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Widely considered the most spectacular snorkeling spot in Costa Rica, Isla del Caño boasts rich sea life in a tropical paradise. This small and lush island, which is home to scarlet macaws and toucans, is bordered by a hard coral reef where sea turtles, sharks, rays and colorful fish abound at shallow depth. Located off the coast of Corcovado National Park, it takes 1 to 2 hours by boat to reach the spot, but it is really worth the trip.

King angelfish at Isla del Caño
The king angelfish, considered one of the most beautiful fish species in the Eastern Pacific, is easy to spot at this location.

How to get to Isla del Caño snorkeling spot?

Isla del Caño is located off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, west of Corcovado National Park.

The small island, a biological reserve, can only be visited during day trips with tour operators registered with the park. Tour prices range between $100 and $150 per person, most of them including 2 snorkeling sessions around the island, lunch on the boat, as well as a time to relax on a beach.

Sea turtle and wrasse
A hawksbill sea turtle feeding on the reef, with a Mexican hogfish in the background.

Isla del Caño tours mainly depart from 3 locations:

  • Uvita, at the gate of the Ballena National Marine Park. This is the main departure point, and the most easily reached. It takes about 1h30 to 2h by boat to get to Isla del Caño from there.
  • Sierpe, a small village located inland, in a bend of the Sierpe River. From there, the boat trip to the island takes 2 hours (1 hour down the river and the mangrove and then 1 hour towards the ocean).
  • Drake Bay, in front of the island. It is the closest departure point to the island, but it is quite difficult to access, and there are fewer tours organized. From Drake Bay, the crossing to the island takes about 1 hour.

During the boat trip between the mainland and the island, you may have the chance to spot sea turtles, dolphins, or humpback whales (from June to September and December to April).

Isla del Caño snorkeling map

Water entrance for snorkeling Isla del Caño

You will enter the water from your boat, a few dozen meters from the island’s shore.

Isla del Caño snorkeling exploration tips

Your guide will most probably take you to the northern coast of the island, more sheltered, and where several coral reefs have developed.

The reef forms plateaus and ridges that slope irregularly from the surface to deeper areas. It is composed of hard corals, mainly from Pocillopora and Porites genus. Coral is quite bleached, especially on the shallower parts of the reef, exposed to swell and tides.

Hard coral reef at Isla del Caño
Cano Island hard corals reef.

Isla del Caño has a striking density of fish, one of the highest in the Eastern Pacific. Reef fish, such as the bluebarred parrotfish, the orangeside triggerfish, the king angelfish and the Mexican hogfish are common near the coral heads, including in shallow water. Dozens of other species can be seen, such as damselfish and butterflyfish.

But it is for its larger inhabitants that Isla del Caño is so famous. Whitetip reef sharks and hawksbill sea turtles are so common here that they are spotted almost every time. Occasionally, stingrays, eagle rays and barracudas are also seen.

Hawksbill sea turtle at Cano Island
Hawksbill sea turtles living around the island are easy to approach.

Due to its offshore location, underwater visibility at this location is generally good, including during the rainy season. Snorkeling Isla del Caño is therefore possible almost all year round.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

The island is completely wild and protected, and there are no facilities. Day trips usually include lunch. Please inquire when you book your tour.

 

  • Level required Intermediate
  • Protected areaReserva Biológica Isla del Caño
  • Maximum depth30ft/10m
  • Water entranceFrom a boat
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsCost of a snorkeling tour (from $100 pp.)
  • Restaurants nearbyNo

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.