This is a good news and bad news story. The good news is that there are huge numbers of large fish and other animals (eels, turtles, starfish, etc.) to see. Teh bad news is that the visibility is poor to adequate, but never excellent. the good news is that the water is warm, and the diving is un-crowded. The bad new is ... yeah, that mediocre visibility. If the water were crystalline, this would be world-class diving. Still, there are decent places to dive and enjoy the diversity of marine life, despite the visibility. As a general rule, the worst visibility is during the rainy month, when rivers swell and their outflow clouds the ocean. The solution is to go on a boat trip to offshore islands or undersea walls and get away from the rivers.
Some of the best areas for diving are off the northern part of the Peninsula Nicoya at Playas del Coco, Playa Ocotal and Playa Hermosa, dive shops provide gear, boats and guides and can also teach and certify you if you are a beginner. The diving here is offshore, and inshore snorkeling is not too good. Better snorkeling is found at the popular beach areas of Montezuma and Manuel Antonio. Farther south along the Pacific coast, Isla del Caño has good diving and snorkeling and can be reached from the lodges at Bahía Drake (Drake Bay).
On the Caribbean side the best diving and snorkeling is over the coral reefs near Cahuita, but these are quite close to the shore and have suffered from silting from the rivers. Here because the reef is close to shore, you definitely have better visibility in the dry month.
The best diving by far is off Isla del Coco - but the island is about 500 km southwest of the Costa Rican mainland. Diving tours do go there, but they are expensive and have to be planned ahead. The diving is excellent but challenging - nor recommended for novices.
Pictures by Jörn Malek. The team of 1-CostaRicaLink and Costa-Rica-Information-Mobile wishes you the best of times in our little paradise called Costa Rica.
Text by Lonely Planet.
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