Best Places for Diving in Costa Rica

  • ~ mins read

What is the best way to combine a love for water, wildlife, and adventure? Diving, of course! Around the world, scuba diving and snorkeling are popular activities for travelers, and in Costa Rica, this is no exception. With pristine water and a diverse collection of reefs accessible from both of the country’s coasts, diving and snorkeling in Costa Rica offers awe-inspiring adventures into the aquatic world. 

Excellent experience
  • Debra Ryder
  • From USA
5 - Excellent
“We loved our adventure! The scenery is amazing! Even The summer storms were exciting...” Read More
View Incredible Tours in Costa Rica


Moray eels are a common sighting while diving in Costa Rica
You can find moray eels hiding between rocks while diving in Islas Tortuga.

Boasting several dive sites in the area, Nicoya Peninsula is a solid choice to add on a Costa Rica tour. With calm water, Islas Tortuga is a great site for beginners seeking guided dives. Marine life is abundant with common sightings including sharks, rays, puffer fish, and eels.

Sea depth: 15 meters

Good to know:

  • You could snorkel in Costa Rica too, as this is the top site for snorkeling on the Pacific coast. Other great activities on the island include hiking, canopy and biplane tours, kayaking, and beach volleyball.
  • Top off the day by sipping on the island’s specialty rum concoction, coco loco, rightly served in a coconut shell.


For a thrilling dive experience, Caño Island is one of the best places to dive in Costa Rica, second only to Cocos Island. The remarkably clear water in this protected national park teems with wildlife including rays, sharks, dolphins, whales, turtles, octopi, eels and over 100 species of fish. At times, the fish gather in such great number that they create a cloud, often blocking the sunlight above. Otherwise, visibility ranges from 50 to 100 feet. Many species of coral also exist, some endemic to the area. Cliffs, channels, caves, and shallow reef are all a part of the diverse aquatic landscape here.

Sea depth: 5–30 meters

Good to know:

  • For your best chance at spotting whales, visit between July and October, or in December during migration time.
  • Caño Island rests less than 17 kilometers off the coast of Corcovado National Park, another gem touted as one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.


Cocos Island is a great place for diving in Costa Rica to witness fishes
Cocos island is a great spot to swim around corals, caves, volcanic tunnels and schools of fish.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cocos Island is a world-famous diving destination that without a doubt offers the best diving in Costa Rica. Diving here is an exclusive experience as the island is highly remote and requires a private charter. But you’ll be handsomely rewarded with exhilarating dives alongside some of the world’s largest schools of hammerhead sharks. Rays, dolphins, whales, whale sharks, orcas, sea lions, sea turtles and countless other fish are also local inhabitants. Cocos Island sports over 30 species of coral in addition to caves, volcanic tunnels, and clear turquoise water.

Sea depth: Up to 40 meters

Good to know:

  • You’ll need to find a live aboard boat tour as the trip from Puntarenas takes 32–36 hours. Visitors are not permitted to stay overnight on the island.
  • Historically, Cocos Island was infamous for piracy and many believe treasure may be hidden there.
  • You may recognize Cocos Island from the intro scenes of Jurassic Park. It is speculated that the fictional island, Isla Nubar, was based off this beautiful island and its rich topography.


Friendly dolphins are a common sight while diving in Costa Rica
Lucky divers get a chance to interact with friendly dolphins

Diving in search of marine life is one thing, but diving into human history can be exhilarating too. With three large shipwrecks in the Malpais area, you’ll have an epic adventure. With the nearby protected reserves, you should also encounter an excellent variety of sea life, including sea turtles, octopus, sharks, dolphins, whales, sea horses, and schools of fish.

Sea depth: 16–30 meters

Good to know:

  • Watersport enthusiasts should also try out surfing in Malpais. It’s a great place to take lessons or find a thrill ride if you’re ready for more daring waves.


Divers may encounter sea turtles while diving in Costa Rica
On the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, divers can enjoy clearer waters and spot marine wildlife like this sea turtle.

On the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, scuba divers can enjoy clear water and vibrant colors. Diving here makes for a fun day as you navigate your way through the coral reef, observing tropical fish, sea turtles, and sea fans. Dolphins and manatees visit frequently too!

Sea depth: 18 meters

Good to know:

  • Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is also considered one of the best spots for snorkeling in Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast.
  • Consider night diving here for a different perspective and look into the changing scene of the coral reef ecosystem. Night trips offer an incredible opportunity to witness the glowing phenomenon of bioluminescence.


A diver crosses paths with a giant manta ray while diving in Costa Rica
Because of their sheer size, giant manta rays are a sight to behold.

Known for its giant manta rays, the Catalina Islands are a spot you don’t want to miss if you plan on scuba diving in Costa Rica. Other marine life includes turtles, eels, sharks, massive schools of tropical fish, and potentially whales, orcas and dolphins. Due to a stronger current here, it is most suitable for advanced divers.

Sea depth: 12–35 meters

Good to know:

  • Birdwatching boat tours are also a popular way to explore the islands.
  • Divers seeking an action-packed experience of the best diving in Costa Rica frequently combine this destination with Bat Islands for a “Bat + Cat” dive trip.


Looking for an adrenaline rush? Advanced divers will excite at the wonders found at the Bat Islands. Intimate encounters with huge bull sharks are the main draw here and will leave your heart thumping without a doubt. Protected within Santa Rosa National Park, dolphins, turtles, rays, and whales are likely waiting for you too.

Sea depth: 18–35 meters

Good to know:

  • Learn the fascinating local history. The old hacienda in the national park is now turned into a museum commemorating the battle of Santa Rosa which heavily influenced Costa Rica’s peaceful military position.
  • Nearby Playa Nancite is a major nesting ground for Pacific Ridley sea turtles, which sometimes arrive in thousands in a single night in late summer.

Costa Rica is definitely one of the most intriguing places on the planet to experience both land and sea adventures. The oceans are captivating and scuba diving in Costa Rica is a definite thing to do for an unbeatable time. Consider these awesome destinations while planning your next Costa Rica trip!

Published by Sofie, updated on April 20, 2021

Related Articles

Things to do in Costa Rica

Things to do in Costa Rica

The eco-tourism hub of Central America, Costa... read more

11 Adventure Activities in Costa Rica

11 Adventure Activities in Costa Rica

With the greatest density of biodiversity in ... read more

13 Best Things to Do in San Jose, Costa Rica

13 Best Things to Do in San Jose, Costa Rica

Located in the very heart of Costa Rica, the ... read more

Plan a trip to Costa Rica We offer different tour types. You can also chat with a local travel specialist if you want a customized tour to Costa Rica.
  • Verónica Medina
    Verónica Medina Travel Expert in Costa Rica
  • Randall Jiménez Moreno
    Randall Jiménez Moreno Travel Expert in Costa Rica
  • Ellen Zoe Golden
    Ellen Zoe Golden Travel Expert in Costa Rica
Our travel experts are recommended by:
  • BBC
  • Independent
  • Lonely Planet
0 COMMENTS We welcome your questions or comments to this article. Our travel experts will respond within 48 hours.