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Less developed than the Pacific coast, the province of Limón offers the chance to dive into the Caribbean. Expect pristine reefs and a few shipwrecks.

Highlights

Wreck Diving at Isla Uvita

2 wrecks await beneath the waves of Isla Uvita. In particular, The Phoenix, a cargo ship which sank several years ago, hosts abundant marine life.

Costa Rica’s Barrier Reef

From Puerto Viejo south to the Panamanian border, a long barrier reef sits 50 miles offshore. Largely unexplored, divers can see its soft coral gardens.

Diving in Limón

Quick facts

Unlike the Pacific side of Costa Rica, Limón still lacks a proper diving infrastructure. What does this mean for you? A dive shop may be difficult to locate, but you are sure to be diving in uncrowded and pristine waters. Plus you have the chance to explore new areas if you choose to do so.

Much of the province is protected by national parks. To the north, you will find the Parque Nacional Tortuguero and the Refugio Nacional Barra del Colorado. And to the south, there is Cahuita National Park and the beautiful Gandoca Manzanillo Refuge. Isla Uvita, Puerto Viejo, Punta Uva and Punta Mona represent other popular diving destinations.

Small wrecks and coral reefs constitute the majority of underwater environments. Most sites are accessible to beginners with little to no current. However, deeper sites do exist to keep advanced and tec divers from getting bored.

Keep in mind, a fee may be necessary to access the national parks. Also, spearfishing and collecting marine organisms while using an underwater breathing apparatus is prohibited.

You are sure to love exploring this underwater paradise. Just make sure you get here before the crowds do.

When to go

Diving in Limon is possible year-round, but the best diving is from February to May and again from August to October when visibility is at its best.

October to January

Roughly October to January is considered rainy season. Visitors can expect one to two hours of rainfall in the mid-afternoon during these months.

The rainy season is the best time to go if you’re an advanced diver who likes pelagic action. During these months, nutrient swells attract the big animals, but rain creates run-off from the many coastal rivers. This in turn severely hinders visibility in the region.

The benefits of visiting during the rainy season are that the water is usually calm as there is very little wind. Also, fewer tourists arrive during rainy season, making this holiday locale cheaper.

February to September

February to September is dry season in Costa Rica. During these months, very little rain falls along the Caribbean coast.

The dry season is the best time to visit Costa Rica if you want to split your time between sunbathing on the beach and diving into the underwater world. Most of the pelagic species found during the rainy season leave this part of Costa Rica and are replaced by a variety of fish and macro species.

It is also the best time to dive in Limon for beginner divers who prefer easy, colorful diving. During these months, divers will benefit from calmer seas and visibility reaching 70 feet (20 meters).

Once every few years, June and July can feature quite a bit of rain. Some people advise not booking a trip during these two months.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

Most of the diving in Costa Rica’s Caribbean takes place from Cahuita south to Panama. Occasionally, dive trips are offered to Tortuguero National Park.

    Snorkeling in Limón

    Snorkeling along Limon Province is probably more popular than scuba diving. Operators regularly run snorkeling excursions to Isla Uvita, Punta Uva, Puerto Viejo, Cahuita and Punta Mona. However, try to avoid the rainy season if you wish to snorkel. River run-off makes visibility poor at this time of year.
    Isla Uvita is the first diving area you will come across if you are staying in Limón. This island sits just offshore from the city and is actually where Christopher Columbus first landed in Costa Rica. Because of its position outside of a port city, the island is home to several shipwrecks. Divers will enjoy exploring The Phoenix in particular. This ship now hosts an abundance of marine life and a lively reef within recreational limits. Traveling further south, Parque Nacional Cahuita has long protected the waters within it. 123 species of fish can be found in the park’s pristine coral reef. There are also plenty of brain and unusual staghorn corals to explore. Two wrecks now lie buried within the reef. Finally, at the far southern edge of Limón province, Puerto Viejo, Punta Uva and Punta Mona allow access to a gorgeous reef that stretches from Puerto Viejo to the border of Panama. There are more than 25 dive sites along this reef, many of which feature unique reef formations created by various earthquakes. If you love seahorses, this is the reef for you. Divers report seeing them frequently in a variety of colors.

    What to see

    Because of the protected status of most of the Caribbean waters in Costa Rica, the marine life you can encounter on your dives is diverse. Off the coast, there are no less than 400 species of fish, 30 species of corals, 11 species of sponges, and 138 species of mollusks. In the coral department, you are sure to see brain, staghorn, fire, and black corals as well as several varieties of sea fans. Turtles, barracudas, lobster, eagle rays, eels, queen fish, reef sharks, angelfish, parrotfish, scorpionfish and trunkfish are just a few of the organisms you might encounter. In addition, seahorses are plentiful in certain areas. And at night, octopus, nudibranchs, Spanish dancers and crabs come out to hunt. At the end of your diving day, your hand will be cramped with all the animals you have to write in your log book.

    Calendar

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

    Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

    Area

    Confusingly, Limón can describe three places in the same region of Costa Rica: the county of Limón, the province of Limón and the capital city of both the county and the province, also called Limón. For the purposes of this article, we will describe Limón as the province which lies along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The majority of the territory is within the country’s Caribbean lowlands. However, the southwestern portion of the province hosts the Cordillera de Talamanca, an extensive mountain range.

    Christopher Columbus was the first European to arrive in Limón. He did so in 1502 on his last journey to America. Given the local resistance and the hot and humid climate, the Spanish soon gave up the idea of colonizing the area. From 1873 to 1884, Costa Rica built a railroad from San José to Puerto Limón which would drastically change the economy of the country by enabling shipping routes from the Caribbean port.

    Limón province is also significantly less developed than elsewhere in Costa Rica. Electricity only arrived to the area in 1976. However, significant investment in recent years has signaled a change in attitude and provided some hope for the future.

    Other attractions

    The Province of Limón is for adventure lovers. Here several national parks give way to hiking, rafting and wildlife spotting opportunities. A few of the favorite parks include Tortuguero National Park and Cahuita National Park. There is also a highly rated jaguar center called the Foundation Jaguar Rescue Center where you can learn about the big cats. Beautiful beaches are bountiful, particularly Puerto Viejo Beach and Playa Chiquita, and surfing among the Caribbean waves is a popular pastime for both locals and visitors alike. The Luluberlu Art Gallery and Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve add a cultural element to a stay in Limón. Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to learn about and taste the results of the local chocolate production areas.

    Getting there

    The closest international airport to Limón is in San Jose. Flights originating around the world fly directly to Costa Rica. From the airport, a 3 hour journey is required by car, private transfer or bus. However, the best way to visit Limón is by cruise ship. These boats often dock at Puerto Limón on their way to or from the Panama Canal.

    UTC-06:00

    Time zone

    CRC

    Currency

    +506

    Calling code

    120 V

    Electric volt

    A, 

    B

    Plug type

    LIO

    Main airport
    Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.