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Costa Rica Activities

Water Sports

With 1290 km of Pacific and Atlantic ocean coastline, Costa Rica is a veritable mecca for water sports enthusiasts and sun worshipers. The following activities are offered at most popular tourist destinations. If you don’t find an option in the area you plan on visiting listed here, just send an email or message in the live chat option. We’ll send you detailed information on the tours available according to your itinerary.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

When is the best time to snorkel or scuba dive in Costa Rica? The best time of year for snorkeling or scuba diving in Costa Rica is during the dry season. This is when visibility is best because runoff from countless rivers flowing into the oceans isn’t burdened with excess mud and debris, affecting water clarity along the shoreline.

Nonetheless, enjoying Costa Rica’s underwater world can be enjoyed year-round if you choose your days and diving/snorkeling sites right. Try to hit the waters at least 24 hours after the last rains or take a tour to an offshore location that’s less affected by river runoff.

Costa Rica dry season for the Pacific Coast: December through April with a slight let-up in rains in late July.

Costa Rica dry season for the Atlantic Coast (Caribbean Ocean): September and October with a slight drop in the heavy rains in January and February.

South Caribbean:

Postcard-perfect beaches, calm crystal-clear waters, and bountiful coral reefs make Costa Rica’s Caribbean side a great choice for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica

This stunning oceanfront wildlife refuge boasts quiet bays, small offshore islands, and plenty of coral reefs teeming with marine life, including manta rays, sea turtles, dolphins, manatee, and colorful fish species.

Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica

This idyllic beachfront national park couldn’t get any prettier and harbors one of the largest living coral reefs along the Costa Rica coastline. Punta Cahuita is the most popular snorkeling spot and is located just under 4 km (2.35 m) from the park entrance. Booking a snorkeling or scuba tour by boat is the best option for seeing a larger variety of marine life further offshore in addition to some sunken “treasures.”

South Pacific Coast

Costa Rica’s Pacific side is often characterized by its intense waves and currents associated with the strong open ocean tides and swells. However, the coastline also has its fair share of offshore islands, tranquil bays, and rock or coral reefs that provide the perfect habitat for dozens of marine species. In addition to tropical fish and crustaceans, snorkelers and scuba divers will likely see evidence of larger species that frequent the warm waters along the coastline, including manta rays, sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and sharks.

Caño Island Biological Reserve, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Caño Island is located just 16 km (10 m) west of Playa San Josecito and Drake Bay on the northern edge of the Osa Peninsula. It is most popular for scuba divers as most of its dive sites range between 3 and 24 meters deep (15 and 80 feet). Dozens of distinct marine species frequent the waters around the island, including giant manta rays, manatee, and a number of shark species (even the occasional whale shark), in addition to several types of tropical fish and other ocean critters.

Golfo Dulce, Osa Peninsula

Meaning Sweet Gulf, the warm, nutrient-rich waters of Golfo Dulce between the Osa Peninsula and the mainland are teeming with marine life. Whale and dolphin watching boat tours (above water) and sport fishing are its biggest draws, followed by kayaking, surfing, and snorkeling the shallow reefs close to shore.

Central Pacific Coast

Costa Rica’s central Pacific coastline is where you’ll find the most frequented beach towns and a huge variety of outdoor activities. Several offshore islands dot the horizon, and numerous sheltered bays bordered by natural coral and rocky reefs provide ample territory for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Marino Ballena National Park

This remarkable national park protects both land and marine territory. The coastline it occupies is commonly referred to as Whale Coast (Costa Ballena) after the seasonal migrations of humpback whales (and other species) that come to the area to breed and raise their young. In front of the park are three picturesque islands that are popular destinations for snorkeling and kayaking tours. Starfish, sea turtles, and a colorful variety of tropical fish inhabit the shallow waters, in addition to whales and dolphins.

Manuel Antonio and Quepos

Most serious snorkeling and scuba tours do not take place in Manuel Antonio or Quepos, per se. Instead, visitors go by boat to one of the more well-known sites mentioned in this list. There are, however, plenty of small rocky reefs and coves in and around the national park that can be explored solo – without the need to book a tour. Ask a local or your hotel concierge for popular nearby spots that are safe and worth checking out.

Nicoya Peninsula

Isla Tortuga

A day tour to Isla Tortuga is always a good option for families or young and adventurous travelers. The small ring of volcanic-stone islands lies just south of the Nicoya Peninsula. Tour providers embark to Isla Tortuga from just about every popular beach town on the Central Pacific and southern Nicoya Peninsula of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The full-day tour combines one or two hours of snorkeling with a grilled lunch and leisure time on the powder-white sand beach. Snorkeling around the shallow rock reefs reveals plenty of colorful species, including angelfish, spotted eagle rays, porcupinefish, morays, and needlefish. Scuba tours head into the deeper waters around the islands where small sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins, and other species can be found.

North Pacific Coast
(Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica)

Catalina Islands

The scenic Catalina Islands are a thirty-minute boat 10 km (6 miles) ride from Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica, and are popular for both snorkeling and scuba diving. The rock reef formations offer various diving sites. Sea stars, sea turtles, octopuses, eels, white-tipped reef sharks, whales, countless fish, and other tropical species roam the warm coastal waters. Tours to Catalina Islands depart from Playa Tamarindo, Samara, Playas del Coco, and the Flamingo Marina in Flamingo.

Isla Chora, Samara, Costa Rica

Isla Chora is a small, scenic island in front of the charming beach town of Playa Samara, Costa Rica. It’s most popular among snorkelers, and visitors usually arrive by kayak to explore the island’s small pink-sand beach and shallow rock reefs harboring several fish species, crustaceans, and the occasional eel or manta ray.

Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Gulf of Papagayo is famed for its beautiful golden-sand beaches and glamorous four-star resorts. Visitors can find plenty of shoreline rocky reefs to snorkel and don’t necessarily need to book a tour to do so. Try Culebra Bay or a beach with rocky outcroppings protected from the open ocean swells, providing a haven for marine life.
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