Scuba Diving in Costa Rica

Costa Rica, which means “rich coast,” offers breathtakingly beautiful biodiversity—both on land and below water. Extending from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, this lush landscape boasts sandy beaches, active volcanoes and verdant jungle. When it comes to diving, there’s top-notch scuba and snorkeling spots for all levels to be found here with an incredible array of coral reefs, volcanic rock formations, caverns and caves—all teeming with colorful marine life.

GETTING THERE

  • Costa Rica is a Central American country, meaning U.S. citizens require a passport to travel there. See TSA requirements for the most up to date information.

  • The main airports in Costa Rica are the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose or the Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR) in Liberia.

  • The best way to get around Costa Rica is by car—either a rental from the airport or a taxi. The offshore islands require travel by liveaboard.

GOOD TO KNOW

  • Costa Rica is a Central American country.

  • TIME ZONE: Central Standard Time.

  • PRIMARY LANGUAGE: Spanish.

  • CURRENCY: the colón (plural: colones). U.S. dollars are accepted in many tourist areas.

  • PHONE AND INTERNET: Phone service is available from most U.S. phone carriers (you may need to activate international roaming). Internet is readily available including Wi-Fi at hotels and restaurants. The international calling code is +506.

  • VOLTAGE: 110 (the U.S. and Canada use 120 V so converters or adapters are typically not needed).

  • The rainy season runs from May to mid-November in most of the country.

  • There are currently no travel health and safety notices in effect for Costa Rica.

 

Top Dive Shops in this Country

PLAYA FLAMINGO
Costa Rica

Aqua Center Diving

  • Boat Dive

    Boat Dive

    These scuba adventures take divers out on a boat to reach their diving destination. It is recommended that divers are comfortable taking a giant stride or a back roll entrance into the water.
  • Manta Ray Dive

    Manta Ray Dive

    These massive rays are mesmerizing to watch, often curious, and not scared of divers. These dives offer a high probability of manta ray sightings.
As low as $60.00

TAMARINDO , CATALINA ISLANDS
Costa Rica

Be Water Diving

  • Boat Dive

    Boat Dive

    These scuba adventures take divers out on a boat to reach their diving destination. It is recommended that divers are comfortable taking a giant stride or a back roll entrance into the water.
  • Deep Dive

    Deep Dive

    This type of dive will take a diver deeper than 18 meters (59 feet), and most will go to 30 meters (98 feet) or more beneath the surface. There is unique marine life at great depths that can only be seen on deep dives.
  • Drift Dive

    Drift Dive

    Experienced divers use natural currents to navigate through a dive site in this kind of scuba diving experience.
  • Manta Ray Dive

    Manta Ray Dive

    These massive rays are mesmerizing to watch, often curious, and not scared of divers. These dives offer a high probability of manta ray sightings.
  • Shark Dive

    Shark Dive

    There is a high probability of seeing sharks — from nurse sharks to reef sharks — on this type of dive. It’s one of the most exciting scuba diving adventures that most of us will ever have!
As low as $75.00

COCO BEACH
Costa Rica

Blue Dream Diving and Adventures

  • Boat Dive

    Boat Dive

    These scuba adventures take divers out on a boat to reach their diving destination. It is recommended that divers are comfortable taking a giant stride or a back roll entrance into the water.
  • Night Dive

    Night Dive

    A night dive offers the chance to experience marine life that can only be seen in the dark. Rocks and colors appear more vivid and even familiar spots become mysterious.
  • Shore Dive

    Shore Dive

    These dives are accessed from the shore and simply involve wading into water. Dive boots are recommended to avoid injuries on the rocks.
As low as $15.00

DRAKE BAY, OSA PENINSULA
Costa Rica

Costa Rica Adventure Divers

  • Boat Dive

    Boat Dive

    These scuba adventures take divers out on a boat to reach their diving destination. It is recommended that divers are comfortable taking a giant stride or a back roll entrance into the water.
  • Deep Dive

    Deep Dive

    This type of dive will take a diver deeper than 18 meters (59 feet), and most will go to 30 meters (98 feet) or more beneath the surface. There is unique marine life at great depths that can only be seen on deep dives.
  • Night Dive

    Night Dive

    A night dive offers the chance to experience marine life that can only be seen in the dark. Rocks and colors appear more vivid and even familiar spots become mysterious.
  • Reef Dive

    Reef Dive

    Coral reefs are beautiful and endangered ecosystems that are bursting with life and color. Reef dives are among the most popular types of scuba diving.
  • Shark Dive

    Shark Dive

    There is a high probability of seeing sharks — from nurse sharks to reef sharks — on this type of dive. It’s one of the most exciting scuba diving adventures that most of us will ever have!
As low as $90.00

COCO BEACH
Costa Rica

Deep Blue Diving

  • Boat Dive

    Boat Dive

    These scuba adventures take divers out on a boat to reach their diving destination. It is recommended that divers are comfortable taking a giant stride or a back roll entrance into the water.
  • Deep Dive

    Deep Dive

    This type of dive will take a diver deeper than 18 meters (59 feet), and most will go to 30 meters (98 feet) or more beneath the surface. There is unique marine life at great depths that can only be seen on deep dives.
  • Manta Ray Dive

    Manta Ray Dive

    These massive rays are mesmerizing to watch, often curious, and not scared of divers. These dives offer a high probability of manta ray sightings.
  • Night Dive

    Night Dive

    A night dive offers the chance to experience marine life that can only be seen in the dark. Rocks and colors appear more vivid and even familiar spots become mysterious.
  • Reef Dive

    Reef Dive

    Coral reefs are beautiful and endangered ecosystems that are bursting with life and color. Reef dives are among the most popular types of scuba diving.
As low as $12.00

PLAYA FLAMINGO
Costa Rica

Pacific Coast Dive Center

  • Boat Dive

    Boat Dive

    These scuba adventures take divers out on a boat to reach their diving destination. It is recommended that divers are comfortable taking a giant stride or a back roll entrance into the water.
  • Night Dive

    Night Dive

    A night dive offers the chance to experience marine life that can only be seen in the dark. Rocks and colors appear more vivid and even familiar spots become mysterious.
  • Reef Dive

    Reef Dive

    Coral reefs are beautiful and endangered ecosystems that are bursting with life and color. Reef dives are among the most popular types of scuba diving.
  • Turtle Dive

    Turtle Dive

    Sea turtles are one of Earth’s most ancient creatures, and these types of dives offer a high probability of seeing green turtles or leatherback turtles, among others.
  • Seahorse Dive

    Seahorse Dive

    This type of scuba diving experience offers the best chance to swim with seahorses. These delicate and well-camouflaged fish are often hard to spot.
As low as $65.00

PLAYAS DEL COCO
Costa Rica

Rich Coast Diving

  • Boat Dive

    Boat Dive

    These scuba adventures take divers out on a boat to reach their diving destination. It is recommended that divers are comfortable taking a giant stride or a back roll entrance into the water.
  • Deep Dive

    Deep Dive

    This type of dive will take a diver deeper than 18 meters (59 feet), and most will go to 30 meters (98 feet) or more beneath the surface. There is unique marine life at great depths that can only be seen on deep dives.
  • Drift Dive

    Drift Dive

    Experienced divers use natural currents to navigate through a dive site in this kind of scuba diving experience.
  • Manta Ray Dive

    Manta Ray Dive

    These massive rays are mesmerizing to watch, often curious, and not scared of divers. These dives offer a high probability of manta ray sightings.
  • Night Dive

    Night Dive

    A night dive offers the chance to experience marine life that can only be seen in the dark. Rocks and colors appear more vivid and even familiar spots become mysterious.
As low as $50.00

GUANACASTE PROVINE, COCO
Costa Rica

Rock Divers

  • Boat Dive

    Boat Dive

    These scuba adventures take divers out on a boat to reach their diving destination. It is recommended that divers are comfortable taking a giant stride or a back roll entrance into the water.
  • Deep Dive

    Deep Dive

    This type of dive will take a diver deeper than 18 meters (59 feet), and most will go to 30 meters (98 feet) or more beneath the surface. There is unique marine life at great depths that can only be seen on deep dives.
  • Manta Ray Dive

    Manta Ray Dive

    These massive rays are mesmerizing to watch, often curious, and not scared of divers. These dives offer a high probability of manta ray sightings.
  • Night Dive

    Night Dive

    A night dive offers the chance to experience marine life that can only be seen in the dark. Rocks and colors appear more vivid and even familiar spots become mysterious.
  • Reef Dive

    Reef Dive

    Coral reefs are beautiful and endangered ecosystems that are bursting with life and color. Reef dives are among the most popular types of scuba diving.
As low as $50.00

TAMARINDO
Costa Rica

Scuba Dive Costa Rica

  • Boat Dive

    Boat Dive

    These scuba adventures take divers out on a boat to reach their diving destination. It is recommended that divers are comfortable taking a giant stride or a back roll entrance into the water.
  • Deep Dive

    Deep Dive

    This type of dive will take a diver deeper than 18 meters (59 feet), and most will go to 30 meters (98 feet) or more beneath the surface. There is unique marine life at great depths that can only be seen on deep dives.
  • Night Dive

    Night Dive

    A night dive offers the chance to experience marine life that can only be seen in the dark. Rocks and colors appear more vivid and even familiar spots become mysterious.
  • Shark Dive

    Shark Dive

    There is a high probability of seeing sharks — from nurse sharks to reef sharks — on this type of dive. It’s one of the most exciting scuba diving adventures that most of us will ever have!
  • Turtle Dive

    Turtle Dive

    Sea turtles are one of Earth’s most ancient creatures, and these types of dives offer a high probability of seeing green turtles or leatherback turtles, among others.
As low as $100.00

TAMARINDO
Costa Rica

SNUBA Costa Rica

  • Boat Dive

    Boat Dive

    These scuba adventures take divers out on a boat to reach their diving destination. It is recommended that divers are comfortable taking a giant stride or a back roll entrance into the water.
  • Night Dive

    Night Dive

    A night dive offers the chance to experience marine life that can only be seen in the dark. Rocks and colors appear more vivid and even familiar spots become mysterious.
  • Shark Dive

    Shark Dive

    There is a high probability of seeing sharks — from nurse sharks to reef sharks — on this type of dive. It’s one of the most exciting scuba diving adventures that most of us will ever have!
  • Turtle Dive

    Turtle Dive

    Sea turtles are one of Earth’s most ancient creatures, and these types of dives offer a high probability of seeing green turtles or leatherback turtles, among others.
As low as $175.00

GUANACASTE
Costa Rica

Summer-Salt Dive Center

  • Boat Dive

    Boat Dive

    These scuba adventures take divers out on a boat to reach their diving destination. It is recommended that divers are comfortable taking a giant stride or a back roll entrance into the water.
  • Drift Dive

    Drift Dive

    Experienced divers use natural currents to navigate through a dive site in this kind of scuba diving experience.
  • Manta Ray Dive

    Manta Ray Dive

    These massive rays are mesmerizing to watch, often curious, and not scared of divers. These dives offer a high probability of manta ray sightings.
  • Reef Dive

    Reef Dive

    Coral reefs are beautiful and endangered ecosystems that are bursting with life and color. Reef dives are among the most popular types of scuba diving.
  • Shark Dive

    Shark Dive

    There is a high probability of seeing sharks — from nurse sharks to reef sharks — on this type of dive. It’s one of the most exciting scuba diving adventures that most of us will ever have!
As low as $105.00

TAMARINDO
Costa Rica

TamaDive

  • Boat Dive

    Boat Dive

    These scuba adventures take divers out on a boat to reach their diving destination. It is recommended that divers are comfortable taking a giant stride or a back roll entrance into the water.
  • Cave Dive

    Cave Dive

    Explore submerged caves and passageways in one of the most exciting types of adventure scuba diving available. Best for experienced divers.
  • Deep Dive

    Deep Dive

    This type of dive will take a diver deeper than 18 meters (59 feet), and most will go to 30 meters (98 feet) or more beneath the surface. There is unique marine life at great depths that can only be seen on deep dives.
  • Drift Dive

    Drift Dive

    Experienced divers use natural currents to navigate through a dive site in this kind of scuba diving experience.
  • Manta Ray Dive

    Manta Ray Dive

    These massive rays are mesmerizing to watch, often curious, and not scared of divers. These dives offer a high probability of manta ray sightings.
As low as $75.00

TAMARINDO
Costa Rica

Tamarindo Diving

  • Boat Dive

    Boat Dive

    These scuba adventures take divers out on a boat to reach their diving destination. It is recommended that divers are comfortable taking a giant stride or a back roll entrance into the water.
  • Deep Dive

    Deep Dive

    This type of dive will take a diver deeper than 18 meters (59 feet), and most will go to 30 meters (98 feet) or more beneath the surface. There is unique marine life at great depths that can only be seen on deep dives.
  • Drift Dive

    Drift Dive

    Experienced divers use natural currents to navigate through a dive site in this kind of scuba diving experience.
  • Manta Ray Dive

    Manta Ray Dive

    These massive rays are mesmerizing to watch, often curious, and not scared of divers. These dives offer a high probability of manta ray sightings.
  • Shark Dive

    Shark Dive

    There is a high probability of seeing sharks — from nurse sharks to reef sharks — on this type of dive. It’s one of the most exciting scuba diving adventures that most of us will ever have!
As low as $68.00

DIVE CONDITIONS

  • Water temperatures range from 70 degrees Fahrenheit in winter to 85 degrees in summer.

  • Average water visibility is 50 to 100 feet but can be higher or lower depending on the weather.

  • WHEN TO GO

    • Scuba diving in Costa Rica is available all year-round although more advanced divers may want to go during the rainy season (May to November) when pelagics are plentiful. The dry season (December to April) typically has calmer seas and high visibility.

    • Whale season runs from December through March.

    • The peak season for tourism is late November to late April.

WHAT YOU’LL SEE

  • From large pelagics (think: whales, orcas, dolphins and manta rays) to schools of colorful fish (like jacks and parrotfish), Costa Rica offers an impressive display of aquatic life guaranteed to delight divers and snorkelers of all levels. Whether you’re exploring coastal reefs or offshore islands, there’s plenty of spectacular corals, sponge and gorgonians to discover (and amazing creatures floating all around them).

 

BEST SCUBA DIVING SITES IN COSTA RICA

COCOS ISLAND

Located over 300 miles southwest of Cabo Blanco (advanced divers can visit on a liveaboard vessel), this magical underworld features an abundance of spectacular marine life such as rays, sharks, tuna, dolphins and endemic fish species like the red-lipped batfish. This is also where whales come to calve. Above water is a national park (movie fans might recognize it from Jurassic Park) that is mostly inaccessible.

CAÑO ISLAND

This government protected marine park lies about 10 miles from Punta Llorona on Península de Osa in South Puntarenas and boasts gorgeous diving sites for all levels. Don’t be surprised if you bump into a friendly turtle or dolphin, glide next to manta rays and moray eels or even spot bigger mammals like orcas and whales. Despite its proximity to the shore, visibility in these crystal-clear waters is excellent, often extending past 80 feet.

CATALINA ISLANDS

Experienced divers will love exploring this island chain in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica and the many arches, caves and caverns found among the coral-encrusted volcanic rock formations. Cruising through these structures are sharks, sea turtles, schools of fish (like devil rays and cownose rays) and Pacific Giant Mantas—the world’s largest species.

BAT ISLAND

Also located in the Guanacaste region, this secluded spot (about an hour’s boat ride from the shore) is another one that’s best for advanced divers—especially those who are eager for the opportunity to swim with bull sharks. These bright blue waters are also home to schools of fish like snappers and grunts as well as passing rays. Note: Visibility can vary from 20 feet to 100 feet, depending on the currents (that can be quite strong) and the waves.

 

BEST SNORKELING IN COSTA RICA

GANDOCA-MANZANILLO NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Widely regarded as the premier snorkeling destination on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, these shallow reefs, protected bays and little islands are teeming with marine life. How does gliding next to sea turtles, dolphins and manatees sound? And the picture-perfect golden beaches and swaying palm trees aren’t too bad, either.

CAHUITA NATIONAL PARK

Head to the southern Caribbean coast to explore the lush jungles and white sand beaches of this beautiful park. You’ll find the best snorkeling at Punta Cahuita where stunning coral reefs and shimmering waters provide plenty of opportunities to interact with tropical fish and playful crustaceans.

TORTUGA ISLAND

This family-friendly spot on the Gulf of Nicoya offers clear, calm waters bursting with parrotfish, angelfish, turtles, moray eels and more. Dry off by catching some rays on the gorgeous white sandy beaches afterward.

 

DISCOVER UNIQUE THINGS TO DO IN COSTA RICA

ARENAL VOLCANO

Looming over 5,000 feet high, viewing this active volcano from the Arenal Observatory Lodge is popular with visitors. (Don’t worry—it’s been quiet since 2010.) Just keep in mind that what you’ll see is dependent on the weather. While you’re there, you may want to check out the ultra-luxurious Tabacón thermal springs. Lapping up the mineral-rich waters, rich greenery and peaceful waterfalls isn’t free but it’s a heavenly way to spend an afternoon.

MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST RESERVE

Sure, you could walk through this rich wildlife reserve or for adventure-seekers, why not try a Sky Walk (hanging bridges) or Sky Trek (zip lining)? Located in the Northern Plains, this lush park boasts hundreds of exotic birds, mammals and plant species to delight your senses. It gets its name from the misty cover that shrouds the area, lending a magical feel to the experience.

NICOYA PENINSULA

Found on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, this is the ultimate sun and surf destination. There are plenty of charming coastal towns to explore here but Montezuma is one of the most popular thanks to its budget-friendly accommodations and beautiful waterfalls.