Costa Rica is a small Central American country that features greater biodiversity than Europe or North America. A true tropical paradise, rich with rainforests and wildlife, Costa Rica boasts more than eight hundred miles of coastline. In recent times, the abundance of spectacular marine wildlife and fantastic diving conditions have also promoted it into an exciting diving destination.
Costa Rica is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. The Caribbean coast offers better diving conditions, while the Pacific coast offers more diving facilities. In the Pacific, except for the Gulf of Papagayo and Drake Bay, underwater visibility is considered poor. The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica actually has better underwater visibility, but is still underdeveloped. For now, scuba diving in Costa Rica is mostly concentrated in the Gulf of Papagayo, and around the Osa Penninsula at Caño Island.
Caño Island (Isla del Caño) is protected by the Costa Rican government as a marine biological reserve, and it’s easy to see why: deep, cold waters around the island are teeming with life. Underwater visibility is good. On almost every dive, large schools of fish can be observed: devils rays, manta rays, dolphins, barracudas, sea turtles, and white tip reef sharks are not an uncommon sight. Caño Island is said to be the best scuba diving spot in Costa Rica. Diver numbers are strictly regulated in order to protect the reserve.
The Gulf of Papagayo has volcanic formations and soft corals, however the underwater visibility is low because of the abundance of plankton in the waters. Nearby diving sites, Catalina and Bat Islands, are home to some of the best scuba diving in Costa Rica. Catalina Island is an advanced diving site with strong underwater currents. Bat Islands (Islas Murcielagos) are also an advanced diving site, and as a protected marine area on the edge of Santa Rosa National Park require special permission to dive. This is the only place in the country where it is possible to dive with the bull sharks.
Cocos Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Costa Rican protected National Parks, is frequently ranked among the top five scuba diving destinations in the world. Deep waters surrounding this remote, uninhabited island are home to the largest schools of hammerhead sharks in the world. One can encounter hundreds of species of fish living here; large pelagic species are also abundant. Cocos Island is only accessible by liveaboard dive vessels.
Visit www.scubadiving.co.cr for more information on scuba diving in Costa Rica, and especially Cocos Island.