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World | Costa Rica | Diving Caño Island:

Caño Island overview


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Caño Island dive site map

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Scuba Diving Caño Island, Osa Peninsula / Drake Bay & Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Water temperature:

Water temperatures are generally in the range of 24 - 29°C (75 - 84°F).


A 3mm full wetsuit or 3mm shortie


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:

Humpback whales, dolphins, false killer whales, bull sharks, white tip reef sharks, manta rays, stingrays, mobula rays, turtles, grunts, snappers, sand eels, moray eels.

When to go:

January to mid-February in order to see humpback whales. The rainy season is from May to mid November which some people may prefer to avoid.

How to get there:

Getting to the Drake Bay area is best achieved by plane, which is an experience in itself on the tiny 12-seater planes used for internal flights. Most people fly into Palmar Sur, then catch a boat down through the mangroves and along the coast to where you are staying, which takes about an hour. Alternatively you can fly to Drake Bay where a small strip of jungle has been levelled to accommodate a narrow gravel runway. On leaving the plane the noise of the cicadas and the birds is overwhelming! From Drake Bay Airstrip a short transfer by car is needed before a journey by boat to get you to where you are staying.

Beach on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Diving around the Osa Peninsula is done at Caño Island, a small island about 20km (1 hours boat ride) from Drake Bay. Caño, meaning spout or gutter due to the number of waterfalls cascading over the island edges during the wet season, is roughly 5 kilometres wide and is home to mainland Costa Rica's best diving as well as historically being the site of an ancient Indian burial ground. There are five dive sites and a spectacular abundance of marine life. If you could afford it, a trip to Cocos Island would no doubt herald better marine encounters but for those with a smaller budget or wanting to mix in a bit of diving with visits to the beautiful primary rainforest of Corcovado National Park and the surrounding area, this is definitely the place to go.

False killer whale at Cano Island, Costa Rica

The diving will see you encounter a stunning array of tropical fish including schools of snapper and grunts that just go on and on. You are also very likely to come across white tip reef sharks (we saw them on every dive) and it is not unknown for tiger and bull sharks to frequent the area, particularly on the deeper site of Bajo del Diablo. Rays are also present, particularly stingrays and for the luckier diver, mantas. Despite our best efforts of tracking down manta rays which we knew to be in the area (a snorkeller had seen a shoal of fifty that morning), we only glimpsed the tail end of one as it glided off beyond the limit of the visibility.

If you are after beautiful coral reefs, this is not the place for you as there is only the occasional fan coral and the odd clump of hard coral, but for sheer numbers of each marine creature and the variety seen, Caño Island will win you over. If you want to do a solid weeks diving Caño may also not be the place for you as with only five dive sites, there is only really enough diving to keep you occupied for three days diving three times a day.

One other important thing to mention is the large number of cetaceans found in the area. Obviously what you spot depends on timing and luck to some degree, but every day you make the boat trip over to Caño Island, be sure to keep an eye open. We dived for three days and on two of them saw nothing, but on the middle day we first came across a pod of maybe fifteen dolphins, then about thirty 'falsas orcas' (false killer whales). We couldn't believe our luck. The dive boat stopped for us to take a good look and after about twenty minutes it was time to head off to get on with the diving. But then the captain exclaimed "Humpbacks!" and sure enough in front of us were five humpacks swimming together near the surface, one of the most amazing sites of my life.

Butterfly in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Normally on dive site directory we concentrate more on the diving than on the land-based activities, but in the Drake Bay - Corcovado area it simply is not possible to do this. Corcovado National Park is home to Costa Rica's final sect of primary rainforest and is a must visit for anyone who even vaguely likes wildlife. You can see scarlet macaws all along the coastline feeding on almonds, tiny hummingbirds sipping nectar from flowers, and toucans with their distinctive calls. There are a number of mammals in the park, but the only ones you are likely to come across are howler, spider and white-faced monkeys and the coati, a racoon-like creature, due to the remainder being nocturnal. You also get a large number of beautiful butterflies, the most impressive being a 'morphus', a very large butterfly with iridescent blue wings.

There is also the rainforest itself that is spectacular to see with its beautiful tall trees and endlessly singing cicadas. Insects such as army ants and leafcutter ants are everywhere and you also get tree frogs. In the stunning rivers near one of the many waterfalls you may find crocodiles and caymans basking in the sunlight and we were treated to seeing a boa constrictor catch and slowly consume a chicken that alerted us to its own death by screaming at the top of its voice after being caught.

We stayed at Punta Marenco Lodge on the outskirts of the national park. This was an eco-friendly lodge without air conditioning and limited electricity. The service was second to none and the rooms very comfortable with some spectacular views out towards Caño Island and as much wildlife as we saw in Corcovado National Park right in front of our rooms. If you visit this area please, please, please stay in similar accommodation. Even whilst we were there, there were rumours of plans for a 200-guest hotel just along the coast in some pristine rainforest that a North American had greedily bought up in order to develop. This coastline will not stay as beautiful for as long if these numbers of visitors are introduced and I can only imagine the amount of building work necessary to develop the infrastructure a hotel of this kind would need to run. Our advice would also be visit the Osa Peninsula now whilst it still retains its wonderful natural beauty.

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