Cuba's oft-forgotten "Island of Youth" (Isla de la Juventud) floats serenely 80 km (50 miles) off the country's southwest coast. A place seeped in natural beauty, communist history and legends of Caribbean pirates, what it lacks in tourist amenities (this is most definitely not a resort-goer's destination) it more than makes up for in raw, sun bleached splendor. That's good news for adventurers, who can either fly in from Havana or navigate the infamously circuitous catamaran system via the port town of Surgidero de Batabanó, all in an effort to explore one of the country's most memorable marine sanctuaries: Punta Frances National Park.
Here, amid mangrove forests, untouched coral reefs, strips of white-sand beaches, warm crystal waters, endangered manatees, American crocodiles and a plethora of bird species you'll find one of Cuba's premier snorkeling/scuba diving destinations: 56 sites ranging from gardens of sponges and Gorgonian corals to the 40 m Cueva Azul (Blue Cave) that has been called one of the best dives in the country. Currents are generally calm and the visibility rarely falls below 30 m, so you'll have plenty of time to appreciate the abundant selection of marine life here (snappers, barracudas, rays, reef sharks, turtles, etc). Just about all divers opt to set up shop at the coastal El Colony Hotel just north of the park, as opposed to in the town of Nueva Gerona which is less equipped to handle gear rentals, guide requests, etc. Check out our links for more info, and enjoy a secluded slice of Cuba's Caribbean diving.