If you want to scuba in Cuba, you’ve come to the right place. This gorgeous Caribbean country is known for its sparkling blue water and sunny shores. The bordering Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean offer breath-taking underwater environments. Cuba’s numerous islands and archipelagos have lively seagrass meadows, mangroves, and coral reefs bursting with sharks, turtles, dolphins, and tropical fish.
Below we will review the top ten snorkeling places in Cuba and a few honorable mention spots.
The Top 10 Best Snorkeling Spots in Cuba
Cuba has countless snorkeling spots, all with relaxing beaches and jaw-dropping marine environments. Nevertheless, we have found ten of the best options for snorkeling.
1. Cayo Santa Maria
Cayo Santa Maria is in central Cuba, and it remains one of the most popular snorkeling locations. The shallow reefs, preserved beaches, turquoise lagoons, and coral formations offer a uniquely beautiful snorkeling experience.
To get there, you can take a boat trip to the reefs around the Cayos de Villa Clara. You can also swim out from shore if you depart from Punta Madruguilla by the hotel Melia Buenavista, directly from hotel Sol Cayo Santa Maria, or from the beaches of Playa Ensenachos or Playa El Megano.
2. Playa Girón
Playa Girón, a region on the Bay of Pigs’ eastern portion, has two favored snorkeling places: Punta Perdiz and Caleta Buena. Punta Perdiz is a well-maintained beach bordered by a coral reef. It has easy water access from its natural steps. You can swim in the shallow water amongst colorful fish and coral species, such as sea whips, butterflyfish, angelfish, sea urchins, damselfish, bluehead wrasses, sergeant majors, and the Rock Beauty.
Caleta Buena has a natural saltwater swimming pool with turquoise blue water in its protected cove. This spot retains its popularity because of its accessibility and ease for beginners. You can enter the cove from the small ladders installed on the rocks. Caleta Buena has incredible visibility, but it can get too crowded.
It is home to many sea sponges, sea fans, striped red mullets, blue tang, surgeonfish, stoplight parrotfish, butterflyfish, and moray eels. You can find bluehead wrasse, sergeant major, and sea urchins on the rocky sea bed. The safe and calm water makes this location an excellent choice for novice snorkelers and families.
3. Playa Rancho Luna
Playa Rancho Luna borders the Caribbean Sea on the Southern end of Cuba. It is at the mouth of the Cienfuegos Bay. This region has less tourism than most of the country, so the coral reefs are naturally preserved. However, the locals admire it and often take day trips to the beach. Despite being a less common tourist destination, Playa Rancho Luna does have a few hotels, bars, and restaurants.
It has some of the most beautiful beach snorkeling in Cuba, coupled with a relaxing beach setting. You can find gorgonians and elkhorn corals here. The fish species include sergeant major, slippery dick, wrasse, damselfish, bigeye trevally, blue tang, trumpetfish, angelfish, boxfish, and sea urchins.
4. Playa Santa Lucia
This centrally located tourist destination has affordable hotels and restaurants, fantastic snorkeling options, and white sandy beaches. While a popular choice, Playa Santa Lucia is best for intermediate snorkelers due to its strong winds. If you are up for the challenge, you will find perfect snorkeling conditions in the inner lagoon protected by the barrier reef.
While you may see some animal species by the shore, you will find the most biodiversity in the reef. However, you would need to take a boat to get there. You can find the yellowhead wrasse, sergeant major, yellowtail snapper, flamingo tongue snails, bluehead wrasse, bigeye trevally, and butterflyfish at the reef. The seabed features soft and hard corals, sand, gorgonians, and seagrass meadows.
If you prefer to snorkel in shallow water, consider a trip to Guardalavaca. This beach has fish and coral patches close to shore, and the main reef is only a short distance further. You can find French grunt, bluehead wrasse, blue tang, porcupine fish, four-eye butterflyfish, and the Spanish hogfish at the reef.
While shallow, the water can get decently wavy, so keep that in mind. The nearby accommodations are affordable, and it is close to the Holguin Airport for accessible travel.
If you’d prefer to snorkel down a path less trodden, consider Guasasa. This remote, Southern cove has clear, calm waters and a rock border, creating a natural pool. You will find small moray eels, surgeonfish, butterflyfish, jewel damselfish, blue tangs, and other tame fish species. The shallow water lets you safely view the seabed covered with hard corals, gorgonians, and rocks.
The Guasasa village only has a convenience store, so you will need to travel by bus or car to and from Playa Girón to see this snorkeling spot.
7. Cayo Coco
For a beach with beautiful nature on land and under the sea, you may want to visit Cayo Coco. The white beach features soft sand and clear blue waters, attracting plenty of visitors. If you partake in birdwatching, you’ll find pelicans, gray herons, pink flamingos, cormorants, and mockingbirds when you’re not snorkeling.
The snorkeling feels like you are swimming in an aquarium. It has top-notch visibility and biodiversity, and you may see a few different shark species like the angel or reef sharks. You can readily snorkel from the nearby hotels.
8. Maria la Gorda
While one of the least accessible spots, Maria la Gorda has some of the best maintained underwater sights. Located in Guanahacabibes National Park, this site holds the history of the Guanahatabeyes people. You can view caves, shipwrecks, sharks, tropical fish, black corals, and murrains. They do have a hotel with special accommodations for divers. You can take the dock down to a boat where you can head out to sea for snorkeling and diving.
If you want to take a break from snorkeling or diving, you can always explore the beaches, go hiking, see caves, try fishing, look at the wildlife, or sail. Maria la Gorda offers many tours to immerse yourself in the island’s history while enjoying the scenic views.
9. Jibacoa Bay
Novice snorkelers and those who prefer shallow water will adore Jibacoa Bay because you do not need to travel by boat to see fantastic underwater sights. It has a decently-sized and impressive coral reef close to shore that features eels, crabs, jellies, and various fish species. You can rest amongst the magnificent nature on land and sea. This relaxing beach comes with nearby hotels, and it makes for a relaxing stop on your Cuban snorkeling adventure.
Staying at Jibacoa will open opportunities to visit Havana and Varadero without the hassle of vacationing in a city. With many bars and B&Bs, Jibacoa Bay has plenty to offer. You can even go horseback riding! If you plan on visiting a local farm or meet any villagers on the beach, consider bringing a small gift. They enormously appreciate the gesture.
10. Cayo Levisa
Cayo Levisa is perhaps the most pristine snorkeling place in Cuba. Its environment is well-preserved, and it has idyllic corals to view. You can only access it from Palma Rubia by boat, but you can participate in snorkeling and water sports once there. This location is in the Colorados Archipelago Reef System. It has plenty of fish species to explore and only one hotel, guaranteeing minimal tourist interaction.
You can see the silky white sands and crystalline waters that captured Ernest Hemingway’s attention, though there are a few more visitors than during his times at Cayo Levisa. It is located by the other Cuban keys, so you can venture out to more activities if the relaxing beach isn’t enough.
A Few Other Snorkeling Spots Worthy of Mention
If you want to snorkel in the Caribbean, Cuba provides some of the best-preserved coral reefs for your exploration. You can find an endless array of underwater species of fish and corals at many of these spots. Whether you wish to explore the most-frequented tourist sites or areas only locals have heard of, you can find an excellent snorkeling location that meets your needs.
Before settling on a spot, make sure you track how you will get there, the accommodations you will need, and nearby restaurants. Some you can only access by boat, and others are close enough to shore to swim to, so check out the requirements. Also, decide the difficulty at which you and your group can snorkel. Young children and novice snorkelers will require shallow waters until they develop their skills, so ensure you have chosen a spot within your capabilities.
The best time of year to snorkel is in the dry season and winter months because of the minimized tourism and better climate. The wet season comes with frequent storms and a hurricane risk, so plan well when deciding your vacation to the beautiful country of Cuba.