The island of Cuba is located in the eastern Carribean, at the confluence of the Carribean Sea, The Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It is the biggest of the Caribbean islands and the country includes several smaller islands, such as the Isle of Youth. The climate is tropical, but the heat and humidity is moderated by the trade winds. May to October is rain season. Because of the communist rule in Cuba, there is a U.S. embargo against the nation applying to almost all kinds of goods. This also means that the U.S. bans its citizens from travelling to Cuba and Americans can be liable to fines if they are discovered and prosecuted. It has been reported that the U.S. government in not very strict when it comes to ordinary travellers going to Cuba for vacation, but it is always a gamble. When U.S. citizen travel to Cuba, they usually do it by passing through Mexico or the Bahamas or by flying from Canada. Tourism has grown to be one of the most important sources of income for Cuba, and millions of non-American citizens travel to Cuba each year from all over the world. Keep in mind that citizens from most parts of the world will have to arrange a VISA in advance and that it might take several weeks. For a while, the US $ was a legal currency in Cuba together with the peso. Since 2004 the use of US $ is however officially banned on Cuba and a 10% surcharge is applied when converting US $ into Cuba’s new currency; the ‘convertible peso’. Other currencies, including the Euro, are not affected by the new rules. US $ is still used for unofficial transactions in Cuba.
Cuba is a suitable dive destination for advanced scuba divers as well as scuba beginners, since there are more than 100 dive sites around the island offering diverse conditions. Since Cuba has been, and still is, a politically sensitive area, the tourism industry is less developed than in many other parts of the world. This means that there are still pristine scuba diving locations with healthy coral to be explored. You can find more than 200 species of sponge and over 50 species of corals when you dive in the Cuban waters. The hard corals include pillar, staghorn, brain and elkhorn. Sea fans, plume worms and gorgonians are common soft corals. Average visibility is 100 to 130 feet (30 to 40 meters). Scuba diving is practice year round since water temperatures changes very little with the seasons. The yearly average is 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24° C). There is always the risk of strong winds making it impossible to dive during the hurricane season in October. November is the best time to go if you want to encounter whale sharks.
Some dive sites in Cuba give you the opportunity to scuba dive among wrecks and explore the caves of the marine platform. Most scuba diving centers are happy to arrange night dives or any other special kind of dive for you. Spanish is the official language but many scuba diving centers have bilingual staff that speaks English as well. The marine life in Cuba will of course include all the brilliant tropical fish commonly found in the Caribbean Sea, accompanied by moray eels, squids and octopus, sharks, rays, spiny lobsters, coral shrimp, crabs and schools of barracudas. Barrel and tube sponges are also very common, as is sea urchins.
Many scuba divers would agree that the most excellent dive sites are to be found in southern Cuba, but that it requires a lot of planning to get to those parts of the country. The south part of Cuba is where you can find mangrove forests and rivers, large predatory fish and even crocodiles. Isle of Youth and Maria la Gorda in western Cuba is almost as great, and much easier to get to. Popular scuba diving sites around Isle of Youth include El Valle de los Rubios, El Retorno, El Hueco, El Mirador and Los Indios. At Maria la Gorda the most popular reef dives are Jardin de las Gorgonias, Encanto, Maria la Gorda Beach, El Acuarium, Cadena Misteriosa, El Paraiso Perdido, Yemaya, Salon de Maria, El Ancla del Pirata and El Patio de Vanesa.