With marine sanctuaries and remote islands harboring giant rays, sharks and whales, scuba diving in Costa Rica is the ultimate liveaboard adventure.
Liveaboard diving in Costa Rica is the big draw to divers who wish to explore the amazing dive area Cocos Islands - where it's become known as a hotspot for large schools of sharks. Lying between the marine rich waters of the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica is a small but bold Central American country, blessed with stunning rainforests, diverse wildlife, and incredible scuba diving. Liveaboard diving in Costa Rica will allow the adventurous to travel far out to sea, exposing themselves to an underwater world rarely matched across the globe. It may surprise some to learn that unlike several of it's neighbouring countries whose diving is concentrated around the Caribbean, Costa Rica's best sites are mostly found in the Pacific.
There really are endless opportunities for every level of diver, but by far and away the best sites are accessible only via liveaboard dive tour which often last more than 10 days and allow multiple dives per day. Several different sites will make for an unforgettable dive trip - shark diving at the Cocos Islands is a diver's favourite, particularly with the high the numbers of Hammerheads at Bajo Alcoyne. Combine these with the likes of Cano Island, Guanacaste and Bat Island, Costa Rica is well up there in the scuba diving hierarchy.
4 liveaboards in Costa Rica
- Free Nitrox
Discover the remote, pristine Island of Cocos aboard the 40m luxury yacht, the MV Argo. Up to 18 guests can be comfortably accommodated in 9 stateroom cabins, each with individual climate control.
The 33m MV Okeanos Aggressor offers year-round dive cruises to Cocos Island. Up to 22 divers can be accommodated within 10 luxury staterooms, each with a private bath and shower, port window and AC.
- Free Nitrox
The purpose built 35m liveaboard, the MV Sea Hunter, is an extremely stable platform for divers, offering comfortable voyages to Cocos Island, Costa Rica. The 10 cabins feature AC and an en-suite.Sea Hunter
Liveaboard Dive Trips in Costa Rica
Liveaboard.com features many different diving boats, each one ensuring comfort, safety and of course fabulous underwater experiences. Vessels come in many shapes and sizes, from large cruising yachts, to converted submarine support boats, all offering itineraries to suit everyone. Tours range from anything between 11 to 18 days, obviously meaning that you can log a large number of dives, but also allowing the odd day of relaxation on deck if you want, without losing out on a significant proportion of available dive time.
Diving cruises normally depart early in the morning with some operators offering a pick up service from your choice of accommodation. A few liveaboard itineraries will include a hotel stay for the night before the tour sets sail. Getting to the remote dive sites of Costa Rica can take nearly 2 days, but your reward for this voyage involves jumping into some of the most isolated and unspoilt marine reserves on the planet. Generally the crew will arrange a 'check' dive to begin with so the guides can assess the general level and tailor the dive safari to best meet the needs of all the guests. This test dive will be on a beautiful reef, offering gentle, easy conditions to get into the swing of things prior to a busy few days!
The biodiversity afforded by the Pacific waters of Costa Rica is incredible, with pristine reef systems that support a wide range of marine life. There are sharks here in abundance, with other large animals such as Manta Rays, Dolphins and Whales.
The array of colours on show from the huge variety of reef fish and corals are dazzling, creating a stunning underwater landscape.
Dive Sites and Areas of Costa Rica
The Pacific coast in particular boasts a number of great dive sites, home to the full range of tropical coral and fish species. Liveaboard cruises allow exploration of a vast majority of these during a single trip.
Cocos Islands is perhaps Costa Rica's best dive area. It's located over 500 kilometres from the mainland and so the only way to get here is by live aboard. The Island has been a marine reserve for more than 30 years, and so when combined with it's remoteness, means that the diving here is pristine. It's most famous residents are Hammerhead Sharks which are regularly seen in abundance, along with many other shark species and large pelagics.
With some of the clearest waters in Central America, Cano Island, off the south pacific coast of Costa Rica, is a tropical playground for all manner of species, in particular various different reef sharks which frequent the area constantly.
The Bat Islands are accessed by a visit to Guanacaste bay in the north west of the country, and have some of the best conditions for diving in Costa Rica. Diving is all year round, and due to the isolated position is rarely visited, allowing divers to enjoy Mantas, Turtles, Sharks, Dolphins and Whales in relative peace.
Probably THE place to dive, and on all liveaboard itineraries in Costa Rica, is the site of Bajo Alcyone - within the Cocos Islands. It's here that the famous elegant scalloped Hammerhead Sharks can be seen - it's unlikely that you'll visit anywhere else in the world that has a better chance of viewing these odd, yet beautiful creatures.
When To Go
Due to it's position near the equator, diving at Costa Rica's best sites is possible year round. There are slight seasonal differences - the dry season is from December to May, thus offering calmer seas and the best visibility. In the rainy season from June to December, the visibility is normally slightly less (although still commonly up to 25 metres!), but the increase in plankton can result in higher numbers of sharks, whales, and other marine life. Water temperature on average is a pleasant 28 degrees Celsius.
Tips for Travellers
Spanish is spoken nationally as the main language, but English is widely understood, especially in the tourism industry. ATMs are generally easy to find and will dispense the local currency - the Costa Rican Colon - and most major credit cards are widely accepted. Plug sockets are similar to the US (2 pronged), with a voltage of 110V and frequency 60Hz.
Gear wise, most liveaboard operators will have equipment available to rent on board, although you'll need to let them know when you book. Divers are welcome to bring their own equipment, and are advised to have their certification and log books on hand.
How To Get There And Points Of Departure
Liveaboard dive trips in Costa Rica tend to depart from a few different ports, depending on the operator. Many will leave from Puntarenas, which is around a 90 minute drive from the capital San Jose. Check with your cruise operator, as some will arrange a transfer from San Jose to Puntarenas, which simplifies things. Others actually start the tour in San Jose, and so transport to the relevant harbour is included. San Jose has a well served international airport, with several large airlines flying directly here. Most flights transit through the US, and so it's a good idea to check US transit visa requirements. If you are embarking on a liveaboard tour in the Guanacaste region, you may be able to fly directly into the nearby Daniel Oduber International Airport from overseas.
A small number of dive cruises through Costa Rica actually start in Panama - at Puerto Pedegral near the city of David, which can be reached via bus (around 7 hours) or domestic flight from Panama City. It's easy to fly into Panama City from many international locations.
Liveaboard.com has a range of different boats and operators, covering a wide range of budgets, from approximately $250USD to $500USD per person per night. Each liveaboard diving tour operator is different, but often extras that you'll need to bear in mind are marine park fees, emergency evacuation plan, airport departure taxes, and fuel surcharges. Depending on your nationality, you may be able to visit Costa Rica without a visa. However, you should check this well in advance of travelling. It's normally necessary to have 6 months validity on your passport, but again this should be checked.
Due to the remoteness of several dive sites in Costa Rica, many operators require divers to hold an Advanced Open Water qualification with a minimum of 30 - 50 logged dives.
As ever, it’s always recommended to purchase suitable travel insurance.
Costa Rica Diving Reviews
Costa Rica is now one of my top destinationsDiving Costa Rica in January on the Okeanos Aggressor
We saw a lot of tiger, hammerhead, galapagos sharks, Overall it was really amazing.Diving Costa Rica in December on the Argo
Wonderful, minus being seasick on the way to cocos Island.Diving Costa Rica in October on the Okeanos Aggressor
Lovely country, friendly and felt very safe indeed. Beautiful environment, with wildlife everywhere.Diving Costa Rica in August on the Okeanos Aggressor
Fantastic, looking forward to go back at some point.Diving Costa Rica in August on the Okeanos Aggressor II
Costa rica is a amazing! People are friendly and nature pristine.Diving Costa Rica in May on the Okeanos Aggressor II
Great country. Excellent hotel. A little bit more sun would be nice. Food in hotels is quite expensive. Prices on the same level as in Switzerland and dining is much more expensive than in GermanyDiving Costa Rica in April on the Sea Hunter
Friendly people from airport to the boat.Diving Costa Rica in February on the Okeanos Aggressor
It was great but as i wrote before we didnt get to see the scolling hammerheadsDiving Costa Rica in December on the Okeanos Aggressor
Very good, waters around Cocos are totally different from the coast (Cocos looks like paradise)Diving Costa Rica in November on the Sea Hunter
Fantastic, bull sharks at bhatsDiving Costa Rica in August on the Okeanos Aggressor
I also dived at Islas Murcielago and absolutely loved the two, once again, very different dive sites : Gran Susto and Bajo Negro. It would have made sense to dive with nitrox there but I do not think that the option was offered by Playa del Coco dive centers. The local dives at Playa del Coco were not bad at all either and I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by them. I was a little bit disappointed by the two tank dive trip that I took to Isla del Caño though. The two dives were very short (35-40mn) and the sites themselves OK but nothing exceptionnal. I felt a little bit frustrated at the end of the trip and under the impression that we had not been taken to the most interesting sites of Caño (the sites we were taken to are Jardín and Ancla).Diving Costa Rica in August on the Wind Dancer Liveaboard