If you think the island of Cayo Largo is beautiful on the surface, just wait til you stick your head under the water! The island is the top diving destination in Cuba and is a mixture of reefs, walls, caves, caverns and swim throughs and wreck diving. The water is so clear and inviting, you'll want to be in it for all your trip.
There are 32 dive sites surrounding the island and adjoining cays, a lot of them are shallow and suitable for any level of diver. You'll find a few dive centres dotted around the town, in your hotel or at the marina where all the boats leave from.
With almost 600 species of corals and sponges, the reefs are colourful and alive. You can see see whale sharks, mantas, sharks, turtles, eagle rays and large schools of fish such as jacks, grunts, snapper and tarpons. Explore within the corals for lobsters, crabs, eels and lots of macro critters.
The diving in Cayo Largo is separated into three areas: near the islands where it's no deeper than 33 metres, 29km from the island close to Cayo Rosario and 48km from the island near Cayo Siguia and Cayo Blanco where the walls drop off to 200 metres. The topography differs from each area.
Beginner divers and photography enthusiasts can enjoy the shallow sites of El Ballenato where you might spot a nurse shark, Punta de Barrera, Canal de la Barracuda and Las Cuberas for the many reef fish and great macro opportunities. Arena de la Rayas, Canon de Sigua and Pelicano are great wall dives for deep divers.
So get wet and salty exploring the great sites in the area, it'll keep you busy for a good week or so. Snorkelling is available off the shore or dive tours will take snorkellers as well. Enjoy the magical waters around Cayo Largo.
(By Kelly Luckman)
Cayo Largo del Sur (known as Cayo Largo) is a small island located 80km south of Cuba. At 28km long and 3km at its widest point, this limestone island is the second largest in the Canarreos Archipelago and a popular tourist destination for its beaches, torquiose water and relaxed atmosphere.
The easiest way to get there is a short flight from either Havana or Varadero. Some charter flights from different destinations are available through all inclusive package companies. There is only one major road on the island, so getting around is easy. You can choose to walk, hire a bicycle, scooter or car, or opt for the beach train. You will usually get free pick up from the airport from your hotel, and otherwise taxis are readily available but negotiate your price before you get in.
There are a few 4 and 5 star resorts on the island with rooms starting at around $50 a night, but for convenience and best value book an all inclusive package, as it is the best way to go about it. The hotels are owned by the same people so you can eat at different hotels every night, adding variety to your food options. There are camping spots on the island but no way to book them, so you just have to turn up and ask for information when you get there.
There isn't a vast number of activities on Cayo Largo but if you want to relax then this is the place for you. Visit one of the many stunning white sandy beaches such as Playa Paraiso or Playa Sirena. Take a sailing tour along the coastline and enjoy the views of the island or visit one of the nearby cays such as Iguana Cay where you can feed the multitudes of iguanas. Fullfill your dream of riding a horse along the beach at Playa Blanca.
There are some great tours such as wildlife walks where you can view flamingos, iguanas, monkeys and birds or a jeep tour that visits the crocodile and turtle farm, the television tower, the ancient tree of La Yana and Casa del Tabaco. You can do these tours yourself but it's better with a guide if you want history and information. There are a few caves, monuments to explore and a couple of museums to check out too. Diving and snorkelling is a great adventure in the pristine waters surrounding the island.
The hotels provide entertainment and after hours you might be lucky if the team takes you to view the turtles laying their eggs or babies hatching, a truly incredible experience and one not to be missed. One thing to be aware of are the mosquitoes! Be sure to take repellent and a net for sleeping if you have the space.
So relax your days away on this unspoilt island paradise, it's so beautiful you'll never want to leave!
(By Kelly Luckman)