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Best Snorkeling in Guanacaste and Playas del Coco, Costa Rica

Costa Rica, a haven of natural wonders and biodiversity, offers a wealth of outdoor adventures for visitors. While this side of the Pacific does not boast coral reefs, the stunning snorkeling spots along the rocky vulcanic shores in Guanacaste more than compensate for the absence.

Playa Conchal Drone

Arguably Costa Rica's most beautiful beach, Playa Conchal.

In this blog we will give you the opportunity to learn about Costa Rica's best snorkeling spots accessible from shore or by boat tour.

Our top 5 best Snorkeling spots:

1. Pelonas Islands at Playas del Coco

2. Ocotal Beach

3. Playa Penca

4. Playa Nacascolo

5. Playa Conchal

The province of Guanacaste is located in northwestern Costa Rica. Though coral reefs may be absent, the region's rocky formations and volcanic structures create a unique habitat supporting a remarkable variety of marine life. Guanacaste is great for water activities as it offers year round great weather conditions. As the driest state in Costa Rica even the rainy season is remarkably dry.

Guanacaste is easily accessible though its international airport (Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport) in Liberia which is only 40 min away from Playas del Coco and other popular beach towns. This airport offers daily flights from the mayor cities in the US, Canada, Central America and several European cities. Playas del Coco a picturesque beach town 30 minutes from the airport is a great base to explore the area and find yourself the best snorkeling spots.

Map Costa Rica and location Rich Coast Diving

There are several snorkeling spots along the shore accessible from the local beaches. But the best sites are visited by boat. Snorkeling in Costa Rica from a boat offers a unique and exciting way to explore the country's marine wonders. Snorkeling from a boat allows you to access remote locations, discover hidden coves, and encounter a variety of fish species, sea turtles, rays, and even dolphins. Expert snorkeling guides will take in consideration your comfort level, local conditions, safety, marine life and quality snorkeling equipment.

1. Pelonas Islands at Playas del Coco

Situated in the Gulf of Papagayo on the Pacific coast, Playas del Coco offers a delightful snorkeling experience, featuring an abundance of marine life. Despite the absence of coral reefs, the nutrient-rich waters attract an array of fascinating creatures, making it a captivating snorkeling destination. The best shallow snorkeling spots are around the Pelonas Islands.

Palonas Islands in the Gulf of Papagayo

The beautiful Pelonas Islands offshore Playa del Coco, with a rich marine life.

The conditions are generally good with calm warm water and plenty fish, sea turtles, eels, octopus, wide range of rays, harmless but beautiful white tip reef sharks and occasional nurse sharks can be spotted here. If you join us for a snorkeling trip we include a private snorkeling guide that will show you the best spots and point out the large variety of marine life that can be found in the beautiful Papagayo Gulf.

HOW TO GET THERE: Follow this google maps link to Playa del Coco.

You can park close to the beach front where the local park guides will find you a spot. They will keep an eye on your car in exchange for a few hundred Colones. There is no fixed price for parking.

Photos of snorkeling around the shores of playas del Coco with Rich Coast Diving

2. Ocotal Beach

Located at only 15 minutes south of Playas del Coco, snorkelers can explore a thriving underwater ecosystem teeming with colorful fish species. The rocky formations and submerged boulders create shelter for an array of marine creatures, including parrotfish, angelfish, pufferfish, and even the occasional stingray. This underwater playground provides ample opportunities for snorkelers to discover the diverse and vibrant marine life.

HOW TO GET THERE: Follow this google maps link to Playa Ocotal.

You can park close to the beach front in street or close at the Restaurant of Father Rooster.

Playa Ocotal

Some great snorkeling around the Rocky south part of the beach.

If you are planning to spend the day or afternoon at Playa Ocotal then we recommend bringing you own drinks and snacks as there are no supermarkets nearby.

Playa Ocotal is one of our favorite afternoon sunset hangout spots. Especially on week days it is much quieter than Playas del Coco and the water is calm for a relaxed swim or snorkel around the rocky shores on either side of the beach. If you are looking for a bite to eat then Father Rooster has a great menu and offers life music and a beautiful setting right on the beach.

Playa Ocotal

3. Playa Penca

Since the construction of an enormous new Luxory Hotel, Playa Penca is not as accessible as it use to be. All beaches in Costa Rica are open to the public but not all are easily reachable. You can try to slip past the construction work and make your way down to the beach from the following location 10 minutes outside Playa del Coco.

HOW TO GET THERE: Follow this google maps link to Playa Penca.

Otherwise booking a snorkeling tour with any of tour companies in Playas del Coco is a great option. At Rich Coast diving we offer expert snorkeling guides that will take into account the local conditions, your comfort and the best spots to see lots of fish, rays and even sea turtles.

Playa Penca

Playa Penca is a beautiful sheltered bay with white sand beach that offers a tranquil setting to explore the underwater world. Snorkelers can encounter schools of tropical fish, spotted eagle rays gliding gracefully by, and the occasional sea turtle, creating unforgettable moments in this marine paradise.

4. Playa Nacascolo

Accessible only by boat, Playa Nacascolo is known for its clear turquoise waters and abundant marine biodiversity. Snorkelers can discover a vibrant underwater world, encountering schools of colorful fish, playful sea turtles, and elegant rays. The dramatic rock formations and volcanic structures add an extra touch of allure to this captivating snorkeling spot. The beach has beautiful white sand and this is a great spot for a morning snorkeling or afternoon sunset. Note that several sunset tours departing from Playas del Coco will take you to this beach.

HOW TO GET THERE (BY BOAT): Follow this google maps link to Playa Nacascolo.

5. Playa Conchal

Playa Conchal should be on the itinerary of any beach lover visiting Costa Rica. Arguably Costa Rica's most beautiful beach is not vulcanic but of a beautiful fine sand made of white shells. This beach stretches for several miles and you will be able to find a beautiful quiet spot to spend the day or afternoon. Bring your own food and drinks as there are no facilities or supermarkets nearby.

HOW TO GET THERE: Follow this google maps link to Playa Conchal.

Going to Playa Conchal you will pass through the small town of Brasilito, then Huacas and turn right onto a dirt road towards the beautiful Playa Conchal. There is a parking area where parking guides will guide you to a spot. Parking fees depend on you negotiation skills, but CRC 1000 ($2 USD) is what we paid for an afternoon parking.

While the snorkeling experience here is more about exploration than coral reefs, the underwater world reveals an assortment of fish species, including sergeant majors, damselfish, and trumpetfish. Snorkelers can also spot intriguing creatures like octopuses and eels and rays.

The best spot for snorkeling are at the south end of this stunning beach. From the parking area you walk towards the left side. Note that at times the swells can be strong here so you need to be a confident swimmer and always snorkel with your buddy.

Safety and Environmental Considerations

As you embark on your snorkeling journey in Guanacaste, it's crucial to prioritize safety and environmental conservation. Here are some guidelines to ensure a safe and responsible snorkeling experience:

a. Choose reputable snorkeling operators: Opt for certified operators with knowledgeable guides who prioritize safety measures and adhere to responsible snorkeling practices. As active Green Fins member Rich Coast Diving protects the marine environment by following guidelines that promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling industry. READ MORE about Green Fins here.

b. Respect marine life and their habitat: Maintain a safe distance from marine creatures, avoid touching or disturbing the underwater environment, and refrain from removing any objects from the ocean.

c. Use reef-safe sunscreen: Protect your skin without harming the delicate marine ecosystem by using reef-safe sunscreen that is free from harmful chemicals.

d. Practice proper snorkeling techniques: Familiarize yourself with snorkeling techniques, such as clearing your mask and snorkel, equalizing ear pressure, and swimming with proper fin techniques. Always snorkel with a buddy and ensure you have the necessary equipment. When you book your snorkeling trip with Rich Coast Diving we make sure you have a private snorkeling guide, snorkeling vests and good quality mask, fins and snorkels to give you the best possible snorkeling experience.

e. Do not leave valuables unattended: Costa Rica is regarded as one of the safest countries to visit in the world. Do note however that we highly recommend that you do not leave any valuables unattended in your rental vehicles or on the beach while you are snorkeling or swimming. Thefts are rare but they do happen and will have a negative effect on your travel plans.

About snorkeling in Guanacaste

While Costa Rica may lack coral reefs, the snorkeling experiences in Guanacaste are no less captivating and offer one of the worlds most amazing snorkeling sites. The absence of coral reefs is compensated by the region's unique underwater rock formations, volcanic structures, and thriving marine life. From encountering colorful fish species at Playas del Coco to exploring the beautiful white sandy beach of Playa Conchal, snorkelers will discover a world of wonders beneath the surface.

Costa Rica offers world class sites for beginner and advanced snorkelers and divers. We look forward to show you Costa Rica Above and BELOW !

For more information about snorkeling in Costa Rica, Contact Rich Coast Diving

Mrs. Céline Monfort

WhatsApp +506 8610 0914

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