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Your Guide to Diving in Cuba

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

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...Highlights: whale sharks, shark action, manta rays, turtles, schooling fish & big pelagics...
...Cuba's diving environment: healthy reefs, beginner and advanced divers, non diving activities, off the beaten track...

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.

Dive with Caribbean reef sharks in Cuba - photo courtesy of Greg Lecouer
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The Cuban Archipelago "Queen's Gardens" is located in the Gulf of Ana Maria and is approximately 93 miles (150 km) long. The area includes innumerable islands, keys, islets, and banks. Muddy areas, beaches, mangroves, sea grass beds and reefs all provide a home to abundant populations of seabirds, reptiles such as caimans, and a rich marine biodiversity and biomass.

Sharks, sharks and sharks - up to 6 different species can be seen on a single dive! Common species include Caribbean reef, silky, and nurse sharks, lemon, blacktip, great hammerhead, bull and, from July through November, whale sharks can also be seen. Sharks, together with snappers, tiger and goliath groupers of up to 400 lbs (180 kg), are the main attractions on most dives; just like every species at Jardines de la Reina, they too are abundant.

You will dive vertical walls covered in corals. The reefs of Cuba are in superb condition are bedecked in an array of sponges of bright hues of the rainbow, violet sea fans, boulder star corals (Montastraea aannularis), various varieties of gorgonians and fragile laminar corals (Agaricia sp.), and are home to one of the largest and most diverse fish populations in the Caribbean.


Dive Site Descriptions for Cuba

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.

The top of the reef is at 80 ft (25m), sloping down to 100 ft (30m) where it reaches a sandy bottom. Sandy channels run across the reef perpendicular to the coast until they reach the drop-off: this site has a resident population of more than 30 battle-scarred Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharinus perezi)! After an adrenalin-filled 10 minutes of observing these apex predators, your dive master will steer the group over sandy channels to the coral reef. The sharks have been known to curiously follow scuba divers for the duration of the dive, even circling the dive tender.
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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. You can view the Avalon fleet of liveaboards in our Cuba liveaboard section.

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.



Cuba 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.

The Time and Date websiteOpens in a new window has more information on the climate and forecast in nearby Camaguey.

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Where is Cuba and How Do I Get There?

Review our maps below, showing the location of Cuba. Here, you will find information on how to get to Cuba.

Map of the Caribbean Sea, including Cuba (click to enlarge in a new window) Map of the world (click to enlarge in a new window)

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


Useful References


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