Scuba diving in Costa Rica is exciting and diverse, and many divers look forward to exploring the clear seas around Costa Rica’s offshore islands year after year. While snorkeling can be a challenge here and is not a big part of Costa Rica tourism, scuba diving is wildly popular, and for good reason.
The clear seas off the shores of Bat Island, the Catalina Islands, and Cano Island are home to manta rays, moray eels, white-tipped sharks, and colorful, exotic tropical fish, not to mention beautiful and varied coral species.
If scuba diving in Costa Rica is at the top of your ‘to do’ list, however, the ultimate experience is a 10-day chartered off-shore diving trip to Cocos Island. You will dine on board the ship, sleep on board, and spend the days scuba diving and exploring the island itself. Expect to see schools of hammerhead sharks, the occasional octopi, spiny lobsters, angel fish, trigger fish, tangs, hawksbill turtles, and more.
The voyage to Cocos Island is a long one. The ultimate experience scuba diving in Costa Rica on Cocos involves 30 to 36 hours of just getting there. Also, be aware that not all scuba diving in Costa Rica is created equal. Cocos Island offers mostly deep sea diving, and it can be challenging. Beginners will want to stick to the Island or sunning on deck.
Beginners will be happy to hear that Costa Rica diving closer to shore offers plenty of opportunities for shallow exploration. Islands, rocks, caves and reefs aplenty give even novice divers something exhilarating to experience.
Unfortunately, run off from the banana plantations destroyed many of Costa Rica’s offshore coral reefs, and the muddy rivers and unpredictable weather can make visibility an issue.
Despite these challenges, fantastic offshore Costa Rica diving opportunities still exist off Isla Uvita, near Limon, and Manzanillo, on the Caribbean Coast near the Panamanian border. The calmest months for exploring the coral reefs off Manzanillo Beach are September and October, when the weather is mild and the waters are crystal clear.
Many of the resort Playas on the Pacific Coast also offer diving classes as part of the menu of fun tourist activities, so check at your hotel desk if newbie diving in Costa Rica is something you’d like to try.
To book a Costa Rica diving trip customized to your own abilities and interests, check out Diving Mania (www.divingmania.com), centered in San Jose, or Diving Safaris de Costa Rica (www.costaricadiving.net), possibly the best diving operation in the country.
Diving Safaris de Costa Rica, based out of the Sol Playa Hermosa in Playa Hermosa on the Pacific Coast, is also a local pioneer in outfitting the specialized sport of Nitrox diving.