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Located near Playas del Coco, Playa Ocotal is a large, busy gray sand beach. The rocky point to the west of the beach, teeming with sea life, is a renowned snorkeling spot in the area. Snorkeling along the rocks you may spot butterflyfish, angelfish, porcupinefish, and dozens of other Eastern Pacific fish species.

School of razor surgeonfish
Large schools of razor surgeonfish live in the bay.

How to get to Playa Ocotal snorkeling spot

Playa Ocotal is a 10-minute drive from Playas del Coco, one of Guanacaste’s main seaside resorts. Parking is available roadside near the beach. It is advisable to tip “car watchers” a small fee.

Playa Ocotal & Playa Gringo snorkeling map

Water entrance for snorkeling Playa Ocotal

The recommended snorkeling area in Playa Ocotal is along the rocks that edge the west and east sides of the beach (see map). We, therefore, advise you to go into the water at the ends of the beach, near the rocks, depending on the area you want to snorkel.

Juvenile Cortez angelfish at Playa Ocotal
Juvenile Cortez angelfish are stunning subjects for underwater photography.

Playa Ocotal snorkeling exploration

The left side of the bay as you look at it (area 1 on the map) is quite shallow and made of rocky ridges, slopes, and small drop-offs. In places, the rocks are covered with bright green Caulerpa. Long-spined sea urchins, and sometimes some gorgonians and small blue sponges, can also be seen here.

Sea turtles can sometimes be found there. If you take your time lots of fish abound, including spotted snake-eels, spotted eagle rays, Cortez rainbow wrasse, Mexican hogfish, and many species of puffers (check the species list at the bottom of the page).

A little rarer at this spot are the Cortez angelfish and the blacknosed butterflyfish, two species that are among the most colorful of the Eastern Pacific.

Ornate moray in Playa Ocotal
A jewel moray, one of the most common moray eel species along Central America’s Pacific Coast.

To the right of the bay (area 2 on the map) are rocks that make for excellent visibility, visited by large schools of razor surgeonfish and yellowtail surgeonfish, two closely related species frequently schooling together.

Keep following the rocks and you will get to another bay/beach called Playa Gringo, only accessible by swimming or climbing the large hill. This lovely shallow sandy bay (area 3 on the map) is home to several eagle rays and stingrays species.

Pacific spotted eagle ray
Close encounter with a Pacific spotted eagle ray at Playa Ocotal.

In Playa Ocotal as often in the region, the sea can be rough. In this case, do not enter the water. Also, watch out for the many boats that come to anchor in front of the beach.

Restaurants and accommodation

There is a Father Rooster’s restaurant on the beach. Otherwise, get to Playas del Coco for a wider choice of restaurants and convenience stores. This part of the coast is very popular with tourists, and dozens of accommodations for all budgets are available nearby.


  • Level required Intermediate
  • Maximum depth15ft/5m
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyYes

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.