Diving adventures in Cuba

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of May 15-21, 1997
Hiking getaways near Tucson
Dry camping in eastern Oregon
Diving adventures in Cuba
Vacation ideas for Grenada
Planning a Mississippi canoe trip

Diving adventures in Cuba
Question: I often meet Canadians who visit Cuba frequently. Are there adventures, such as diving, in Cuba once you get away from the hotels? I hear U.S. citizens can visit Cuba from Canada or the Caribbean, as long as Cuban immigration doesn't stamp our passports. Have you seen or heard about this?

Seattle, Washington
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Like any Caribbean destination, Cuba has its share of dreamy beaches, and underwater phenomena where you can scuba, snorkel, and swim. The tourist infrastructure may not be up to par, but rumor has it that a Club Med is in the works. I wouldn't plan on making Cuba your learn-to-dive destination, but if you already have your own gear and are pretty comfortable underwater, it'll be great.

The only legal way to visit Cuba is to spend no money once you've arrived, or qualify for licensing by the U.S. Treasury Department. To qualify you have to be a journalist, government official, student, or educator. And even then, there are limitations on how much you can spend.

If you aren't one of the former professions, have no fear: The New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council estimates that the number of illegal American visitors to Cuba in 1996 was 15,000. Most Americans who enter Cuba illegally do so via a third country. For example, lots of folks buy a round-trip ticket from Tijuana with a "stop" in Havana. Unbeknownst to American officials, the stop is a little longer than an hour-long layover. The downside is that if you get caught you could face up to a few thousand dollars in fines. For more information on what's available in Cuba, look for Lonely Planet's new 1997 guidebook.

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