Scuba Diving in the nutrient-rich coastal waters in Costa Rica is just one of many adventurous activities you can enjoy in this beautiful country. Thanks to a number of underwater volcanic rock formations that line the Pacific Coast, diving in Costa Rica can be a real treat to scuba diving enthusiasts.
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Scuba Diving in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is known for a number of really great dive spots ranging from Cocos Island – one of the top rated and, possibly, most expensive dive spots in the world, to cheap and cheerful sites along the Papagayo Peninsula.
While we would have loved to dive at Cocos Island and get a chance to swim with massive schools of Hammerhead Sharks that thrive in that area, a trip to the Cocos Island Marine Park requires a 500 km/10 day journey off the mainland of Costa Rica and costs a hefty $5,000-6,000/person. Eeek! This blog doesn’t pay us enough to embark on that kind of trip just yet.
Diving in Catalina Islands
Instead, we opted to check out another highly rated diving destination just off the coast of Papagayo Peninsula – the Catalina Islands (Las Catalinas). We traveled to Playas del Coco, the getaway for diving to the Catalina Islands and set off on a day of diving with a local dive operator Deep Blue Diving.
The dive sites around Catalinas (The Wall, The Point, and The Widow) are known for their unique underwater structures with arches, caves, and volcanic rocks formations. The waters act as home to huge schools of fish, schools of Devil or Cownose Rays, sharks, and turtles. But diving here is reserved for experienced divers only, as the dive sites are non-anchored and are prone to strong currents.
Our Experience at Catalinas
From Playas del Coco, it was a leisurely 45-minute boat ride to get to the islands. Our boat, Colonia Claudia bounced on the waves as our Dive Master shared insights about the islands and the Papagayo Peninsula.
Once at the location, there was no dilly-dallying. We jumped in and made quick descends without an anchor line, working to fight against the current. Visibility wasn’t great (no more than 20m), but granted we did dive at the end of the rainy season in November and 24 hours before a massive tropical storm.
You can find out more info on the best times to visit Costa Rica and better conditions for scuba diving in Costa Rica.
Despite the lack of visibility, we managed to spot quite a few creatures ranging from schools of blue striped grunt fish, to puffer fish, scorpion fish, at least a dozen moray eels, and a giant school of Cownose rays in the distance.
We weren’t lucky enough to see manta rays or sharks, although our guess is that was purely due to the poor visibility. They could have been circling around us the entire time!
The water temperature at Catalinas was one of the lowest we have experienced in our diving career thus far (25-26ºC). Luckily, the crew at Deep Blue Diving were kind enough to let Oksana wear a long 3mm wetsuit along with a shortie, helping her stay focused on the marine life rather than the cold water.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to our overall experience diving at Catalina Islands, we’d rate it as 7/10. It’s not the best dive destination we’ve ever visited (Komodo National Park in Indonesia still holds the top spot in our books), but it certainly wasn’t the most boring dive either.
The dive sites had a lot of potential and certainly a lot of marine life to keep us entertained, and had visibility been just a little better we would have likely been wowed by how much more there is to see at Catalinas.
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Disclaimer: Our trip to Catalina Islands was provided courtesy of Deep Blue Diving in Playas del Coco, but opinions expressed in this article are, as always, our own.
Want more on Diving in Catalinas? Watch our Diving in Catalinas Vlog for all the details of our day with Deep Blue Diving!