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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.

Foureye butterflyfish in Guardalavaca
The foureye butterflyfish is fairly common at reef.

How to get to Guardalavaca snorkeling spot?

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.

Guardalavaca beach snorkeling map

Entering the water for snorkeling Guardalavaca

You can enter the water all along the sandy beach.

Guardalavaca snorkeling tips and recommendations

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, the 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.

Snorkeler amongst sea fan in Guardalavaca, Cuba
Beautiful sea fans are found on the reef outcrops.

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 porcupinefish, sometimes hidden in the shade of corals, or the Spanish hogfish, which is recognizable by its beautiful yellow and pink colors.

Porcupine fish in Guardalavaca
A spotfin porcupinefish photographed in Guardalavaca.

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.

Restaurants and accommodation around Guardalavaca

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.


  • Level required Intermediate
  • Maximum depth20ft/6m
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach
  • Potential DangersJellyfish can be present in the area
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Restaurants nearbyYes

MAP Spot

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.