Costa Rica Scuba Diving! YAY! (?)

Some good friends of mine have the good sense to be getting married in Costa Rica in May. We’re spending at least a week there…zip line, volcano, National parks…etc.

Several of us in the group are scuba divers. We’re trying to decide if/how we should involve diving for this trip.

I’ve heard mixed stories of the dive possibilities in the area. I’ve don’t HAVE to go diving…but it could be fun if it’s worth it.

We’re going to be in the Manuel Antonio area first, and end up at Xandari
by the Pacific.

So…can anyone give me first hand advice on how good the diving in the area is? We might even do a week at some island nearby, and then travel to Costa Rica for the festivities.

We’re all based in South Florida, in case it matters.


I have friends who honeymooned in Costa Rica around Christmas one year, and went scuba diving. They report that while there were supposed to be a lot of big animals in the area (so the brochures said), the visibility was pretty poor. Since scuba diving is a thing there, though, I’d expect it to be better at other times of the year. The question is, which ones.

Was there last May, on the Pacific side. Went snorkeling and it sucked in comparison to Jamaica and the Philippines. The ziplines and rainforest tours were great though.

I went snorkeling on the Pacific side (northern CR) a few years ago in February. I thought it was absolutely amazing, but I was a total newbie. People with more snorkeling and scuba experience said it wasn’t very good. The sand was dark, for one thing, which I guess cuts down the available underwater light.

Zips lines are great fun. If you go for a rainforest tour, however, try to find out what level it’s pitched at. We went twice, and each time, there were people who could barely struggle through a 1-hour walk. I wanted serious up-hill hiking and adventure, but many rainforest tours seem aimed at the bloated tourist who just wants to see a bird or two and a few monkeys and then go for a drink.

My Wife and I are divers, but decided not to dive on our trip to Costa Rica last May. It just didn’t sound that good, and with all the other stuff to do (zip lines, jungle, volcanoes, white river rafting) we did not think it was worth it.

The river rafting (in May) was one of the highlights of our trip.

And the zip lines. They aren’t kidding when they say zip. 50mph and parts of ours where 600 feet above the valley.
I’ll try to load up some pictures later today.

I’ll add my vote for white-water rafting. After doing it for years in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, it was really a treat to go through a class three rapid getting splashed with 80F water. Warm white-water rafting, with monkeys in the trees! Try it.

Wasn’t that great! I meant to mention how nice it was to be in warm water.

We took a break and just swam and floated around. You do NOT do that in Colorado.

Also, surfing lessons. DO IT! I just got back from 1 week surfing in Nosara and had a blast.

For Scuba, I know that Cocos Island, is a National park/nature reserve and is known to swarm with Hammerhead sharks and large predatory fish (Tuna, Jack, etc). But I think for diving right off the Pacific Coast, there isn’t much going on. I haven;t noticed that anyone really advertises diving – or even snorkeling – as a real draw. I guess the diving is bad for the same reason the surfing is good for beginners: no reef; shallow, sloping sea floor; steady and persistent swell year-round.

I was in CR over thanksgiving for a wedding in Mal Pais. Was dragged somewhat against my wishes on on diving trip to Isla Tortuga at the southern end of the Nicoya peninsula. Just to echo what has been said above, if you are expecting crystal clear waters and Caribbean style reefs you will be disappointed. On 2 dives, saw a couple reef sharks and a turtle, but it really left a lot to be desired. As others have said, surfing is more what the Pacific side is known for.

Yep, what StuckinNJ said. Your best diving is in the bahamas for viz and animal life. Even Hawai’i sucked, and I luves me some Hawai’i. Do the zips and the rafting. And the surfing sounds way cool.

I’ve not been, but have heard a number of first hand reports (including one from a dive master who was from CR) that Cocos Island is THE diving spot “in” CR. Lots of pelagics including the hammerheads and other sharks (plus mantas, turtles, etc.)

However, it is an overnight boatride out, and you usually do it as a live-aboard (spend 3+ days at the island) given the long boatride to/from.

So if you “have” to dive, then I think Cocos is the way to go. But if you decide Cocos is on the itinerary, then you need to set aside like 3 to 5 days just for that part of the trip.

Agree with everyone else – went on one dive on the Pacific side. It was murky with poor visibility. Snorkeling wasn’t great either. I would spend more time in the forests were I to do it again.

Wow… I didn’t expect such…consensus!
This was basically what our research said, too. We don’t have to dive on every vacation, and this is the one to skip. There’s talk about Cocos…maybe.

I’m short on time today (have to be somewhere this evening), but I’ll go through all the other suggestions tomorrow after work.

Some background on the group of divers…I’m at ~140 dives, but I’ve been to fabulous places in that time - Grand Cayman, Fiji, Chuuk, Palau, Bonaire… So I’m a bit spoiled.
Three of the other five divers going are long time instructors. One of the non instructors is married to one of the instructors, and is a dive master. The fifth guy is my dive partner on all the above mentioned trips.

So yeah…we’re ok with skipping it if it isn’t good…nothing wrong with staying on land and experiencing above the ground nature.

Thanks, all!


My wife I went there for our honeymoon a little over a year ago. My understanding is that all of the good diving is Atlantic side. That also brings you close to some good beaches in Panama, I hear that Boca de Torres is a good spot.

Given that you’re going with a group for only a week, it would be tough to get out there. It’s a pretty small country but there aren’t a lot of drivable roads in that direction. The roads between San Jose and Manuel Antonio were a little scary, but the surfaces were in really good shape.

If you do head out that way, hotel Villa Caletas ( was pretty awesome, if pricey. It’s at the top of a mountain, all you see from your balcony is green vegetation descending rapidly to the beach. It might be third of the way to the coast from Manual Antonio near Jaco Beach.

We did the surf lessons (twice) and the zip lines at night, we had a great time.