The reefs and walls of Cuba offer, to the beginner as well as to the advanced diver, as much if not more than any diving area in the world. There are currently 31 diving centers at 18 different zones with 100’s of diving sites, and new areas are being developed every day. Cuban diving waters are pristine, with very little pollution or coral destruction, perfectly preserved, and providing an underwater paradise of more than 50 species of corals and 200 species of sponges. With average normal visibility of 90 to 120 feet, divers will find an abundance of hard corals such as brain, pillar, staghorn and elkhorn, and among the soft corals, spectacular gorgonians, sea fans and plume worms.
Cuba’s 30 dive centres provide packages for everyone—from novices to pros. Some also provide certification as well as courses in marine photography, night diving and other interests. Most centres are near hotels and resorts, and have equipment for rent. However, underwater photographers should bring their own camera equipment, silicone and film to ensure they get the shots they need. Cuba also has several recompression chambers.
HIGHLIGHT DIVE AREAS
Los Canarreos Archipelago: Has 56 designated dive sites at Puertosol Colony International Scuba Centre and Cayo Largo del Sur.
Guanahacabibes Peninsula: Access to more than 50 dive sites from María La Gorda International Scuba Centre. This will include one of the best dive sites in Cuba, Isla de la Juventud.
Havana: Has 72 scuba sites available through four international diving centres. Immersion area is more than 100 kilometres long and three kilometres wide. Some 20 kilometres east of thecity lies a coastal belt of white coral sand.
Santa Lucía: An extensive coral reef just off this beach resort has 34 designated dive points and numerous shipwrecks.
Varadero: Has more than 25 diving sites. Especially popular is the Cayo Piedras del Norte underwater park, where old yachts, frigates and planes have been deliberately sunk for recreational exploration.
Playa Girón: The top attraction here is the sheer drop off the island’s underwater platform.
Northern coast of Holguín: More than 20 dive sites are located just off Esmeralda and Guardalavaca beaches.
Ancón Peninsula: This area’s two well defined dive sites are Ancón and Cayo Blanco de Casilda.
Santiago de Cuba: Scuba centres operate out of Baconao Park (Sigua and Bucanero) and Guamá municipality. Site of the Caribbean’s best preserved sunken ship, the Spanish warship Cristóbal Colón.
Cienfuegos: International jet-ski competitions are held here every year, as are occasional speedboat competitions.
Jardines del Rey: In Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, coral reefs offer attractive underwater landscapes.
Jardines de la Reina: ” The Galapagos of the Caribbean”. Paradise is nothing compared to these surroundings: fantastic sea beds, scuba diving sites extending for nearly 70 kilometers (43 miles); coral reefs inhabited by many species of marina fauna; deep, craggy areas; large fish; and hawksbill and all kinds of turtles.
Can any United States citizen visit Cuba now?
Americans still can go to Cuba only if the trip falls within one of 12 categories, including visits to close relatives, academic programs, professional research, journalistic or religious activities and participation in public performances or sports competitions. They can also go to organize a professional event or competition, to film and produce television programs and movies, to record music and to create art there. Even those traveling to Cuba independently on people-to-people trips are expected to have a full-time schedule of activities and retain documents that demonstrate how they spent their time. Ordinary tourism remains off-limits: Travelers may be asked by their travel organization to sign an affidavit that denotes the purpose of their trip, and they are required to keep travel receipts for five years after they return.
HOW TO GO TO CUBA
DIVE SEASON: Year around
VISIBILITY: 100’ plus in most places most of the time.
WATER TEMPERATURE: 82F (28C) in the summer to 75F (24C) in the winter.
WEATHER: Summer temps push into the middle 90sF (35C) while winter temps fall into the high 70sF (25C). November to April is the dry season; May to October the rainy season.
MARINE LIFE: It’s estimated that there are over 1,000 fish species in the seas around Cuba and the reefs are seriously impressive.
CLIMATE: Cuba’s climate is Caribbean tropical. November to April is the dry season and May to October is the wet season. Winter water temperatures are around 78 F with summer temperatures around 82 F.
LANGUAGE: Cuba’s official language is Spanish.
ELECTRICITY: Although the power supply in Cuba is mainly 110 volts, most of the modern hotels have dual voltage with all the sockets in the room being 220 volts.
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: Cuban currency is not traded internationally, so you can’t buy it in advance. There are 2 currencies in use in Cuba – The CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) which is basically the only currency the average tourist will use and the CUP (Cuban Peso) which is basically the locals currency. VISA is the most widely accepted credit card. Due to embargo laws, no credit card issued by a US bank or subsidiary is accepted in Cuba.
GRATUITIES: Gratuities in hard currency (CUC) are appreciated by all levels of tourism personnel in Cuba. A standard of 10% currently seems to be the norm.
PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: The Internet in Cuba is among the most tightly controlled in the world. It is characterized by a low number of connections, limited bandwidth, censorship, and high cost. If you wish to make a phone call the best option is to purchase a pre-paid phonecard (usually available on resort) and use the public card phone. Calls from the Hotel phones are much more expensive than the public card phones. Most Mobiles work in Cuba, it does not depend on the ‘band’ of your phone but on your network provider, it is best to phone your service provider and check whether your particular phone will work in Cuba. You can access your providers website to get the current charges for calls and texts for Cuba and also check if they have good roaming in the area you will be visiting .
VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: Travel from the United States to Cuba purely for the purpose of scuba diving is still unlikely. Even though travel restrictions have softened somewhat, diving is not a part of approved “cultural tours” that are permitted. Most of the rest of the world does not have the same travel restrictions. A passport is required and usually either a visa or a “tourist card” must be obtained, as well.
CUSTOMS: Cuba’s limits on imports for visitors are typical of other nations in the Caribbean.
DEPARTURE TAX: A departure tax of 25 CUC (equivalent to US$ 25) is charged to each person who departs from Cuba.
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