Adventures and Xtremegames >
Costa Rica's underwater wonders range from coastal coral reefs to
offshore islands. Those varied dive spots contain diverse and
beautiful marine life that includes giant manta rays, timid sea
turtles, colorful angel fish, intricate coral formations,
psychedelic sea slugs, spiny puffer fish, delicate sea fans,
curious dolphins and, on rare occasions, whales.
Though the country's waters contain enough marine life to
please the most experienced of divers, you need be little
more than a curious swimmer to catch a glimpse of some of
its underwater sights, since there are plenty of spots
that are perfect for snorkeling. Costa Rica is also an
excellent place to learn how to scuba dive, since most
dive centers offer inexpensive certification courses in
English that can be completed in less than a week.
There are several excellent snorkeling areas along the southern
Caribbean coast. The country's largest coastal reef is protected
within Cahuita National Park, south of the town of the same name,
where you can rent snorkeling equipment and hire people to take
you out in boats. The point at Puerto Viejo, south of Cahuita,
also has a coral reef wrapped around it that makes for convenient
diving. Punta Cocles and Punta Uva, two points to the south of
town, have healthier coral formations with plenty of fish around
them. Manzanillo, a small fishing village a few miles further
south, also has some decent diving off shore. There are also a
few good dive spots near the city of Limón, such as the water
surrounding Uvita Island.
The best visibility in the Caribbean is
from March to early May and from mid August to mid November, but
water quality can change from day to day.
- The Pacific has the country's best diving, with less coral, but
plenty of big fish. The most popular Pacific diving area is the
northwest, where dive centers in Playa del Coco, Ocotal and
Hermosa offer trips to several spots in the Culebra Bay and the
Bat Islands(Islas Murciélagos), to the northwest, where divers
often see sharks and manta rays. The dive center in Flamingo
usually takes people to Santa Catalina Island, about five miles
off shore, which is another good spot to see sharks and other big
fish. The best visibility and water temperatures in the northwest
are found from June to September, though the conditions can
change from day to day.
There is good snorkeling in Curu National Wildlife Refuge, and
near the beach resorts of Tambor and Montezuma. There is also
usually good snorkeling off the second beach in Manuel Antonio
National Park, and around the points and islands between
Dominical and Marino Ballena National Park. However, the best
diving off the Pacific coast is found at several underwater reefs
near Caño Island, which can be explored on dive trips offered by
some of the lodges in nearby Drake Bay. Contrary to the
northwest, the best visibility in the waters around Caño occurs
during the dry season, though the water tends to be pretty clear
Cocos Island, a national park located some 330 miles southwest of
the Costa Rican mainland, has the country's best diving by far.
While the Island is covered with virgin forest, the ocean that
surrounds it contains abundant marine life, and the visibility is
good year round. Divers at Cocos Island regularly see such
impressive animals as manta rays, dolphins and hammerhead sharks,
which sometimes gathering in schools of 30 or 40 animals.
It takes about 36 hours to reach Cocos Island, and some companies
have ships that run regular dive cruises there, which last ten
days and include three dives per day.
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