Some of the most pristine coral reefs in the Caribbean

While coral reefs have declined throughout the Caribbean in recent decades, Cuba has one of the most healthy marine ecosystems of the region.

A limited coastal development, restricted tourism, strict controls on commercial fishing, and the establishment of marine protected areas have contributed to preserving the Cuban archipelago’s underwater biodiversity.

Even if the coral can be unhealthy in the most crowded spots, you’ll always find more preserved reefs to explore.

Punta Perdiz boasts beautiful coral beds and a varied underwater life
Punta Perdiz boasts beautiful coral beds and varied underwater life (right, a spotted moray eel, Gymnothorax moringa, surrounded by yellowtail snappers, Ocyurus chrysurus).

The region of Playa Girón, on the eastern shore of the Bay of Pigs, is home to the most popular snorkeling spots in the country. Caleta Buena (a natural swimming pool with turquoise water) and Punta Perdiz (bordered by a coral reef), accessible from the coast, are cited in all tourist guides.

A little further south, the small rocky cove of Guasasa is also good off the beaten track option.

Coral reef at la Batea snorkeling spot
La Batea coral reef, in Playa Ancón, is still pretty healthy.

In the region of Trinidad, the rocky coast that stretches north of Playa Ancón offers many small coves perfect for a snorkeling session. La Batea, in particular, allows snorkelers to explore a pretty coral reef a few meters from the shore.

Located about twenty kilometers south of Cienfuegos, the small resort of Playa Rancho Luna is the best option if you are staying in the area.

The Atlantic coast of Cuba, where the sea is often rougher, is also edged by several coral reefs. The seaside resorts of Playa Santa Lucia (in Camagüey province) and Guardalavaca (in Holguín province) are two recommended spots for discovering the local marine life.

Snorkeling in Caleta Buena
Caleta Buena is a sheltered rocky cove ideal for snorkeling, although coral beds have deteriorated in some places.

María La Gorda hotel’s house reef, Playa Jibacoa, Cayo Coco, and Cayo Guillermo are also famous snorkeling locations in Cuba.

However, for the must of snorkeling in Cuba, head to Jardines de la Reina, located about 80km south of the main island. This archipelago, which is home to exceptional coral reefs, was declared a National Park in 1996.

It is home to large populations of rays and sharks. Some travelers returning from these unique islands have dubbed them the “Galápagos of the Caribbean”. You can reach the countless spots of the Gardens of the Queen (such as Cayo Alcatracito) during snorkeling or diving liveaboard cruises.

Nurse shark at Jardines de la Reina
The nurse shark is an iconic fish of the Caribbean reefs (here photographed in Cayo Alcatracito).

If you are planning to snorkel in Cuba or anywhere else in the Caribbean, we recommend the excellent Reef Fish Identification: Florida Caribbean Bahamas (also available in ebook), the reference guide to ID the fish you will encounter snorkeling the island.

When to go snorkeling Cuba?

There are two main seasons in Cuba. The dry season, from December to April, is the warmest and sunniest season (with an average of 81°F/27°C, July, and August being the warmest months).

In the rainy season, from May to October, the weather is wetter and more changeable (intermittent tropical rains and sunny spells), and the air is cooler (an average of 72°F/22°C). The eastern coast is subject to hurricanes from August to October, and the country averages about one hurricane every two years.

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