Diving in Cuba

Diving in the ‘Garden of Eden’ - Jardines de la Reina

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...Good for: Large animals, underwater photography…
Not so good for: Non-diving activities, drift dives…

Christopher Columbus christened Cuba’s diving hotspot Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) to honor his Spanish Queen Isabella of Castile. Such was the beauty that lay beneath the ocean’s surface, it deserved a royal title! Jardines de la Reina has been a well kept ‘secret’ within the scuba community but more people are now making plans to enjoy a Cuba liveaboard diving tour.

Its previous anonymity has been assisted by the Cuban government’s policy to protect this incredible marine sanctuary. Here commercial fishing and industries are prohibited, permanent residences are non-existent and tourism is strictly controlled. This policy was initiated in the 1990’s by Fidel Castro, who himself was a diver. The national park, covering an area of 385 miles² (2,170 km²), is one of the largest marine reserves in the Caribbean. Show more

Dive Site Descriptions

Black Coral I and II - These are the shark dives at the Gardens of the Queen and there are often lots and lots of them present. Silky sharks and Caribbean reef sharks, which are the most numerous, are not generally aggressive unless they feel threatened. Since they experience no threats from man, they seem to view a diver as a bubble-blowing curiosity. That said, it is best to keep your hands close to your bodies so they are not mistaken as small fish. Show more

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How to Dive Cuba

Cuba’s remote Jardines de la Reina is a liveaboard-only diving destination. Visitor permits are strictly limited to 3,000 divers per year. There is one single operator in the area, you can view their liveaboards here:

Your Cuban liveaboard diving vacation will start in Havana on Friday night (please book your own accommodation). Saturday is a very early start, a representative from the boat operator will collect you in the morning (Parque Central Hotel) for your complimentary 5-6 hour bus transfer to Jucaro Port. Here you will take an approximately 3 hour boat ride out to Queens Gardens.

Diving in the gardens involves 3-4 dives on offer per day. Fast motorized tenders transport divers the short distance from the anchored liveaboards to a variety of sites.

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Diving Season

Jardines de la Reina is a year round diving destination. Current is minimal, visibility expansive, water temperatures are comfortable and marine life abundant.

Liveaboards depart every week, for 52 weeks of the year. Cuba’s tropical climate varies slightly during the year. The drier season is from December through mid April where the average sea temperature is 73 to 77°F (23-25°C), it can get cooler at night. The height of summer is August where temperatures increase to about 83°F (28°C).

Hurricane season is from June through November. These months have higher rainfall due to tropical storm activity. According to the NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association), Cuba experiences the lowest frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms compared to other parts of the Caribbean. Whale sharks pass through the Queens Gardens from July through November.

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Where is Cuba and How Do I Get There?

Review our map below of the world, showing the location of Cuba:

Map of the world (click to enlarge in a new window)

The island is the largest in the Caribbean and located 93 miles (150 km) south of Key West in Florida, and just 13 miles (21 km) south of the Bahamas. Jardines de la Reina is a chain of islands that runs parallel to Cuba’s west coast for about 93 miles (150 km), in the Caribbean Sea.

There are some 20 countries that have a visa-free arrangement for visiting Cuba although these include some small (and obscure) countries. Citizens of other countries must obtain a tourist card before travel from a Cuban diplomatic mission, travel agency or authorized airline. The tourist card is for 30 days (90 days for Canadians) and can be extended once for a further 90 days. You may also need to show proof of return flight, booked accommodation and travel insurance.

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Reef Summary

Depth: 16 - >130 ft (5 - >40m)
Visibility: 50 - 130 ft (15 - 40m)
Currents: Gentle to moderate
Surface conditions: Often calm, dive sites are not far from the liveaboards that are anchored close to lagoons
Water temperature: 73 - 84°F (23-29°C)
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: <30
Distance: ~125 miles (200 km) southwest of Havana (6 hours road transfer, plus 3 hours boat transfer)
Recommended length of stay: 7 days

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Useful References


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