Destination

Costa Rica

Costa Rica gives you the chance to do snorkeling both in the Pacific and in the Caribbean Sea, with their two very different ecosystems. Visibility is often an issue, however, which means that this destination is not one to choose if snorkeling is the main reason for your trip.

Choose a spot on the map below to see the detailed description:
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The Pacific coast has almost no coral and its undersea landscapes are mainly mineral, and with the chance to see eagle rays and the fish species that are typical of the Galapagos. You will need to deal with seas that are sometimes temperamental (the coast is famous among surfers) and with the vagaries of the tides. The small islands just off the coast (Islas Catalinas, Islas Pelonas, etc.) can be good alternatives if visibility is poor on the continental coast.

Snorkeling Report Costa Rica
Chestnut-mandibled toucan, sunset at Punta Cacique, and blacknose butterflyfish at Calzon de Pobre

The Caribbean coast has coral ecosystems that are typical of the region, but there are few snorkeling spots (Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, Manzanillo), and they are concentrated on a 12-mile strip. 120 species of fish and 40 species of shellfish have been recorded on the Caribbean reefs of Costa Rica, and it is not unusual for visitors to see eagle rays and nurse sharks.

The tropical climate, the humid forests and the mountain areas, where it rains almost continually, mean that precipitation charged with sediment almost constantly pours down on the two oceans. Problems of visibility are very common as a result and can last for weeks.

Isla del Coco (about 350 miles from the continent) is probably the top snorkeling spot in Costa Rica, but only a handful of privileged individuals can go there because of the high costs (transport and accommodation).
When to go to Costa Rica?

The climate in Costa Rica is tropical, and marked by two distinct seasons: the dry season, from the end of December to mid-April, and the rainy season (known as the “green” season) from May to mid-December, with lower rainfall from July to September. But the climate is unusual for the Caribbean coast in that it rains almost continuously all the year round.

To maximize your chances of good visibility, choose the dry season (from the end of December to mid-April) on the Pacific coast and September and October on the Caribbean coast. On the Pacific coast, the maximum temperatures are around 90°F/32°C all through the year, compared with about 86°F/30°C (but with much greater humidity) on the Caribbean coast.

The water temperature never falls below 73°F/23°C (but you should take a rash guard with you, especially on the Pacific coast), and gets up to around 86°F/30°C during the warmest months.

CDC Costa Rica EN

Where to spot them?

Cortez angelfish

On many spots of the Pacific coast, including Calzon de Pobre, Playa Ocotal and Playa Bonita

Cortez rainbow wrasse

On all spots of the Pacific coast

Guineafowl puffer

On all spots of the Pacific coast

White-spotted puffer

On all spots of the Pacific coast

Passer angelfish

On many spots of the Pacific coast, including Calzon de Pobre, La Penca and Playa Bonita

Blue sea star

Common at Playa Danta, rare in other spots

Foureye butterflyfish

On all spots of the Caribbean coast

Bluehead wrasse

On all spots of the Caribbean coast

Atlantic blue tang

On all spots of the Caribbean coast

Banded butterflyfish

On all spots of the Caribbean coast

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