Cuba Scuba Diving Tour

Trip Highlights

*Please note that the the following information is meant to provide a general overview of your tour. The specifics of your trip will be contained in a pre-trip letter you will receive prior to your confirmed departure.
 
MEETING PLACE: Jose Marti International Airport, Havana
MEETING TIME: 11 AM on Day 1 
TRIP LENGTH:  7 Days
DEPARTING CITY: Havana
AGE LIMIT:  12 Years
TRIP TYPE:  Scuba Diving

Sample Itinerary

DAY 0
This tour will begin in Havana at approximately 11:00 AM on Day 1. Our meeting point on Day 1 will be Havana's Jose Marti International Airport where your Tour Leader and local guides will meet you to begin your tour. If you are unable to fly all the way to Havana on Day 1 with an arrival before 11:00 AM, we recommend that you consider a "Day 0" for your tour and choose either of the following:

  • Travel to Havana on Day 0.  With this option, we recommend that you overnight in a casa particular (a private home with rooms for rent) of your choosing and make your way back to the Havana Airport to meet your Tour Leader, guides, and fellow travelers the next morning. 
  • Travel to Miami on Day 0.  With this option, we recommend that you overnight in Miami and take a flight to Havana on the morning of Day 1.  

Day 1: Havana, Cuban Marine Specialist, City Tour
Arrive in Havana no later than noon in order to have time to explore the city.  After meeting you at the airport, we take you to lunch and give a brief orientation of Cuba and the tour.
Our first stop then is to a local science foundation that is at the heart of Cuba’s conservation programs.  We meet with a marine ecosystem specialist to learn about the Caribbean Sea and the species of corals and fish we will encounter.  This is an excellent learning opportunity and a chance to interact with one or two Cuban marine specialists.
Next up is a walking tour of the old city of Havana.  The narrow streets replete with Spanish colonial buildings provide a fascinating insight into the history of this world-renowned city, once larger than New York.
In the late afternoon you check into your Casa Particular (Bed and Breakfast), settle in and a bit later we head out for dinner.
ACCOMMODATION: Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED: Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 2: Cultural Exploration of Havana
We start our day with a visit to a colorful neighborhood in Jaimanitas, known as Fusterlandia where the famous artist, Jose Fuster has his studio and has also adorned the neighborhood with Picasso-like mosaics.  From here we return to our scientific institution for another lesson about the marine geography and current conservation efforts of the Caribbean ecosystem of Cuba.  
After lunch in paladar where we learn more from the owner about the challenges of operating a private enterprise in Cuba, we board a ferry for a short ride across the Havana harbor to the suburb town of Regla.  This is a center of the Afro-Cuban religion Santeria and home to the beautiful Church of Regla where the Black Virgin watches over mariners.  It’s also a great place for views of the Havana waterfront.  After visiting the church and local municipal museum, we return to Havana Vieja on the ferry and have time to wander the streets a bit more to admire the stunning architecture.
We return to our accommodations and then join together for dinner.

ACCOMMODATION: Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 3: To Cienfuegos and Faro Luna Dive Center
We leave Havana early and drive about three hours southeast to Cienfuegos and beyond to the Faro Luna Dive Center.  With a number of excellent dive sites, a boat takes us to today’s dive location.  There are grottos and labyrinths of channels.  Numerous corals, marine plants and animals make this dive a highlight.  There are some named features as well as several sunken ships. On the walls are coats of corals including flat and column shaped as well as gorgonians and sponges.  We may see barracudas, snappers, grunts, grouper, angelfish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, and many others of different colors. There are also lobsters, sea anemones, morays and possibly eagle rays. 
After our dive we head to a nearby privately-owned paladar for a feast of seafood on the water.  Then it’s a short drive to the beautiful Cienfuegos Botanical gardens, once part of Harvard University, where we spent about an hour with a local guide enjoying an easy walk to learn about the history of the place and some of the plants. In Cienfuegos we check into our Casa Particulars for the night and enjoy dinner together in town. 
ACCOMMODATION: Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 4: Guajimico to Trinidad
We drive east 40 minutes to Guajimico, an indigenous term meaning ‘Place of the Fishes’ which it certainly is.  There are several wall dives to choose from and we’ll do a morning and early afternoon dive, with lunch in between. Highlights should include similar fauna to what we saw at Faro Luna, plus undoubtedly some surprises. After our second dive we drive another 45 minutes to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Trinidad, one of Cuba’s most beautiful colonial towns.  After we check into our Casas for the evening we have a short walking tour to get oriented.  We also visit the home of Trinidad’s best-known photographer, Julio Munoz, for a conversation about his photography, running a private business in Cuba and his Project Diana which aims to educate local farmers how to better care for their horses.  Tonight’s dinner is on your own.
ACCOMMODATION: Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 5: Trinidad to the Bay of Pigs
We drive west to one of Cuba’s best scuba diving in the Bay of Pigs.  These are shore dives at two different sites.  We likely start with a shallow water dive that leads to a wall dive and sunken ship.  The water visibility is usually excellent.  Then, we head to a nearby cenote to descend into dark waters and a very unique ecosystem including blind fish that spend their lives in this deep sinkhole.
After a morning and afternoon dive, we continue to the nearby hamlet of Playa Larga to spend the night.  Here we meet with one of the rangers from Zapata National Park to learn more about the Park system in Cuba, and specifically the marine environment in the Park and the Bay of Pigs.
ACCOMMODATION: Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 6: One more dive and return to Havana
We enjoy one more dive in the morning within the Bay of Pigs.  After this we start our drive to Havana.  We stop for lunch on route, and as we near the city limits, we stop to visit Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s home and now museum.  It provides a fascinating glimpse into the life and this legendary author.
Another 30 minutes and we arrive in Havana with time to explore a few more streets of the old city, or visit Mercado San Jose to pick up souvenirs made by local artists and craftspeople.
Later in the day we check into our Casas for the night and then enjoy a festive farewell dinner.
ACCOMMODATION: Casa Particular
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 7: Transfer to the airport for flights home

ACCOMMODATION: None
MEALS INCLUDED: Breakfast

Travel Arrangements

FLIGHT INFORMATION
Several commercial flights operate daily from several US cities and Havana, usually at very reasonable fares. Therefore, for both cost and convenience, we ask that you book your own air travel. 
If your trip is not yet confirmed, we suggest waiting to book any travel or pre/post-trip accommodations until we have confirmed the trip for you.  It is likely that commercial air options will continue to develop and improve in the coming weeks, and we will plan to provide guidance on the best options for you upon confirmation of your tour. 
 
When your tour is confirmed you will need the following documentation for travel to Cuba.
1) Cuba Tourist Card - this is your tourist visa which enables you to legally enter the country. **There are two ways to obtain this.  The easiest is to buy it at either the Miami or Fort Lauderdale airports at the gate for your flight.  The airlines have them available at a price of $100.  If you would rather buy the visa in advance, it can be purchased from Cuba Travel Services  https://cubavisaservices.com/product/touristvisa-card/
2) Flight tickets/confirmation
3) Certification of Travel to Cuba - This document will be provided to all Cuba Unbound guest. This certificate testifies that your trip is fully legal under the general license of people-to-people travel to Cuba.
4) Proof of Medical Insurance - Cuba requires all travelers to Cuba to have travel medical insurance. Travel medical insurance must include coverage for medical evacuation, emergencies, and repatriation. The company providing your travel medical plan must be able to make payments from a non-U.S. banking institution.
U.S. airlines include the mandatory level of travel medical insurance in your ticket. Guests may purchase supplementary coverage at their discretion; we recommend such action as the mandatory amounts are set rather low.
Cuba Unbound partners with Travel Insured International for this supplementary coverage, the costs of which depend on coverage amount, length of travel, and age of traveler. 
 
ARRIVING IN HAVANA
Most major U.S. carriers have daily flights to Havana.   So far, departure locations include Atlanta, Charlotte, Fort Lauderdale, Houston,Boston, Miami, Newark, New York City, Orlando, and Tampa. Commercial flights vary in price and are limited to specific destinations, departure dates and time of day. For more specific information visit the airlines website or Kayak.

 

To follow our itinerary as planned, we ask that you plan to arrive at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport,  between 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM on Day 1. The exact time and meeting location where you will meet your guides and begin your tour, will be contained in your final pre-trip instructions. Unless you are flying from the East Coast of the U.S., a morning arrival in Havana is often difficult, if not impossible.  Therefore, we include a "Day 0" in our itinerary.  If you are unable to fly all the way to Havana on Day 1 with an arrival before 11:00 AM, we recommend that you consult our Day 0 Planning Guide or choose either of the following:

  • Travel to HAVANA on Day 0: With this option, we recommend that you overnight in a casa particular (a private home with rooms for rent) of your choosing and make your way back to the Havana Airport to meet your Tour Leader, guides, and fellow travelers the next morning. 

 

  • Travel to MIAMI on Day 0: With this option, we recommend that you overnight in any of a number of reasonably priced hotels near the airport (or elsewhere if you're spending extra time in Miami) and take a flight to Havana on the morning of Day 1.  American Airlines currently has excellent options from Miami to Havana, including two daily flights that arrive in Havana prior to 11:00 AM.  You may find that booking two separate round-trip tickets is best: 1) from home to Miami and back; and 2) from Miami to Havana and back.  Or you may find a single ticket (typically with a red-eye flight or overnight layover in Miami) with scheduled arrival before 11:00 AM on the morning of Day 1. 

If, for some reason, you are unable to get to the Jose Marti International Airport by 11:00 AM on Day 1, please contact our office and we will provide instructions regarding how to catch up to your group.
 
DEPARTING FROM HAVANA
This tour will end in Havana, at your hotel, on the morning of day 8. We kindly ask that you make your own transportation arrangements at the conclusion of our tour. Our guides can provide advice and assistance with those arrangements as needed. 
 
ADDITIONAL NOTES
Accommodations:  If you are arriving early to Cuba or staying after your Cuba Unbound tour, it is important to secure your accommodations ahead of time. We recommend using  casa particulars (houses that rent rooms) which are available via AirBNB.  Casas are typically an easier and less expensive option (most in the $20-50 range.  Travel Agencies such as Cuba Travel Services can also assist with booking homestays. Booking through a travel agency or AirBNB allows for advance credit card payment, minimizing the cash you’ll need to carry with you. Make sure you have accommodations prior to booking a plane ticket.

Ground Transportation: Taxi transport to your casa on night 0, as well as to return to the airport on Day 1, is very simple.  We recommend using state run taxis. Make sure to have the address of your destination in hand and agree on the fare before getting in the cab.

Weather

CUBA'S TOURIST SEASONS
High Season: Cuba’s peak tourist season runs from mid-December to mid-March as well as July and August. Crowds are at their thickest here, and prices and bookings tend to be up as well. It’s always good to plan ahead when visiting during Cuba’s high season.

Shoulder Season: Cuba’s shoulder runs through the months of April and October. Visitors can find some special deals during the shoulder season, though there’s a slight peak around Easter.  
Low Season: Cuba’s low season hits May through June and September. Expect some closures or fewer facilities during the low season when tourists are less likely but hurricanes are more likely.

CUBA CLIMATE GUIDE
Hot and Wet Season (May through August): During the summer, Cuba is hot and humid. 

Hurricane Season (End of August to First of November): Like all Caribbean Islands, Cuba gets hit by hurricans. The fiercest hurricane months are September and October, though the "hurricane season" runs from June through November. That being said, Cuba has a tendency to hold out pretty well against hurricanes! 

Dry and Cooler Season (November through April):  If you love the consistently sunny and temperate weather, Cuba's dry season is for you. It's generally 77-82 degrees (25-27 C) with less rain and cooler evenings. The island warms up beautifully from March through mid-April, and visitors can expect warm Caribbean currents, cooling northeasterly winds and occasional rainfall. 
Weather in Havana, Cuba - Weather Underground

Getting Ready

PHONES IN CUBA  
Your trip to Cuba is an excellent opportunity to get in a digital detox. For those travelers who can't get off the grid, however, it's possible to stay connected in Cuba--you just have to accept that your Cuban roaming comes with Cuban roaming charges. 

  • Personal Mobile Phone Service in Cuba: It’s possible that your mobile phone will work in Cuba as some U.S. service providers have already or are beginning to make contracts with the ETECSA (Cuba’s national telecommunications company) to provide roaming services. Verizon and Sprint currently offer roaming services in Cuba. Check to see if your provider offers a roaming plan and if your mobile phone is capable of roaming when in Cuba. Further, inquire about additional charges for data, outgoing messages, and voice calls. You can also rent a SIM card from Cubacel to use your U.S. mobile phone in Cuba. This, however, only works if your phone is unlocked and GSM-capable. Cubacel’s SIM cards come with pre-paid minutes, and a daily rental fee is included.
  • Renting U.S. Mobile Phones for Cuban Travel: A select number of specialized mobile phone companies provide travel phones compatible with Cuban roaming. Before traveling to Cuba, you can rent compatible phones from Mobal, Cello Mobile, or National Geographic’s Cellular Abroad. Expect rental fees and additional texting and per-minute call charges with data optional depending on the type of phone rented.
  • Renting a Phone in Cuba: You can rent a phone from Cubacel upon your arrival in Cuba. Cubacel offices are located in Havana’s José Martí International Airport. Expect a nonrefundable deposit as well a daily fee, and additional texting and per-minute call charges still apply. Data’s not available on these rented phones.

INTERNET ACCESS IN CUBA

  • Internet Cafés: ETECSA operates a number of internet cafés locally known as telepuntos in larger cities such as Havana and Santiago. You may purchase an access ticket in telepuntos that allow you to use the internet by the hour or by the minute.
  • Hotel Business Centers: Many of the larger, modern hotels have a business center where guests can purchase internet access.
  • WiFi: ETECSA offers 65 public WiFi locations as of January, 2016. WiFi access in public locations costs an hourly rate, and much like at telepuntos guests must purchase an access pass from ETECSA in order to log on. Approximately 50 major resorts and hotels throughout Cuba offer WiFi, and they generally charge an hourly rate.

Check out the FCC’s Cuba telecommunications FAQs page for further details!  

POWER
In Cuba, many hotels and resorts have an electrical current of 110V60Hz. Some more modern accommodations also have a dual voltage system with some sockets running at 220V. The majority of outlets accept U.S.-style 2-3 prong plugs, though some also accept European rounded 2-3 prong plugs. 

HEALTH
Cuba poses no particular health or safety risks for travelers though it’s always advised to take reasonable precautions and be aware of your surroundings. We advise you to pack an individualized medical kit including any prescription drugs and painkillers that you might use while traveling in Cuba.

  • Vaccines: U.S. citizens require no vaccines to visit Cuba.That being said, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should be up-to-date on routine vaccinations.Other advisable inoculations include: hepatitis A and B, typhoid, rabies.
  • Food and Water: It’s always good to take precautions about what you eat and drink when traveling to Cuba. To avoid parasites, avoid drinking tap water and instead drink bottled water or check if the offered water has been boiled. As for food, food purchased on the street presents the highest risk as no authorized regulatory organization ensures proper hygiene.
    • Water Bottle Choice - if you have one, we ask that you bring a reusable, wide-mouthed water bottle.  Again, we provide bottled water throughout the trip, but we are often refilling on the bus, and/or from large 5-gallon containers.  A wide-mouthed water bottle will make it easier on everyone.
    • Snacks- if you are someone who likes to snack between meals, or if you need a regular blood sugar bump during an active trip such as this, pack some small, non-perishable, packaged food items from home: think granola bars, nuts, etc.  There are small markets in the cities and villages of Cuba, but they do not sell what we consider snack food.
    • Food Restrictions- Vegetarian/vegan guests (or those with other food allergies as noted on your trip application) can expect our guides and operating partners to do their very best to accommodate your needs.  If you are a "pescatarian" and enjoy seafood, you will have plenty.  However, strict vegetarian and vegan options are less common in Cuba.  Plan on rice and beans, basic veggies (the avocados in Cuba are impressive), and local fruits when and where available.  You might want to bring your own supply of nuts or other protein substitutes.
  • Sun Exposure: With Cuba’s strong summer sun and high humidity, sun and heat exposure along with dehydration can present health risks. Use sunscreen, drink lots of water, and limit sun exposure when you can.
  • Insurance: Cuba mandates that all foreign travelers have medical insurance which includes evacuation if serious medical attention is needed.
  • Zika Virus:  The CDC has reported Zika outbreaks in Cuba and advises travelers to practice enhanced precautions. Check out the CDC's websitefor updated travel alerts, and please review our prepared Zika Virus Travel Tips on the Health & Safety dropdown menu to help you travel healthy. 

SAFETY
Cuba remains a generally safe country for travelers. Petty theft remains the most common safety threat, though preventative measures and vigilance go a long way to keep your items safe. Expect attention from jinteros, hustlers, and watch out for street operators.

MONEY IN CUBA
For more details on currency and cash, refer to the Money in Cuba page on the Cuba Unbound website

  • Exchanging Money in Cuba: $1 USD is roughly equivalent to 1 CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso- the currency you will exclusively use in Cuba).  While you can exchange USD for CUC, there is an immediate 10% penalty which is why we suggest you bring Euros or Canadian dollars (CAD) instead.  We recommend exchanging currency upon arrival at the Havana airport.  Airport officials can point you to the currency exchange desk.  Other options are government exchange offices within the city, banks (consider likely open hours for both), and your hotel, however the airport is likely your best bet for convenience and the most favorable rates.  If arriving on the morning of Day 1 and meeting your group before leaving the airport, your guides will assist you with currency exchange.
  • How Much To Bring on Your Tour: Below are some guidelines on how much cash you may want to bring for items not included in your tour.  Although it is slowly changing, virtually all U.S. bank credit/debit cards still do not work in Cuba, so bring more cash than you think you'll need - if you run out, there is likely no easy way to get more.
  • Gifts/Souvenirs: we recommend $200-$400 per person ( $800 USD per person is still the maximum allowed through customs when you return to the U.S.).  If you plan to shop minimally or not at all, adjust appropriately.
  • Incidental Personal Expenses: $100 per person.  Plan on unexpected needs along the way, such as laundry, tips for service outside the scope of the tour, etc.
  • Airport Taxi: Budget $25-$30 for your airport taxi at the conclusion of your trip.
  • Beverages/Entertainment: $75-$100 per person.  ROW provides clean drinking water at all times, as well as water with meals and coffee, tea and juice at breakfast.  In addition, most restaurants on your tour will include one beverage of your choice with lunch and dinner.  However, an included drink is not always the case, and additional beverages will need to be paid separately.  In many places, you may take an evening stroll and enjoy some live music in a local bar.  At the Casas we stay in along the way, you can buy beer and perhaps other drinks.  Drinks range from $2-$4 at most locations.
  • Guide Gratuities: we recommend approximately $200 USD per guest for your guide team (equivalent to $25 per day for the team).  Keep in mind that tipping is a very personal decision, and we encourage you to adjust this up or down as you see fit based on your experience.  It's best to plan on tipping in the local CUC currency, Euros, or Canadian dollars.

During your trip, Cuba Unbound covers tips for servers, porters, and others that help us along the way.  Your tour leader, as well as local Cuban guides and drivers are not included in the gratuities that we pay. Please give this gratuity in either CUCs, Euros, or CAD to your ROW tour leader at the end of the trip.  He or she will in turn divide it according to our company guidelines, keeping some for him/herself and distributing the rest appropriately among our local Cuban guides and drivers. 

Total: We recommend a total of $600-$825 per person. If this seems high, remember that it's best to bring more than you think you may need, as you cannot get more cash in Cuba.  You can always take home what you don't spend (just don't take it home in CUC, as you will NOT be able to exchange CUC in the U.S.)

Back to top