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One of Costa Rica’s newest dive spots, Herradura offers all levels of diver the chance to meet both Giant Oceanic Manta Rays and Whitetip Reef Sharks.

Highlights

The Wrecks of Tortuga Islands

The Franklin Chang, Colonel Alfonso Monge, and the Caroline Star are all waiting to be explored within recreational limits along the Pacific coast.

Giant Manta Rays at The Island

Herradura’s premier underwater attraction, Giant Oceanic Manta Rays come to The Island to be cleaned by reef fish between December and May each year.

Whitetip Reef Sharks at La Cueva

This cave, a.k.a. La Cueva, is a favorite among visitors and whitetip reef sharks, but you’ll also find interesting volcanic formations to explore.

Diving in Herradura

Quick facts

Herradura, located on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast, is one of the newest dive locations in this Central American country. The diving is excellent, but don’t expect to see pristine corals or excellent visibility. The underwater landscape is defined by volcanic formations such as arches, caverns and tunnels. Just because there isn’t a pristine reef, doesn’t mean biodiversity is lacking. You’ll see plenty of pelagic species, the main attraction to diving in the area.

Most of the diving is located within ten minutes of the shore by boat. However, it’s also possible to take an extended diving day at Isla Tortuga where you’ll find fascinating shipwrecks.

Most of the diving near Herradura is subject to strong currents and surges, making it more suitable to intermediate and advanced divers. However, there are a limited number of sites located in the protected bay that are ideal for beginners.

When to go

Diving seasons in Herradura can be split into rainy season (May to Nov) and dry season (Dec to Apr). Diving is available only during the dry season.

May to November

Mid-May to November is considered rainy season. Visitors can expect one to two hours of rainfall in the mid-afternoon during these months. This is also the windy time of year. October has the worst overall weather.

Unfortunately, the dive shops in Herradura close from mid-May until the first of December to avoid the inclement weather during rainy season.

December to May

December to April is dry season in Costa Rica. During these months, very little rain falls throughout the Pacific coast.

The dry season is the best time to visit Herradura if you wish to scuba dive. It is also best if you want to split your time between sunbathing on the beach and diving into the underwater world. These months offer the opportunity to see Giant Manta Rays at The Island as well as other passing pelagic species.

This is also the best time to dive in Costa Rica for beginner divers who prefer easy, colorful diving. During these months, divers will benefit from calmer seas and visibility reaching 45 feet (13 meters). December to April is the best time to dive on the Pacific coast in locations like Herradura.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

Beginners will want to stay inside the protected bay. Advanced divers can head to The Island, Isla Tortuga or the islands off the northern point.

    Snorkeling in Herradura

    While it is possible to snorkel in Herradura Bay, it is not recommended due to the lack of visibility. If you do wish to snorkel locally, you’ll need to take a 15 minute boat ride to the snorkeling sites. Alternatively, consider a trip to Jaco Beach, Punta Leona or Aguja. Most operators in this part of Costa Rica will recommend a full-day snorkeling trip to Tortuga Island for the most enjoyable topside spotting.
    Divers in Herradura will have access to several sites located ten minutes offshore by boat as well as those further afield at Isla Tortuga. The best site for beginners is Middle Reef where you’ll find fascinating volcanic formations and a good diversity of tropical fish. Further offshore, The Island is a favorite among advanced divers. The cleaning station for Giant Oceanic Manta Rays lies just under this strip of land which forms an island at high tide. You also have a good chance of spotting whitetip reef sharks around The Island. The Garden represents the most beautiful underwater landscape near Herradura. A rare soft coral field welcomes divers and whitetip reef sharks alike. Finally, the sites around Isla Tortuga include La Cueva, Acuario, Laberinto and La Punta.

    What to see

    Herradura is particularly known for its abundance of pelagic species. You’ll be amazed by the ease of your encounter with them.

    First and foremost, from December to May each year, Giant Oceanic Manta Rays are attracted to a cleaning station located just offshore at The Island. Whitetip reef sharks also enjoy the area because the strong currents bring in passing prey. You’ll find these sharks at several of the advanced dive sites.

    When you aren’t busy with the big animals, you can also expect to find octopuses, lobsters, moray eels, seahorses, nudibranchs, sea stars, rays and large schools of tropical fish amongst patches of hard and soft corals.

    Calendar

    For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

    Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

    Area

    Located two and a half miles (four kilometers) north of the popular resort destination known as Jaco, Herradura is home to Costa Rica’s only full-service, 5-star marina. This fact has resulted in the area’s reputation as “The Fishing Capital of Costa Rica.”

    Because of its position just 2 hours from the international airport in San Jose, Herradura and its neighboring resort areas have grown exponentially since tourism reached Costa Rica in the 20th Century. The town is also sometimes referred to as Herradura Bay or Herradura Beach.

    Other attractions

    With a sweeping bay and several rivers emptying into the ocean, Herradura is a natural playground ripe for exploration. Most of the excursions in the area fall into the category of adventure activities, including river rafting, tubing, horseback riding, canopy ziplining and jungle wildlife tours. As “The Fishing Capital of Costa Rica,” Herradura also offers the opportunity to partake in deep sea fishing. Stand-up paddleboarding, jet ski tours and river kayaking round out an impressive list of watersports available.

    Getting there

    The closest international airport to Herradura is Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Juan. The journey from the airport to Herradura takes about 2 hours and can be completed by bus, rental car or private transfer. If you choose to base yourself at Jaco Beach, there are buses that circulate between Jaco and Herradura every hour.

    UTC-06:00

    Time zone

    CRC

    Currency

    +506

    Calling code

    120 V

    Electric volt

    A, 

    B

    Plug type

    SJO

    Main airport
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