Cuba, this breath-taking Caribbean destination with sandy beaches and crystal-clear water is one of the world’s most exotic islands and heaven for snorkelers. The archipelago’s coral reefs are teeming with life: plenty of tropical fish, sharks, dolphins, turtles are waiting for visitors to explore them. To find the best conditions for some underwater adventure, let me tell you what Cuba best snorkeling places are!
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When to go snorkeling in Cuba?
The largest Caribbean Island, Cuba is situated in the Caribbean Sea where the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean meet. The climate is tropical, moderated by trade winds that blow year-round. There are two main seasons: the dry runs from November to April, the rainy begins in May and ends in October. Tropical storms (sometimes hurricanes) are common from August to October; these months are not suggested to visit the island.
For the best conditions, schedule your Cuba snorkeling trip between December and April when the weather is mostly sunny, the chance of rain and hurricanes is low. The average air temperate is 25-27C/77-81F in this period of the year. The sea temperatures are between 24.5-25.5 °C (76-78 °F) from Jan to March and 27-28 °C (81-82,5 °F) in April and May.
If you wish to explore the country besides water activities, the best to come between December and February when it is not too warm so during the day so you can enjoy taking excursions. If snorkeling (and diving) is the main priority, book your trip after March. This is when the weather warms up beautifully, but note that it is the busiest period in Cuba.
Top 10 Cuba best snorkeling places
If you are a fanatic snorkeler who can spend long hours in the water, you will be right on this island. The list of Cuba best snorkeling places is endless and I agree that is not easy to decide which is the best among the many nice beaches and amazing underwater landscapes, but let’s start with the 10 best ones:
Maria la Gorda
Probably Maria la Gorda is one of the most hardly accessible spots among Cuba best snorkeling places, therefore it is less visited. This biosphere reserve on the western end of Cuba features a great variety of fauna and a beautiful underwater view. You find here caves and historical shipwrecks as well as different types of reef fish, sharks, murrains and also interesting black corals.
Those who wish to spend a longer time here can stay at the on-site Maria la Gorda hotel. The property is a kind of old state-owned vacation resort that nowadays offers simple accommodation mainly for divers, so don’t expect luxury here.
Cayo Santa Maria
Cayo Santa Maria (located in the central part of Cuba) definitely has to be on your travel itinerary when looking for awesome snorkeling in Cuba. The area offers unspoiled beaches, shallow reefs and turquoise lagoons with a varied underwater landscape featuring walls and huge coral formations. It is possible to snorkel all along the main beach, but the area in front of the Melia Buenavista hotel is the best!
This bay offers great snorkeling for beginners and for people who love swimming in shallow water. There is a small reef very close to the beach, where you can observe several fish species, eels and crabs. This gorgeous bay is the favorite of nature lovers, truly a piece of paradise with amazing things to see under and above the surface as well.
The best part of the reef lies just between the Hotel Villa Tropico and Memories Jibacoa All-inclusive Resort so consider staying at one of these hotels so you will have easy access to the best places to snorkel. If you are looking for some excellent snorkeling in Cuba, be sure the Jibacoa Bay is on your list!
This lovely resort town on the northern coast of Holguin is an ideal place for families. The beach has easy access to the water, wearing water shoes are suggested since it is rocky. There is a fantastic coral reef not so far from the shore in shallow water where schools of squids and colorful fish will entertain and amaze the kids and adults as well.
Just about 10 miles from Playa Esmeralda there is another lovely beach that is recommended to visit for those love exploring the ocean. There are small coral patches and fish to see close in the shallow water, and the main reef is just about 150 meters far from the shore offering excellent snorkeling conditions.
The town of Guardalavaca on the northern coast is a popular tourist area thanks to its close proximity to the Holguin Airport. The area’s most popular hotel is the 5-star Hotel Brisas Guardalavaca, but it is easy to find accommodation near the Guardalavaca beach in all price ranges.
Bay of Pigs
The Bay of Pigs is an isolated inlet on Cuba’s southern coast, the Zapata Peninsula in the Gulf of Cazones. This area is known as the real side of Cuba with its lovely laid-back towns such as Playa Larga and Playa Giron. The coast here is fringed by an abundant reef that runs just about 100 meters far from the shore featuring some of Cuba best snorkeling places which are:
Punta Perdiz: note: a maintained beach on the Playa Giron coast with easy access to the water through natural steps and ladder. In the shallow water you can swim amongst hundreds of colorful fish and different coral species. Note: there is an entrance fee but it includes food and drinks too!
Caleta Buena: a natural saltwater pool where sea fans, sponges, moray eels and tropical fish can be observed in safe, calm water. A great place to snorkel for beginners and for kids.
Cayo Coco is a paradise of beautiful beaches and nature, named after the coco trees. Its bright white beach with fine sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters attracts hundreds of visitors who come here to enjoy the wonderful nature on land and sea.
You might see here many birds like gray heron, cormorant, pelican, mockingbird and pink flamingos as well. For snorkeling fanatics, Cayo Coco offers a ‘swimming in a tropical aquarium’ feeling. The great visibility and incredible diversity will certainly amaze everyone! If you are lucky, you might spot a reef shark or an angel shark too. Hint: the best snorkeling area lies in front of the Melia Cayo Coco Resort.
Playa Rancho Luna
Near Cienfuegos Bay, on the less-visited southern part of Cuba lies Playa Rancho Luna. Due to the big distance, not many tourists come to this area therefore the coral reefs are healthier than at the easily reachable locations. Those who walk the extra mile and visit this relaxed beach say that Playa Rancho Luna offers the best beach snorkeling in Cuba in terms of the variety of fish and corals including rare elkhorn corals and gorgonians to see. There are changing and restrooms available, as well as bars and restaurants. If you are thinking about to spend a few nights here, the Rancho Luna and the Pasacaballos hotels offer affordable accommodation.
The little cay of Cayo Levisa is probably the most idyllic Cuba snorkeling spot with nice corals in an unspoiled environment. This tiny island is accessible from Palma Rubia only through boats an ideal place not only for snorkeling but also for other water sports. Cayo Levisa is part of the Colorados Archipelago Reef system and features a big population of Black corals, besides the many different fish species. Thereis only one hotel on the island, the Villa Cayo Levisa.
Playa Santa Lucia
On the central coast of Cuba, Playa Santa Lucia is popular tourist destination that offers affordable accommodations, miles-long white- sandy beaches and some of Cuba best snorkeling places. However, this part of the island is often windy, the beaches are protected by the barrier reef that runs parallel to the shore offering ideal conditions for snorkeling in the inner lagoon.
It is possible to observe some sea creatures near the shore too, but the reef offers the best snorkeling with an abundance of species to see, but you need to take a boat to get there. Sign up for catamaran snorkeling trips that are offered by the on-site resorts as well as by private companies on the beach.
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