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Giant Mantas: A Diving Adventure in Costa Rica's Catalinas Islands


Costa Rica's Catalinas Islands, situated near the beach town of Playas del Coco in Guanacaste, offer a mesmerizing diving experience with one of the ocean's most captivating creatures: the oceanic manta ray. These majestic giants gracefully glide through the Pacific waters, captivating divers with their beauty and elegance. In this blog post, we will embark on an underwater adventure to explore the extraordinary encounters when diving with oceanic mantas in Catalinas Islands from November to April. Along the way, we will also discover interesting facts about these incredible marine creatures that make the experience even more exhilarating.

Beach Tow of Playas del Coco

Early departure from the beautiful bay of Playas del Coco, Guanacaste.

The Dive Destination

The Catalinas Islands are nestled in the sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean of western Costa Rica. Located just a 40 min boat ride away from Playas del Coco, this pristine archipelago boasts an abundance of marine life, and remarkable underwater topography. The islands are renowned for their rich biodiversity and offer a myriad of dive sites suitable for all skill levels.

Meeting the Oceanic Mantas (Planning your trip)

Truly an encounter of a lifetime. Imagine descending into the depths and suddenly being enveloped by the presence of oceanic mantas. These gentle giants, with their enormous wingspans and elegant movements, create an awe-inspiring spectacle. The Catalinas Islands provide an ideal habitat for these majestic creatures. Diving alongside oceanic mantas is an experience that will forever be etched in your memory. When planning your trip to Costa Rica your need to keep in mind that the Manta season generally runs from November to April. Of course these ocean encounters can not be guaranteed as the Mantas come and go as they please. But our experienced captains and instructors at Rich Coast Diving do know all the good dive spots where they are likely to be found.

Behaviors and Social Interactions

How fast can Oceanic Mantas swim ? On average giant manta rays have been recorded to swim about 9 miles per hour, but to evade danger, they can go as fast as 22 mph ! But luckily for us slow divers they only swim this fast when they are moving between different breeding or feeding grounds. The dive sites we visit to get a chance to see the gentle giants are so called cleaning stations and here the mantas are generally moving slow. They are known for their acrobatic displays, performing graceful somersaults and barrel rolls underwater. These magnificent creatures often gather at cleaning stations, where small fish remove parasites and dead skin from their bodies. Witnessing this symbiotic relationship is a true marvel of nature.

Fascinating Facts about Oceanic Mantas

Awe-Inspiring Anatomy Oceanic mantas belong to the genus Manta, and their scientific name is Manta birostris. How big are oceanic mantas ? These gentle giants can reach an impressive wingspan of up to 25 feet, making them one of the largest rays in the world. They possess a unique diamond-shaped body structure, large pectoral fins, and cephalic lobes on either side of their mouths, which help funnel plankton-rich waters into their gills.

Did you know that Manta rays are relatives of all sharks and rays. They fall in the in the Elasmobranchii subclass, because all are having skeletons made of cartilage rather than bone. And rest assured because diving with Giant Mantas is perfectly safe and these gently giants are not dangerous. They are vegetarians !

And do not forget to bring your camera because every manta ray has a unique spot pattern that can be used to identify them, like our own fingerprints. If you then send your photo to the Manta Trust Costa Rica they will identify the animal for your and you even get to name it, if the individual has not been registered before. How cool would it be to name your own manta ray !

1. Filter-Feeding Mastery

Oceanic mantas are filter feeders, primarily consuming plankton and small fish. Their gill rakers, located inside their gill arches, act as a sieve, allowing them to extract food while expelling excess water. In a single day, a manta ray can consume up to 60 pounds of plankton, highlighting their crucial role in maintaining the delicate balance of marine ecosystems.

2. Longevity and Reproduction

These magnificent creatures have a relatively long lifespan, with some individuals living up to 50 years. Female oceanic mantas have a gestation period of approximately one year, giving birth to live young called pups. Interestingly, female mantas have the ability to store sperm, allowing them to choose when to fertilize their eggs.

3. Global Distribution

Oceanic mantas are found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. They are known to undertake long-distance migrations, often traveling hundreds of miles. Their presence in the Catalinas Islands is a testament to the area's rich biodiversity and the thriving marine ecosystem.

Diving Logistics and Conservation Efforts

Conveniently located only 40 min from Playas del Coco. We departure at 6 AM and return around 1 PM. Please note that the season is from December to April only.

*Conditions apply: We need a minimum of 4 divers to guarantee a trip. And we require guests to do a local diving trip with Rich Coast Diving prior to booking a Catalinas trip.

Conservation Initiatives

Preserving the fragile marine ecosystem and protecting oceanic mantas is of utmost importance. Organizations such as Manta Trust and local conservation groups work tirelessly to gather scientific data, raise awareness, and advocate for the protection of these magnificent creatures. Responsible diving practices, such as not touching or chasing mantas, are crucial to their well-being.

If you are interested to know more about Manta Ray research in Costa Rica. We recommend you to contact Mantas de Costa Rica. The organisation Mantas de Costa Rica (Manta Trust) aims to identify the abundance of manta rays (Mobula birostris), highlight their distribution, as well as migratory patterns and movements of the manta ray population in Costa Rica. The project is located along the entire Pacific coast of Costa Rica.


Embarking on a diving adventure in Costa Rica's Catalinas Islands offers an extraordinary opportunity to witness the captivating dance of oceanic mantas. From their mesmerizing acrobatics to their vital role in marine ecosystems, these gentle giants never fail to inspire awe and wonder. The Catalinas Islands, with their vibrant marine life, serve as an ideal backdrop for such encounters. As you glide beneath the surface and find yourself face to face with these magnificent creatures, you will undoubtedly gain a deeper appreciation for the beauty and importance of our oceans. So, dive into this underwater paradise and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Manta at Catalinas Island Costa Rica
Manta at Catalinas Island Costa Rica

For more information about diving with Oceanic Mantas in Costa Rica

Contact Rich Coast Diving

Mrs. Céline Monfort

WhatsApp +506 8610 0914

Logo Rich Coast Diving

Looking for accomodation while diving with oceanic mantas. Contact us for the best places to stay in Playas del Coco.

Accomodation in Playas del Coco

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