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Costa Rica Scuba Diving: Exploring the Underwater Wonders

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: May 10, 2023

Costa Rica is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, from its lush rainforests to its pristine beaches. But it’s also a paradise for scuba diving enthusiasts. With an abundance of marine life, crystal-clear waters, and diverse dive sites, Costa Rica offers a scuba diving experience unlike any other.

Best Scuba Diving Spots in Costa Rica

Cocos Island

Located off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Cocos Island is a world-renowned scuba diving destination. This remote island offers some of the best diving in the world, with abundant marine life and stunning underwater topography. Divers can expect to see schools of hammerhead sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, and more. The island is a protected national park, and diving is only permitted with licensed dive operators.

Catalina Islands

The Catalina Islands are a group of volcanic islets located in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Guanacaste. This area is known for its clear waters and vibrant marine life. Divers can explore coral reefs, rock formations, and sandy bottoms, and spot a variety of fish species, octopuses, eels, and more. This area is also known for its encounters with giant manta rays.

Cano Island

Located off the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Cano Island is a marine biological reserve and one of the best scuba diving spots in the country. The island’s coral reefs are home to a variety of marine life, including reef sharks, rays, and sea turtles. Divers can explore volcanic rock formations and deep canyons, and spot schools of tropical fish and colourful sea sponges.

Bat Islands

Located off the coast of Santa Rosa National Park in Guanacaste, the Bat Islands are named after the colony of bats that inhabit the area. This area is known for its strong currents and big animal encounters, including bull sharks, manta rays, and humpback whales (in season). Divers can explore underwater rock formations and walls, and spot schools of jacks, barracudas, and snappers.


The Guanacaste region is located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and offers a variety of scuba diving spots for divers of all levels. The area is known for its abundant marine life, including sea turtles, eagle rays, and octopuses. Divers can explore coral reefs, sandy bottoms, and rock formations, and spot a variety of fish species, including snappers, groupers, and puffers.

What to Expect When Scuba Diving in Costa Rica

Water temperature and visibility

The water temperature in Costa Rica ranges from 75-85°F (24-29°C) year-round, making it comfortable for diving in a wetsuit. Visibility can vary depending on the location and time of year, but it’s generally clear and ranges from 30-100 feet (10-30 metres).

Marine life

Costa Rica is home to an incredible diversity of marine life, from tiny nudibranchs to giant whale sharks. Divers can expect to see a variety of fish species, including parrotfish, angelfish, and surgeonfish. Larger marine animals such as sharks, rays, and sea turtles are also commonly spotted. During the humpback whale migration season (July to November), divers can even hear the whalesDiving conditions and level of difficulty

Diving conditions can vary depending on the location and time of year. Some areas, such as Cocos Island, can have strong currents and choppy seas, which can make diving more challenging. Other areas, such as the Catalina Islands and Cano Island, offer more calm and predictable conditions, making them ideal for beginner divers.

Tips for Scuba Diving in Costa Rica

When is the best time to go?

The best time to go scuba diving in Costa Rica is during the dry season, which runs from December to April. During this time, the seas are generally calmer, and visibility is at its best. However, diving is possible year-round in Costa Rica, and some areas, such as Cocos Island, offer the best diving conditions during the rainy season.

What to pack and what to wear

When diving in Costa Rica, it’s important to pack appropriate gear and clothing. Bring a wetsuit, dive computer, and any other dive gear you prefer to use. Also, pack lightweight clothing for when you’re not diving, and a waterproof bag to keep your gear dry. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.

How to choose a reputable dive operator

Before booking your dive, research local dive operators and their safety records. Look for operators who are certified by internationally recognized organisations and have positive reviews from other divers. Make sure to ask about the dive conditions and what to expect during the dive.

Conservation efforts and responsible diving practices

Costa Rica is home to a variety of fragile marine ecosystems, and it’s important to practise responsible diving to help protect them. Follow all diving rules and regulations, and avoid touching or disturbing marine life. Use reef-safe sunscreen, and dispose of all trash properly.

Scuba diving in Costa Rica is an unforgettable experience that offers a glimpse into the incredible diversity of marine life that inhabits its waters. With its crystal-clear waters, abundant marine life, and diverse dive sites, Costa Rica is a paradise for scuba diving enthusiasts. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced diver, there’s something for everyone in Costa Rica’s underwater world. Curious to discover more of Costa Rica’s natural wonders? Why not try volunteering with GVI! You’ll get to be immersed in local culture while learning about the spectacular ecosystems of this beautiful country. Check out GVI’s volunteer programs in Costa Rica today. 

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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