Costa Rica is a rewarding SCUBA diver’s playground, home to some of the most life-rich seas in the world. Being a compact country and an easy-to-reach holiday destination to boot, makes it arguably the very best SCUBA location in all of Central America.
Not only do phenomenal dive sites abound, but the sheer variety of every other type of activity you may fancy – like zip-lining, volcano climbing, jungle trekking and white water rafting – means that you can land in Costa Rica just a few hours after leaving home, and have a near-endless choice of fun, exhilarating, relaxing and rewarding activities right at your fingertips.
Costa Rica’s Underwater World: a Treasured Highlight
Costa Rica is renowned as one of the most bio-diverse nations on earth and the wilderness and wildlife abundance certainly doesn’t stop at its pristine sandy shores. Below the surface of the crystalline seas, Costa Rica is an incredibly colorful, fertile and vibrant world, brimming with amazing creatures.
The land of turtles, dolphins and whales, Costa Rica’s waters hide moray eels, sharks, sting and manta rays, soft and hard coral, angel fish, octopus, snappers, grunts, and simply thousands of species of multi-colored tropical fish. Every season serves up a different scene, every day a kaleidoscope of new discoveries. Whether you head to the more famous and best developed Pacific side or the lesser-visited Caribbean side, you’ll find amazing diving and snorkeling sites abounding.
Best Time for SCUBA diving in Costa Rica
May is probably the best time to visit Costa Rica on a diving vacation, with conditions being neither too wet nor too windy for great diving with excellent visibility. Temps range between 70 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and wet suits are recommended for those who suffer the cold easily. The months between November and May are lovely and dry with the best visibility, but it can get a tad windy. Do note that hammerhead shark season is between June and November.
The most popular dive areas are on the west coast, along the Osa Peninsula and the Gulf of Papagayo. This does not mean that other areas are not good for diving, but simply that this is where the great majority of tourist infrastructure has been set up. There is an abundance of sites for very experienced divers, from vertiginous depths to strong currents, some of the country’s best spots can be a challenge to learners so do make sure your guide is well aware of your diving skills before heading out into the open water.
Fantastic visibility is what makes Costa Rica a particularly coveted SCUBA diving destination, with many spots reaching down to 130 feet. Amazingly, schools of fish can be so incredibly numerous, as to cause solar eclipses underwater, one of the most breathtaking spectacles you could ever experience.
Best Diving spots in Costa Rica
Cocos Island – The UNESCO listed Cocos is, without a doubt, the best and most popular diving site in the entire country. Just 300 miles off the western coast, and part of the Puntarenas Province, the Cocos is a fiercely protected island with only Park Rangers allowed as inhabitants.
Particularly revered as a breeding ground for hammerhead sharks, dolphins and rays, among many other species, this is one of the world’s top 10 diving meccas and a must-include in any diver’s itinerary to Costa Rica. Due to the very unique geographical location, Cocos is inherently different to its southern ‘cousins’ the Galapagos, offering a much more luscious landscape along with an array of marine life. Jacques Cousteau himself called this “the most beautiful island in the world” and hammerheads agree: the largest schools of such sharks ever recorded in the world, have congregated right here. The Cocos is reachable on liveaboard boat excursions.
Gulf of Papagayo – Home to nearly 50 spectacular dive sites, the Gulf of Papagayo is varied, convenient and immensely beautiful. White-tipped sharks and spotted eagle rays pull the most crowds, with outstanding volcanic rock formations providing refuge for countless species. Deep and shallow dives on offer here.
Cano Island – On the southwestern corner of Costa Rica is Cano Island, a spot many come to in the hope of swimming alongside whale sharks. Lots of stingrays, eels and turtles galore complement the astounding landscapes.
Snorkeling here is just as rewarding as diving so if your travel companions prefers to snorkel this is definitely the spot you should head to.
Playa Hermosa and Playa del Coco
Have only a few days available or wish to get certified? Then these two spots are ideal for you. The perfect short break destinations, these two beaches may offer limited depth and visibility, yet this makes them ideal for learners and those who don’t wish nor have time to head out to faraway islands. One of the country’s most popular seaside hubs, Playas Hermosa and Cocos are just 10 miles from the Liberia Airport in Guanacaste Province, and just 3.5hr drive from San Jose.
Cahuita National Park – on the South-eastern Caribbean corner is where you’ll find the most underrated and relaxing diving location of all. With a reef home to almost 40 species of corals, hundreds of mollusks and colorful fish, the waters off Puerto Viejo are brimming with sea life and make for a fantastic addition to an adventure trip on the east coast.
Whether heading to Costa Rica for a wedding, or the adventure trip of a lifetime, add a SCUBA diving excursion to your itinerary. Take the best this country has to offer both in and out of the water and you’re bound to have one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life.