from 2 reviews
PADI Dive Center
Maria la Gorda - International Diving Center
19th August 2009 by LauraV
Amazing diving at Maria la Gorda
Visit Date: September 2008
If you go to Cuba, this is a place to visit. The hotel is located at a natural park, in the middle of nowhere - a perfect paradise! The hotel is very nice&quiet, big&clean rooms, nice restaurant, friendly people. Don't expect any wild nightlife, because there isn't any. This is a place for relaxing and enjoying the nature. We stayed there for 4 days and I was diving every day.
Considering that this is Cuba, the rental gear is good - it's old, but works very well. The dive boat was good, big boat with shade. The staff is very friendly and helpfull.
The marine life is abundant. Since it's a nature conservation area, it's prohibited to fish here - so, chances are that you can also see bigger fish. We saw lots and lots of lobsters, big groupers, a turtle and a big ray + lots of other stuff.
I can highly recommend this place.
3rd June 2009 by ceppm
Great beach and best diving experience
Visit Date: March 2009
My wife and I stayed there for five days in March and had a great time. Hope this is going to solve some people's queries as we found it difficult to find information about the place online.
NOTE: This review applies also to the Hotel Maria la Gorda. Both, the hotel and the CIB are the same place.
Giving the limitations Cuba has with the internet, you'll be better off if you give them a call directly and book a place. They'll not take any payment from you and just hold your place until your arrival. Pay cash, they can accept credit cards but don't rely on it.
When you book your place, you can also arrange with them transportation from La Habana (about 160 CUC return per person, 1 GBP aprox 1.2 CUC). Just tell them in which hotel of La Habana you're staying and they'll pick you up in the morning and drop you back in the afternoon. The trip is about five hours.
The hotel is still run by Cubans so don't expect much. It's a no frills place. There are two kinds of rooms, the ones on the front buildings, right next to the beach and the diving centre, and the little cabins short walk on the back, more isolated but a longer walk if you find out you forgot your camera once you're on the beach.
Double rooms on the beach are 73 CUC per night and on the back 68 CUC. I believe it's worth the extra 5 CUC per night.
The infrastructure, as much of the country, is a bit run down but clean. It is OK for some days, definitely not a luxury spa. Our room had air conditioning, we didn't test it as it wasn't that hot, and a mini fridge (empty).
Some rooms on the front share a balcony and some are more lucky and have their own with a wonderful view of the beach. Don't think there's a price difference but it's nicer to sit down on your own balcony at sunset.
Buffet breakfast (included) is OK. We focused on the lots of fruits, eggs and breads and didn't get too close to the meats but there are some.
The restaurant has a limited menu. Mostly fresh shellfish, some fish, pasta and pizzas. About 25 CUC for two with a beer and dessert. There's also a buffet that we didn't try so can't say if it's any good (15 CUC pp).
Some people complain about the quality of the food and the facilities. To be honest, you have to set your expectations at the right level and be prepared that this is Cuba: it's a poor country surviving with an economic embargo from the US for many years. There are very few luxuries here. If you're looking for luxury, go to the chain hotels in big resorts, don't go to Maria la Gorda. Be prepared and you won't be disappointed.
This is what makes Maria la Gorda so special. The CIB (Centro Internacional de Buceo = International Diving Centre) is located within a natural reserve and they have been blessed with 30 something beautiful diving spots, all at no more than 20 minutes by boat.
There are shallow reefs where you'll have hours of fun and also a very big wall were you can dive as deep as you're allowed. Plenty of unspoilt marine life all over the place. Even when you snorkel by the shore, very soon you're surrounded by schools of beautiful fish.
People at the CIB are great. Very capable and know their job. My wife and I have only OW so they were sure we never dived deeper than 20m and they were very patient and helpful with us.
The fact that we speak native Spanish helped to create a bond with these guys and we had the chance to know them better than most divers there. They are very committed to their job and worry about their customers trying always to give a good service. Being Cubans, the mood is always up, with some Salsa dancing and wonderful lobster on the way there and back.
As most people in the country, these guys make about 25 CUC per month (official salary) so if you felt they gave you a good service, do tip them. They've earn it.
There are lots of comments about the quality of the hire equipment. But as others have said, the equipment has been renewed lately. Everything is Subacqua branded (i.e. BCDs, regs, wetsuits, etc.). It's starting to show some signs of wear (e.g. small holes on wetsuits) but it worked fine in general (one stuck inflator button once but was quickly fixed by the DM without mayor worries). If you have your own equipment and want to carry it, fine. But if you don't, don't get turned away by the comments on the equipment. It's fine.