If you're a diver looking for seclusion and beautiful, crystal clear waters, and don't mind paying significantly more for amenities when compared to much of the rest of Cuba, Maria la Gorda is absolutely worth a few days of your time. Located in Guanahacabibes National Park along the country's westernmost peninsula, this beach hotel and scuba center is your sole means of experiencing the 50+ dive sites contained within the immaculately protected Bahia de Corrientes, and it's by no means easily accessible. Without your own vehicle, you'll either have to hop the daily bus in Vinales or book private transportation via a tourist agency (the road is a long/bumpy 325 km from Havana or 150 km from Pinar del Río). Once you arrive and take to the water, however, you'll understand why you put in all that effort.
The diving in Maria la Gorda is considered by many to be some of the best in the Caribbean, with warm waters, visibility of 40-50 meters and an abundance of subaqueous seascapes and marine life to explore. There are wrecks, gorgonian coral gardens, canyons and swim-throughs at almost every drop, along with more widely celebrated sites like the Yemayá coral wall and Maria's Hall cave. If you visit during late summer (August-September) you can catch some feeding whale sharks, but at any time of the year you'll encounter barracudas, eels, lobsters, angel fish, turtles, and countless other exotic sea dwellers. In other words, this is all elements of incredible Caribbean diving put on full display.
Location:Pinar del Rio, Cuba
Note:If paying to stay at a diving "resort" where the only locals you see are in uniform isn't exactly your cup of tea, options are limited but they do exist. Casas are sometimes available for let in the small village of La Bajada 15 km north of MLG, as well as in the town of Sandino just outside the national park (60 km from MLG). This will make your dives more of a hassle, but you can weigh the pros and cons yourself. You could also opt for a clandestine camp-out on the beach, but beware of the sand fleas which can be ruthless.