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Diving in Playas del Coco (Guanacaste)

Centrally located between the Bat Islands and the Catalina Islands, Playas del Coco boasts Giant Manta Rays and Bull Sharks in volcanic landscapes.

Highlights

Cave Diving at Catalina Islands

The area’s shark cave is a favorite dive among visitors, but you’ll also find interesting arches and vibrant coral growth on volcanic formations.

Bull Sharks at Bat Islands

Bat Island regularly attracts large groups of Bull Sharks, creating an adrenalin-filled dive. At 100 ft (30m), this area is best for advanced divers.

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.

Diving in Playas del Coco (Guanacaste)

Quick facts

With a central location and good facilities, most of the diving in Guanacaste is centered in Playas del Coco. The diving in this part of the Pacific Ocean 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. There are also a few wrecks scattered here and there. What the area lacks in coral, it makes up for in pelagic species, the main scuba attraction in Playas del Coco.

Three main areas can be accessed from this beach town, namely local dive sites, the Catalina Islands and the Bat Islands. The sites close to shore have little to no current and are great for novice and intermediate divers. Only advanced divers should attempt to explore the Catalina Islands and the Bat Islands. All of the diving takes place off of small speed boats, although liveaboards can occasionally be spotted offshore.

Keep in mind that a $15 fee is required for anyone wishing to dive in Costa Rica’s National Marine Parks.

When to go

Diving seasons in Guanacaste can be split into rainy season (May to November) and dry season (December to April). Each holds its own unique advantage.

May 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. This is also the windy time of year. The worst weather occurs during October, making it the month to avoid.

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 Bull Sharks to the Bat Islands.

As an added benefit, fewer tourists arrive during rainy season, making this holiday locale cheaper.

December to April

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 Playas del Coco 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 the Guanacaste coast and are replaced by a variety of fish and macro species. However, these months still offer the opportunity to see Giant Manta Rays at the Catalina Islands.

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 100 feet (30 meters). December to April is the best time to dive on the Pacific coast in locations like Guanacaste.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

Beginners and intermediate divers will be most comfortable at the sites near shore. Advanced divers can head to the Catalina Islands and Bat Islands.
    USD 1,203Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
    USD 1,545Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
    USD 2,057Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers

    Snorkeling in Playas del Coco (Guanacaste)

    Because of the poor visibility and lack of coral immediately surrounding the shore, Playas del Coco is not known for its snorkeling opportunities. However, Playa Guacamaya and Nacascolo are both within an hour’s boat ride and feature coral reefs with plenty of marine life. The snorkeling at both of these destinations is the best in the region.
    There are approximately 20 dive sites near to the Playas del Coco shore. You’ll find additional sites at the Catalina, Bat and Tortuga Islands. The dive sites at the offshore islands are the most famous. In particular, Cueva del Tiburón (a.k.a. Shark Cave) near the Catalina Islands is home to several, sleeping reef sharks. Also, Big Scare near the Bat Islands offers up an adrenalin-filled Bull Shark encounters. Closer to shore, Cabeza de Mono is a superb site for watching rays pass by. Punta Gorda and Punta Argentina are other superb dive sites in the area with a healthy variety of tropical fish life.

    What to see

    Playas del Coco is particularly popular for its abundance of pelagic species. You won’t have to wait long before you find something big in the water.

    During the rainy season, plankton blooms occur in the Pacific, attracting dozens of Giant Manta Rays, mobulas and migrating humpbacks and pilot whales. Occasionally, a whale shark may float past. Fantastic arrays of sharks, including the Bull Sharks of the Bat Islands also arrive from May to November to feast on offshore bait balls. Nurse sharks hide out in the caves of the Catalina Islands.

    Throughout the year, colorful fish and endangered sea turtles cruise along the Guanacaste coast, stopping to lay eggs on the area’s beaches.

    Calendar

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

    Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

    Area

    Playas del Coco, also known as “El Coco” or “Coco Beach,” is located on the western coast of Guanacaste Province. The nearest major city is Liberia, just 20 miles (32 kilometers) away. Because of its proximity to the capital of the province, Playas del Coco is one of the oldest beach towns in Guanacaste. It’s also one of the fastest growing tourism regions in the whole of Costa Rica.

    With lush forests, dramatic volcanic landscapes and an azure seashore, it’s easy to see why international tourists have sought out Playas del Coco since the early 1990s. Thanks to proper infrastructure and its central location, Playas del Coco is perhaps the best beach destination in Guanacaste.

    Other attractions

    While you take a break from the underwater world, there are plenty of other watersports to enjoy in Playas del Coco. Tubing, surfing and rafting are all popular. And don’t miss the chance to tour Guanacaste’s inland resources. The dry forests of Santa Rosa National Park boast hiking tails to keep you busy for days. Canopy and jungle walks are also offered by many of the region’s tour operators. Other great day trips include horseback riding, hot springs, exploring neighboring, deserted beaches and swimming in waterfalls.

    Getting there

    The closest airport to Playas del Coco is Liberia Airport. Because this is only a regional airport, you’ll need to take a domestic flight from San Jose. If you’d prefer to travel over land, you can rent a car or catch a bus from San Jose. The trip between the two destinations takes approximately 5 hours.

    UTC-06:00

    Time zone

    CRC

    Currency

    +506

    Calling code

    120 V

    Electric volt

    A, 

    B

    Plug type

    LIR

    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.