Diving Playas del Coco

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Playas del Coco, Costa Rica

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Country: Costa Rica  Area: Costa Rica

Water Temp: 16 - 28°C (61 - 82°F)

Visibility: 2 - 20m (7 - 66 ft)

Depth Range: 10 - 50m (33 - 164 ft)

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Playas del Coco is a small beach town in the northern province of Guanacaste. It is known for its great diving and large marine life, along with frequent sightings of Bull Sharks.

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Set on the northern Pacific coast, Playas del Coco (El Coco to locals) is one of the oldest beach communities in Guanacaste. Set in a volcanic landscape, this section of Costa Rica differs dramatically from the southern shores – and is significantly quieter. Beyond great dive sties, activities in El Coco largely revolve around exploring the surrounding tropical dry forest. This ecosystem is among the most threatened in Costa Rica and again, vastly different from the southern jungles.  When not diving, spend days hiking through the forest and setting out into the ocean on a rented kayak, before joining the vibrant nightlife.

Diving off Playas del Coco gives you the opportunity to swim through large quantities of volcanic rock. While coral remains limited and the visibility isn’t great, the abundance of marine life and large schools of fish certainly makes up for it. The region is known for copious amounts of puffer fish, a number of nudibranchs, manta rays and white tip sharks.

Climate

Costa Rica is a warm country with temps from 29 to 35 Celsius. Like most tropical countries there is a rainy season and this starts in June with a few afternoon small showers. October is the wettest month and during the rainy season it also gets windier, it is also the windiest month.

Yellow Bloom, Credit

This weather makes October a quiet month and cheaper because hotels lower their prices. June and July are also low season. High season is Mid Dec – Feb, Easter week and August. This is the most expensive period to go because hotels raise their prices and are generally full.

Marine Conservation

Santa Rosa National Park protects Bat Island. This ensures that shark finning is prohibited, and that the local bull shark population remains protected. A park fee of $15 is required per diver to maintain this park and the protection.

Outside of the national park, local businesses and small non-profits are largely responsible for conservation initiatives. A number of businesses have set up tours and lodges that revolve around principles of sustainable tourism, which include green operations and local community involvement. Most initiatives focus on preserving the threatened dry forest on land, but some activities to extend out into the water. Most of the local dive operators are members of Project Aware.

Family Friendly

Families are welcome in the area, with many child friendly activities and many dive centres can organise snorkel trips and bubblemaker courses.

Besides diving Costa Rica has great nature and activities like, canopy in the jungle, rafting, horseback riding, waterfalls, hot springs and a great wildlife in the national parks all of which are suitable for families.

Content, Dive & Marine Life Information and Photos kindly supplied by Rich Coast Diving

 
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Shore Diving

There is no shore diving of Playas del Coco.

Boat Diving

The diving out of Playas del Coco is all boat diving. Viz is not the best but the marine life makes up for it, seeing sharks and rays on almost every dive makes every dive a great experience.

 

Playa del Coco, Credit

The 20+ Papagayo dive sites just off the coast of Playas del Cocos are great sites for all levels of experience. Located only 10 minutes off shore, maximum depths range between 10 and 30 meters. Two dives are done here daily.

Slightly further afield are the Catalina Islands. Better suited for more experienced divers, the manta cleaning station here is a highlight. The Bat Islands are favoured among experienced divers for the large numbers of bull sharks, drift dives, currents and depth. This area makes for great technical diving and advanced certification is required.

The area also has two small wrecks nearby.

Liveaboard Diving

There are no liveaboards in the area.

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How to Get There

The closest international airport is Liberia airport which is 20 min from Playas del Coco.

Aerial view, Credit

Domestic flights can be taken from San Jose airport to Liberia or if you rent a car it is about a 5 hour drive to Coco from San Jose.

Buses are generally on time all over Costa Rica and these are very useful to get around the country.

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Where to Eat & Drink

Coco has quite a few restaurants to choose from. Some of these are; La Caveja which is a small Italian restaurant, the owners are real Italian and serve the Best Pizza and pasta in town, they also serve meat dishes and fish catch of the day. Also Citron, an upscale restaurant has a great selection of fish and meat and very good appetisers.

Food, Credit

Coco has many bars and parties at night, the favorite being Zi lounge where they have Ladies nights. Some bars have movie night and all bars have happy hour.

There is also a new cigar shop where you can drink a good glass of wine and enjoy a cigar.

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Other Activities

There are many other activities to enjoy around the area to keep everyone happy these include, Canopy and jungle walks, Surfing, Rafting, Tubing or swimming in waterfalls.

A visit to Santa Rosa National Park is a definite must while in the region. This area protects the dry forest, unique to this northern section of the country. Trails lead hikers through the park.

There are also several less developed beaches on either side of Playa del Coco. Playa Hermosa is a local favourite given its great swimming spots. It is also a popular place to rent kayaks and join boat and snorkeling trips.  This beach is roughly 7km north of Playa del Coco.

Kids Playing, Credit

Families are welcome in the area, with many child friendly activities and many dive centres can organise snorkel trips and bubblemaker and discover courses.

Besides diving Costa Rica has great nature and activities like, canopy in the jungle, rafting, horseback riding, waterfalls, hot springs and a great wildlife in the national parks all of which are suitable for families.

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Tips

Make sure the shop is a PADI centre.

Always bargain on taxis and souvenirs.

Playa del Coco, Costa Rica, Credit

If you take the bus hold on to your personal belongings do not put them in the overhead compartment. Suitcases are safe below in the bus.

There are no hyperbaric chambers in Playa del Cocos. The nearest chamber is located in San Jose, 300km south (5 hours by road).

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Cano Island Vs Playas del Coco

Hi Everyone,

I'll be backpacking through Costa Rica early-mid September. I'm an avid diver and have been researching Cano Island and also Playas, where do people recommend?

Have read a few different reviews online, some recommending Cano, others Playas. What site has the best chance of Sharks/Manats etc...

Thanks a Lot

Costa Rica or Cozumel?

Planning our 20th anniversary trip and it’s between Cozumel and Costa Rica. What can I expect in March of next year as far as wildlife, visibility, weather, etc. ? Been to Cozumel several times but maybe you can convince me to come to CR. Thank you

Guillaume Brigaudiot

0 votes

Hi Steve. I've been to Cozumel 3 years ago, it was quite a nice spot but not as good as Mahahual in the very South East of Mexico (it's much wilder and there's no huge boats). Costa Rica is still great for inlands adventures and the jungle. The sea is mostly doomed and there are not much sharks still alive in CR...

Rating 6/10

Really bad visibility in January/February

Playas del Coco28 Jan 2017 - 5 Feb 2017

Yes, there was many things to see underwater (rays, turtles, a lot of my favorite: the porcupine fish, etc) but the visibility was definitely awful, even worse in snorkeling (like 1 or 2 meters maximum on some beaches).

At some point, we even lost the divemaster (which was always in a hurry) at the end of our last dive.

Maybe we were unlucky, I don't know, but it was really disappointing.

US Direct flights to Guanacaste/Liberia Airport

I was somewhat concerned with the prospect of riding 5 hours with our gear on a chiva bus from San Jose to Playas del Coco. So I looked for a booking through San Jose to Liberia. What I found was a direct flight from Houston to Liberia at a significant savings. Recommend travelling this method. Will post results when we return in February.

Rating 10/10

Fun Octopus

Playas del Coco1 Dec 2014 - 1 Dec 2014

Had an awesome dive with two clients and we found an octopus trying to raid the nest of a damsel fish. She was darting at the octopus and he was trying to escape her wrath...He finally gave up on trying to eat her eggs

Llan

Rich Ward

Love seeing stuff like this play out!

End of December diving

Hi. I'm going to be diving around there in late December. How will the visibility be at this time of year? Are there chances of seeing big things then? Also, which dive sites should I visit?

Has anyone ever been to Cano Island? How does this area compare to the diving in Cano?

Gano Hughes

2 votes

Bajo del Diablo should be high on your list!

Hana Nováková

1 vote

Dec should be good for Vis (50ft maybe) - from what I know, March - May tends to have lower vis due to plankton (but you get more Mantas for the same reason) that said you have the chance to see big things basically all year! You might be able to see humpbacks in Dec but I think it is better chances in the following months (but I was there in Feb and I did not see any anyway!). Enjoy your trip! :)

Alice Swisher

0 votes

I dived Diablo in poor vis and it was still amazing!

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