Ocean Doctor’s Award-Winning Cuba Educational Experiences

An Unforgettable Learning Adventure

Ocean Doctor’s award-winning educational experiences in Cuba are unique, providing participants with a rich, in-depth experience that draws from our more than two decades leading collaborative research and conservation work in Cuba. Participating in our educational programs provides participants with exclusive access to some of Cuba’s most important scientists, conservationists and community leaders, working tirelessly to help Cuba navigate profound change while protecting its natural and cultural heritage.

Travel to Cuba under Ocean Doctor’s Cuba Educational Experiences Program is legal for U.S. citizens and residents and meets current restrictions of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Despite the initiation of normalization of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S., the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba remains in place. Under the embargo, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens for tourism is prohibited. However, licensed trips with the purpose of people-to-people educational programs, support for the Cuban people and professional research visits are permitted.

Vinales, Cuba (c) David E. Guggenheim
Outside Magazine Cover 2015

Ocean Doctor’s Cuba Educational Experiences program was recognized in Outside Magazine’s Best Of Awards for 2015!

Our trip…exceeded my expectations! The Cuban people were warm and welcoming to us all. Our educational programs totally raised my awareness of the beauty and importance of keeping our reefs healthy…I hope that David and Ocean Doctor can continue these programs to others.

Ocean Doctor's Cuba Travel Program is the cover story in Scuba Diving Magazine

Ocean Doctor’s Cuba Educational Experiences were the cover story in Scuba Diving Magazine!

Upcoming Scheduled Educational Experiences

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions imposed by the previous administration (lifted by the Biden administration in 2022), our people-to-people Cuba travel programs were temporarily suspended and are thankfully now resuming. We are planning enriching and exciting trips for 2023 and will have details for you soon. Please stay tuned for updates!

Cuba’s Isle of Youth – The Invisible Island (Dates to Be Announced)

Location of the Isle of YouthTravel with the “Ocean Doctor,” Dr. David E. Guggenheim, founder and president of Ocean Doctor and adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, on an unforgettable adventure to Cuba’s “invisible” island — the Isle of Youth. Visited by Columbus and scores of pirates, the island has a rich and unusual history, including decades as a territory of the United States. Today, however, residents of the island often feel invisible, forgotten and disconnected from the rest of Cuba, an “island within an island.” (See the EcoWatch article, Finding Hope for the Isle of Youth.) Dwarfed by the massive main island of Cuba, the world is barely aware of its very existence, despite the fact that it is the seventh largest island in the Caribbean. The island has struggled for decades, with limited economic opportunities for its residents, mostly in agriculture and fishing. Formerly known as the Isle of Pines, it has long since been forgotten as an international tourist destination.

Our journey, focused on Cuba’s environmental future — but also including a rich dose of arts and culture —  includes in-depth visits to historic Havana, Isle of Youth, Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) and Trinidad. The trips highlight is a visit the uncommon destination of Cuba’s Isle of Youth where we will go behind the scenes of Ocean Doctor’s work there, the first-ever official project between the Cuban Environmental Ministry and a U.S. organization. We’ll visit the island’s capital, Nueva Gerona and visit Presidio Modelo, the prison where Fidel Castro spent 5 years under the Batista regime. We’ll explore the island’s flora and fauna, both above and below the water, hiking to the highest point on the island with local naturalists and scuba diving and snorkeling in Punta Frances, a stunning protected area with healthy coral reef ecosystems. Visitors will be able to explore caves to see primitive cave paintings in remarkable condition. We will also visit the small community of Cocodrilo (“crocodile”) where Ocean Doctor is working with the community to develop sustainable alternatives to fishing, such as ecotourism, in a project called Red Alerta. Throughout the trip, we will experience warm, meaningful and fascinating engagement with the Cuban people, from leaders in science and education to community residents trying to make a difference.

Want something unique? We can customize an education experience for your group.

Scenes from Cuba’s Isle of Youth
Photos: D. Guggenheim

New York TimesThe New York Times Travel Section (January 7, 2018) features Cuba’s little-known Isle of Youth, the seventh-largest island in the Caribbean but virtually unknown. The article, by Tony Perrottet, is an in-depth travelogue based on a visit to the island during July 2017 with Ocean Doctor president, Dr. David E. Guggenheim. The Isle of Youth contains vast marine reserves, beautiful coral reefs and upland forests and is now the focus of most of Ocean Doctor’s research and conservation work.  Read the New York Times article…

School Educational Experiences

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions imposed by the previous administration (lifted by the Biden administration in 2022), our people-to-people Cuba travel programs were temporarily suspended and are thankfully now resuming. We are planning enriching and exciting trips for 2023 and will have details for you soon. Please stay tuned for updates!

In partnership with the University of Havana, Ocean Doctor has developed custom educational programs and expeditions to Havana, Cuba’s Isle of Youth and other locales for U.S. schools seeking a unique and enriching educational experience. Our programs include opportunities for students to fulfill service requirements by engaging with local communities and participating in hands-on research and conservation projects. Students have an unforgettable opportunity to snorkel or scuba dive alongside Cuban researchers and graduate students and participate in real research efforts. Our trips are ideal for middle school through undergraduate levels. Please contact us for a consultation.

Even though the flight from Miami to Havana was only a mere 45 minutes, when we landed in Cuba it felt like we were a million miles from home. Our 12-day adventure with five teenage students from Denver, Colorado was truly a life-changing experience. To get a taste of life in Cuba’s largest city, we visited with artists who have inspired entire neighborhoods, walked the streets of Old Havana, and dined in local paladars. Then we spent 8 days scuba diving in the relatively untouched waters off the coast of Punta Frances conducting underwater research under the supervision of scientists from the University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research. Ocean Doctor prepared an exciting and educational experience for everyone. Their professionalism, knowledge, and positive attitude made every minute of this adventure worthwhile. We cannot wait to return to Cuba and to work with Ocean Doctor again.

My first interaction with Ocean Doctor was at the Blue Ocean Film Festival in my home town of St. Petersburg, Florida. A year later, I ended up working with Ocean Doctor to create a unique educational trip for my school focused on marine conservation along with the exploration of Cuban culture and history.

Initially, my excitement about going to Cuba revolved around the pristine reefs and my desire to learn more about the role tourism plays in Cuba’s environment. However, when our plane landed in Cuba, I quickly realized that the culture and history would be just as impactful as the beauty of the natural environment.

After over a week of being immersed in Cuban culture in Havana and Cienfuegos as well as snorkeling in the beautiful waters off of the Isle of Youth, I had learned so much more than I’d imagined I would when planning the trip. As we sat in the airplane after waiting through hours of delays, we saw Air Force One touch down bringing President Obama for his historic visit to Cuba. That moment was just one of many moments that solidified my desire to learn more about how to protect both Cuba’s incredible natural environment as well as its rich culture.

Custom Educational Experiences in Cuba

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions imposed by the previous administration (lifted by the Biden administration in 2022), our people-to-people Cuba travel programs were temporarily suspended and are thankfully now resuming. We are planning enriching and exciting trips for 2023 and will have details for you soon. Please stay tuned for updates!

Ocean Doctor, in partnership with our travel providers and Cuban colleagues, offers custom educational experiences for groups interested in Cuba’s natural environment, conservation and understanding the changes now taking place on the island. Whether your group is a small family group or a large organizational delegation, we’re happy to work with you and lead your educational experience in Cuba. (Our minimum group size is 8. If you have a smaller group, please consider one of our scheduled trips.) Please get in touch for more information and a consultation. Please also be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to receive updates on our Cuba Educational Experiences.

About Us

Ocean Doctor is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC. Our mission is to advance the conservation of the world’s oceans through scientific research, education and community engagement. Our Cuba Conservancy Program is built on more than 16 years of work experience in Cuba. Strong collaboration between Cuban and American scientists and conservation experts is at the core of our program At the core of Cuba Conservancy’s mission is to establish sustained collaboration between Cuba and the United States to:

  • ensure enduring, locally-supported marine research and conservation programs in Cuba.
  • contribute to major advances in the scientific understanding of Cuba’s natural resources.
  • achieve meaningful, long-lasting conservation for Cuba’s marine ecosystems and shared ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • forge long-term collaborative relationships with our Cuban colleagues.
  • help train the next generation of Cuban marine scientists.

The program builds upon a strong foundation of scientific research. Research not only serves the purpose of advancing science and informing conservation policy efforts, but also helps forge strong, long-term collaborative relationships and credibility, facilitating efforts in the policy arena.

IMPORTANT: Touristic travel to Cuba by Americans remains ILLEGAL. Despite normalization of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, the trade embargo remains in effect. Please be aware of travel scams as a number of travel agencies are illegally offering scuba diving and fly fishing packages to U.S. citizens without proper licensing or by offering trips under unrelated licenses, such as religious licenses or humanitarian aid. Booking travel directly with these organizations violates U.S. law. Travel with Ocean Doctor is legal under a license from U.S. Department of Treasury. Click here for more information.