The beautiful waters of Costa Rica are home to several marine life including whales, sharks and sea turtles. If you’re a nature or ocean lover, this is the perfect location for you to get up close and personal with these wonderful sea creatures.
From snorkelling in the caribbean coast to diving in the bat islands, there are many incredible underwater adventures on offer. To help you decide where to go, here are some of the best locations to explore Costa Rica’s marine life.
This breathtaking island may look familiar to you if you’re a fan of the Jurassic Park films. Although only distant shots were filmed of Cocos Island for the first movie, it is believed that Isla Nublar was based on the look of this destination. Unfortunately you won’t find any dinosaurs roaming the island, but in the deep waters surrounding this beautiful National Park, is an abundance of underwater wildlife. Hammerhead sharks, yellowfin tuna, giant manta rays and dolphins are just some of the marine species you can experience a first hand encounter with.
You won’t be able to stay over on the island, as the only people that are allowed to live there are Costa Rican Park Rangers. However there are arranged tours which offer trips here so you can still experience an amazing underwater adventure. Make sure you prepare for the long journey ahead of you, as it can take up to 30 hours by boat to travel to this awe-inspiring destination. Undersea Hunter runs fascinating liveaboard tours from Puntarenas and even has its own submarine so you can safely explore the depths of this fantastic ocean.
The majestic sea turtle is a wonderful sight to behold, but seeing thousands of them together creates an even more unforgettable experience. Playa Ostional is home to one of the world’s largest turtle nesting grounds. During the rainy season, between August and December, hundreds of thousands of olive-ridley sea turtles descend on the shore to lay their eggs. This turtle gathering, locally known as arribada, is a phenomenal event to see. These turtles are used to life in the sea, so you will find them struggling as they drag their heavy bodies across the beach. Once they find a spot to dig a nest in the sand, the turtles will bury 80-100 soft shelled white eggs which look just like ping pong balls. Over the course of five days, up to 10 million eggs can be laid by the turtles!
Since 1987, the community of Ostional harvest the eggs that are laid during the first three days of an arribada. This is because the first eggs are likely to be destroyed by other turtles who dig their nests in the same area. If you happen to be on this beach 45-54 days after the eggs have been laid, you might even see hatched baby turtles making their way towards the sea. To witness an arribada, you will need to employ a local guide which can be arranged upon arrival.
This beautiful and exotic area is officially called the Islas Murciélago, but it is also affectionately known as the Bat Islands. If you’re an experienced diver, this location should definitely be on your travel bucket list. In the waters surrounding this area, huge schools of multicolored fish and manta rays swim past a stunning variety of corals and caverns. For those who are feeling adventurous, head over to the dive site known as ‘big scare’. You will need plenty of diving experience as well as nerves of steel, as this area allows you to get up close and personal with bull sharks. These stunning sharks are huge and can be between two and three meters long! Other sharks you can encounter in the waters are tiger sharks and whitetip sharks, as well as many species of fish. The best time to view these amazing creatures is between May and September.
The scenic caribbean coastline is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing snorkelling adventure. Travel to the spectacular Cahuita National Park, a marine reserve best known for its nearly 600 acres of coral. In the waters you will find hundreds of tropical fish, lobsters, clams and nurse sharks. If the marine life doesn’t excite you enough, there are also two shipwrecks. Only six meters below the surface you will see the shipwreck of a Spanish galleon from the 1700’s, which features ancient cannons. This is the most impressive shipwreck, however you can find the second ship, The Fenix, just offshore of the city of Limon. To explore this astonishingly beautiful coastline, you will need to hire a guide, to ensure that no additional damage is done to the coral (In 1991 an earthquake destroyed some of the coral). The most ideal conditions for entering the water is between February and April, otherwise there will be very poor visibility.
If you don’t want to dip your toe in the water, you can try a boat tour in the southern Pacific Ocean off the Osa Peninsula. These nutrient-rich waters are home to magnificent sea mammals including spinner dolphins and whales; between the months of March and April, and July and October, you will experience the breathtaking whale season. This is a wonderful opportunity to witness 40 ton humpback whales as they sing to each other, shooting water sky-high out of their blowholes. Other amazing marine life you will find in the deep waters include four different sea turtles, manta rays, tuna and sharks. For those that want to get into the water there are many top dive sites including the Devil’s Pinnacle. Hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, manta rays and barracudas are just some of the underwater creatures often found in this area.