The Pacific coast has almost no coral and its undersea landscapes are mainly mineral, and with the chance to see eagle rays and colorful fish species, as angelfish and butterflyfish. 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.
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).
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.
More than 170 spots have already been published on Snorkeling Report, but there are still many spots to be added! You too can contribute to populate the map by sharing your favorite snorkeling spots around the world. The more snorkelers will contribute, the easier it will be for you, and other snorkelers, to find sites and enjoy the underwater world!
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Easily sighted along the Pacific coast, especially at Calzon de Pobre, Playa Ocotal, Playa Penca and Playa Bonita
Found only on the Pacific coast; frequently observed at Calzon de Pobre and Playa Penca
Found on every snorkeling spot of the Caribbean coast; a very similar species (abudefduf saxatilis) occur on the Pacific side
On all spots of the Pacific coast, in rocky areas
Common at Playa Danta, rare elsewhere
On all spots of the Pacific coast
On all spots of the Caribbean coast
On all spots of the Pacific coast; often in large schools
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