Any nature lover will find a paradise in Costa Rica. From the white sand beaches to the dense forests, Costa Rica is teeming with exotic wildlife and breathtaking views. Regardless of your reasons for visiting this popular destination, we know you’ll be itching for a good nature hike, a nap under the palm trees, and a dip in the crystal-clear waters. Natural beauty spans as far as the eye can see, and a whole lot farther. To experience the depths of what Costa Rica offers in terms of natural beauty, locals and visitors alike are flocking to popular diving destinations. The small country of Costa Rica offers nearly 800 miles of shoreline and over 300 beaches, spanning from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. Each beach has its own unique beauty and variety of sea life. With diving and snorkeling expeditions being offered in nearly every populated beach town, it can be difficult to decide which is the best opportunity to see the most diverse sea life. Nature lovers ourselves, we understand the need to experience the finest diving spots and best access to diverse marine life. To help you on your journey, we’ve compiled a list of 5 must-see diving destinations in Costa Rica. Happy diving!
- Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Reserve
Gandoca Manzanillo is a wildlife reserve in the Caribbean coast, where the natural sites are astounding but the diving expeditions are more difficult to find. Fortunately for tropical nature lovers, Gandoca Manzanillo offers multiple diving tours spanning from 2 to 4 hours that you won’t want to miss. For most visitors to Costa Rica, Caribbean wildlife is exotic and new, this tour will introduce you to coral reefs, inlets, small islands, and the marine life which inhabits these environments. Gandoca Manzanillo is most famously known for its vibrantly colored, salt water marine animals, mainly parrot fish, angel fish, sea fans, anemones, urchins, sea cucumbers, and sponges. As though these exotic reef inhabitants aren’t enough, on a long diving tour you’re sure to also see manta rays, sea turtles, nurse sharks, and possibly a glimpse of a manatee, crocodile, or dolphin.
- Coco’s Island
Coco’s Island is a natural reserve nearly 300 miles off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This island was declared a nature sanctuary in 1978, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, and was ranked 2nd in the islands section of the “New 7 Wonders of the World.” The world-admired natural sanctuary has been off-limits to any inhabitants and has only been touched by Park Rangers since the 1970s. This breathtaking wonder, however, has been opened up for diving expeditions for any adventurers itching to experience the island’s beauty. The area was originally opened as the counter-current makes it the ideal spot to study marine wildlife, but has remained opened for researchers and admirers alike. On what will undoubtedly be a magical dive, you’re likely to come across sharks, rays, and giant tuna in extremely high volume.
- Catalina Islands
A span of 20 islands only 30 minutes from Tamarindo beach make the Catalina Islands a breathtaking and convenient trip for any visitor to the Guanacaste area. This region is known for its visibility and almost indigo water. Due to warm water and predictable weather patterns, diving off the coast of the Catalina Islands is a year-round option. A natural habitat for various marine species, this high-visibility area may be your best option to see a huge variety of sea life, including barracuda, scorpion fish, barber fish, king angelfish, Cortez angelfish, whale sharks, killer whales, white sharks, humpback whales, and spinner dolphins, among many, many more. Sting ray enthusiasts will not want to miss this opportunity as you are likely to see up to 8 different species of rays during your dive, and with any luck, you’ll experience the 20-foot wingspan of the Giant Manta Ray.
- Murcielago Islands
Also in the Guanacaste Region, the Murcielogo Islands, commonly referred to as the “bat islands,” is an exclusive diving opportunity for advanced divers. Entry and exit can be a bit tricky in these waters due to a strong current, so you’ll need some experience before trying to brave these depths. For those adventurers who do make the plunge, you’ll find yourself with up to 90 feet of visibility and access to the sea’s darkest and most difficult to spot species. Black tuna, barracuda, and mako sharks frequent the dive locations, adding an extra adrenaline rush to an already exciting dive. Access to these rarely seen species only an hour boat ride from shore makes this opportunity a once in a lifetime.
- The Coral Gardens
The Coral Gardens offer an excellent diving opportunity for the whole family. With only 15 to 40 feet of depth, this expedition is an amazing opportunity for first-time divers, but offers views and experiences that the expert diver in your family won’t want to miss. This extensive span of reef is home to an unknown number of vibrant, tropical fish as well as sea turtles, dolphins, crabs, giant lobsters, eels, manta rays, octopus, whales, and more. You’ll experience the entire rainbow of fish colors during even a short dive and are guaranteed the tour of a lifetime.