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Costa Rica overview


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Costa Rica dive site map


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Scuba Diving in Costa Rica


Water temperature:

From mid-May to mid-December, water temperatures are generally in the range of 24-26°C (75-79°F). From December to April temperatures can fall to 21°C (70°F) at depth.

Suit:

A 3mm full wetsuit should be worn from December to April and a 3mm shortie is enough for the rest of the year

Visibility:

6 to 35 metres (20 - 115 feet), 15 metres (50 feet) on average. Variation is due to fluctuating levels of plankton in the water.

Type of diving:

Rocky pinnacles, canyons, walls and caves

Marine life:

Sharks, manta rays, stingrays, eagle rays, octopus, eels, barracuda, jacks, grunts, snapper, angelfish, nudibranchs and so on. There are also occasional sightings of whale sharks and humpback whales.

When to go:

Anytime of year, although from May through to November it is warmer and can have better visibility, but expect rain at this time of year.

How to get there:

Almost all international flights land in San José.
From the UK - United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines fly from Heathrow via Washington or Paris. From Gatwick, Continental Airlines fly via Miami or New York.


Rainforest in Costa Rica

Costa Rica lies in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama. The language spoken is Spanish, but English is widely understood in tourist areas. The eastern coast of Costa Rica is on the Caribbean Sea and the western coast is on the Pacific Ocean, both coasts are generally warm and humid all year round. There are distinct wet and dry seasons; the wet season is from June to November and the dry season from December to May. In the wet season it rains most afternoons, generally clearing up by the evening.

Costa Rica is an interesting and diverse country that makes a fascinating destination for nature lovers and for those seeking a holiday with a bit more adventure involved. Some of the many other activities on offer include rainforest tours, hiking to ancient burial sites, surfing, cycling, and white water rafting or kayaking down some spectacular rivers through the tropical forest. The capital of Costa Rica is San José, where most visitors will pass through due to international flights landing there. It is a busy city and whilst not the most picturesque place to visit, it has a spattering of culture in the form of galleries and museums and there is an abundance of restaurants and hotels.

If you are visiting Costa Rica, you will undoubtedly want to get away from the cities and out into the fascinating countryside. The tropical rainforest is home to a wealth of animals and birds, including scarlet macaws, toucans and tanagers which are indigenous to the country. There are around 830 species of birds and 350,000 of insect and although Costa Rica has less than 0.01 percent of the world's total land mass it has 5 percent of its biodiversity. A guided tour of Corcovado National Park or Caño Island Biological Reserve will get you close to howler and white-faced monkeys and allow you to indulge in the beauty of the rainforest. Rainforest canopy tours are available in places as a means of getting up close to the treetops, where the majority of the wildlife resides. For those people hoping to have animal encounters, try to find a canopy tour that involves walking around a wooden walkway. Other options available are being transported by cable car or catapulting yourself along zip wires. This final tour is entertaining, but don't expect to see much other than some spectacular trees! Monteverde, meaning 'Green Mountain' is a popular destination with tourists due to the nature reserves and the active volcano that regularly has small eruptions. It is about a four hour drive from San José along bumpy roads towards the Pacific coast. This area is well worth a visit and could be incorporated into a diver's itinerary either on the way to or back from the coast from San José.

Scarlet maccaw in Costa Rica

The Pacific Costa Rican coast is immensely beautiful with miles of sandy beaches offering many snorkelling opportunities. It is also possible to hire kayaks to explore regions of coastline or to take sunset cruises. The northern Caribbean coast is linked by canals and cannot be reached by car. It is home to the largest nesting area in the Caribbean of the green sea turtle. The southern Caribbean coast is more accessible and is home to Costa Rica's only true coral reef as well as some pretty beaches and a selection of National Parks.

Travelling about in Costa Rica is possible by bus, although this is made difficult if you do not speak Spanish. There are regularly scheduled buses to most parts of the country which are cheap and fairly punctual. Renting a car makes exploring easier and is less time-consuming than taking a bus.

Costa Rica is a relatively new destination for diving. Most of the diving in Costa Rica is concentrated in two areas: the Flamingo-Coco area in the Gulf of Papagayo, and around the southwestern Osa Peninsula. Some of the best diving is possible during the rainy season of May to November due to rain bringing an increased nutrient content to the water. This, along with the warm water temperature, allows plankton to thrive forming the basis of an extensive food chain that encourages a whole range of creatures to visit the area.


The Gulf of Papagayo


Pelican in Costa Rica

Most dive sites explore the volcanic rock formations within a half hour boat trip of the Flaming-Coco area. Soft corals are common, but not as abundant as those in the Caribbean. The abundance of plankton in the water means the visibility is frequently low. Also offered are long-range dive trips to the Catalina and Bat Islands, 14 and 21 miles from Ocotal respectively, which are home to some of the best of Costa Rica's diving. The diving here is quite advanced due to strong currents. Dive sites on these islands attract rays, sharks, angelfish, grunts, snapper, octopus as well as many species of eel. Manta rays are most commonly seen at the Catalina Islands between December and April. If you are lucky you may even see whale sharks, spinner dolphins, humpback whales, pilot whales, orcas, false killer whales and schools containing hundreds of Mobulas and thousands of cow-nosed rays.


The Peninsula de Osa

See our Caño Island section


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