Our first day in Varadero we went to one of the nice resorts to book some tours. You'll want to do this because especially in the smaller beach towns the resorts are the only places with excursion desks. We used them to book our scuba trip to The Bay of Pigs.
- Cost of the trip was $80 per person.
- Included: pickup from the hotel, transportation to and from the bay (a two hour drive each way), all gear including a wetsuit and two tanks.
- Lunch was not included. We were warned the paladar they take you to is expensive (15 CUC per person). Pack your own if you are trying to do Cuba on a budget.
- The bay of pigs is 2 hours away from Varadero and 2 and a half hours away from Havana.
Scuba Diving the Bay of Pigs
The morning of, we powered up with breakfast at the Casa (which we did every day in Varadero). Breakfast included fresh fruit, fresh fruit juice, coffee, a crepe-like pancake, 2 eggs with peppers and onions and tostada all for 5 CUC a person. Fantastic! We really can’t express enough how much we enjoyed staying in Casa Particulars while in Cuba. So much better than a hotel.
Pick up and gearing up
Around 9 am we boarded the bus. First, was a quick stop at the shop to pick up our gear. After everyone was set we loaded back on to the bus for the two-hour journey south. 30 minutes into the drive, our bus broke down. Our guides apologized and told us a new bus would arrive in 20 minutes to continue our journey. Matt and I shrugged, this is what happens in a foreign country, and didn’t let it bother us. But we cringed as some very loud Americans, also on the trip, complained nonstop while we waited for a new bus. The loudly and adamantly stated it would take at least an hour and a half to switch everything over and get us on our way.
18 minutes after our bus broke down a new bus rolled up and no more than 7 minutes later we had all worked together to switch everyone’s gear over to the new bus and were back on our way. Was I using my timer to keep track of the unexpected setback? Yes. And I was totally going to call out the annoying Americans but thankfully they decided to not wait and take a cab back to Havana. **rolls eyes** The best part is their cab hadn’t even arrived yet when we began rolling away to continue onto the Bay of Pigs. #karma
Quick side rant – I totally understand being frustrated when you have such little time in a foreign country but please remember if something goes wrong keep your cool! You aren't in America. You are somewhere new and different and sometimes stuff happens. Plus, don’t forget that as much as you are viewing a foreign country, the foreigners are also viewing you! Don’t complain (or at least not loudly) when the guides are doing everything in their power to get you on our way. It doesn’t help anyone and just annoys your neighbor. End rant.
The first dive
Anyway, we arrived at the Bay of Pigs and were put into groups of 3-5 people based on ability. Each group had a scuba guide to help us as we suited up and put together our equipment. The Bay of Pigs is crystal clear water that smashes right up to the shoreline which is a glorified rocky stairway.
The first dive was the amazing rock wall. This was my first walk-in dive and I LOVED it. I get seasick really easily. This is so strange since I grew up in Miami/the Keys, riding on boats constantly. I have no idea why my body hates me. Not having to worry about getting sick, or take Dramamine and pray that it worked, was such a relief! We walked in, swam a couple of meters out, and then BOOM - the seafloor drops away and you descend down past a solid wall filled with fish, coral, eels and so many fascinating sea creatures.
It was strange to look down and just see blackness below but thankfully I was too busy gazing at the colorful wall in front of me to freak out. The first dive we reached about 35 meters (114 ft) before coming back up.
Cuba is known for great scuba diving conditions and it is easy to see why. The crystal clear waters give you perfect visibility and 45 minutes under flew by. After dive one, we arrived back on land and dried off in the sun for 40 minutes waiting for the next round.
The second dive
The second dive was an old sunken ship that had copious amounts of sea life growing throughout it. The highlight was an eel in one of the ships holes that just stared at us the entire dive. This dive was another 45 minutes that flew by in what felt like 5.
Once we were back on land we put all our gear back on the bus and headed to lunch/dinner (it was around 4 pm). Matt and I had been warned beforehand that lunch was not included in the trip and we packed our own leftovers from previous dinner to save some cash. #budgettravel We were glad that we did because although the paladar (privately owned restaurant) food looked amazing it was expensive (for Cuba). 15 CUC each for a full meal that was served family style. So #protip pack a lunch on excursions!
After dinner, we drove home on the bus - and maybe fell asleep. When we arrived back in Varadero we crashed hard.
Even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a guidebook along with you. Here are some books I recommend...
Also, a super common question I get asked constantly is what camera do I use for my travels. The body is a Nikon D3300 and I mostly use this wide angle lens made by Sigma. It's awesome for travel photography - I am seriously obsessed with it.