Dive Sites

Costa Rica Diving

Dive and Nature combined for a great dive vacation. See big animal diving while in Costa Rica’s under water paradise North Pacific dive sites at Catalina Islands or Papagayo and Bat Islands.

See large animal’s in the North, Jan through April

Natures pristine diving at Cano Island in the Osa, in Costa Rica’s South Pacific In the South Pacific at Cano Island see large schools of many varieties of fish

Whales are in the South 9 months every year Exclusive Custom Dive Packages

Cano Island Scuba Diving Sites

Cueva del Tiburón (Shark Cave)

This site is half a kilometer from the ranger station, where we’ll check in before diving with a maximum depth of 55 feet. On our way down we’ll investigate volcanic rock formations, covered with hard and soft corals and the little creatures and small tropical fish which inhabit this area. One of the pinnacles has developed into a cave which is home to the Whitetip Sharks. Divers are not permitted to enter, due to park regulations, but from the opening of the cave you can often get a good look inside to see some Whitetips - usually just looking out of the cave at you! Around the many rock formations, you are likely to see Pufferfish, Damsels, Moorish Idols, Boxfish, Goatfish, and many other tropical fish. There’s a good chance you’ll catch a glimpse of some Turtles, Mobula Rays and Stingrays. Visibility can be any- where between 15 to 100 feet and when the waters are clear, there’s an incredible light and color show from the rays of sunlight coming through the water and reflecting off the different corals. Level: Easy - maximum depth 55 feet

El Arco (The Arch)

This site has similar marine life to the ‘Shark Cave’. The name of the dive comes from the natural arch which has been formed over time, spanning over 20 feet. There are always sizeable schools of tropical fish hanging around this area. When passing under the arch, there are often schools of Grunts or Snappers waiting for you on the other side – fun to swim through, and a great photo-opportunity! Sunbeams shining through the water and reflecting off the hard and soft coral create a kaleidoscope of colors, and if you have a good eye, you might even encounter a Flounder, Frogfish, lobster or even the occasional octopus. Level: Easy – maximum depth 50 feet

El Barco Hundido (The Shipwreck)

In the mid 1980s, a sailing boat broke its anchorage and ran up against the rocks – sinking just off the beach. There was debris from the boat scattered all over sea floor for years, but eventually the ocean took all her remains and she just disappeared – though the name remains El Barco. This is one of the best dive spots to see Whitetip Sharks, chances on seeing as many as 15 swimming around the volcanic rock formations is not uncommon. This site is special, because it contains a ‘cleaning station’ for the Southern Stingray – where Cleaner Fish help clean the rays by eating parasites from their skin! There’s another chance here to see turtles and Mobula rays, and many other species of tropical fish. Level: Easy - average depth 45 to 50 feet; visibility ranging from 15 to 90 feet

El Faro (The Lighthouse)

El Faro, named for its proximity to the light-tower on the most eastern point of the island, has many of the same characteristics as the Bajo de Diablo site. There are three volcanic sea mounts, covered with White Anemones and several types of Gorgonian, with small canyons running between them. The tops of the pinnacles are 35 feet from the surface and reach down to a depth of around 100 feet. El Faro also has many tropical fish, including Moorish Idles, Grunts, Pork fish, Puffers, Parrotfish, Moray Eels, and several types of Surgeonfish and Snappers. As you travel through this landscape you may spot schools of Barracudas, Horse-eyed Jacks and Grunts, or one of the Cubera Snappers and Whitetip Sharks cruising around. You might even encounter the elusive Hammerhead or Bull Sharks who swim through this site now and again. Level: Intermediate, depending on the current

El Ancla (The Anchor)

So you might ask why this location is named ‘Anchor’: there is an anchor there, though it is slowly eroding. There is spectacular array of brilliantly-colored coral surrounding the volcanic rock and its pinnacles. You’ll often get to see Devil and Eagle Rays, Whitetip Sharks, turtles and many tropical species of fish such as Gobies, Blennies, Pufferfish, Wrasses, Butterflyfish, Parrotfish, Damselfish, Porcupinefish, and Garden Eels: depending on the seas, this can be an extremely impressive dive. Level: Easy - depth 15 to 55 feet

Paradiso (Paradise)

The name speaks for itself: this site lies 2 miles from Caño Island. The layers of lava formation stretch for a mile, and are 250 feet wide and 55 to 120 feet deep, with an outcrop whose pinnacle reaches upwards, to 55 feet from the surface. The area is filled with huge schools of Blue and Gold Snappers and Spotted Rose Snappers: if you swim slowly, you can enter these schools or swim beside them – it’s an extraordinary experience and makes for a great photo! You’ll also have the chance to run into larger fish including Amberjacks, Dog Tooth Snapper, Barracudas and schools of Horse-Eye Jacks. Amberjacks are attracted to divers’ bubbles, so you may see them as close as two feet away! This is also a good place to see Whitetip Sharks and Nurse Sharks - schools of Whitetip Sharks may be as large as 20 or more. Tropical fish include Parrotfish, Triggerfish, eels, Pufferfish, and occasionally Mobula Rays too. Level: Intermediate; depending on seas, visibility may range from 15 to 100. This dive can have some current.

Bajo del Diablo (Devil’s Pinnacle)

This is our main attraction: the Devil’s Pinnacles stands two kilometers from Caño Island ranger station, where there are huge underwater pinnacles rising from depths of 130 feet to within 20 feet of the ocean’s surface. Canyons and valleys have evolved among these huge rock formations, among which you can see an incredible amount of sea life. This location alone is worth diving a number of times, as it seems to change with the tides. You’ll have the chance to encounter huge Manta Rays (wingspan 15 to 20 feet) and huge schools of Horse-Eye Jacks, Barracudas and Milkfish. Numerous other fish such as Jack Crevalle, Blue Trevally, Amber Jacks, Cubera Snappers of over 75 lbs., Whitetip Sharks, Mobula Rays and occasional Bull Shark or Nurse Shark, and even the elusive Whale Shark (though not seen often, it is an incredible sight). There are also many tropical fish like Pufferfish, King Angel, Damsels, Box- fish, Moorish Idols and more than five species of eels. Level: Intermediate, depths of 20 to 100 feet.

Osa Peninsula

The Osa jungle is listed by National Geographic as the most biodiverse spot on the planet. Osa Peninsula - constantly changing. Osa represents Central America's last stand of rain forest on the Pacific coast, and, like Cocos Island, the lack of development means pristine diving conditions. Many lodges close in the month of October and advance reservations are required at all lodges. All lodges sell out December through March, so plan ahead.

Just getting there is like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. First, catch an eight-seater plane from Pavis airport in San Jose to the tin shack airport at Palmar Sur. Then, grab a cab for the ride through banana plantations to the village of Sierpe, where you'll hop an outboard skiff heading down the Sierpe River, past yawning crocodiles and screaming howler monkeys. Your empty into Drake Bay, and, if you survive the crashing breakers, you can hang your pith helmet in one of a handful of isolated, waterfront jungle lodges.

More than anywhere in Costa Rica, you'll see color off Cano Island, an 800-acre biological preserve one hour from the coast where the diving takes place. Red and yellow sea fans and blue cup corals accent volcanic sea mounds, where mobile mantas congregate by the hundreds. Expect isolation. Even during the relatively dry period from January to April, 15 people might be diving Cano. If you don't mind a soggy topside, you'll dive virtually alone from May through September - rain rarely diminishes the 60-foot visibility

Consider the upscale Aguila de Osa Inn, and not just for the dive amenities. Deluxe thatched-roof bungalows come with vaulted ceilings, sunken showers, cane-frame beds and bay views. A dreadlocked Dominican chef named Cookie serves jerked chicken in an open-air restaurant that features the jungle's most extensive CD collection - Motown to Italian opera. Fishing, kayaks and guided horseback tours. Plus Cano Island and Corcovado Park tours. Non-divers have much to enjoy. Casa Corcovado is another lovely deluxe property on the border of Corcovado Park. They are more for the nature lover. Being within walking distance to Corcovado Reserve. They offer diving through a local operator, not on site.

Jinetes De Osa is a budget PADI resort that offers diving trips to Cano Island and horseback riding tours. For topside adventure, dodge charging wild pigs on the trails of Corcovado National Park. Or, for real wildlife, migrate to Brisas, a dance shack on the beach in the village of Agujitas, where locals travel for miles by skiff and horseback to salsa, cumbia and meringue all night.

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Lodging & PADI Scuba Dive Operators

The Osa jungle is listed by National Geographic as the most bio-diverse spots on the planet. Osa Peninsula - constantly changing. From October through December, torrential rains can wipe out primitive roads, transform creeks into swollen, raging rivers and nourish swift- growing foliage. Residents must vigilantly trim back the undergrowth, lest it consume them. Osa represents Central America's last stand of rain forest on the Pacific coast, and, like Cocos Island, the lack of development means pristine diving conditions. Many lodges close in the month of October and advance reservations are required at all lodges most of the year. All lodges sell out December through March, so plan ahead.

Just getting there is like something out of a Indiana Jones movie. First, catch an eighteen-seater plane from Paves or SJO airports in San Jose to the tin shack airport at Palmar Sur. Then, grab a cab for the ride through banana plantations to the village of Sierpe, where you'll hop an outboard skiff heading down the Sierpe River, past yawning crocodiles and screaming howler monkeys. Your empty into Drake Bay, and, if you survive the crashing breakers, you can hang your pith helmet in one of a handful of isolated, waterfront jungle lodges. Or fly to or from Drake Bay and transfer to lodging.

More than anywhere in Costa Rica, you'll see color off Cano Island, an 800-acre biological preserve one hour from the coast where the diving takes place. Red and yellow sea fans and blue cup corals accent volcanic sea mounds, where mobila mantas congregate by the hundreds. Expect isolation. Even during the relatively dry period from January to April, 15 people might be diving Cano. If you don't mind a soggy topside, you'll dive virtually alone from May through September - rain rarely diminishes the 60-foot visibility

Consider the upscale Aguila de Osa Adventure Lodge, and not just for the dive amenities. Deluxe thatched-roof bungalows come with vaulted ceilings, air conditioning, sunken showers, cane-frame beds and bay views, 2 queen or 1 king beds in rooms. A chef serves excellent meals in an open-air restaurant that features the jungle's most extensive CD collection - Motown to Italian opera. Fishing, kayaks, canopy ziplines and guided horseback tours. Plus Cano Island and Corcovado Park tours. Best PADI scuba dive operation in Drake Bay, Osa. Or, for real wildlife, migrate to Brisas, a dance shack on the beach in the village of Agujitas, where locals travel for miles by skiff and horseback to salsa, cumbia and meringue all night.

Copa de Arbol Lodge is an Upscale deluxe Includes lodging, all meals & snacks, transfers for all guided tours, transfer in & out from Palmar Sur & Drake Bay airports. If Palmar Sur is not open you will fly to and from Drake Bay. Transfers & tours to Corcovado Reserve and Cano Island Snorkeling Tours. The luxury cabinas featuring two levels built with post construction. The lower level is a large deck with two hammocks, and the upper level features a spacious room and balcony with great views. Constructed using eco-friendly recycled materials and reforested wood, it features both ocean and rainforest views, pillow-top orthopedic mattresses, air conditioning, ceiling fans and a tiled bathroom with a walk-in shower. This room comes with two queen- sized beds. Uses off site dive options.

Jinetes De Osa is a budget PADI resort that offers diving trips to Cano Island and horseback riding tours. Rooms with A/C require a hike up 168 steps on side of hill to rooms. Lower budget rooms do not have A/C. Casa Corcovado is another lovely deluxe property on the border of Corcovado Park. They offer nature lovers a great location, walking distance into Corcovado Reserve. No Diving from here.

Papagayo, Playa Cocos, Tamarindo, Guanacaste (local dive sites)

(Hermosa, Playa Cocos, Tamarindo, Guanacaste / North Pacific area)

There are too many sites to name them all but the listing below should give you an idea of the local sites. They are all volcanic rock formations and rock pinnacles. Visibility is 20%-80%, with average being 40 - 50 feet. There is an abundance of plankton and other nutrients which greatly affect the visibility, however, this is one of the reasons why we encounter whale sharks from time to time along with the manta rays which are seen seasonally, Jan through April.

Punta Gorda - A great spot for macro. Everything form white-tips to frog fish. Several varieties of eels in rocks. One of the few sites with hard coral. Usually grunts, sergeant majors, and stone fish everywhere. We have seen as many as 10,000 golden/cow-nosed rays on the site as well as sea-horses and occasional eagle rays. This site is 15-20 ft deep on one side of the pinnacle and drops to 75-80 on the outside, with most of the life at the top of the rocks.

Bajo Tiburon - This is a great site for white tip sharks. We also see southern sting rays here. There are some crevices that house white-tips and squirrel fish. The top of the rock is at 20-30 ft, making the safety top interesting. We have sighted 500 to 1,000 mobulas on many occasions lately on this site. There are 3 basic rock formations with sand channels between them.

Aquarium - This could not be a more aptly named site. Everything that is available in our area has been seen here, as well as turtles, tiger sharks, jew fish and yellow-tails. The spiraling schools of grunts are gigantic with numbers easily in the thousands. Although we generally limit ourselves to 80 ft., there are spots as deep as 130.

Virador - This is a singular rock pinnacle, 20 ft on the front side and 90 ft or so on the back side. there are horse-eye jacks, butterfly fish, grunts, sergeant majors and many other varieties of schooling fish to see here. we have also seen the harlequin/clown shrimp here as there are several varieties ot starfish. You may see white tip shark, jew fish and turtles, too.

Los Meros - This is a perfect place for a check-out or refresher dive as well as a great local dive. You will not see larger schools of grunts on any other site we have. There are also eel, octopi and nudibranchs. If you want to go deeper than 40 ft, you will have to bring a shovel. There are to many sites to name them all, but this should give you an idea of our local sites. They are all volcanic rock formations and rock pinnacles. Visibility is 20-80 feet, with the average being 40-50 ft. There is an abundance of plankton and other nutrients which greatly affect the visibility, however, this is one of the reasons we encounter whale sharks from time to time along with the manta rays which are seen seasonally.

Long Range Dive Sites Available

Catalina Islands- Located approximately 45 min. to 1 hour from Flamingo or Playa Cocos. We have seen white tip sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks, and huge schools of horse-eye jacks, along with moorish idols, tangs, and many other varieties of eels and starfish. There most times non anchored dives with surge and some current. During the months of Jan-April, you will be delighted to find Manta Rays with 14 to 24 ft wingspans. We have seen as many as on6 and as many as 50 on one dive!!

Bat Islands- These are located approximately 1:45 to 2 hours from Playa Cocos

Here we go looking for the BIG Bull Sharks. They range from 9 to 15 ft in length, with some of them weighing around 2,000 lbs!! The site is called The Big Scare. The large schooling fish-snapper, jacks, rainbow runners and gafftop-sail pompanos are unbelievable. Our other sites at Bat Islands also have these and more. We have sighted the giant Manta Rays here many times as well as eagle rays, and occasionally schools of thousands, yes thousands of golden, cow-nosed rays. There are non-anchored and very challenging dives. We make a day of it and stop in a wonderful area called the Refuge for snorkeling on the surface interval. This trip is a must for everyone who wants to see the best the area has to offer.

COCOS ISLAND Picture taken by Avi on his Live Aboard

Catalina Islands and Marine Life

Go From Ocotal & Playa Cocos Beach, Flamingo Beach, Tamarindo

Catalina Islands

Just offshore from Flamingo, the Catalina Islands are considered among the most attractive dive sites in Costa Rica. It is an area where divers often find themselves surrounded by large schools of colorful fish. When you dive the Catalina’s, you may experience swimming with abundance of manta rays and stingrays.

The formations provide a spectacular variety of marine life from nudibranchs to sharks, with angel fish, jacks, snappers, grunts, octopus and eels in between. There are several dive spots with depths ranging from 40 ft. to more than 100 ft. Visibility depends upon the levels of plankton and nutrients. It varies from 20 ft. to 100 ft., with an average of 45 ft. approximately.

Catalina Islands are located approximately 45 min from Flamingo. We have seen white tip sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks, and huge schools of horse-eye jacks, along with Moorish idols, tangs, and many other varieties of eels and starfish. These are most times non-anchored dives, with surge and some current. During the months of Jan-April, you will be delighted to find Manta Rays with 14 to 24 ft wingspans. We have seen 1or as many as 50 on one dive!! Be sure to come in High season, Jan through April, which is summer in Costa Rica, to see Manta Rays. Dives to Catalina Islands available from Flamingo, Tamarindo, & Playa Cocos in Guanacaste

Dive Lodging Specials Available

In Flamingo Beach, Playa Cocos and Tamarindo Beach Areas

10 of the best marine sightings in Papagayo, Guanacaste

The rich waters of Costa Rica offer an unbelievable underwater world, with such a diversity and abundance of marine life. With fish everywhere, as well as mammals, reptiles, molluscs, sponges, urchins and soft corals, these waters truly are phenomenal. The dive locations at the Catalinas are a sight to behold. Here is a run down of just some of the marine life out on the Catalina’s, Costa Rica.

The marine life

manta ray (manta birostris)

The largest type of ray in the world, the giant oceanic Manta ray can grow to a disc size of up to 7m (23ft) with a weight of about 1350kg (2980lbs) but generally they are around 4.5m (15ft).They are filter feeders and consume large quantities of zooplankton in the form of shrimp, krill, and planktonic crabs. At the front, it has a pair of cephalic fins which are forward extensions of the pectoral fins. While feeding, the cephalic fins are spread to channel the prey into its mouth, and the small particles are sifted from the water by the tissue between the gill arches. The Manta ray does not possess a spiny tail. They will sometimes visit a cleaning station, more often around high tide, where cleaner fish go to work. These rays must continuously swim in order to allow for respiration, as they channel water over their gills. harlequin shrimp (hymenocera picta)

These beautiful little shrimp are found through the central and eastern Pacific. These cream colored arthropods are decorated with deep pinkish-purple spots. The shrimp have two walking legs on each side of the thorax, along with a pair of large claws towards the front. The claws and eyes appear flattened and thin, and on the head the shrimp have petal-looking sensory antennules to smell out their prey. Harlequin shrimps are usually in pairs where they hunt and defend their homes together, generally with the same partner for life. The female is the larger of the two, reaching up to 5cm (2in) and produces between 100 to 5000 eggs per season. Out on the Catalinas they feed exclusively on the blue seastar (phataria unifascialis). Working as a team they flip the seastar on its back and feed on its tube feet and soft tissues.

whitetip reef shark (triaenodon obesus)

Normally between 1.2m-1.8m (4ft-6ft) in length. The Whitetip reef shark has a slim body and a short, broad head. The snout is flattened and blunt, with tubular skin flaps beside the nostrils, oval eyes with vertical pupils, and white-tipped dorsal and caudal fins. Unlike many shark species, which must constantly swim to breathe, the Whitetip reef shark can pump water over its gills and so is able to lie still. They prefer very clear water and are normally found at depths of 8m–40m (26ft–131ft). At the Catalinas these sharks are generally found lying on sandy patches or channels. Whitetip reef sharks are not territorial and share their home ranges with others of their species. Predominately feeding at night they dine mainly on bony fish, as well as eels, octopus, lobsters, and crabs. hawksbill turtle (eretmochelys imbricata bissa)

An adult Hawksbill can have a shell around 1m (3.3ft) in length, and these marine reptiles can weigh around 70kg (155lbs). Their strikingly colored carapace, or shell, comprises of an amber background decorated with light and dark streaks combining to form an irregular overlaying pattern, with predominantly black and mottled-brown colors radiating to the sides. The Hawksbill has a distinctive way in which the scutes, or plates of the shell, overlap. This overlapping results in them having a serrated appearance to the rear margins of the carapace. The Hawksbill possess a beak-like mouth which is more sharply pronounced and hooked when compared with other turtle species. Hawksbills feed mainly on sponges, however these turtles are omnivorous and will also eat molluscs, marine algae, crustaceans, sea urchins, fish, and jellyfish.

white spotted boxfish (ostracion meleagris)

This is a species of boxfish found in the eastern Pacific Ocean. It is found on rock reefs of the Catalinas at a depth from 5m-20m (16ft-65ft). This species can grow up to a length of 25cm (9.8in), although when fortunate enough to see one, they are normally in the range of 10cm-15cm (4in-6in). Males and females differ in colour. Females and juveniles are dark brown or near black, with white spots. The males are much more elaborate in both colour and pattern. The males have a blue body with white dots and bright orange/yellow mottling effect on its back and edges. Males swim around more openly than females. Females will often be in the close vicinity of the males. They feed on sponges, molluscs, copepods, and algae. common octopus (octopus vulgaris)

More active at night when they generally feed, this amazing cephalopod will spend the day time mainly hiding in rocks and cracks in the basalt formations. On the Catalinas they are found anywhere between 8m-30m (25ft-100ft). They have a whole host of amazing adaptations. The Common octopus uses gills as its respiratory surface and they have three hearts. Most impressive is their ability to almost instantaneously match the colours, patterns, and even textures of its surroundings by using a network of pigment cells and specialized muscles in its skin. Their soft bodies can squeeze into impossibly small cracks and crevices. They can grow to about 1.3m (4ft) in length. Their main pray are crayfish, crabs and bivalve molluscs. nudibranch (nudibranchia)

These are a group of soft-bodied, marine gastropod molluscs. Currently, about 2,300 valid species of Nudibranchs are known and have been catagorised. They are noted for their often extraordinary colours and striking forms. Their forms and colouration vary greatly, as do their size. Of the Nudibranch found on the Catalinas, they range in size from 0.5cm-10cm (0.2in-4in) and can be found throughout the water column from 5m-25m (16ft-80ft). Nudibranchs are carnivorous and are known to feed on sponges, others on hydroids, others on bryozoans, and others with sea squirts (tunicate). Nudibranchs are hermaphroditic and have a set of reproductive organs for both sexes but they cannot fertilize themselves.

spotted eagle ray (aetobatus narinari)

This species of ray has a flattened body and the head has a rounded snout. The colouration on its back is black or deep blue covered with numerous white spots, and its ventral surface is white. The pectoral fins are extremely pronounced, resulting in the ray possessing wing-like appendages used for primary propulsion. The Spotted eagle ray has a heavily modified caudal fin resembling a whip-like tail. Their tails are longer than those of other rays and may have 2–6 venomous spines just behind the pelvic fins. They can be around 1m-3m (3ft-10ft) in width. Without the tail they can measure 1.2m-2m (3.5ft-6.6ft), with tail up to 6m (20ft). Spotted eagle rays have heavy dental plates which they use to crush their hard-shelled prey, and will feed on bivalve shellfish, shrimp, crabs, annelids, octopus, whelks, and small fish.

pacific seahorse (hippocampus ingens)

One of the largest of the 34 known species of seahorses in the world, it can reach up to 30cm (12in). They range in colors based on the location where they live. To help them avoid predators they have the ability to blend in to what is all around them. They are often gold, maroon, brown, white, or a combination of colors. Plankton, small microorganisms, and crustaceans make up the diet for the Pacific seahorse. They swallow their food whole so it has to be small enough to fit into the snout. Seahorses lack teeth, and prey is consumed by sucking it through their bony snout with a rapid snap of the head. Seahorses will feed often, as they don’t have a digestive system. When it comes to reproduction the female will deposit eggs into the male. The male has a brood pouch where the eggs are fertilized and will remain safe until hatched.

juvenile rock mover wrasse (novaculichthys taeniourus)

Juveniles and adults have markedly different appearances. The difference in appearance between juvenile and adult novaculichthys taeniourus is so striking, the common name Rockmover wrasse is used for adults and Dragon wrasse is used for juveniles. In juveniles, the first two dorsal fin spines are long and extended, drooping over the fish's forehead to form a "cowlick". As the fish matures, the elongated rays are lost. Young juveniles found on the Catalinas are usually green, turning burgundy to brownish. Both are spotted in white. Juveniles favour shallow areas on rubble among large patch reefs. Juveniles resemble algae and mimic the movements of detached, drifting seaweed by swaying back and forth in the currents to avoid predation.

10 every dive sightings

panamic green moray eel (gymnothorax castaneus)

The Panamic green moray eel is a large moray eel in the Pacific Ocean. It is very elongated and muscular, and grows to about 1.5m (5ft) in length. On the Catalinas it is found in and amongst boulders and the reef, at depths between 5m-30m (16ft-100ft). The large mouth has caniniform teeth and the snout is usually sharply pointed. They lack pectoral fins, but the dorsal and anal fin are well developed, though largely hidden by tissue. Usually feeding at night on fish and a variety of invertebrates such as crabs, shrimps and octopus. Their small circular gills located on the flanks far behind the mouth, require the moray to constantly open and close its mouth. This is an action required for respiration, not a sign of aggression.

king angelfish (holacanthus passer)

Found on every site of the Catalinas. These fish can grow up to 30cm (12in) and are found throughout the water column from the surface down to 30m (100ft). Adults most commonly have a dark slate blue body with yellow pectoral and caudal fins. They have a distinctive and identifying bold white vertical stripe, originating at the rear margin of the pectoral fin and terminating at the upper body margin. These fish are omnivorous and feed on a large variety of animal and plant life, although out here the eggs of the Sergeant Majors seem to be a particular favourite. King angelfish may be seen on their own, in pairs, or sometimes in fairly large schools.

barberfish (johnrandallia nigrirostris)

This fish is in the family of butterflyfish, and is found on all sites throughout the Catalinas. This species has a yellow compressed body and has black bands along the base of its dorsal fin, and on its snout and forehead. It has a small protractile mouth with a black mask around its eyes. Here, they are normally around 10cm-15cm (4in-6in). The barber fish are known to feed on algae, gastropods, and small crustaceans. Out on the Catalinas they are also a main cleaning fish, picking parasites from larger species. As with the King Angelfish, these fish are also keen on the eggs of the Sergeant Major. These fish are generally seen in large groups, and have a tendency to follow divers along on parts of the dive, looking for something to stir.

pacific ladyfish (elops affinis)

Also known as the Machete and the Pacific Tenpounder. They are known to be highly carnivorous, feeding on smaller fish and crustaceans. These can reach almost 1m (3.3ft) in length but are normally around 50cm (20in). Pacific Ladyfish are elongated, slender fish with a compact oval cross section and large deeply forked tail or caudal fin with long, slender symmetrical lobes. The small head is pointed and both the eyes and terminal mouth are quite large. The colour is silvery on the sides and silvery green or blue on the back. The dorsal fin and tail are dusky. The pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins are pale, and may be even yellowish. This is a schooling fish and around here there are normally found hanging out anywhere between 10m-15m (33ft-50ft).

panamic barnacle blenny (acanthemblemaria hancocki)

Also known as a Hancock's bleeny, this is a species of Chaenopsid blenny found on rocks and reefs around Costa Rica. Normally living in the empty mollusc bore holes on the rocky reefs, they feed on zooplankton. The Panamic barnacle blenny has a predominantly green head with a large dark brown spot behind its eye. It also has red lips, a red iris and red on the front of its dorsal fin. The body of this fish is seldom seen as they will take up residence in a small crevice in the rocks. Sometimes they will quickly dart out of the security of their hole as they race as fast as they can to snatch food from the water column, while trying not to be eaten by the other fish. They can measure up to 4cm (1.5in). Being so tiny, you really need to get up close to see the exquisite beauty of the tiny details which decorate this groovy little fish.

spottail grunts (haemulon maculicauda)

This reef associated species can be found in schools around coastal reefs during the day, dispersing over sandy substrate at night to depths of 33 m. It can also be found at deep rocky walls as well as exposed shallow rocky reefs. This species is endemic to the eastern Pacific. Can be found in such numbers that it is quite literally engulfing. This fish appears silvery grey with lines. Each scale bearing a pearly blue spot, the spots appearing to form lines following the scale series with yellowish fins and a large spot on the caudal peduncle. Normally around 25cm (10in) in length, they have a terminal mouth. They are known to feed on plankton in the open water, but some seek small prey on the seabed.

chancho surgeonfish (prionurus laticlavius)

Also known as the Razor surgeonfish. This fish has an oval body which is compressed. It has a steep head profile, and the eyes are situated high on the head with a small mouth positioned low. Instead of having the usual scalpel mark on the caudal peduncle this surgeonfish has 3 bony nobs along each side of the middle of tail base, similar to thorns on a rose bush. Grey body colour with a bright yellow tail fin. It has a few black spots on the tail base and a dark bar running vertically through the eye, and another through the shoulder. Small juveniles are mainly bright all over yellow. These fish are normally in large schools and can get to around 30cm-45cm (12in-18in) in size. They are normally found at depths anywhere between 5m-30m.

arrow crab (stenorhynchus debilis)

The Arrow crab is named because of its head and body resembling an arrow. It has eight spider-like legs and has a head that is exceptionally pointed at the tip. Normally 5cm-12cm (2in-5in). Colouration is variable in this species with the body normally golden, yellow or cream, marked with brown, black or iridescent-blue lines. The legs are reddish or yellow. Normally found hiding out under a boulder, or in inhabiting small caves or crevices. This tiny crustacean is found on all of our dive sites of the Catalinas, and can be found throughout the whole water column. The Arrow crab is mainly a nocturnal scavenger, but is also occasionally carnivorous, preying on small feather duster worms (sabellidae) and other tiny reef invertebrates.

spotted sharpnose puffer (canthigaster punctatissima)

This little puffer is found on all sites and is generally down between 5m-15m (18ft-50ft). It is reddish brown with white spots and is normally around 3cm-6cm (1in-2.5in) in length. It lacks pelvic fins, but has learned to use the pectoral fins to move around. It is an opportunistic generalist, feeding on a variety of vertebrate and invertebrate prey. It has also been reported that this species is also known to be a carnivorous cleaner of the green sea turtle (chelonia mydas). As a defensive mechanism, when frightened or disturbed they are capable of inflating their abdomens with water. They can also produce Tetrodotoxin and Saxitoxin in the skin, which are both two potent neurotoxins.

panamic sergeant major (abudefduf troschelii)

Generally of a length around 10cm-15cm (4in-6in), found on all sites and normally at a depth of between 0m-15m (0ft-50ft). The Sergeant Major has a fairly deep body which is oval and compressed. It has a continuous dorsal fin and a forked caudal fin. The ground colouration of the body is white with five bright black vertical stripes on the sides, a black spot on the base of the pectoral fin and a bright yellow back. They will feed on plankton at the surface or mid-water, as well as graze on benthic invertebrates and algae on the reef. They form distinct pairings during breeding, and during reproduction the eggs are demersal and adhere to the rock reef. It is the male’s responsibility to both guard and aerate the eggs.

harlequin shrimp (hymenocera picta)

These beautiful little shrimp are found through the central and eastern Pacific. These cream colored arthropods are decorated with deep pinkish-purple spots. The shrimp have two walking legs on each side of the thorax, along with a pair of large claws towards the front. The claws and eyes appear flattened and thin, and on the head the shrimp have petal-looking sensory antennules to smell out their prey. Harlequin shrimps are usually in pairs where they hunt and defend their homes together, generally with the same partner for life. The female is the larger of the two, reaching up to 5cm (2in) and produces between 100 to 5000 eggs per season. Out on the Catalinas they feed exclusively on the blue seastar (phataria unifascialis). Working as a team they flip the seastar on its back and feed on its tube feet and soft tissues.

whitetip reef shark (triaenodon obesus)

Normally between 1.2m-1.8m (4ft-6ft) in length. The Whitetip reef shark has a slim body and a short, broad head. The snout is flattened and blunt, with tubular skin flaps beside the nostrils, oval eyes with vertical pupils, and white-tipped dorsal and caudal fins. Unlike many shark species, which must constantly swim to breathe, the Whitetip reef shark can pump water over its gills and so is able to lie still. They prefer very clear water and are normally found at depths of 8m–40m (26ft–131ft). At the Catalinas these sharks are generally found lying on sandy patches or channels. Whitetip reef sharks are not territorial and share their home ranges with others of their species. Predominately feeding at night they dine mainly on bony fish, as well as eels, octopus, lobsters, and crabs.

hawksbill turtle (eretmochelys imbricata bissa)

An adult Hawksbill can have a shell around 1m (3.3ft) in length, and these marine reptiles can weigh around 70kg (155lbs). Their strikingly colored carapace, or shell, comprises of an amber background decorated with light and dark streaks combining to form an irregular overlaying pattern, with predominantly black and mottled-brown colors radiating to the sides. The Hawksbill has a distinctive way in which the scutes, or plates of the shell, overlap. This overlapping results in them having a serrated appearance to the rear margins of the carapace. The Hawksbill possess a beak-like mouth which is more sharply pronounced and hooked when compared with other turtle species. Hawksbills feed mainly on sponges, however these turtles are omnivorous and will also eat molluscs, marine algae, crustaceans, sea urchins, fish, and jellyfish.

white spotted boxfish (ostracion meleagris)

This is a species of boxfish found in the eastern Pacific Ocean. It is found on rock reefs of the Catalinas at a depth from 5m-20m (16ft-65ft). This species can grow up to a length of 25cm (9.8in), although when fortunate enough to see one, they are normally in the range of 10cm-15cm (4in-6in). Males and females differ in colour. Females and juveniles are dark brown or near black, with white spots. The males are much more elaborate in both colour and pattern. The males have a blue body with white dots and bright orange/yellow mottling effect on its back and edges. Males swim around more openly than females. Females will often be in the close vicinity of the males. They feed on sponges, molluscs, copepods, and algae.

common octopus (octopus vulgaris)

More active at night when they generally feed, this amazing cephalopod will spend the day time mainly hiding in rocks and cracks in the basalt formations. On the Catalinas they are found anywhere between 8m-30m (25ft-100ft). They have a whole host of amazing adaptations. The Common octopus uses gills as its respiratory surface and they have three hearts. Most impressive is their ability to almost instantaneously match the colours, patterns, and even textures of its surroundings by using a network of pigment cells and specialized muscles in its skin. Their soft bodies can squeeze into impossibly small cracks and crevices. They can grow to about 1.3m (4ft) in length. Their main pray are crayfish, crabs and bivalve molluscs.

nudibranch (nudibranchia)

These are a group of soft-bodied, marine gastropod molluscs. Currently, about 2,300 valid species of Nudibranchs are known and have been catagorised. They are noted for their often extraordinary colours and striking forms. Their forms and colouration vary greatly, as do their size. Of the Nudibranch found on the Catalinas, they range in size from 0.5cm-10cm (0.2in-4in) and can be found throughout the water column from 5m-25m (16ft-80ft). Nudibranchs are carnivorous and are known to feed on sponges, others on hydroids, others on bryozoans, and others with sea squirts (tunicate). Nudibranchs are hermaphroditic and have a set of reproductive organs for both sexes but they cannot fertilize themselves.

spotted eagle ray (aetobatus narinari)

This species of ray has a flattened body and the head has a rounded snout. The coloration on its back is black or deep blue covered with numerous white spots, and its ventral surface is white. The pectoral fins are extremely pronounced, resulting in the ray possessing wing-like appendages used for primary propulsion. The Spotted eagle ray has a heavily modified caudal fin resembling a whip-like tail. Their tails are longer than those of other rays and may have 2–6 venomous spines just behind the pelvic fins. They can be around 1m-3m (3ft-10ft) in width. Without the tail they can measure 1.2m-2m (3.5ft-6.6ft), with tail up to 6m (20ft). Spotted eagle rays have heavy dental plates which they use to crush their hard-shelled prey, and will feed on bivalve shellfish, shrimp, crabs, annelids, octopus, whelks, and small fish.

pacific seahorse (hippocampus ingens)

One of the largest of the 34 known species of seahorses in the world, it can reach up to 30cm (12in). They range in colors based on the location where they live. To help them avoid predators they have the ability to blend in to what is all around them. They are often gold, maroon, brown, white, or a combination of colors. Plankton, small microorganisms, and crustaceans make up the diet for the Pacific seahorse. They swallow their food whole so it has to be small enough to fit into the snout. Seahorses lack teeth, and prey is consumed by sucking it through their bony snout with a rapid snap of the head. Seahorses will feed often, as they don’t have a digestive system. When it comes to reproduction the female will deposit eggs into the male. The male has a brood pouch where the eggs are fertilized and will remain safe until hatched.

Juveniles and adults have markedly different appearances. The difference in appearance between juvenile and adult novaculichthys taeniourus is so striking, the common name Rockmover wrasse is used for adults and Dragon wrasse is used for juveniles. In juveniles, the first two dorsal fin spines are long and extended, drooping over the fish's forehead to form a "cowlick". As the fish matures, the elongated rays are lost. Young juveniles found on the Catalinas are usually green, turning burgundy to brownish. Both are spotted in white. Juveniles favor shallow areas on rubble among large patch reefs. Juveniles resemble algae and mimic the movements of detached, drifting seaweed by swaying back and forth in the currents to avoid predation.

Papagayo Guanacaste (local dive sites)

(Hermosa, Playa Cocos, Guanacaste / North Pacific area)

Margaritaville Beach Resort, Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica Dive the CATS, Catalina Islands

There are too many sites to name them all but the listing below should give you an idea of the local sites. They are all volcanic rock formations and rock pinnacles. Visibility is 20%-80%, with average being 40 - 50 feet. There is an abundance of plankton and other nutrients which greatly affect the visibility, however, this is one of the reasons why we encounter whale sharks from time to time along with the manta rays which are seen seasonally, Jan through April.

Punta Gorda - A great spot for macro. Everything form white-tips to frog fish. Several varieties of eels in rocks. One of the few sites with hard coral. Usually grunts, sergeant majors, and stone fish everywhere. We have seen as many as 10,000 golden/cow-nosed rays on the site as well as sea-horses and occasional eagle rays. This site is 15-20 ft deep on one side of the pinnacle and drops to 75-80 on the outside, with most of the life at the top of the rocks.

Bajo Tiburone - This is a great site for white tip sharks. We also see southern sting rays here. There are some crevices that house white-tips and squirrel fish. The top of the rock is at 20-30 ft, making the safety top interesting. We have sighted 500 to 1,000 mobulas on many occasions lately on this site. There are 3 basic rock formations with sand channels between them.

Aquarium - This could not be a more aptly named site. Everything that is available in our area has been seen here, as well as turtles, tiger sharks, jew fish and yellow-tails. The spiraling schools of grunts are gigantic with numbers easily in the thousands. Although we generally limit ourselves to 80 ft., there are spots as deep as 130.

Virador - This is a singular rock pinnacle, 20 ft on the front side and 90 ft or so on the back side. there are horse-eye jacks, butterfly fish, grunts, sergeant majors and many other varieties of schooling fish to see here. we have also seen the harlequin/clown shrimp here as there are several varieties ot starfish. You may see white tip shark, jew fish and turtles, too.

Los Meros - This is a perfect place for a check-out or refresher dive as well as a great local dive. You will not see larger schools of grunts on any other site we have. There are also eel, octopi and nudibranchs. If you want to go deeper than 40 ft, you will have to bring a shovel.

There are to many sites to name them all, but this should give you an idea of our local sites. They are all volcanic rock formations and rock pinnacles. Visibility is 20-80 feet, with the average being 40-50 ft. There is an abundance of plankton and other nutrients which greatly affect the visibility, however, this is one of the reasons we encounter whale sharks from time to time along with the manta rays which are seen seasonally.

Long Range Dive Sites Available

Catalina Islands- Located approximately 45 min. to 1 hour from Flamingo or Playa Cocos.

We have seen white tip sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks, and huge schools of horse-eye jacks, along with moorish idols, tangs, and many other varieties of eels and starfish. There most times non anchored dives with surge and some current. During the months of Jan-April, you will be delighted to find Manta Rays with 14 to 24 ft wingspans. We have seen as many as on6 and as many as 50 on one dive!!

Bat Islands- These are located approximately 1:45 to 2 hours from Playa Cocos

Here we go looking for the BIG Bull Sharks. They range from 9 to 15 ft in length, with some of them weighing weighing around 2,000 lbs!! The site is called The Big Scare. The large schooling fish-snapper, jacks, rainbow runners and gafftop-sail pompanos are unbelievable. Our other sites at Bat Islands also have these and more. We have sighted the giant Manta Rays here many times as well as eagle rays, and occasionally schools of thousands, yes thousands of golden, cow-nosed rays. There are non-anchored and very challenging dives. We make a day of it and stop in a wonderful area called the Refuge for snorkeling on the surface interval. This trip is a must for everyone who wants to see the best the area has to offer.

Cocos Island Live Aboards

Cocos Island

Live aboards to Cocos Island:

Probably, you'll see only the divers who accompanied you on your adventure. Eco-minded Costa Rica largely limits activity to the live-aboards. The rhythm of Cocos revolves around three daytime dives from small pangas and a night dive off the mother ship. The drill is intense: pile into the panga, rain or shine, chug to the site, backward roll from the free-floating boat, and, after the dive, surface in sometimes-churning Pacific swells. Forget about anchor lines, expect swift currents and watch your gauges - the closest re-compression chamber is two days away in Panama City. For topside activities, consider sea kayaking along the island's scalloped coastline beneath the waterfalls, or hike the mile-long trail between Wafer and Chatham bays. Your panga driver might shuttle you near Isla Conico to watch humpback whales breach and slap their tails.

Picture by Avi Klapfer at Cocos Island

Cocos Island Dive Sites

Manuelita Island Depth: 45 to 150 feet Skill Level: Advanced

This islet off Cocos's northeast corner features a sheer wall and deep boulders on the west side and shallow orange plate corals on the east. Lazy white-tip sharks and marbled rays are stacked atop each other on the rocks. Hammerheads venture in close for barberfish cleanings. Locate the schools of creoles - they migrate toward big-animal action - settle into the rocks, and don't move.

Dirty Rock Depth: 65 to 150 feet Skill Level: Advanced

Like diving the Grand Canyon. Half a mile off Cocos's northwest corner, this site has monstrous boulders sloping down the south side and a 100-yard-wide channel separating the main rock from a collection of pinnacles. Eagle rays soar between gaps, gorges and valleys formed by boulders, while hawksbill turtles and octopuses bop around the rocks. Look for whale sharks and mantas cruising the channel.

Shark Fin Rock Depth: Surface to 200 feet Skill Level: Advanced A mile southwest of

Punta Turrialba. This is a mammoth underwater rock with boulders hugging the southwest side and a wall on the northwest. A tornado of bigeye jacks sweeps around this site, while solitary tuna and pairs of wahoo hunt. Watch for mobila and Pacific manta rays during your safety stop.

Pajara Depth: 65 to 100 feet Skill Level: Advanced

Islet at the mouth of Weston Bay. Someone emptied a cupboard of plate corals down the south slope of this site. There's an 85-foot wall on the north side. Look for orange, muppet-like frogflsh on the wall at 55 feet and morays in the coral. Green and hawksbill turtles rotate around a pinnacle to the west.

Big Dos Amigos Depth: 65 to 120 feet Skill Level: Advanced

A half-mile off Punta Rodriguez, this islet features a 45-foot-high arch and a 60-foot pinnacle off the southeast side. Rainbow runners, yellowtail snappers and bigeye jacks stream through the arch. Cracks are packed with lobster. Hundreds of hammerheads swim between the islet and the pinnacle.

Cocos Island: We have options for live aboard boats to Cocos Islands-Plan ahead

Probably, you'll see only the divers who accompanied you on your adventure. Eco-minded Costa Rica largely limits activity to the live-aboards. The rhythm of Cocos revolves around three daytime dives from small pangas and a night dive off the mother ship. The drill is intense: pile into the panga, rain or shine, chug to the site, backward roll from the free-floating boat, and, after the dive, surface in sometimes-churning Pacific swells. Forget about anchor lines, expect swift currents and watch your gauges - the closest re-compression chamber is two days away in Panama City. For topside activities, consider sea kayaking along the island's scalloped coastline beneath the waterfalls, or hike the mile-long trail between Wafer and Chatham bays. Your panga driver might shuttle you near Isla Conico to watch humpback whales breach and slap their tails.

Manuelita Island Depth: 45 to 150 feet Skill Level: Advanced

This islet off Cocos's northeast corner features a sheer wall and deep boulders on the west side and shallow orange plate corals on the east. Lazy white-tip sharks and marbled rays are stacked atop each other on the rocks. Hammerheads venture in close for barberfish cleanings. Locate the schools of creoles - they migrate toward big-animal action - settle into the rocks, and don't move.

Dirty Rock Depth: 65 to 150 feet Skill Level: Advanced

Like diving the Grand Canyon. Half a mile off Cocos's northwest corner, this site has monstrous boulders sloping down the south side and a 100-yard-wide channel separating the main rock from a collection of pinnacles. Eagle rays soar between gaps, gorges and valleys formed by boulders, while hawksbill turtles and octopuses bop around the rocks. Look for whale sharks and mantas cruising the channel. Shark Fin Rock Depth: Surface to 200 feet Skill Level: Advanced A mile southwest of Punta Turrialba. This is a mammoth underwater rock with boulders hugging the southwest side and a wall on the northwest. A tornado of bigeye jacks sweeps around this site, while solitary tuna and pairs of wahoo hunt. Watch for mobila and Pacific manta rays during your safety stop.

Pajara Depth: 65 to 100 feet Skill Level: Advanced

Islet at the mouth of Weston Bay. Someone emptied a cupboard of plate corals down the south slope of this site. There's an 85-foot wall on the north side. Look for orange, muppet-like frogflsh on the wall at 55 feet and morays in the coral. Green and hawksbill turtles rotate around a pinnacle to the west.

Big Dos Amigos Depth: 65 to 120 feet Skill Level: Advanced

A half-mile off Punta Rodriguez, this islet features a 45-foot-high arch and a 60-foot pinnacle off the southeast side. Rainbow runners, yellowtail snappers and bigeye jacks stream through the arch. Cracks are packed with lobster. Hundreds of hammerheads swim between the islet and the pinnacle.

DIVE SITES PAPAGAYO, GUANACASTE (local sites)

Playa Cocos, Guanacaste / North Pacific area

Punta Gorda - A great spot for macro. Everything forms white-tips to frogfish. Several varieties of eels in rocks. One of the few sites with hard coral. Usually grunts, sergeant majors, and stonefish everywhere. We have seen as many as 10,000 golden/cow-nosed rays on the site as well as sea-horses and occasional eagle rays. This site is 15-20 ft deep on one side of the pinnacle and drops to 75-80 on the outside, with most of the life at the top of the rocks.

'Bajo Tiburone - This is a great site for white tip sharks. We also see southern stingrays here. There are some crevices that house white-tips and squirrelfish. The top of the rock is at 20-30 ft, making the safety top interesting. We have sighted 500 to 1,000 mobulas on. Many occasions lately on this site. There are 3 basic rock formations with sand channels between them.

Aquarium - This could not be a more aptly named site. Everything that is available in our area has been seen here, as well as turtles, tiger sharks, jewfish and yellow-tails. The spiraling schools of grunts are gigantic with numbers easily in the thousands. Although we generally limit ourselves to 80 ft., there are spots as deep as 130.

Virador - This is a singular rock pinnacle, 20 ft on the front side and 90 ft or so on the backside. There are horse-eye jacks, butterflyfish, grunts, sergeant majors and many other varieties of schooling fish to see here. We have also seen the harlequin/clown shrimp here as there are several varieties of starfish. You may see white tip shark, jewfish and turtles, too.

Los Meros- This is a perfect place for a check-out or refresher dive as well as a great local dive. You will not see larger schools of grunts on any other site we have. There are also eels, octopi and nudibranchs. If you want to go deeper than 40 ft, you will have to bring a shovel.

There are too many sites to name them all, but this should give you an idea of our local sites. They are all volcanic rock formations and rock pinnacles. Visibility is 20-80 feet, with the average being 40-50 ft. There is an abundance of plankton and other nutrients which greatly affect the visibility, however, this is one of the reasons we encounter whale sharks from time to time along with the manta rays which are seen seasonally.

Long Range Sites

Catalina Islands- These are located approximately 45 min. from Flamingo 50 min. to 1 hr. from Playa Cocos. We have seen white tip sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks, and huge schools of horse-eye jacks, along with Moorish idols, tangs, and many other varieties of eels and starfish. There most times non anchored dives with surge and some current. During the months of Jan-April, you will be delighted to find Manta Rays with 14 to 24 ft. wingspans. We have seen as many as on6 and as many as 50 on one dive!!

Bat Islands- These are located approximately 1:45 to 2 hours from Playa Cocos or Flamingo. Here we go looking for the BIG Bull Sharks. They range from 9 to 15 ft in length, with some of them weighing around 2,000 lbs.’!! The site is called The Big Scare. The large schooling fish-snapper, jacks, rainbow runners and gaff top-sail pompanos are unbelievable. Our other sites at Bat Islands also have these and more. We have sighted the giant Manta Rays here many times as well as eagle rays, and occasionally schools of thousands, yes thousands of golden, cow-nosed rays. There are non-anchored and very challenging dives. We make a day of it and stop in a wonderful area called the Refuge for snorkeling on the surface interval. This trip is a must for everyone who wants to see the best the area has to offer.

There are too many sites to name them all but the listing below should give you an idea of the local sites. They are all volcanic rock formations and rock pinnacles. Visibility is 20%-80%, with the average being 40 - 50 feet. There is an abundance of plankton and other nutrients which greatly affect the visibility, however, this is one of the reasons why we encounter whale sharks from time to time along with the manta rays which are seen seasonally.