Costa Rica

Diving in Costa Rica

Diving in Costa Rica

Teeming with tropical rainforests, deserted beaches and bountiful wildlife, it’s almost unbelievable how biodiverse Costa Rica is. Thankfully, more than a quarter of the country is safe guarded by some form of environmental protection, allowing its flora to flourish and its fauna to remain unscathed. Costa Rica’s on-land beauty is obvious, but what if you venture beneath its turquoise-tinged waves? Like tumbling down a rabbit hole into a fantasy realm, diving in Costa Rica reveals a wealth of whacky and wonderful creatures. This underwater world can be neatly summed up by the translation of the country’s name; ‘Rich Coast’. In fact, Costa Rica boasts a duo of sea life-rich coastlines, due to its geographical position at the crossroads between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Read on to find out more about the Central American nation’s most prolific dive spots…

  1. Cocos Island
  2. Papagayo Peninsula
  3. Caño Island
  4. Bat Islands
  5. Catalina Islands


Cocos Island

Cocos Island’s reputation precedes it. Declared ‘the most beautiful island in the world’ by famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, the remote island doesn’t struggle to live up to this lofty claim. Positioned just over 340 miles from Costa Rica’s coastline, it is the only eastern Pacific Island with a tropical rainforest – and this unique feature caught UNESCO’s eye in 1997. The island also offered inspiration for the Jurassic Park movies and continues to inspire avid divers, with its year-round nutrient-rich currents and abundance of marine life. Hordes of hammerheads are the main residents here, but you can also expect to see sailfish, turtles, tuna, dolphins, eagle rays, marble rays and 27 different endemic fish species. Access is only possible via liveaboard, but this only aids the preservation of its surreptitious and special nature.


Papagayo Peninsula

Sometimes likened to a junior Galapagos, Papagayo is another fine spots for diving in Costa Rica, located on the country’s north Pacific Coast. As the apprentice of Charles Darwin’s favourite archipelago, Papagayo also isn’t big on coral. But what it lacks in this department, it more than makes up for with its thriving colonies of harlequin crown shrimp, herds of seahorses, bed of morays and flotillas of turtles. The peninsula also acts as a gateway to many of Costa Rica’s other dive hotspots such as the Bat  and the Catalina Islands.


Caño Island

Found off Costa Rica’s southern Osa Peninsula is the Caño Island Biological Reserve. As the name suggests, the region is protected so diving here is highly controlled in order to preserve the fragile eco-system. There are five official dive points and only ten divers are allowed in the water at one time. The success of its exclusive status and minimal human presence is evidenced by the prosperous populations of manta rays, bull sharks and nurse sharks, which call the site’s rocky peaks and canyons home.


Bat Islands

Another marine protected area is the Bat Islands, which are situated out past the Papagayo Peninsula on Costa Rica’s northwest coast. The volcanic archipelago is best known for its resident bull sharks, which have been observed cruising around the outermost islands at a staggering 23ft long. While these big fish undoubtedly govern the waters around here, smaller inhabitants like manta rays, moray eels, sea stars and wild octopuses have found their way to make the island’s waters home. When it comes to diving in Costa Rica, the Bat Islands tend to remain reserved for the most dedicated of divers, given the strong sea currents and depths which plunge as deep as 30 metres.


Catalina Islands

A collection of rugged, volcanic outcrops, the Catalina Islands sit pretty mid-way along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, between two and 15 miles offshore. The islands are surrounded by gin-clear waters and are home to an array of underwater topography. While vibrant corals cover intriguing natural rock formations and turtles and reef sharks glide in and out of gaping caves and arch-shaped structures, it is the rays that really rule roost underwater here. From eagle rays, giant Pacific manta rays and devil rays to bullseye rays, bat rays and Mobley rays, it's not so much about when you’ll see them, it’s about who you’ll see first.


Written by Luisa Watts