Discover the underwater wonders of Costa Rica and embark on an adventure unlike any other. With its vibrant marine life, breathtaking coral reefs, and diverse dive sites, Costa Rica offers a scuba diving experience that will leave you in awe.

Scuba diving in Costa Rica is a dream come true for both beginners and experienced divers. Located between the Pacific Ocean and the southern Caribbean Sea, this tropical paradise boasts a rich biodiversity and an array of habitats to explore.

On the west coast, sites such as the Catalinas and Bat Islands attract big pelagic fish and mammals, while the famous Cocos Island is renowned for its hammerhead sharks. Meanwhile, the Caribbean reefs on the east coast offer a relaxing alternative with a plethora of tropical marine life.

Key Takeaways:

  • Costa Rica offers scuba diving experiences for divers of all levels.
  • The country’s location between the Pacific Ocean and the southern Caribbean Sea creates diverse habitats and rich biodiversity.
  • Popular dive locations include the Catalina Islands, Bat Islands, Cocos Island, and Cano Island.
  • Diving conditions vary, with water temperatures ranging from 78-85°F (26-29°C) on the Pacific Coast and Caribbean.
  • Encounter a wide range of marine life, including sharks, manta rays, humpback whales, and tropical fish.

Dive Locations in Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers some of the best dive locations in the world, catering to divers of all experience levels. From the legendary Cocos Island to the picturesque Catalina Islands, the country is a haven for underwater enthusiasts. Here are some of the top dive sites in Costa Rica:

Cocos Island

Cocos Island

Frequently referred to as the “Island of the Sharks,” Cocos Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a dream destination for advanced divers. Its remote location, approximately 340 miles off the Pacific coast, ensures pristine diving conditions and incredible encounters with hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, and other large pelagic species.

Catalina Islands

The Catalina Islands, located in the Papagayo Gulf, offer excellent diving opportunities for divers of all levels. The archipelago is known for its vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life and frequent encounters with rays. Divers can explore underwater caves, swim alongside turtles, and marvel at the colorful fish that call these reefs home.

Bat Islands

The Bat Islands, also known as Islas Murcielagos, are a remote group of volcanic islands located in the Guanacaste Province. This dive site is famous for its encounters with bull sharks, making it a thrilling destination for adrenaline-seeking divers. In addition to sharks, divers can also spot manta rays, eagle rays, and large schools of fish.

Other notable dive locations in Costa Rica include the Tortuga Islands, Cano Island, Tamarindo, and Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Each site offers unique diving experiences, showcasing the country’s diverse marine ecosystem and captivating underwater landscapes.

Dive Location Highlights Difficulty Level
Cocos Island Hammerhead and whale sharks, large pelagic species Advanced
Catalina Islands Vibrant coral reefs, rays, underwater caves All levels
Bat Islands Bull sharks, manta rays, large fish species Advanced
Tortuga Islands Wrecks, diverse marine life All levels
Cano Island Rocky pinnacles, manta rays, tropical fish All levels
Tamarindo Easy access to Catalina and Bat Islands All levels
Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge Snorkeling, uncrowded dive sites All levels

Diving Conditions in Costa Rica

When planning a scuba diving trip to Costa Rica, it’s important to consider the diving conditions that you’ll encounter. Factors such as water temperature, visibility, depth range, and diving difficulty can greatly impact your diving experience. Understanding these conditions will help you choose the right dive sites and prepare for your underwater adventures.

Water Temperature

The water temperature in Costa Rica varies depending on the region. On the Pacific Coast and Caribbean, the water temperature ranges from a comfortable 78-85°F (26-29°C). However, at deeper depths, the temperature can drop to the low 60s (15°C). It’s essential to wear appropriate thermal protection to stay comfortable during your dives, especially if you plan to explore deeper parts of the ocean.


The visibility in Costa Rica is generally good, allowing for clear underwater views. On the Pacific Coast and Caribbean, you can expect visibility between 50-100ft (15-30m). However, at Cocos Island, the visibility ranges from 30-50ft (9-15m). Keep in mind that visibility can vary depending on weather conditions and the presence of plankton or other factors that may affect water clarity.

Depth Range and Diving Difficulty

The depth range in Costa Rica’s diving sites also varies. On the Pacific Coast and Cano Island, you can expect depths between 30-131ft (10-40m). On the Caribbean side, depths range from 5-131ft (5-40m). It’s important to note that diving difficulty can vary depending on the site. The Pacific Coast is generally more suitable for intermediate-level divers, while the Caribbean offers a variety of dive sites suitable for all levels of experience. If you’re an advanced diver seeking more challenging dives, Cocos Island is the best option with its deep and advanced-level dive sites.

Condition Pacific Coast and Cano Island Caribbean Cocos Island
Water Temperature (°F) 78-85 78-85 78-85
Visibility (ft) 50-100 50-100 30-50
Depth Range (ft) 30-131 5-131 Varies
Diving Difficulty Intermediate All levels Advanced

Marine Life & Photography Subjects in Costa Rica

Scuba diving in Costa Rica offers a captivating array of marine life, making it a paradise for underwater photographers. From majestic sharks to graceful manta rays, divers have the opportunity to capture stunning images of these remarkable creatures. The waters of Costa Rica are teeming with diverse marine species, providing endless possibilities for scuba diving photography.

One of the highlights of diving in Costa Rica is encountering sharks. These apex predators can be found in various dive locations, including the renowned Cocos Island. Here, divers can photograph hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, and even whale sharks if they are lucky. The Catalina Islands and Bat Islands are also frequented by bull sharks, making for thrilling photography opportunities.

Aside from sharks, Costa Rica boasts an abundance of other fascinating marine life. Manta rays gracefully glide through the waters, their elegant movements captured in breathtaking photographs. Tuna and humpback whales can also be spotted, adding to the allure of underwater exploration. The vibrant colors of tropical fish create stunning visual compositions, allowing photographers to capture the beauty of these underwater ecosystems.

scuba diving photography

“Diving in Costa Rica provides a photographer’s dream, with a diverse range of marine subjects to capture in their natural habitat.”

– Underwater Photography Magazine

The Best Dive Sites for Photography

Dive Site Marine Life Photography Opportunities
Cocos Island Sharks, manta rays, whale sharks Opportunity to capture rare pelagic species
Caño Island Coral reefs, marine life Vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine species
Papagayo Gulf Various marine species Beautiful dive sites with diverse photography subjects
Cahuita National Park Coral reef, marine life Largest coral reef in the country, abundant marine life
Playas del Coco Offshore and island dives Diverse photography opportunities, including rays and tropical fish

How to Dive Costa Rica

Planning a dive trip to Costa Rica can be an exciting and rewarding experience. With its diverse marine ecosystems and breathtaking dive sites, this tropical paradise offers something for every underwater enthusiast. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip, it’s important to consider transportation, accommodation, diving infrastructure, and specific dive destinations.


Costa Rica has a well-connected transportation network that makes it easy to reach dive sites along both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. If you’re planning to dive in the west coast regions like Tamarindo or Jaco, you can take advantage of day-trip boats that depart from these towns. For more remote sites like Cocos Island, liveaboard boats departing from Puntarenas offer the best access. Consider your dive itinerary and choose the most convenient transportation options accordingly.


When it comes to accommodation, Costa Rica offers a diverse range of options to suit every budget and preference. Along the west coast, you’ll find a variety of hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals in popular dive towns like Tamarindo and Manuel Antonio. On the east coast, accommodations may be more limited, but there are still charming beachside lodges and eco-friendly resorts available. Research and book your accommodation in advance to secure the best deals and availability.

Diving Infrastructure

Costa Rica boasts a well-established diving infrastructure, particularly on the west coast. Dive centers, equipment rental shops, and experienced dive professionals are readily available to cater to your diving needs. You can easily find reputable dive operators offering guided dives, certification courses, and equipment rentals. The east coast, although less developed, still offers dive services, albeit with a more rustic and adventurous experience. Prioritize your dive destinations and choose dive operators with good reviews and safety records.

Specific Dive Destinations

Costa Rica is home to a wide range of dive destinations, each offering unique diving experiences. The west coast is known for its access to the Catalina Islands and Bat Islands, which are renowned for their vibrant coral reefs and encounters with large pelagic species. On the east coast, the Caribbean reefs provide a more relaxed diving experience with a plethora of tropical marine life. Cocos Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a dream destination for advanced divers seeking thrilling encounters with hammerhead sharks and other pelagic species. Consider your diving preferences and experience level when choosing your specific dive destinations.

planning a dive trip to Costa Rica

By carefully considering transportation, accommodation, diving infrastructure, and specific dive destinations, you can plan a successful dive trip to Costa Rica. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced diver, the underwater wonders of this tropical paradise are sure to leave you in awe.

Best Dive Sites in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a scuba diver’s paradise, offering a wide range of dive sites that cater to all levels of experience. From vibrant coral reefs to encounters with fascinating marine life, here are some of the best dive spots in Costa Rica:

Cocos Island

“Cocos Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a bucket list destination for many divers. It is famous for its hammerhead sharks, schools of fish, and encounters with other pelagic species. The remote location makes it a haven for marine life enthusiasts.”

Caño Island

Caño Island boasts healthy coral reefs and abundant marine life. Divers can explore colorful underwater landscapes while encountering various species of fish, rays, and turtles. The island’s warm waters and excellent visibility make it a top choice for diving enthusiasts.

Papagayo Gulf

“The Papagayo Gulf offers a mix of beautiful dive sites along the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Divers can expect to see an array of marine life, including tropical fish, eels, and occasional encounters with larger species like manta rays and whale sharks.”

Cahuita National Park

Cahuita National Park is home to the largest coral reef in Costa Rica. Divers can explore the vibrant coral formations while swimming alongside colorful fish and other marine creatures. The park’s protected status ensures a pristine diving experience.

Playas del Coco

“Playas del Coco serves as a central hub for accessing some of Costa Rica’s best dive sites, including the Catalina Islands and Bat Islands. Divers can expect encounters with large fish species, reef sharks, and the occasional bull shark. The area offers a variety of dive experiences suitable for divers of all levels.”

Santa Catalina Islands

The Santa Catalina Islands are known for their easy accessibility and high return on investment in terms of marine life encounters. Divers can explore vibrant coral reefs teeming with tropical fish, along with the chance to spot rays, turtles, and other fascinating underwater creatures.

Turtle Island

“Turtle Island, also known as Isla Tortuga, offers warm and clear waters, making it an ideal spot for a relaxed diving experience. Divers can swim among colorful coral formations while encountering turtles, eels, and an array of tropical fish.”

Bat Islands

The Bat Islands, or Isla Murcielago, are renowned for their unique diving experiences with bull sharks. Divers can witness these impressive creatures up close while exploring the area’s rocky underwater landscapes. The dive sites here offer a thrilling adventure for experienced divers.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is not only a popular tourist destination but also a hidden gem for underwater explorers. Divers can discover stunning underwater landscapes, vibrant coral reefs, and a wide variety of marine life, including colorful fish, rays, and occasional turtles.

Best Dive Spots in Costa Rica

These dive sites in Costa Rica offer fantastic underwater experiences for divers of all levels. From encounters with sharks and rays to the awe-inspiring sights of vibrant coral reefs, diving in Costa Rica is an adventure not to be missed.


Scuba diving in Costa Rica offers an unforgettable underwater adventure, immersing divers in a tropical diving paradise. With its diverse marine life, vibrant coral reefs, and unique dive sites, the country has something to offer for every underwater enthusiast.

From thrilling encounters with sharks and rays to the mesmerizing beauty of colorful tropical fish and underwater formations, Costa Rica’s underwater adventures are sure to captivate divers of all levels. Whether exploring the Pacific or Caribbean coast, divers can expect to experience the rich biodiversity and breathtaking sights that make Costa Rica a top destination for scuba diving.

With convenient access to world-renowned dive locations such as Cocos Island, Caño Island, and the Santa Catalina Islands, divers can indulge in the wonders of healthy coral reefs, rare pelagic species, and vibrant marine ecosystems. The country’s well-established diving infrastructure ensures a seamless experience, while its warm water temperatures and excellent visibility create optimal conditions for underwater exploration.

Whether you’re a seasoned diver looking for thrilling encounters or a beginner eager to explore the underwater world, Costa Rica promises an unforgettable scuba diving experience. Discover the wonders of this tropical diving paradise and embark on a journey that will leave you with lifelong memories of the vibrant underwater realm of Costa Rica.


What are some of the best dive sites in Costa Rica?

Some of the best dive sites in Costa Rica include Cocos Island, Catalina Islands, Bat Islands, Tortuga Islands, Cano Island, Tamarindo, and Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.

What are the water conditions like for scuba diving in Costa Rica?

Water temperatures range from 78-85°F (26-29°C) on the Pacific Coast and Caribbean, with depths dropping to the low 60s (15°C). Visibility is generally 50-100ft (15-30m) on the Pacific Coast and Caribbean, and 30-50ft (9-15m) at Cocos Island. The depth ranges from 30-131ft (10-40m) on the Pacific Coast and Cano Island, and 5-131ft (5-131ft) on the Caribbean.

What types of marine life can be encountered while scuba diving in Costa Rica?

Scuba divers in Costa Rica can encounter a wide range of marine life, including hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, manta rays, whale sharks, tuna, humpback whales, tropical fish, and endemic species like the red-lipped batfish. The Pacific Coast features large schools of eagle rays, mobula rays, and manta rays during the rainy season, while the Caribbean reefs are home to turtles, crocodiles, and manatees.

How should I plan a dive trip to Costa Rica?

Planning a dive trip to Costa Rica requires careful consideration of accommodation, transportation, and prioritizing dive destinations. The west coast offers convenient access to dive sites and a well-established diving infrastructure, with day-trip boats from towns like Tamarindo and Jaco. The east coast is less developed, requiring more planning for diving in frontier sites. Cocos Island can only be reached by liveaboard boats, with 10-night trips departing from Puntarenas.

What are some of the best dive sites in Costa Rica?

Some of the best dive sites in Costa Rica include Cocos Island for rare pelagic species, Caño Island for healthy coral reefs and marine life, Papagayo Gulf for beautiful dive sites off the northern Pacific coast, Cahuita National Park for the largest coral reef in the country, Playas del Coco for diverse offshore and island dives, Santa Catalina Islands for easy access and a high return on investment, Turtle Island for warm, clear water and vibrant marine life, Bat Islands for unique dives with bull sharks, and Manuel Antonio National Park for stunning underwater landscapes.

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