Costa Rica is on the isthmus of Central America and has the Pacific Ocean on its left and the Caribbean Sea on its right.
It has a rich and lush landscape, but arguably just as great as the land is the ocean environment. It is full of amazing and world-class diving. So much so it is hard to know where the best places to scuba dive in Costa Rica are?
Costa Rica literally translates to “rich coast” and it truly is with its 800 miles of coastline. The small country offers so many great scuba diving options from coral reefs to shipwrecks, to islands off the coast, the scuba diving options seem endless! Costa Rica is a relaxing, adventurous, and beautiful place to scuba dive.
On top of its perfect scuba diving conditions, it’s a great place to spend a vacation. Costa Ricans are some of the happiest people in the world, just for a fun fact about Costa Rica.
Pura Vida’s lifestyle is good for the soul. If you haven’t been to Costa Rica it should be at the top of your list!
- Best Time of Year to Scuba Dive in Costa Rica
- Best Places to Scuba Dive in Costa Rica
- Best Pacific Coast Scuba Diving in Costa Rica
- The Bat Islands
- The Catalina Islands
- The Gulf of Papagayo
- The Tortuga Islands
- Caño Island
- Cocos Island
- Best Caribbean Coast Scuba Diving in Costa Rica
- Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge
- Cahuita National Park
- Uvita Island
- What You Might See While Scuba Diving in Costa Rica
Best Time of Year to Scuba Dive in Costa Rica
Believe it or not, the best time to visit Costa Rica for scuba diving is in the rainy season. The rainy season is from May to November when it often rains every afternoon, but don’t worry it usually doesn’t last very long with most of the time being under an hour.
During these months, the visibility is the highest, the temperatures are the warmest, and best of all, you’ll find the most marine life.
Most tourists (except for divers) don’t visit Costa Rica during the rainy season so that makes it an even better time to visit because there are fewer crowds and lower prices.
If you’re a beginner scuba diver, the optimal time to visit would be from August to December because the water is very calm with little wind.
The visibility can reach 100 feet and there is still a ton to see. You really can’t go wrong any time of year because there is an abundance of sea life year-round.
Costa Rica is a great place for all scuba diving levels to enjoy marine life and the underwater world in general.
Best Places to Scuba Dive in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has a unique landscape because it has both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea on its coast.
On the left side, you’ll find the Pacific Ocean and there are many islands just off the shore where unique sea life lives.
The Caribbean Sea side is less developed so you may have a harder time finding hotels, restaurants, and other things to do compared to the left side of Costa Rica.
Both sides offer a ton of variety in the underwater world.
Overall, however, the Pacific side has better scuba diving and as well as more developed landscapes with better establishments.
For beginners and those new to Costa Rica, the Pacific side would be the better option to get acquainted with the area.
Most of the southern part of Costa Rica is a protected biological reserve so the sea life there is very abundant and the area is well preserved.
No matter where you choose to scuba dive in Costa Rica, you’ll find that exploring the underwater coast can be just as interesting as exploring the beach towns along the shore.
Best Scuba Diving Locations in Costa Rica
Below you’ll find a list of some of the best scuba diving locations in Costa Rica. They have been broken out between the Pacific and the Caribbean Coast.
Best Pacific Coast Scuba Diving in Costa Rica
The Bat Islands
(also known as Islas Murcielagos) are part of the Guanacaste Region on the northern Pacific Coast.
They’re protected by the Santa Rosa National Park. It takes about an hour by boat to reach the islands and many tour companies will take you there.
Here you may find bull sharks, stingrays, turtles, and more. The bull sharks mostly stay in an area known as the Big Scare. There can be swells and a bit of a current so it’s better for more experienced divers.
The Catalina Islands
are located 2 to 15 miles offshore and they’re part of the Guanacaste province.
They’re a popular location for scuba diving and the islands are actually rock formations from volcanoes.
The actual underwater topography is almost just as interesting as the marine animals. You’ll find caves and arches covered in the coral where sea life loves to hang out.
You’ll get the chance to see turtles, reef sharks, and various types of rays.
This area is best known for its manta rays which can be found here year-round. There are many scuba diving spots at the Catalina Islands but with a strong current, it’s best for more advanced scuba divers.
You can find a tour company to take you to the islands from cities along the northern Pacific coast.
The Gulf of Papagayo
is located in the province of Guanacaste off the Papagayo Peninsula and here you’ll find very calm waters within the inlets and bays.
There is a lot to do on land in this area but even better is the underwater world. Because it’s calm, it’s a great spot for beginners.
Tamarindo is a town in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica on the northern Pacific Coast. Along the Nicoya Peninsula, many scuba tours will take out to various islands off the coast. Scuba diving is one of the many things to do in Tamarindo.
If you’re visiting Costa Rica and want to pick a general spot to stay for your trip that offers some great scuba diving options, Tamarindo is your place!
You’ll have the chance to join many scuba diving tours from this area that will take you all over, including the islands off-shore.
The Tortuga Islands
are off the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula in the Gulf of Nicoya. You’ll find canyons and three shipwrecks within the scuba diving range.
The shipwrecks include two Coastguard ships and another boat 100 feet underwater. One of the shipwrecks is only 52 feet deep so novice divers can really get close and personal to it.
However, the underwater topography is also amazing here and it is full of marine life! It’s also very cool to see how the sea life turns the shipwrecks into homes as they do with coral reefs.
Reef sharks are even known to inhabit the 100 foot boat. It’s a great place for divers all of the experience levels because there is a mix of shallow and deep sites.
is part of a biological reserve and is located 10 miles off the Osa Peninsula in the Puntarenas Province.
It has visibility between 30 to 100 feet year-round. You’ll find white-tip and bull sharks, dolphins, and schools of fish in the hundreds. There are 5 locations designated for diving at this biological reserve so there are options to choose from. If you have the chance, try them all!
is located 340 miles off the coast so it’s a bit more expensive than other tours but it’s well worth doing a liveaboard here.
The ocean is deep around the island but the island has pinnacle and reef walls that attract tons of sea life.
There are 20 different dive sites and you may see various sharks, large schools of fish, turtles, dolphins, rays, and sailfish.
One of the best diving spots in this area is Bajo Alcyone. There can be a strong current so it’s not recommended for beginners.
Dirty Rocks is the best place for beginners on the island. Cocos Island is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and many say it’s the best scuba diving in all of Costa Rica.
Best Caribbean Coast Scuba Diving in Costa Rica
Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge
in Southern Costa Rica on the Caribbean Coast has coral reefs, bays, inlets, and islands that attract tons of marine life. Some of the animals you might see include sea turtles, manatees, crocodiles, dolphins, and more!
Cahuita National Park
is a great place for scuba diving on the Southern Caribbean coast in the Limon Province. It has one of the largest living coral reefs with over 35 species of coral. The reef is 600 acres and you’ll find so many unique and rare sea animals.
This is a great place to scuba dive in Costa Rica.
not to be confused with Uvita that is actually on the Pacific coast. Uvita Island is just off on Limon.
It is one of the best up-and-coming spots to scuba dive on the Caribbean coast. In general, the Caribbean side of Costa Rica has fewer scuba diving tours than the Pacific side because it’s less developed.
However, the dive sites they do have on the Caribbean coast are amazing.
Uvita Island is part of the Limon province and is just offshore. It’s a great spot to check out and there is also a shipwreck in this area.
It’s also one of the spots that Christopher Columbus landed at. You can get to Uvita Island in about 20-minutes by boat from Limon.
What You Might See While Scuba Diving in Costa Rica
There is a ton of marine life to explore in Costa Rica. The location and climate make it a breeding ground for sea animals.
Prepare to be amazed! The visibility in the water is from 30 to 100 feet which allows you to see even more sea life.
You’ll get the opportunity to see all kinds of sea life because there is such rich biodiversity in Costa Rica.
It’s one of the best places in the world to scuba dive because of all the variety.
You’ll find, of course, schools of fish and lots of colorful, interesting marine life all around but below is a list of some of the exciting things you may find while scuba diving in Costa Rica.
List of Marine Life You May Find While Scuba Diving
- Manta rays
- Bull sharks
- Hammerhead sharks
- Reef sharks
- Humpback whales
- Sea horses
If you’ve never been scuba diving, dare to try it while in Costa Rica. It would be one of the most iconic places to give the sport a try.
You’ll be amazed by the underwater world and wish you’d tried it sooner. Costa Rica is the perfect scuba diving location with so much to offer.
Costa Rica offers countless opportunities to scuba dive. Many islands off the coast boast excellent diving conditions.
The marine life is abundant, colorful, and exquisite. The weather is amazing and the atmosphere is great. Between scuba dives, you’ll love the Costa Rican culture and the quaint beach towns along the coast.
No matter when or where you choose to visit Costa Rica, you’ll enjoy all it has to offer. Go scuba dive and live that Pura Vida lifestyle!
Thank you so much, we hope you enjoyed this article on the best places to scuba dive in Costa Rica.
Are you an advent diver? Do you have a favorite spot to dive in Costa Rica that is not mentioned on this list? Say so in the comments below
Be sure to check out my other articles on Costa Rica
- Best Surf Towns in Costa Rica
- Packing List for Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Bucket List
- Things to do in Uvita
- Fun facts about Costa Rica