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Guardalavaca, located in Cuba’s northern coast, is one of the main tourist hubs in the island. This turquoise waters beach, lined with coral reefs, allow snorkelers to discover the reef life of the Caribbean.
Located on the Atlantic coast of Cuba, Guardalavaca is one of the most important seaside resorts on the island. The nearest airport is Holguín, about 45mi/70km south to Guardalavaca. If you are not staying in one of Guardalavaca’s resorts, you can easily reach it from the neighboring beaches, including Playa Pesquero, Playa Yuraguanal and Playa Esmeralda, all situated less than 10mi/15km from the spot.
You can enter the water all along the sandy beach.
The snorkeling area extends all along Guardalavaca Beach, which stretches for nearly one mile in front of Hotel Club Amigo and Hotel Brisas. Near the beach, seabed is mostly sandy (↕3-6ft/1-2m), without much sea life. You will have to swim 100 to 150m offshore to reach the most interesting areas, where the seabed begins to be covered with coral (↕6-12ft/2-4m). The reef is made of hard coral, especially elkhorn coral and fire coral, but you’ll also find gorgonian and sea fans in some areas. The reef is quite healthy, but the coral is broken corals in some places. Beware of the many sea urchins living between the rocks.
Many species of Caribbean fish can be spotted in Guardalavaca. French grunt (often seen in static shoals near coral bommies), blue tang, bluehead wrasse and foureye butterflyfish abound on the reef. You can also see porcupine fish (sometimes hidden in the shade of corals), or the Spanish hogfish, which is recognizable by its beautiful yellow and pink colors.
Guardalavaca is a relatively exposed spot, and can be wavy. Do not enter the water if the sea is rough. The distance to reach the reef is important and some currents can occur in the area, wear swimfins.
Hotel Club Amigo and Hotel Brisas are located on the beachfront, facing the spot. There are also several restaurants nearby, as well as cheap accommodation, especially at the west end of the beach.
These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.
This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
The current is gentle and seems to flow from east to west. For 5CUC you can get a beach lifeguard to swim with you down the length of the reef, starting at the pier in the east and coming out in front of the Hotel Club Amigo for a pina colada (or swim it with a buddy). Low tide and high waves are a hazard though.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.