Diving in Costa Rica: When and Where to Dive in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is quickly becoming one of the the best places on the planet to scuba dive. With diving spots on both the Caribbean and Pacific Coast there’s a lot to explore here. From shipwrecks to marine life, spots for beginners to advanced divers – there’s something for everyone.
This does however present a slightly awkward problem.
Too much choice. And, not only that, a huge amount of information to sift through to ensure you find the best diving spot for you need and want.
The Best Locations and Times to Dive in The Caribbean and Pacific Coast
It’s important to make a distinction between those two words; need and want. What you want to do might not necessarily what you need to do.
For example; You may want to dive in open waters that are a 1000ft deep. But if your diving experience stretches to a quick snorkeling session 15 years ago – what you need will be widely different to what you want!
Luckily, with the huge array of diving spots available in Costa Rica, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced diver, Costa Rica can provide you with beautiful reefs, crystal blue waters and the most unique marine life in the world.
You just gotta know where to look…
Best Time to Dive in Costa Rica
If you’re looking to dive in Costa Rica it’s important to take note of the countries seasons. Seasons can be split into two categories; dry season and wet (or rainy) season.
Generally speaking the best time to dive in Costa Rica will be during dry season. Your safest bet would be between the months of December to April. Outside of these months, depending on where you are in the country, the weather can be hard to predict.
That said however, each month, whether dry or wet offers a different experience depending on where you want dive. Here’s a quick breakdown of each month;
December – April
Dry season can present a good time to dive for beginners as the water tend to be calmer. You’ll get to see the ‘underworld’ in all its colorful glory and experience visibility levels that can reach up to 100 feet.
Diving spots near Guanacaste and Quepos are good locations to plot up if you’re looking to dive around this time of the year with the Catalina Islands being a particularly good spot.
May – November
This time of the year is considered Rainy Season. Again, weather conditions can be hard to predict. A general rule of thumb is to expect a rain shower or two around mid-afternoon.
As a recommendation, we do not advise complete beginners to dive within these months. With more volatile waters and less visibility, diving around this time of the year is usually recommended for more advanced divers.
But, as mentioned above, depending on the location you choose you can still find a great spot to dive – no matter what your skill level is.
Keep reading for a breakdown of the best dive sites around Costa Rica…
Best Diving Locations in Costa Rica
There are 3 main diving regions in the Costa Rica:
- Pacific Coast: The more touristy side with plenty of locations to dive
- Caribbean Coast: Quieter side of the country with less diving spots.
- Coco’s Islands: Recommended for experienced divers only
We will now discuss a selection of dive locations in each of these regions…
Scuba Diving Locations of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica
1. Isla Del Cano
Isla del Cano or Cano island is located on the South West side of the country. This is a great alternative to Coco’s Islands for less experienced divers.
A popular dive school to check out is Cano Divers, located at Pirate Cover Hotel. The hotel offers:
- Small groups
- Tours that cover 3 Sites
- Open to all divers – whether you stay at Pirate Cover Hotel or not
You can check out more about Cano Divers here
2. Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio is found further up north from the Cano islands. With volcanic environments, deep waters and beautiful corals – Manuel Antonio offers a unique experience for both beginners and more experienced divers.
With around 15 dive sites located Manuel Antonio National Park, each one offering something different. Beginner divers are recommended to choose spots that are closer to shore between the months of December to May.
For more advanced divers, there are spots further out from shore that can be explored with stronger currents.
Giant manta rays, puffer fish, scorpion fish and sea turtles are among some of the sea life you should expect to see.
3. Tortuga Island:
Located just off shore to Tambon, Tortuga Island offers a total of 8 diving spots and 3 wreck sites with shallow and deep water that can cater for both beginners and advanced divers.
Visibility ranges anywhere between 10-30 meters with the best visibility during dry season months. That said however, due to the rich nutrients in the waters around this area, rainy season isn’t anywhere near as bad as other locations around the country – which makes Tortuga Island an excellent place to dive all year round.
4. Cabo Blanco island
Located not too far from Tortuga Island, Cabo Blanco was Costa Rica’s first nature reserve way back in 1963. It’s worth nothing, it’s not one of the more popular spaces for diving. It does however offer a diving experience that would be more suited for beginners and intermediate divers.
Advanced divers are probably better choosing another spot such as Manuel Antonio and Tortuga.
5. Highly Recommended: Catalina Islands:
Located on the north pacific coast, the Catalina Islands offer divers one of the best spots for diving in Costa Rica. These volcanic islands are known to harbor rich marine life that can’t be found anywhere else.
While you might come across a strong current, visibility can reach up to 75ft – making it a fantastic place for divers to explore and view the beauty that surrounds the islands.
It’s also a great place to dive no matter what time of the year you visit Costa Rica. If you’re staying around the Guanacaste area, we highly recommend you check it out.
6. Bat islands
Last on our list for the pacific coast are the Bat Islands. A marine protected area, the bat Islands offer divers a chance to dive in water home to the bull shark.
If you’re one for a deeper diving experience, the waters that surround the islands can reach up to 100 feet deep. Unlike the Catalina Islands however, visibility can differ, even during the same dive.
The best time dive in the Bat Islands tends to be between the months of May and November. So, if you’re visiting Costa Rica around this time, head up north and you’ll enjoy warmer waters and pleasant air conditions.
Scuba Diving Locations of the Carribean Coast of Costa Rica
Moving over to the other side of the country – you’ve got the Caribbean coast. While you’ll find more diving spots on the Pacific Coast, the Caribbean coast is the more laid back and less touristy side that still has some great diving spots to explore.
Generally speaking the best time to dive on the Caribbean Coast is between the months February to March but, expect warm waters pretty much all year round.
1. Isla Uvita
Located just offshore to 2nd largest city in Costa Rica, Limon, Isla Uvita has its name etched in the history books as being the first landing spot of the Christopher Columbus. Exploring the waters that surround Uvita you’ll not only be able to share your space with the majestic marine life that inhabits these waters but you’ll also get the opportunity to wreck dive and explore The Phoenix shipwreck.
The town of Cahuita is small but beautiful place that offers divers crystal blue waters with a reef that harbours 2 separate shipwrecks. If you’re looking for a diving opportunity that brings huge variety of fish, a beautiful coral reef and the option of both strong and calm waters – then Cahuita should be on your dive to do list.
The reef itself starts at around 500 meters out from the shoreline. Water temperatures stay at around 80 degrees with visibility ranging anywhere between 20-70 ft.
There’s a whole host of marine life to see and depending on the time of year and visibility levels you’ll even get a chance to dive with sharks.
The main dives spots to check out are; Cahuita National Park, Punta Uva and Gandoca.
Scuba Diving the Cocos Islands of Costa Rica
Finally, we’ve got the Cocos Islands.
Now, due to the strong currents and the type of diving activity on offer here it’s usually recommended for advanced divers only.
The Coco Islands are a little bit different from the other spots as the only way in which you can experience diving here is by boarding a diving live-aboard vessel. Each trip lasts anywhere between 5-10 days with a unique opportunity to diver in waters up to 1000 feet deep.
Best time to dive at Cocos Islands is between the months of June to December.
From shipwrecks to marine life, reefs to sharks, each location offers something unique. It’s worth keeping in mind however, the diving spot you choose for your next adventure should match up with your level of skill underwater. Also, the school and / or tour company you use should be accredited.
So where’s your next dive trip going to be?
As you can see, it’s no surprise why Costa Rica has become one of the go to spots in the world for diving. Home to marine life not found anywhere else on the planet, lush coral reefs, and the chance to explore a bit of history – diving in Costa Rica is definitely something that should be on the top of your bucket list.
With diving spots suitable for beginners, intermediate and advanced divers, everyone has a chance to explore the wonders that surround this beautiful country.
As a parting piece of advice, if you’re looking to dive in Costa Rica and want some more information we recommend checking out both PADI Travel and Costa Rica Scuba for more detailed information on each location, the dive centers available and booking your next diving experience.