When it comes to the cruisers’ refrain that the Caribbean is ‘not like it used to be’, one destination surely stands as an exception to the rule – Cuba. Fidel Castro’s Republic is 744 miles long by some 60 miles wide and is almost as big as the other islands put together. When Columbus called it ‘the most beautiful land human eyes have seen’ he was no doubt referring in part to 3,735km of fantastic coastline and some of the best scuba diving in the Caribbean.
World news has tended to focus on the attempts by Cubans to get off the island by boat, but terrific developments have taken place in the Marine sector, drawing boats from the US and beyond. When the US-imposed embargo inevitably ends, change will hit the island like a hurricane, so now really is the time to visit.
The law: US Citizens may visit Cuba, but may not spend any money there. Previously, Marinas such as the Marina Hemingway would provide ‘Fully Hosted Status’, proving that visitors had apparently spent nothing. This provision was removed by Bush Administration legislation that went into effect on June 30.
Since 1996, Cruisers under any flag have been required to get permission to leave the Coast Guard Security Zone around Florida.
Ports of entry at Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos, Cayo Largo and Maria La Gorda. You must clear out through these same ports. Officially, you may only go ashore where there is an international marina – these are Santiago de Cuba, Marea de Portillo, Casilda, Cienfuegos, Cayo Largo, Marina Siguanea on Isla Juventud and Maria La Gorda.
5ta Ave y 248 Santa Fe, Havana
Tel: (537) 204 6848
Founded in 1992 with a 400-boat capacity. Over 1,200 US boats visit each year out of a total of 2,000. This popular Marina, run by the enigmatic Commodore Escrich, has four anti-hurricane canals. 24-hr security, water, repairs. Depth 5.5m
Marina Puerto Sol Tarara
Vía Blanca km. 18, Playa Tarará. 15 minutes from Havana
Tel: (537) 971 462
Fuel, minor repairs, international diving center. 53 berths.
Marina Puerto Sol Darsena de Varadero
Carretera de Vía Blanca, km. 31, Varadero.
Tel: (53 45) 66 8063
Services include water, fuel, electricity, chandlery, and some repair facilities. International diving center and ‘Gregoria Fuentes’ International Fishing Tournament. Berths: 116
Marina Gaviota Varadero
Carretera las Morlas Km. 21, Península de Hicacos, Varadero. Matanzas
Tel:( 53 45) 66-7755
Fuel, natural aquarium, scuba diving, Catamarans available for charter. 10 berths.
Carretera de Las Morlas, km. 12,5, Varadero
Tel: (53 45) 66 7550
Ciego de Avila
Marina Puerto Sol Cayo Coco-Guillermo
Cayo Guillermo, Archipiélago Jardines del Rey. Ciego de Ávila
Tel: (53 33) 30 1637.
Jardines del Rey International Diving Center. Berths: 6
Santiago de Cuba
Marina Santiago de Cuba.
Avenida 1A, Punta Gorda, Santiago de Cuba
Tel: 53 229 1446
15 minutes from Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s second largest city. Water, electricity, telephone, laundry, chandlery, 24 hour security.
Marina Gaviota Cayo Santa Maria
Cayo Las Brujas
Tel: (5342) 35 0213
Marina Puerto Sol Cienfuegos
8th Ave., Punta Gorda, Bahía de Cienfuegos. Cienfuegos.
Tel:(53 432) 55-1241
Whale Shark International Diving Center and world’s largest coral column. Berths: 28
Marina Cubanacan Cienfuegos
Calle 35, 6 y 8, Punta Gorda
Tel: (534 32) 55 1275
Marina Puerto Sol Cay Largo
Cayo Largo del Sur, Archipelago de los Canarreos , Isla de la Juventud
Tel:(53 45) 4-8213, 4-8133, Fax:(53 45) 4-8212
South West Coast:
Pinar del Rio
Maria La Gorda Centro Internacional de Buceo Puertosol
Pinar del Rio Province
Good anchorage for those coming from Western Caribbean and Yucatan Channel. Ship chandler, water, electricity and repair facilities available.
Marina Gaviota Cabo de San Antonio
Peninsula de Guanahacabibes, Pinar del Rio.
Tel: (53 33) 75 0118
Diving center. UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Marina Puerto Sol Trinidad at Jucaro
Carretera de María Aguilar, Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus
Tel: (53 419) 6205
Cayo Blanco International Diving Center.45 minutes from the superb Caya Blanco beaches. Berths: 6
Marina Gaviota Internacional Puerto de Vita
Bahía de Vita, Holguín. Holguín
Tel: (5324) 3 0445.
Reached by an access canal. Chandlery. Berths: 38