tunnel at the site, called Cueva Azul, to spot huge tarpon.

Even snorkelers along Punta Frances’ shores may spot hawksbill sea turtles and maybe even manatees, too.

Jardines de la Reina Marine Park

The Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) Marine Park, off the island’s southern coast, is perhaps Cuba’s greatest underwater treasure.

A government-protected area, it’s considered among the most beautiful dive destinations in all of the Caribbean.

Since commercial fishing is not allowed within the park, the marine life here is prolific, with all manner of sea turtles and sharks (including reefs, hammerheads, black tips, leopards and silkies) to be seen.

The best way to visit the area is on multi-day trips via liveaboard dive boats.

Scuba diving in Cayo Largo

Colorful reef and divers, Cayo Largo, Cuba. Photo credit: iStock

Cayo Largo, east of Isla de la Juventud off Cuba’s southern coast, is yet another prime place to submerge, with shallow waters that host a wide range of marine life.

Tunnels, steep walls, and vibrant coral heads are among the over 30 dive sites here, with eels, barracuda, sharks, lobster, grouper and all manner of snapper among the inhabitants.

Jardines del Rey and Cayo Coco

Off the northern coast of Cuba, make a beeline for the Jardines del Rey (Gardens of the King) and Cayo Coco, home to beaches with sugar white sand and a rainbow of reef life.

The water is warm and crystal clear—all the more enticing for spotting angelfish, parrotfish and large schools of tarpon and spadefish as you fin along the pristine reefs. 

Bay of Pigs

Bay of Pigs, Cuba. Photo credit: iStock

And about two hours southeast of Havana, the Bay of Pigs may be in history books for the failed US military invasion, but scuba divers known it for something else.

You can gear up right on the beach and dive straight from the shore to access a spectacular wall that vibrates with all manner of tropical fish, and over 17 species of coral plants.

The Jaruca is a purpose-sunk wreck that’s fun to explore in this area.

Advanced divers love the site called Punta Perdiz for its deep wall, dazzling with fish life.

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  • Pip Pfyne said

    Some years ago I read that the reef off Guantanamo Bay is the best preserved dive reef in the world. Is that still accurate? Does the current research by Ichthyologists suggest that the fish population will collapse between 2038- 2050. Has anyone in Cuba cited the work of Dr Donna Roberts or the parallel research done by American research fellows regarding Acidification of Seawater? According to a research paper I read about five years ago, pterapods are being compromised by the decline in shell integrity caused by disolved carbon-dioxide in sea water. Do you agree or is this propaganda by environmental $cientists?

  • Lo said

    A group of us, 6 divers, are sailing south Cuba. We are looking for a guide and rental equipment. Thoughts on finding a guide who can meet us and show the beauty of the archipelago?

  • Doug said

    Landing in Havana June 17th or so and wanting to do a few dives near Havana. Anyone have recommendations for dive sites or dive operation/shops? Places to stay? Restaurants/bars to not-miss? I have done a lot of research but know the best advice always comes from fellow travellers! THANKS ALL!

  • Paula said

    Doug, I just got back from Varadero and did 4 days of diving / 8 dives while there...I was pleasantly surprised as I wasn't expecting much in the way of diving there but it turned out to be great! Not a lot of hard corals but lots of beautiful soft corals, large schools of fish including barracuda, a few nice wrecks including a Russian made frigate that was used by the Cuban navy for 10 years prior to being sunk in 1`998. The vis was great as were the dive conditions. Varadero is a couple hour drive from Havana, you could easily get there via rental car or by bus, and if looking to stay for a few days there are a few smaller hotels in Varadero town (the rest are mostly larger resorts, I stayed at one of the smaller ones through a flight/hotel pkg, but it shows per night on booking . com as around $100usd per night for all inclusive price), and of course you could do airbnb or a casa particular. I dove with Atlantis Varadero, they were great; they are closed on Sundays so that day the set me up with a sister company (Barracuda) and I did two wrecks that day plus went with them another day so I could also do the Frigate (there are several government owned shops in Varadero, plus a few that are owned by Cuban citizens, Atlantis is gov't owned, only the gov't owned shops are allowed to operate boats so the others can't take you out as far / do shore dives only although they can also connect you with one fo the gov ones if you want to do a specific site like one of the wrecks).

  • tim fayant said

    we will be in cayo coco flamingo hotel in feb . looking to do dives befor and after wedding bay of pigs in this area and punta frances and other dive sites thanks timmer


    UNDERWATERCUBA is a website to guide all diving lovers and tourists who visit Cuba, in our website you can find all kinds of information for free, we have an office in Varadero and we have been linked to travel and diving from 2013.

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