1. Avalon — Jardines de la Reina Doce Leguas area Tortuga floating hotel is the only (and best) place to stay
Jardines de la Reina has established a reputation as one the best dive and fishing spots in the world. Isolation and environmental protection have enabled the marine park to thrive evidenced by the abundance of huge jewfish, barracuda, bull ray and tortoise, not to mention reef sharks. The Avalon dive is for shark—junkies, and in 25 meters with good visibility and very little underwater current, it is common to see up to 20 reef sharks searching for a dead fish that the dive master has previously hidden.
2. Cueva Azul — Isla de la Juventud 45 minute—drive from EL Colony
Isle of Youth offers the most dive sites in Cuba (56) and is a natural paradise offering giant coral, caverns, tunnels, huge mogotes, impressive walls as well as a great fish selection. The Cueva Azul (Blue Cave) is a great cave dive, which you enter through a tunnel that has three exits (you will exit at 35 or 42 metres). Extensive sponges, coral and shoals of small silver glassfish greet you; before exiting the wall, you will find the “big blue” stretching a whopping 1,500 metres down. Be warned that the Colony Hotel is a dive hotel and not a luxury resort.
María la Gorda and Cabo de San Antonio International Diving Centres together have the most number and varied diving sites in Cuba. At the tip of Pinar del Río, they are wild and romantically located, with unforgettable sunsets and a string of beautiful long white sandy beaches. The Yemayá dive is very special. You begin with a descent down the vertical Yemayá wall and return via a “mysterious cave” having seen an abundance of fish, giant gorgonian and black coral.
4. Ojo del Mégano — Varadero
Located 6 miles from the coast, the expedition is organized by Varadero’s Club Barracuda
Ojo del Mégano is a “blue hole” (former cave whose roof broke and sank). Just 10 metres below sea level, Ojo del Mégano acts as a natural refuge for fish of all types including snapper, barracuda, red grouper, plus predators. The walls are crammed with lobster and other coral fish. The hole is 45 meters in circumference and more than 70 metres in depth, and offers an easy and enjoyable cruise.
5. Banco de Jagua — Cienfuegos
50 miles from the coast Organized by the Faro Luna Club on calm days
The “Banco” can be described as a mountain that rises from the abyss. A tricky dive for experienced divers, you go down to between 18 to 40 metres where a wide variety of coral, sponge and marine life, including barracuda, hogfish, grouper, red snapper, parrotfish, stingray, tortoise, cat shark, reef shark, hammerhead shark—and if you are lucky—whale sharks await you.
6. El Colón — Santiago de Cuba
100 km from the city of Santiago in a pretty site called La Mula, where the Turquino River flows into the Caribbean Sea.
7. Tiburones Toro — Playa Santa Lucía Centro Sharks’ Friends
Another shark-junky dive. Visibility is average, so pick a good day to watch impressive whale sharks being fed lunch. This is done at 28 meters during the turning of the tide and is handled by experienced dive-masters. Make sure you are up current from the sharks and don’t wear red!
8. El Acuario — Cayo Largo
Cayo Largo is tiny and gorgeous with the whitest and finest sand in all Cuba and an abundance of seagulls, pelicans, turtles and iguanas. Under the ocean, there are 30 diving sites of which I would choose El Acuario where 15 metres below the surface, you will see multicoloured coral fish, sting rays, bull rays, turtles and cat sharks among the coral.
9. El Ebano — Playa Girón Bahía de Cochinos
The stretch from Playa Larga to Playa Girón holds 24 diving sites, which are all accessible from the shore. The beautiful turquoise waters are ideal for snorkeling and diving. At El ébano, the waters are clear and clean with great visibility. Going towards the edge, you dive down into a beautiful canyon, which goes down to 23 metres before the wall begins. Fish can be scarce, but the wall and big blue is awesome, and on your way back, under the crag, there are a number of small caves.
10. Boca de Caldera — Habana del Este
“Boca de Caldera” is Havana’s best dive spot and is accessible from the rocky shore from where you swim out 200 meters east before dropping down into a small cave at 5 meters, which takes you to the first wall at 12 metres. The good visibility and the absence of sea currents allow you to appreciate the impressive garden of corals, sponges and gorgonians, as well as a numerous young population of coral fish.