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Isla de la Juventud is one of Cuba's premier dive destinations, and the diving here is wonderful. The waters are crystal clear, and there are walls, corals, caves, and even a few wrecks. The Centro Internacional de Buceo Colony (tel. 46/39-8181) is the main dive operator on the island, with its dive center at the small marina a few kilometers beyond the Hotel El Colony. Most trips head to Punta Francés ★★, a national maritime park, with a beautiful stretch of white-sand beach fronting a calm and protected sea on the southwestern tip of the island. From here, many of the island's best dive sites are easily accessible. There are a couple of long piers out into the calm waters here. One has a buffet restaurant and bar at the end of it. On shore, there's a small park station, with bathroom facilities and some picnic tables. The park station also has several hundred chaise lounges, which are taken out and spread along the beach whenever a cruise ship pulls in for a day tour. When this happens -- once or twice a week -- this quiet, isolated beach becomes a swarming mass of up to 1,500 sun worshipers. When the cruise ships aren't around, you'll have the joint almost to yourself. Dive trips cost CUC$60 for a two-tank dive, including a full-equipment package. However, if you stay here for any length of time, you are best off buying a multiday, multidive package. Day-trippers can take the boat ride out for between CUC$8 and CUC$30; the higher fees include lunch.

Fishing can also be arranged through Avalon (tel. 72/04-7422 in Havana; www.avalonfishingcenter.com), which runs packages based out of the Hotel Rancho El Tesoro or on the live-aboard boat, the Perola. Abundant bonefish, tarpon, and permit are among the dozens of fish species encountered here.

The most popular beaches close to Nueva Gerona are the white-sand Playa Paraíso and the dark-sand Playa Bibijagua. These beaches are 5km (3 miles) and 8km (5 miles) east of town, respectively, and both are served by regular bus service from town. Oddly, the dark-sand Playa Bibijagua is the more popular spot, although neither is a prime beach destination by any standard.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.