Costa Rica has become one of the most prized international destinations, in particular for scuba diving and snorkelling, as well as for its incredible biodiversity (the country contains nearly 6 % of the world’s biodiversity!). Indeed, this is evidenced by the fact that, some years ago, the readers of Rodale’s Scuba Diving elected the Pacific Coast as one of top five places in the world for experienced divers.
In Costa Rica, multi-coloured fish, manta rays, barracudas, sharks, sea turtles, and coral reefs move about in waters between 24 and 27°C. Even though it is possible to dive all year long, the best time is during the dry season, which runs from November to April.
WHERE TO DIVE IN COSTA RICA?
The very protected Caño Island is a magnificent jewel of Costa Rica. In order to preserve it in the best possible way, the access to the reserve and its waters is strictly limited. There, it is possible to do either scuba diving or snorkelling. You often come across small silvertip sharks, shoals of barracudas, groupers, Moorish idols, and pufferfish. With its platforms of low coral reefs, Caño Island is a true submarine sanctuary. Dive in the authorised areas and admire the marine life: corals, crayfish, fish, turtles, rays, moray eels, and so on. It may even happen that several trevallies, dolphins, and whales move about in the waters off the coasts of the island.
GULF OF PAPAGAYO
Bat Islands compose the north part of Santa Rosa National Park, and are a true paradise for experienced divers (beware of waves and unpredictable strong currents). It is not unusual to see sea breams, mackerels, swordfish, spotted eagle rays, manta rays, or even shoals of sand tiger sharks! It is probably for this reason that this site is often compared to Coco Island.
MARINO BALLENA NATIONAL PARK
Composed of three small islands named “las tres hermanas” (the three sisters), Ballena Island forms the largest coral reef of the Pacific coast of Central America. Fish to be spotted in the waters of Marino Ballena National Park include parrotfish, whales, dolphins, butterflyfish, turtles, and starfish.
PLAYAS COCO – OCOTAL – HERMOSA
We recommend you go to Playas del Coco, where several dive centres offer a good quality/price ratio. While coral remains limited and the visibility is not great, the abundance of marine life and large shoals of fish certainly make up for it. In this region of Costa Rica, it is often possible to see manta rays and sharks.
Renowned for its pristine beaches, Isla Tortuga is also a good spot for snorkelling, given the beauty of the coral reefs and of the colourful fish that live nearby.
CAHUITA – PUERTO VIEJO – MANZANILLO
Differing from the Pacific coast, the Caribbean coast is not home to any worthy diving spot yet. However, the rare ones that you can find there are pretty unique; on this side of the country, the experience is completely different: the fish are more colourful, and the waters conceal many small coral reefs. Furthermore, scuba diving along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast has the advantage of clearer waters and better visibility, especially if it is not raining and that the swell is weak.
In Cahuita National Park, snorkelling is authorized, but not scuba diving. While going to the beach, you can spot caimans in the freshwater rivers, and then swim to a nice coral reef around wish you will see parrotfish, crayfish, and green turtles.
Located 550 kilometres off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Cocos Island National Park is considered as the most virgin island in the world. This uninhabited park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Diving there means having the opportunity to watch silvertip sharks, manta rays, parrotfish, dolphins, green turtles, and many more species! According to current data, the seabed of Cocos Island would be home to more than 18 species of coral, 57 species of crustaceans, and 3 dolphin species!