Although Costa Rica is roughly ¼ the size of Florida, it is filled with an amazing abundance and diversity of life, both above and below the water. While the country is known primarily as an “eco-tourist” destination, boasting lush rainforests, active volcanoes and ecological wealth; the Pacific coast diving should not be overlooked. The oceans around Costa Rica are overflowing with fish and marine life, big and small. In addition to diving, Costa Rica is also known as a big-game fishing destination.
Costa Rica, in the heart of Central America, is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the West and the Caribbean Sea to the East, with a distance of 200 miles between them. Although it is bordered by Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the South, Costa Rica is an oasis of calm among its turbulent neighbors. It is of the best places to experience the tropics with minimal impact. Costa Rica’s enlightened approach to conservation has ensured that their lush jungles remain the home of monkeys, toucans, colorful poison-dart frogs and an assortment of exotic birds, insects and butterflies. The outside temperature at the beaches is 85° to 90° year round. The rainy (or ‘green’) season runs from May to November.
Diving in Costa Rica
Covering only .03% of the surface of the planet, Costa Rica has approximately 6% of the world’s biodiversity … and much of that can be seen beneath the seas. Seahorses, frogfish, sea turtles, giant schools of fish, and white-tip reef sharks are just a few of the exciting creatures that you are likely to encounter. But the real draw to diving in these cooler, nutrient-rich waters is the opportunity to see pelagics: schooling rays (golden cow nose, mantas, and spotted eagle), spinner dolphins, humpback whales, pilot whales and whale sharks. There are over 20 local dive sites around the Gulfo de Papagayo within a 30 minute boat ride from shore. However, for advanced divers, Bat and Catalina Islands are “must-dives.” These islands are approx. 1-2 hours by boat, but the chances of seeing “The Big Boys” – bull sharks, white-tip sharks, schools of cow-nosed rays and huge schools of horse-eye jacks are much greater. In addition, there have been sightings of schools of over 50 manta rays with 14-20 foot wingspans.
Average visibility ranges from 30 feet to 50 feet with the possibility of up to 80 feet. Dives are among volcanic rock formations and rock pinnacles. There is very little hard coral, although you will see black coral, soft coral and orange cup coral (opens up at night). Water temperature from mid-May to mid-December is generally from 75°-78° Fahrenheit at depth. From mid-December to mid-April, water temperatures vary from day to day, with thermo clines causing temperatures to dip to 70° at so make sure you bring appropriate exposure protection.
- Water Temp: 75-80°
- Visibility: 50-80′
- Wetsuit: 3mm to 5mm
Best Time to Travel
- Plan your dive trip between May and December for warmer waters, or go from December to March for big animal encounters.
Favorite Dive Sites
- Bat Island
- Monkey Head
- The Point, Catalina Islands
- The Wall, Cataling Islands
- Canopy jumping tours
- Arenal Volcano & Hot Springs tour
- River rafting