Costa Rica, in Central America, has often been called an unexplored paradise. Not only the land but also it’s impressive coastline and coral reefs. Balanced between the Pacific and Caribbean, Costa Rica offers something for everyone. The Pacific diving is the more impressive side, with the Northwest coastline in Guanacaste offering some spectacular opportunities to encounter everything from the largest apex predator to the tiniest nudibranch. The diving is split into many distinct sections, but three stand out above the rest—the Bat Islands, Bahia Culebra, and the Catalina Islands.
The Bat Islands are located in a protected marine area offshore from Santa Rosa National Park, the first and largest nature preserve in Costa Rica. This area of diving is a bit more challenging than a typical Caribbean dive but well worth it. An Advanced Open Water certification is highly recommended for visitors. Don’t try to look for these islands on Google maps. This location is located over 30 miles from the coast and remains a hidden gem of diving. Dives here can be deep, reaching down to 100 feet or more and currents can be unpredictable, but it’s these same currents that bring in the nutrient riches that feed the staggering variety of marine life here.
The Bat Islands are the height of diving in Costa Rica for one main reason; you can dive with bull sharks The very aptly named dive site, “The Big Scare”, is your best opportunity for diving with these massive creatures. Don’t forget to look around for the whales, dolphins, or sailfish going by too!
If you love history and culture, then Bahia Culebra is the place to be. It was declared to be of National Archeological Interest in 1994 and boasts archeological finds dating back to 500BC. The waters are crystal clear and protected by a large bay, the Gulf of Papagayo. The seas here are calm and teeming with life. Unlike the colder nutrient-rich upwellings of the Bat and Catalina Islands, the bay protects the most delicate of marine life and feeds it with sunshine and warmth. Humpback whales often pass by this bay in June and July on their migration south. There’s even a volcano—the Rincon de la Vieja, which sits imposingly on one end of the bay, connecting it to the deep mountain ranges of the Pacific Ocean.
Islands might be too generous of a word since the Catalina’s are really just rocky outcroppings that span from two to 15 miles off the coast. The structure of the reef includes swim throughs and sweeping arch formations and since there is no run-off from land in the rainy season, the diving stays impressive all year long, though June to August has the best visibility. Being close to the Bat Islands is a plus (you may hear them referred to as “Cats & Bats”) and you will see many of the same creatures, but instead of sharks, the Catalina’s have another special visitor throughout the year—rays. I’m talking every type of ray from stingrays to mobulas to giant Pacific manta rays; and when I say giant, I mean GIANT!
Don’t forget to check out Costa Rica’s inner landscapes of lush jungles and tropical rainforests. Best way to see them? Zipline! Costa Rica has some of the tallest and longest throughout their tropical rainforests. All in all, Costa Rica is a friendly country with some amazing dive sites and one-of-a-kind adventures. Join us July 13th-21st for a trip to remember aboard the Okeanos Aggressor II. Find more trip information at our website HERE and call 817-605-8833 to book your spot for these incredible dives.