No matter what adventure you crave, you’ll find it in Costa Rica — both topside and underwater. Try speeding through the rainforest canopy on a zip line or scuba diving with bull sharks. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica is a prime ecotourism destination and boasts some of the world’s most biologically diverse habitats – including rainforest, volcano and mangrove ecosystems. 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. Guanacaste is a giant bay off the northwest coast that provides access to Catalina and Bat Islands – key dive areas. The southern area is a protected biological reserve and offers the chance to see rays, turtles, and white-tip reef sharks. Plus, you’ll see large schools of fish swimming overhead on almost every dive. You can also get out to Cocos Island off the Pacific coast to dive with its hammerhead shark schools, whale sharks and manta rays.
- Cocos Island – Because reaching Cocos Island National Marine Park requires a lengthy boat trip, most divers visit on a liveaboard dive vessel. 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.
- Caño Island – Expect to find a large number of reef fish species on the pinnacles and coral reef that surround the island. You’ll also likely see bigger creatures such as manta rays, free-swimming moray eels and sharks. Mammals, such as orcas, dolphins, humpback and pilot whales are known to cruise through.
- Catalina Islands – The unique underwater structure is what draws divers to these islands. Look for arches and caves, plus vibrant coral growing on the volcanic rock formations. You may see several different kinds of rays and sharks as well as sea turtles.
- Big Scare, Bat Island – What better way to get your heart racing then by diving with bull sharks? You’ll also have the chance to spot other large pelagics like manta rays, sailfish and the occasional whale or dolphin. This dive site drops to more than 30 metres/100 feet and can have a strong current. It is best suited for advanced divers.
- Virador – This volcanic island acts like a magnet to sea life. There’s a shark cave at 10 metres/33 feet and frequently there are large stingrays and white-tipped reef sharks at 22 metres/70 feet. You’ll also see huge schools of grunts, snapper, king angelfish and sergeant majors.
- Tortuga Islands – There are three shipwrecks to visit off the Tortuga Islands. The Franklin Chang Diaz and Coronel Alfonso Monge were both Coast Guard ships that now lie comfortably below the surface within scuba diving depths. Nearby, the Caroline Star, sits a little deeper at 30 metres/100 feet and is home to white-tip reef sharks and a variety of tropical fish.
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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 – Generally ranges from 26-29ºC/78-84ºF. From December through March, cooler currents bring water temperatures as low as 19ºC/68ºF along with large animals such as humpback whales, pilot whales, giant manta rays, whale sharks, and more.
Weather – Seasonal air temperature averages vary widely and with altitude, but in general, along the coasts, it’s 27°C/82°F in winter and 33°C/92°F in summer. The dry season is from December to April and the rainy season runs from May to November. Rain can be expected in the afternoons, with the mornings usually sunny. Diving is good all year.
Featured Creatures – You’ll find 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.
Recommended Training – Take the PADI Deep Diver and Drift Diver courses to be prepared for the pinnacle and seamount dives in Costa Rica. The AWARE – Coral Reef Conservation and the AWARE – Fish Identification courses will help you appreciate the many marine protected areas.
Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.
Language – Spanish is the official language, although English is commonly spoken.
Currency – Costa Rican Colon. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Major Airports – There are two international airports in Costa Rica - Juan Santamaría International Airport in Alajuela and Daniel Oduber International Airport in Guanacaste.
Electricity and Internet – Electricity is 110 volts, 60 Hz. Internet is widely available.
Topside Attractions – Canopy tours are the ideal way to get a bird’s-eye view of the forest. With so many volcanoes, Costa Rica has exquisite hot spring experiences. Check out more than 50 famous surf spots or go whitewater rafting.