Many people ask us if there is good scuba diving in Costa Rica. And the answer is yes ! Guanacaste, is Costa Rica´s diver's paradise on the Pacific coast. This stunning region boasts Costa Rica´s top 3 most popular dive spots, the Catalina Islands (Manta diving), the Bats Islands (Bullshark diving) at the Murcielago Archipelago and the local sites of Playas del Coco, all teeming with a stunning variety of marine life.
So if you're an adventure seeker and a lover of underwater exploration or want to become one, this is the ultimate dive destination for you. So we highly recommend you reserve at least two or three days for diving to get the best experience. Note that we offer great dive sites for beginner and advanced divers and snorkeling. Have a look at this video for a little teaser of what to expect when you come diving with us or start your course.
And don't just take our word for it. Have a look at what our customers say !
So our customers confirm with 5 star reviews that Guanacaste, is Costa Rica´s diver's paradise on the Pacific coast.
But if you only have a few days to spend underwater. Which dive sites should be on your list? In this blog post we are going to give you an overview of our favourite top 5 Dive sites that you can not miss on your diving holiday in Costa Rica.
Diving conditions of Costa Rica's Pacific Coast
The great thing about diving in Playas del Coco is that you don't need to go far for great diving. Our local divesites are truly fantastic and accesable all year with our comfortable boats at 15 - 20 minutes away. And we have about 15 to 20 local divesites we can choose from so you will not get bored if you dive with us for several days. Have a look at our divesite map below so you get a better idea of which divesites are where. Note that not all sites are shown on the map and we have a few more sites towards the south. To give you an idea of the distance. All our local divesites in the Gulf of Papagayo are within 20 minutes boat ride away. Our furthest divesite the Big Scare at Murcielago is about 45 kilometers (1.5 hours) away and Catalinas Islands in the south are about 20 kilometers (40 minutes) away.
Top 5 Dive sites of Guanacaste
1. BIG SCARE - Diving with Bullsharks at Murcielago.
Our number one dive site is the Big Scare, located at Bats Islands (Murcielago Archipeago). This dive is a once in a life-time experience that cannot be found anywhere else on this planet.
The Bat Islands (Murcielago Archipelago) belong to the National Park of Santa Rosa, that includes a protected marine area with a great diversity of marine life. The scenery is spectacular and you can appreciate both the beauty of the sea and of the archipelago.
Costa Rica is the best and safest place in the world to dive with bull sharks. Due to the the windy conditions we only offer Bullshark diving from June to October.
Worldwide, the Bats Islands are considered one of the best bull shark dive sites. There is no feeding of the sharks which means that the encounters are completely natural. Seeing bull sharks is not guaranteed but in our experience the chances are pretty good ! For diving at Murcielago you are required to be an advanced diver, due to the depth range of this dive; 24 to 30 meters (78 - 90 feet). The Bats Islands are most famous for the chances of seeing the Bull sharks, although during the dive we can also encounter different types of rays, schools of fish including snappers, groupers, grunts in addition to octopuses and pelagic animals.
Read our Blog about diving with Bullsharks.
2. SORPRESA - Be surprised by what our local divesites have to offer.
Our personal favourite is only 15 minutes away by boat. Rated as one of the best dives around Gulfo Papagayo the topography of this site is marked by a deep pinnacle surrounded by a sandy bottom.
The top of the dive site starts at 15 meters (50 feet), so this "deep" dive site is for PADI Advanced divers only. Sorpresa means "surprise" in Spanish and this site lives up to its name. When you descend into the depths of the blue you never know what to expect and surpises are pretty much guarenteed. As the site sits slightly away from the coast we often find pelagic encounters. Devil rays, Eagle Rays, Sea turtles, Trevallies and a large school of Jacks and Spade fish swimming around in the blue. Deeper down in the sand we find white tip reef sharks, different species of rays including large southern or longtail stingrays. And inbetween the rocks you will find large morray eels, lobsters, octopus and even small critters like nudibranchs and seahorses. This site has beautiful rock formations and the top of the pinnacle has some healty colorful soft corals. Truly a great dive site that never stops to surprise no matter how often you dive this site !
3. VIRADOR - So much marine life !
It's hard to choose favorites but Virador is defenitly on our staffs bucketlist. This divesite is also a pinnacle that bearly sticks out of the water. We jump in the water using the mooring line as somtimes there can be a current. Then we descend to about 15 meters (50 feet) and start our dive. At the start of the dive you will be amazed by the large schools of colorful tropical fish that are feeding around the rocky formations. We see large schools of butterfly fish, surgeon fish and wrasse. Continuing the dive we keep our eyes open for sleeping seaturtles or eagles rays feeding between the rocks. Descending to a depth of about 22 meters (70 feet) we are going to hangout with the group of white tip sharks that are resting near the bottom in the sand. And ofter there is a large school of juvenile big eye jacks around that are cleaning themselves using the shark skin as a Spa Treatment skin shrub. A truly unique behavior. Talking about unique behavior. During the dive you will be followed by a colorful school of yellow butterfly or barberfish. These fish are hoping for an easy meal as they wait for divers to disturb the nesting damselfish. When the divers approach the damselfish, they will swim towards the divers and the yellow butterfly or barber fish scoop in and feed on the eggs. Seems crual but hey it's part of the circle of life. Going nice and slow you can go around the full pinnacle of Virador on a one hour dive. Both shallow and deeper parts of the divesite are very interesting and offer plenty of marine life encounters.
4. PUNTA BALLENA - On the lookout for humpback whales
Another top dive site, named Punta Ballena is located in the Gulf of Papagayo about 20 minutes away. People come to this Whale Point (or Punta Ballena in Spanish) to watch the humpback whales. In the season this is indeed a great place to encounter the gentle giants and we often spot them on the way to our dive site. Read more about whale watching in our blog.
This dive site is also a great spot for snorkeling if the water is calm and without too much swell. This dive site is marked by a narrow range of rocks that stick out from the surface and gradually slope down into the depths surrounded by a sandy bottom. The deepest part is around 22 meters (75 feet) and the top is very shallow around 8 meters for us divers. While descending we keep the rocks on our right hand side and we look for rays (stingrays and eagle rays) feeding in the sand and sometimes we even see golden cownose rays here. Looking between the rocks we find large eels, octopus and lobsters. Keep your eyes open into the blue because eagle rays are flying over all the time. Towards the deeper end of the dive site we find cleaning stations for stingrays. Small cleaner wrasse are providing a top quality spa service for stingrays and other tropical fish looking for a manicure. Visability can change from day to day at this dive site but the marinelife is always there and diving this site is a lot of fun !
5. TORTUGA - This dive site got everything !
This dive site consists of two large rocky formations, separated by a channel at 12 meter (40 feet) depth. This site is great for beginner and advanced divers. Taking our time to explore this dive site we start descending along the mooring line into the sandy channel. Gradually going deeper we slowly make our way to a small shipwreck located in the sand away from the site at 21 meter (86 feet) depth. Around the wreck we find lots of tropical fish, white tip reef sharks, rays and eels. After spending 10-15 minutes of exploring the wreck we continue our way back to the main pinnacle looking for octopus, nudibranchs, sea horses and even the beutiful harlequin shrimp. These little colorful shrimp feed on sea stars ! As we make our way around the rocky pinnacles we end the dive again close to the mooring line looking for seas horses that blend in well as they hide between red or dark brown coral formations.
What to know before you go Diving with Rich Coast Diving
We dive 364 days a year (only the first day of the year we like to sleep in) and offer daily 2-tank dive trips to our local dive sites in the Gulf of Papagayo, for all certification levels. Upon request we can also offer a third dive for only $30 USD extra if we have a minimum of 2 divers.
Starting at 7.30 am at our dive shop in Playa del Coco our trips return to shore around 12.00 pm. We require sign up for all dive trips a day in advance, for paperwork and equipment fittings. We require a refresher if you have not been diving for more than 12 months.
A refresher includes an afternoon pool session (1 - 3 pm) with one of our instructors to get you comfortable with your equipment, buoyancy and skills. And then we include two open water dives. All for only $175 inlcuding equipment and 13% tax. Pretty good deal right !
The water temperatures in the North Pacific coast of Costa Rica ranges between 24-30ºC / 75-86ºF depending on the time of year. The water temperature gets a bit colder around January and February so you will need a wetsuit of 3 - 5 mm but from March to December the water is generally very warm around 28-30ºC / 83-86ºF. And a 3mm shorty or just a rashguard is sufficient. Underwater visibility can change on a daily basis and there is no way for us to predict the conditions. But note that the Pacific nutrient rich waters bring a lot of marine life. All our dives have a maximum dive time of 1 hour and depth range depends on your certification level according to PADI certification standards. But except for some deeper divesites most of the marine life is found between 20 meters (65 ft) and the surface.
We highly recommend you plan at least two or three days of diving for the best underwater experience. If you are you planning to do several days of diving then choose the 10 day 2-tank (20 dives) local dive package and receive a discount price ! Only $750 USD for 20 guided dives and $950 USD if you need equipment. And this already includes the 13% tax ! No other shop will offer you such a great deal. So book now !
Planning your diving holiday in Costa Rica
Besides diving there are a wide range of activities and sights to visit in Guanacaste. Planning your diving holiday in Costa Rica is super easy. On our website you can directly pay and book single dive trips but you can also book a dive package that includes diving, accomodation and other activities. That way you get to dive and see some of the spectacular places that Costa Rica has to offer, like the National Parks of Rincon de la Vieja and the famous Rio Celeste. Or include activities like zip lining, horse back riding, ATV and waterfalls. Lots of fun for you, your family and/or friends you are traveling with.
You can book diving directly on our website and for the diving & accomodation packages you can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we are happy to answer any of your questions.
How to get to Rich Coast Diving ?
Getting to our divecenter in Playas del Coco is really easy. We are conveniently located at 30 minutes driving from Liberia's International airport which is connected with daily flights to the United States, Canada, Europe and Central America. When you land you can choose to take a taxi at the airport or you can rent a car.
Want to book your next dive or know more about diving in Costa Rica. Contact us at:
Rich Coast Diving
Mrs. Céline Monfort
WhatsApp +506 8610 0914