Diving & Snorkeling in Costa Rica
What's Under These Waters?
With year-round warm waters and a plethora of marine life, snorkeling and diving are popular activities in Costa Rica.
Some of the best snorkeling in Costa Rican can be found in the south Caribbean in Cahuita and Manzanillo, at Cano Island in the south Pacific and in the north Pacific at the Catalina and Bat Islands.
Diving is also a popular attraction. If you're really into diving make a trip southward to Cano Island where the visibility is usually good to excellent and can range from 45-90 feet making it the best in mainland Costa Rica (average is 40'+).
For diving fanatics, there is no comparing Coco Island to anything else. Huge schools of hammerhead sharks and white-tipped reef sharks, whales, manta rays, dolphins and fish species too many to list, put Coco Island as a top ranked diving location in the world. Seven to ten day chartered boat tours are available.
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When reading about Costa Rica's beaches, note the icon
demarking diving locations.
Where to Do It?
North Pacific Coast / Guanacaste Area
Boasting an over whelming assortment of marine life and almost all year-long descent to good visibility (40-80'), the Gold Coast welcomes divers and snorkelers with open arms.
Hot spots for snorkeling and diving are:
- Catalina Islands
- Bat Islands
- Papagayo Bay
- Playa Ocotal
- Potrero Bay
- Playa Conchal
Contact us for a great tour.
Mid - Southern Guanacaste
The southern Nicoya Peninsula is not as well known for its diving and snorkeling spots, but rest assured that if the beach right in front of you is not good for it, it's pretty likely that one in the next cove over is. Let us know where you will be and we can guide you in the right direction.
- Playa Carrillo
- Santa Teresa
- Mal Pais
With water temps always around 80-82°F (28-30°C) with 15' to 30' visibility (depending on the season and weather) it's a safe bet to say the Central Pacific region (Puntarenas to south of Manuel Antonio) is a fun underwater adventure. The best time to snorkel and dive are from mid-November to April where you'll see thousands of fish and other marine life among the reefs of Manuel Antonio. To get a better view of the living coral it's best to dive it. The deeper the reef the more action you'll get with white tip sharks, sea horses, octopus and lobsters. However, snorkelers will get an added bonus of swimming in the shallow waters which reveal interesting volcanic formations plus a slew of amazing marine life:
- Sea turtles
White tipped reef sharks
- King angel fish
for the best underwater tour for you.
South Pacific - Editor's Pick
Cocos Island is hands down the best diving in Costa Rica, and one of the best locations in the world. It is one of the largest uninhabited islands in the world, but its waters are teeming with wildlife. Famous for hammerhead sharks, rays and huge schools of fish, a trip to Cocos Island is a 'gotta do' kind of place for diving fanatics. Contact us to learn more about multi-day diving trips.
Costa Rica's best main land diving and snorkeling location is at Cano Island, about 45 minutes from Drake Bay. Aside from being a biological reserve, the island is also an important archaeological site protecting Pre -Colombian artifacts such as perfectly spherical stones and ancient burial and ceremonial sites from the indigenous Diquis tribe who inhabited the Golfo Dulce area until the arrival of the Spanish.
With waters always between 78° to 82° and visibility from 15 to 60+ feet, Cano Island is an amazing underwater adventure. On almost every dive, large schools of fish swimming around and overhead can be breathtaking. Sometimes the numbers are so great, that sunlight can actually be blocked by these large schools of fish, creating an underwater eclipse. Although not as common, the elusive whale shark and the giant bull shark are often spotted in the area.
The best time to see all this is from December to April, but any other time will give you plenty to enjoy as well. With crystal clear waters snorkeling is just as fulfilling as a deep water dive.
Cano Island has five popular dive sites:
El Bajo del Diablo (The Devil's Pinnacles): The best site in the area, and one of the best in all of Costa Rica. Towering rock pinnacles rise from over 150' to just under 20ft from the surface forming a maze of peaks and valleys. This site has the best visibility and is a great place to see the Giant Mantas. Groupers, snappers and amberjack reaching 70lbs swim alongside giant schools of bigeye jacks, barracuda, reef sharks and many other tropical fishes. At least four species of eels can be found, and with any luck, you may encounter a large school of mobula mantas numbering 25 or more.
- Cueva del Tiburon (Shark's Cave): A small cave that is home to, YEP, you guessed it.. Sharks! Other inhabitants include angels, butterfly, damsel and parrotfish. Moorish idols, puffers, surgeonfish, and occasionally mantas and stingrays are also seen. It's also a great location to see zebra, green and tiger snake eels.
- Los Arcos (The Arches): Unique rock formations in the shape or arches. Swim through these towering underwater arches and see fish similar to Shark's Cave's inhabitants.
- El Barco (The Wreck): No wreck here, only a variety of rock formations with the areas most plentiful array of hard corals. Marine life is abundant and its common to see white-tip reef sharks, sting rays, and the occasional sea turtle
- Paraiso (Paradise): Fish life abounds here as do white tip reef sharks. Huge schools of jacks, blue stripped snapper and barracuda along with grunts, lobsters, eels and occasionally octopus.
Contact us to arrange a great diving experience. Check out our Osa Eco Adventure Package
Although snorkeling in the region is good year round (especially in the early morning when the ocean is calm), its better in the peak seasons March thru May and September thru November. The major hot spots are Cahuita National Park and Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge where you can explore acres of coral of all shapes, sizes and colors with a ton of marine life.
There are over 35 species of coral along the 600 acres of shallow reef with along with a multitude of colorful marine life.
- 35 types of coral
- 11 species of sponge
- Algas & Blue-green algae
- 34 species of mollusk
- Sea cucumbers
- Butterfly fish
- Parrot fish
- Damsel fish
- Needle fish
- Schools of sergeant majors
- Long-Spined Urchins
- Drum fish
- Sea turtles
Did You Know?
On April 22, 1991 a powerful earthquake (M=7.5) struck the Limon Province destroying bridges and roads. It also left some the reefs that once grew beneath the surface of the water exposed to the air. Over 60% of it died. But, some of the reefs that were dying but remained below the surface of the water were actually rejuvenated since new fissures, where living coral still existed, were able to begin to grow again. Since then many protective measures to protect the reef have been implemented. With a healthy regenerating cycle there are some areas that the coral is 100% alive again.
Contact us for your snorkeling and diving adventure today.