Scuba diving in Cuba: 2018 guide

Scuba diving in Cuba: 2018 guide

Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Laura Cooper

There’s more to Cuba’s famed beaches and jade waters than beach chairs and the relaxation we all look forward to on vacation. Just offshore, find a whole new world with reefs, shipwrecks, coral, and plentiful fish and marine life to explore by scuba diving in Cuba. With some of the best scuba diving in Cuba just a short distance – or swim – from the famed all-inclusive resort hotspots, the island is a must-visit for scuba divers of all experience levels and expertise.

With scuba diving sites around the island, divers will find sites for reef diving, shipwrecks, caves and grottos, and international dive centers, with dives ranging from beginner to more advanced. Scuba diving in Cuba tends to be inexpensive, but there are no PADI-certified diving sites in the area, due to the U.S. Embargo and political situation between Cuba and the United States.

School of yellow snappers seen from scuba diver camera

School of snappers on scuba diving trip in Cuba

Cuba, in particular the northern cayo region, has the second largest coral reef in the world, making for the perfect inexpensive scuba diving vacation to see plentiful fish, sharks, grouper, and aquatic life. Cuba also has a protected area, allowing fewer than 1,500 scuba divers into the archipelago of Jardines de la Reina each year, a 367-square mile national park (that’s three times the size of the Florida Keys!) that’s a bit of a secret, and a rose among thorns in the scuba diving community. The area offers unprecedented diving with untouched eco-life as the Cuban government has aggressively protected the area.

How to go scuba diving in Cuba?

Since the majority of tourists visiting Cuba do so on an all-inclusive vacation, the most popular war to experience scuba diving in Cuba is through an excursion, organized by tour companies that offer excursions to resort and all-inclusive guests. These can be booked once you are in-destination, though some companies, like Nexus Tours, allow for advance booking.

Advance divers may want to visit the dive centers and sites in the Cuba destination they are visiting directly, rather than book a tour or excursion. Divers will be asked if they are PADI-certified and have their PADI card to show, to ensure the safety of the divers and liability of the dive center.

Transportation to these dive centers from Cuba all-inclusive resorts must be arranged, but taxis and public transportation in Cuba is very cheap. Your hotel or resort will have a list of dive centers in the area. 

Group of scuba divers in Cuba looking at camera underwater

Group of divers on a stop scuba diving in Cuba

Where is the best scuba diving in Cuba?


  • Close to 40 dive sites: reefs, shipwrecks, remains of a Spanish fort
  • Lots of marine life: Shark Friends Diving Centre is popular

Cayo Coco

  • Large coral reef off the North Coast (32km long)
  • Fish are plentiful

Cayo Largo

  • Diver’s paradise: 50+ dive sites. Most within 5-10 miles off shore
  • Several caves, grottos, and drop offs
  • El Acuario is most popular dive site in area


  • 30 dive sites in the area
  • Water is exceptionally clear; great for underwater photography
  • Visibility ranges from 20-40 metres
  • Possibility of seeing whale sharks in November


  • Two international dive centers in the area: one in Mirmar, one in Hemmingway Marina
  • Sites range in depth between 5-35 metres
  • Sites include coral fields, sponges, tropical fish, small caves, and a few shipwrecks


  • Visibility is approximately 30 metres in dive sites here
  • La Corona dive area: semi-circular coral formation that resembles a crown


  • Approximately 17 dive sites, ranging in depth from 10-35 metres
  • Sunken ships from 17th and 19th centuries; well preserved
  • Good variety of tropical fish

Santa Clara

  • Reefs are shallow; marine life can be sparse
  • Good for beginners, not recommended for more serious divers

Santiago de Cuba

  • Conch reef: coral barrier full of fish with excellent visibility
  • El Cristobal Colon: a sunken warship, very well preserved


  • Diving is decent but not to standards of a serious diver
  • Coral formations and a nice diversity of fish
  • 3 dive centers in the area
  • Water is clear
  • Cayo Piedras del Norte Sea Park: suitable for diving and snorkelling; several shipwrecks here


  1. What is the cost? I am an independent travller (not travelling with any agency or all inclusive). I have just booked my flight and travelling to Cuba next week. How do I book scuba diving? Just the scuba diving nothing else. And how much will it cost?

  2. Which places will allow divers who aren’t PADI-certified? Perhaps a dive led by a teacher who will allow us to dive in shallower waters?

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