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Diving in Manuel Antonio National Park (Quepos)

Home to advanced dives at offshore islands and trips to Isla del Cano, the waters of Manuel Antonio National Park host divers and Giant Manta Rays alike.

Highlights

Marine Mammals at Caño Island

The pinnacles surrounding this island attract a number of larger marine species, including Manta Rays, Dolphins, Orcas, Humpbacks and Pilot Whales.

Hundreds of Fish at Veinte Seis

Newly discovered, this deep pinnacle is an hour offshore but hosts hundreds of fish, including snappers, jacks and wahoos. For advanced divers only.

Diving in Manuel Antonio National Park (Quepos)

Quick facts

Diving from Manuel Antonio National Park near Quepos is one of the most enjoyable experiences of Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast. Here you’ll find a variety of environments created by the area’s volcanic origins, including caverns, deep sea pinnacles and boulders covered in soft corals.

While there are a couple of protected sites for beginners, the vast majority of diving near Manuel Antonio National Park features mild current with strong surge. Advanced divers will certainly feel more comfortable here. Furthermore, the offshore pinnacles such as Veinte Seis should only be attempted by experienced divers due to outward currents.

All diving in Manuel Antonio National Park takes place from small speedboats. There’s also the possibility of taking a longer trip from Quepos to Isla del Cano.

Keep in mind that a $16 daily permit is required for anyone entering Manuel Antonio National Park.

When to go

Generally, December to April is preferred by most scuba divers. At this time you’ll have excellent visibility and the possibility of Giant Manta Rays.

March to November

May to November 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 pelagic species closer to shore and you’ll have a better opportunity to see sharks. However, these plankton blooms and river runoff decrease visibility at this time.

As a benefit of traveling during rainy season, fewer tourists are in the area, making this the low season. You’re likely to find the best deals on flights and accommodation during these months.

December to April

December to April is dry season in Manuel Antonio National Park. During these months, very little rain falls throughout the Pacific coast.

The dry season is the best time to visit Manuel Antonio National Park 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 as well as other passing pelagic species.

Beginner divers who prefer easy, colorful diving will also enjoy December to May. During these months, divers will benefit from calmer seas and visibility reaching 45 feet (13 meters).

Overall, the dry season is the best time to dive on the Pacific coast in locations near Quepos.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

Beginner and intermediate divers will be most comfortable at the sites near shore. Advanced divers can head to the many offshore islands and pinnacles.

    Snorkeling in Manuel Antonio National Park (Quepos)

    Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is usually not recommended for snorkeling, but Manuel Antonio National Park hosts many points of interest for topside spotters. The two best beaches for snorkeling are Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Espadilla Sur. Snorkeling tours are also offered to many of the offshore islands where soft corals populate the waters. From December to May, snorkeling can be combined with whale watching on any of these excursions.
    There are approximately 15 dive sites in Manuel Antonio National Park. These include beginner sites such as Las Gemelas and more advanced sites including Geos Ridge, Lost Rock and Bajo del Diablo. Veinte Seis is a favorite among experienced divers in the area. Here you’ll find a deep pinnacle with great fish action. Huge schools of snappers, jacks and wahoos surround you as you descend to 130 feet (40 meters). Finally, trips to Isla del Cano are also a possibility. Cano Island has 6 dive sites, all between 50 and 65 feet (15 and 20 meters). Here you may encounter bull sharks and reef sharks. Sometimes whales even appear!

    What to see

    From big to small, you’ll be surprised at the diversity of marine life found off Manuel Antonio National Park. Among the hard and soft corals live massive schools of jacks and snappers. Their presence is added to by puffer fish, scorpion fish, parrot fish, angel fish, moorish idols, octopus, trumpets, eels, sea turtles, nudibranchs and a variety of crustaceans.

    In terms of larger animals, you might encounter white-tip reef sharks, stingrays and spotted eagle rays. From December to May, you may also dive with Giant Manta Rays. On your way to or from offshore sites during these same months, you might see humpback whales or large pods of dolphins.

    Calendar

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

    Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

    Area

    Just south of Quepos, Manuel Antonio National Park is a small subsection of the Central Pacific Conservation Area. With only 7.656 square miles (19.829 square kilometers) of land, this is the smallest of Costa Rica’s national parks, but don’t let that deter you. Forbes Magazine named Manuel Antonio as one of the world’s 12 most beautiful national parks in 2012. However, it’s beauty isn’t a secret. More than 150,000 people visit the park every year.

    Manuel Antonio National Park also features unequalled biodiversity. 109 mammal species and 184 bird species call the park home.

    Other attractions

    The main attraction to Manuel Antonio National Park is its pristine beach. Playa Manuel Antonio features calm, clear water and a long strip of sand to lay out on. There’s another beach just outside the park with more commercial enterprises. It’s possible to rent sun loungers and boogie boards. Don’t miss your opportunity to take a tour of the park. Both hiking and wildlife tours are offered. For the independent traveler, 4 short trails crisscross Manuel Antonio National Park. Finally, deep sea fishing trips are also available from Quepos. Fishermen will delight in the sizable marlin caught on nearly every trip.

    Getting there

    The closest international airport is Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose. From the capital city to Quepos, where most people stay, is a 3-hour journey by car or bus. Once you reach the coast, it’s possible to get around completely on foot. However, there is also a public bus that travels between the area’s hotels and the national park.

    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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