Scuba Diving Costa Rica

The crystalline waters that border Costa Rica contain an impressive variety of marine life, with everything from sea turtles and manta rays to dolphins and sharks existing beneath the rolling blue waves.

Costa Rica, which means “rich coast”, offers abundant adventures at its many beach destinations. No matter what adventure you crave, you’ll find it in Costa Rica — both topside and underwater. Costa Rica extends majestically from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. Its land portion occupies only 20 thousand square miles. The country is surprisingly accessible – one can travel from coast to coast in just three hours by car (or 45 minutes by plane).

Costa Rica is known for its beaches, volcanoes and immense biodiversity. Roughly a quarter of its area is made up of protected jungle, rich with wildlife including spider monkeys and quetzal birds.  A prime ecotourism destination and boasts some of the world’s most biologically diverse habitats – including rainforest, volcano and mangrove ecosystems.

For action vacation, there are so many sports that you choose from, surfing, hiking, rafting, canopying, diving, deep water fishing and snorkeling. You can go with a low budget or seek the more exclusive resorts. 

For relaxation there are beautiful unique golf courses and luxury spas. The hotels have all the modern comforts in the most private and secluded environments.

Costa Rica’s underwater wonders range from coastal coral reefs to offshore islands. Those varied dive spots contain diverse and beautiful marine life that includes giant manta rays, timid sea turtles, colorful angel fish, intricate coral formations, psychedelic sea slugs, spiny puffer fish, delicate sea fans, curious dolphins and, on rare occasions, whales.

Costa Rica has it all.

COSTA RICA DIVE AREAS

While the Caribbean coast has yet to develop a serious scuba diving infrastructure, diving off the Pacific Coast is nothing short of spectacular. The underwater volcanic rock formations and pinnacles are home to small hard corals, sponges and gorgonians.

Costa Rica diving
bull shark at bat island

Guanacaste & the Gulf of Papagayo – Northwest Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The Gulf is widely recognized as the premiere diving destination in Costa Rica. With its sun swept beaches and rocky offshore islands this area offers a variety of diving adventures for all levels of scuba divers. Most of the Pagayao dive sites  sites accommodate all levels of experience from beginners to advanced divers. For more advanced diving there are the Catalina  and Bat Islands.  

Guanacaste is an immense bay with the best known areas of Catalina Islands & Bat Islands. The Catalina Islands aka “the Cats” are, without a doubt, one of the most sought-after scuba dive locations in Costa Rica.   The Islands are known for huge schools of fish, large schools of Devil or Cow Nose Rays. Humpback Whale, Dolphins or Orca Whales are occasionally sighted there. Another huge attraction to is the Pacific Giant Mantas. These Mantas, which are also found on  Catalina Island diving trips, are the largest of the species in the world. The mantas are joined by schools of their smaller relative, the Devil Ray. The much smaller devil rays can sometimes be found in schools by the hundreds and even thousands majestically traveling through the water eating the plankton from the nutrient rich waters.

The Bat Islands are a world class dive location for advanced divers in Costa Rica The area has been protected as a marine preserve by the country as part of the national park. The Bat Islands are full of marine life. There are huge schools of different species of fish ranging in size from small to huge. There are also massive schools of Rays that pass through the area. For divers, the area is most famous for the encounters that you can have with the very large bull shark!

Cano Island – Drake Bay – Southwest Pacific Costa Rica. Protected by the Government, Cano Island is an incredible marine biological reserve that is best appreciated when diving or snorkeling. Enjoy frequent sightings of exotic marine life including dolphins, whales, false orcas, sea turtles as well as many marine birds. And when you are not in the water, the beach and its surrounding are reminiscent of some small hidden paradise. The Cano Island also hide an amazing archeological site where divers can see two of the 300 or so stone spheres from pre-Colombian times that were discovered together with other historical pieces. The Virgin Waters of Cano Island are some of the clearest and bluest of the country, and they hide a spectacular marine life, with exotic tropical fish, of which sharks, as well as dolphins and whales, turtles and coral reefs.

The Cocos Islands – The underwater world of this national park has become famous due to the attraction it holds for divers, who rate it as one of the best places in the world to view large pelagic species such as sharks, rays, tuna and dolphins. Besides the pelagic species – marlin, sailfish, rays and sharks – that are drawn to the area, you’ll find more than 25 endemic fish species, including the red-lipped batfish. Whales also use the Cocos Island seamount as a place to congregate and calve. Only way to dive in the Cocos Islands is by live-aboard, Sea Hunter, Argo, Okeanos Aggressor I and II.

DIVE INFORMATION

DIVE SEASON: The dry season runs from November to May but can be very windy. From June to November is the rainy season when hammerhead sharks are more frequent. Dec-March has large animals such as humpback whales, pilot whales, giant manta rays, whale sharks, and more.

VISIBILITY: Depending on the area, visibility usually ranges from 15-30 metres/50-100 feet. June through September generally brings the best visibility.

WATER TEMPERATURE: Sea temperature ranges from 21 to 29 oC (70 to 85 oF):  From December through March, cooler currents bring water temperatures as low as 19ºC/68ºF

MARINE LIFE: Eagle rays, turtles, manta rays, white-tipped reef sharks, bull sharks, enormous schools of both grunts and jacks, parrotfish, moray eels, dolphin and more. During whale season (January, February and March) you can hear the haunting songs of humpback and pilot whales underwater. You can also see humpbacks in June and July as they migrate from the southern hemisphere.

GENERAL INFORMATION

CLIMATE: The climate is tropical year round. However, the country has many micro climates depending on elevation, rainfall, topography, and by the geography of each particular region.

SEASONS: Costa Rica’s seasons are defined by how much rain falls during a particular period. The year can be split into two periods, the dry season known to the residents as summer, and the rainy season, known locally as winter. The “summer” or dry season goes from December to April, and “winter” or rainy season goes from May to November, which almost coincides with the Atlantic hurricane season, and during this time, it rains constantly in some regions.

LANGUAGE: Spanish is the official language, although English is commonly spoken.

ELECTRICITY:  Costa Rica uses a 110V/60Hz power system that is compatible with North American devices, power surges and fluctuation are frequent.

CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: Costa Rican Colon. Credit cards are widely accepted.

GRATUITIES: A tip of 10% of the total bill is the usual practice. But if the bill already includes a 10% service charge, tipping is optional.

PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: To call Costa Rica from abroad, use the country code (506) before the eight-digit number. Mobile service now covers most of the country and nearly all of the country that is accessible to tourists. Internet is widely available. Wi-Fi is common in all mid range and top-end hotels, and in the vast majority of budget hotels and hostels. 

VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS:  Passport-carrying nationals of the following countries are allowed 90 days’ stay with no visa: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, South Africa, the US and most Western European countries.  Most other visitors require a visa from a Costa Rican embassy or consulate. Citizens of all nations are required to have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the dates of your trip. Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days.

Note: The law requires that you carry your passport at all times; if you’re driving, you must have your passport handy, but otherwise the law is seldom enforced.

For latest info on visa, please check on Costa Rican Embassy

GETTING THERE: There are two international airports in Costa Rica – Juan Santamaría International Airport in Alajuela and Daniel Oduber International Airport in Guanacaste.

CUSTOMS: All travelers over the age of 18 are allowed to enter the country with 5L of wine or spirits and 500g of processed tobacco (400 cigarettes or 50 cigars).

DEPARTURE TAX: The departure tax (sometimes called an exit tax) may be included in the cost of international airline tickets purchased any time after June 2015. If the departure tax for Costa Rica was not included in your airline tickets it must still be paid in cash (U.S. dollars or Costa Rican Colones) or by credit card (extra fees apply) before you check in at the airline counter for your flight.  The tax is $29 per person.

USEFUL INFORMATION

Costa Rica Tourism Information

Map

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Scuba Diving Resource makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.  Please note that regulations and information can change at any time.

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