Cuba Diving Liveaboards
Cuba is unique in the Caribbean islands as it was isolated from tourism for a long time, resulting in some of the best diving in the region.
Cuba diving offers a unique experience for all levels of divers. There are pristine reefs and unspoilt habitats as a result of marine park protection and isolation from mainstream tourism generations.
Underwater the environment is incredibly diverse with warm, clear water year round to make the diving unforgettable. One of the two protected reefs will be the liveaboard cruise destination, either the Jardines de la Reina and the Canarreos Archipelago and Zapata Swamp. The famous “Gardens of the Queen” offers the best scuba diving in Cuba. A favoured destination of Castro who was himself a diver and set up the marine park. Designed and set up to protect the reefs for future generations, the marine park is the largest within the Caribbean. The number of divers per day and activities that can take place are limited to sustain the area.
Surrounded by coral reefs, which are part of the second largest barrier reef in the world, Cuba has over 150 species of Atlantic, Gulf and Caribbean fish.
Take a look at the Liveaboard Cruise options below.
Cuba Diving Liveaboards - 5 LIVEABOARDS
Tortuga Liveaboard in Cuba is a 34 metre floating hotel. She is a double-deck steel houseboat anchored in a protected channel at Jardines de la Reina. She does not move so is very stable. Guests arrive by a boat transfer to join the liveaboard. Eight cabins accommodate 2 guests in each cabin all with en suite bathrooms and climate control. Dives are varied and completed from the fast boats as the Tortuga will remain moored for the duration of the trip.Book Now
Avalon III Liveaboard in Cuba is a brand new luxury vessel coming to Cuba in January 2019. At 49 metres in length, she accommodates 30 guests. There are 15 staterooms available over three decks, including four suites with private balconies on the upper and main decks. All have en suite bathrooms and climate control. The lounge area and dining room are combined with a bar, and the sundeck has comfortable seating with a shaded area and a jacuzzi.Book Now
The 28m Georgiana liveaboard in Cuba launched in 2013 offers dive cruises in the Canarreos Archipelago where sites are being rediscovered after more than 20 years of isolation. The vessel has six cabins with en suite bathrooms for up to 18 guests. The saloon is open to the sea breeze and ideal for relaxing, as well as on the sun deck. Meals are served in the adjoining dining area of the saloon along with a bar area located there too.Book Now
Cuba diving offers the most diverse variety of corals, fish and marine life to be found in the Caribbean. The topography is steep walls dropping to sandy bottoms, seagrass beds and mangroves. Guests can dive with sharks with no fear of humans, on almost every dive and there is the unique chance to snorkel with crocodiles. Huge groupers, dolphins, eagle rays, and even hammerhead sharks are among the marine life found here.
Best Places to Dive in Cuba
Jardines de la Reigna diving takes place on the fringing reefs of the reserve’s fifteen coral atolls where there are over 80 fantastic dive sites.
Most divers on Cuba liveaboards are attracted to the area by the almost guaranteed sightings of sharks, with up to 6 species that can be spotted in 1 dive. This together with giant groupers, pristine reef structures, excellent visibility and whale sharks makes Cuba's archipelago an attractive destination. An additional attraction is snorkelling in Cuba with crocodiles. Lack of tourism and the protection of the marine reserve have contributed to the Jardines de la Reina as one of the last remaining virgin reefs in the world.
Zapata Swamp area is a UNESCO biosphere and under protection for its wetland, reefs and forests as it is an important habitat for many wildlife species.
Best Dive Sites in Cuba
Black Coral I and II
These sites are shark dives in the Jardines de la Reina, both offering numerous sightings of nurse and up to 30 resident Caribbean reef sharks. Due to little human interaction encounters can be pretty close up.
This is a drop off wall dive with canyons that was named after the free diver Pipin Ferreras. Groups of up to 15 Silky sharks and Caribbean reef sharks are found here along with turtles, eagle rays, jacks and snappers.
Schools of Tarpon can be found in this area, and a single hammerhead shark has been known to make a brief appearance.
Also known as “the cliffs” in English is an excellent place to see the silky sharks and Caribbean reef sharks of the area. The marine life includes groupers, snappers, turtles and rays.
The Five Seas
Has a wreck after which the site was named. Intentionally scuttled and is now covered in sponges and corals with jacks and moray eels found around her.
On the sandy bottom there are stingrays, and Caribbean reef sharks, underneath the coral overhangs are soapfish and tarpon hang out over the wreck itself.
Swimming with Crocodiles
The Jardines de la Reina has mangrove and seabed systems acting as a nursery between the coral atolls. Reef fish and shark juveniles reside here, and green turtles use this as a feeding ground and nesting area.
The top predator in the area are the American Crocodiles, and it is possible to snorkel with two that are around 3m in length.
This is one of the few places in the world where encounters at this close range can happen creating a unique experience.
Read more information about Cuba Dive Sites
The dive sites of Jardines de la Reina are one of the few places in the world where you can not only dive with sharks but also snorkel with crocodiles. For more information about Jardines de la Reina, please click on the photo.
Zapata Swamp dive sites in the UNESCO biosphere have something different to offer in not only Cuba but the Caribbean area as a whole. For more information about Zapata Swamp, please click on the photo.
Cuba Scuba Diving Highlights
- Common sightings - Caribbean reef and silky sharks, green morays, barracuda
- Special sightings - Hammerhead sharks, crocodiles
- Topography - Walls, bommies, drop offs, wrecks, canyons, mangroves
- Visibility - 30m+
- General information - Most of the dives in Cuba are suitable for beginners.
- Onboard options - Snorkelling with crocodiles
Best Time to Go
Cuba is a year-round destination with minimal temperature variation throughout the year and visibility always good at 30m+. There are two seasons that are recognised though.
High season is December to March which offers the best time for diving with flat calm sea and dry weather.
Low season is considered April to November, but the diving is still good, just prices are often lower.
May to October is rainy season and hurricanes can occur at this time with October the highest risk. Whale shark sightings are highest July to November.
Water temperature ranges from 25 to 30C, so a 3mm shorty is suitable for most guests, with maybe a long 5mm in the coldest months.
How to Get There
The major port for the liveaboard departures into the Jardines De La Reina is Jucaro, and the closest airport is Ignacio Agramonte International. Transfers can be arranged from Havana, but an additional cost may be applied to the 6-hour road journey.
For the Zapata Swamp cruises Havana is the closest international airport and a transfer is around 3 hours to the port of Playa Larga where the boats depart.
There are direct flights to Havana from Europe, Latin America, North America and Asia. The exception is the United States where only a few exist. Most US guests will need to transit through Mexico.
Local time vs GMT
What to pack
Food and drink
Convertible Peso or Cuba Peso (best to not use USD for exchange)
Required for most nationalities
Spanish with English spoken in tourists areas
Havana International Airport (HAV) or Ignacio Agramonte International Airport (CMW)
Suncream, lightweight and beach apparel, a light jacket for cooler evenings
26 - 32 C daytime, 17 - 23 C evenings
Pork or chicken with rice, beans and root vegetables
US Citizens Travel to Cuba
For Citizens of the United States or guests holding dual nationality passports there are some travel procedures that need to be followed to enter Cuba via a recognised programme.
You can read more information here or if you are looking at the Jardines Aggressor vessels they have a specific programme for these cruises.