Costa Rica scuba diving offers you the chance to swim
with manta rays and pow-wow with white-tip reef sharks while admiring the
huge schools of grunts and chancho barberfish that gather around the
numerous rocky islets on the Pacific coast. Though it's not a considered a
dive destination on par with the Red Sea or Papua New Guinea (not many
places are - so be careful you aren't spoiled diving there), Costa Rica
scuba diving offers plenty of thrills for both the diving enthusiast and the
beginner. Rates for scuba diving certification are among the most reasonable
in the world. And what's more, your adventure opportunities above water are
greater than most other places and include surfing, atv tours, fishing,
jungle canopy tours, volcano climbing, and horseback riding to name a few.
I spent a year in Costa Rica, Playas del Coco to be
exact, where I earned my divemaster through an internship at Summer Salt
Dive Center. Patrick and Sandra, the Swiss owners, run an excellent shop and
are incredibly nice and knowledgeable about the diving around Coco - they
also have the fastest dive boat in the area. During my time interning and
working I dove with huge manta rays, snorkeled with a whale shark, saw a
ten-foot bull shark (a real heart stopper), swam alongside a mother and calf
humpback whale and saw countless other marine life.
In fact, the density of sea life is something that sets
Costa Rica scuba diving on the Pacific coast apart from locations around the
Caribbean, including the much-lauded Bay Islands of Roatan and Utila. After
diving for a week in Utila I was quite disappointed at the number of animals
I saw. Many were very small and aside from the coral, which was beautiful,
there wasn't much action. When you are scuba diving in Costa Rica, action is
not usually a problem.
One consideration to keep in mind is that while there
is much life to be seen while scuba diving in Costa Rica, the visibility
varies a great deal. The same currents and plankton that draw in the fish
can sometimes reduce visibility, which averages between 20-50ft or 6-15m.
However, numerous times when I've experienced a drop in visibility I've also
seen huge stingrays materialize, seemingly out of nowhere. Sharks also seem
more comfortable, and with an experienced dive guide you're sure to see
something interesting. Just be aware that Costa Rica scuba diving is not
like jumping in a swimming pool as the Caribbean often is, but if you want
to see big fish and not just pretty coral then you'll certainly have your
The best places to go for scuba diving are Playas del
Coco on the northwest coast and Caño Island off of the Osa Peninsula. About
a forty-five minute boat ride from Playas del Coco, you can reach the
popular Catalinas Island to the south, which is where I saw my first manta
ray, and Murcielagos Island to the north, which is where I saw my first bull
shark. Both sites have excellent diving. Even other closer dive sites like
Punta Gorda and Tortugas Island offer a great range of things to see and I
led many satisfied divers through those sites. Dive operators in Golfito and
Drake Bay can reach Caño Island, which features a nice reef and plenty of
fish to see.
As a final note, if you plan on bringing your own
equipment don't forget your wetsuit. While water temperatures are normally
between 75-84F (24-29C), there are thermoclines (layers of colder water) at
depth that can drop temperatures to the mid 60sF (around 18C). Also, dive
guides who do a good job should get a decent tip. I once received a thousand
colones for a tip, which is equivalent to a $1.85. I can tell you that as a
divemaster earning just $400 a month, tips are what help keep you afloat.
Finally, you should consider whether you want to visit during rainy or dry
season. Dry season is most popular and offers a slightly better visibility
on average, but during the rainy season (May-Nov.) crowds are smaller and on
days with good visibility the quantity of marine life really seems to
For more precise advice get in contact with a good dive
shop like Summer Salt to find out what current conditions are and to find
out about what the diving has been like recently.
Click this link for more detailed information and tips
on Costa Rica scuba diving. Check out my destination guide for more general
Costa Rica travel information including attractions, activities, and more
based on my experience living in this beautiful country.
When it comes to waterfalls, Costa Rica has a lot to offer, especially
around the town of Montezuma within the Nicoya peninsula. This scenic
community has long been known for its natural attractions and bohemian vibe.
Aside from exploring its beaches and rivers, a visit to Montezuma usually
consists of exploring its waterfalls. One very popular set of cascades that
should be on your Costa Rica itinerary is the aptly named Montezuma
Waterfalls. The appeal of Montezuma Waterfalls lies in its formation and
variety. You not only have a single cascade but three separate falls, all of
which you can thoroughly enjoy.
first waterfall is the tallest one of the bunch, and is endowed with an
enticing swimming hole. You can reach this by walking the main beach road
nearby the Hotel Amor de Mar. You will soon locate the river, and will need
to walk up to it for about 20 minutes. Because of its prominence and size,
the first waterfall always receives the most tourists. Some thrill-seeking
visitors unwisely climb up the cliff to jump off into the pool imitating the
locals. But just when you think that it's a cool thing to do, you should
definitely consider the fact that tourists have died doing this in the past!
The locals are an exemption as they grew up climbing the cliffs and jumping.
But even without doing it yourself, it is still entertaining to see the
local daredevils splashing into the water and you may want to bring a
the jumpers, the second waterfall is the most memorable as you seem to
freefall at a faster rate given the different jumping point. Even though
they are still risky, the jumping spots, (20, 30, 40 and 44 feet from the
water) for the second cascade are supposed to be the safest of all.
reach this area, follow the visible trail from the first waterfall. If you
want to get to the different jumping points, you will need to take on a
steep climb using mostly vines and tree branches as support. Some people
swim to the third waterfall's swimming hole from the second. You can also
hike to the third cascade following an upward trail north of the first
waterfall. Another route you can take is walking up the steep paved road
right next to the parking area. You will then turn to a dirt road past the
Butterfly Garden, and finally complete the only path beside the old jungle
gym and greenhouse.
Another amazing way of experiencing Montezuma Waterfalls is go for a canopy
tour. The tour usually assists visitors to reach the third and uppermost
waterfall without having to tackle the treacherous slippery trails. The
canopy site is owned by Suntrails, a tour agency in town. From the starting
point, you will use a series of 9 cables and zip line your way to about 13
different platforms that are nestled above a lush jungle.
the duration of the tour, you will be guided by English speaking guides, who
are highly trained to ensure your safety. This incredible trip will include
a hike down into the river valley, where you can dip into the pools of the
Montezuma Falls. Aside from enjoying the waterfalls, this canopy tour also
highlights the various fascinating plants and animals in the forest
environment of Costa Rica. While swinging away, expect to say hello to some
iguanas, parrots and white-faced monkeys!
Scarlet Macaw is a large, spectacular parrot that historically ranged from
southeastern Mexico south through Central America to the vast Amazon
rainforest. Unfortunately, although this big, loud bird might be
intelligent, it doesn't coexist very well with people. The Scarlet Macaw
requires large areas of mature tropical forest, a good supply of huge, old
trees that have cavities for nesting, and protection from people who would
shoot it or take the young from the nest. Macaw populations don't last very
long in places that lack of any of these three requirements and this is
basically why the species has disappeared from large parts of its Mexican
and Central American range.
much brighter note, Scarlet Macaws can be reintroduced to areas with enough
habitat and enough protection to support healthy populations of these
spectacular birds. A case in point is Costa Rica. Long known as a
biodiversity hotspot and a place where many natural habitats have been
afforded a high degree of protection, this small Central American country
also harbors healthy populations of Scarlet Macaws.
While it is true that these big parrots have disappeared from various parts
of the country, reintroduction programs and protection have been bringing
these birds back to the dry forests of the Pacific northwest, and the
northern Caribbean lowlands. The core populations at Carara National Park
and the Osa peninsula have also been increasing and for the past ten years,
birds have shown up around Jaco and other parts of the central Pacific coast
(including Manual Antonio National Park, one of Costa Rica's most popular
recent boost in numbers of Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica and easy access to
the places where they occur also makes Costa Rica the easiest place to watch
this stunning bird in the wild. The following are a few of the best sites
and tips for experiencing this incredible bird:
Watch for them at the "Crocodile Bridge":
This is the big bridge near Tarcoles that sees a near constant stream of
people who walk out on the bridge to look down at the river and see huge
American Crocodiles. Those who visit during the early morning and late
afternoon are just about guaranteed to see several pairs of Scarlet
Macaws as they fly from feeding grounds in Carara National Park to
roosting areas near Tarcoles. They sometimes perch and feed in trees
next to the bridge as well.
Carara National Park:
This biodiversity hotspot has long been an important area for the
Scarlet Macaw. Walking the trails in the park often results in sightings
of the macaw (along with many other bird species).
This small town near the head of the Osa peninsula is an excellent place
to connect with and watch Scarlet Macaws. Several visit or fly over the
town on most days of the week.
The Osa peninsula and Corcovado National Park:
This large area of lowland rainforest probably supports the largest
populations of Scarlet Macaws north of the Amazon. More than 1,000
macaws are believed to occur in the rainforests of Corcovado and they
can also be seen in other parts of the Osa peninsula, including the
streets of its main town, Puerto Jimenez.
Watch for them in Beach Almonds:
Although the Beach Almond is not native to Costa Rica, macaws sure enjoy
the seeds of this common coastal tree! These trees also offer up
fantastic photo opportunities for macaws because they can forage quite
low in the branches.
sites and situations listed above are the most reliable places for
experiencing this bird in Costa Rica but they can also be seen around Tambor,
Palo Verde, and in the northeastern part of the country. Keep the camera
ready for this and other birds when birding and vacationing in Costa Rica!
Download the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app to enhance your Costa Rican
experience. This digital field guide features more than 570 bird species
from the jungles, cloud forests, and other tropical habitats of Costa Rica
and weighs as little as your device. To learn more about this easy to use
birding app, please see http://birdingfieldguides.com/
Costa Rica's Guanacaste region is definitely one of the most popular
provinces in the country in terms of tourism. The region offers not only a
gorgeous coastline, but also a collection of imposing volcanoes, bountiful
wildlife, grand mountain ranges, tropical rain forests and rich culture.
you like thrill and adventure, then one Guanacaste attraction that would be
perfect to experience is the Witch's Rock Canopy. As expected, the site
provides an exciting zip-line canopy tour to its guests. The tour involves
moving between a total 24 platforms perched high above the forest floor.
These platforms are connected by 11 cables, which you will be gliding
through to get to the next platform. This ultimate adventure also requires
you to cross hanging bridges and climb several trees!
Inching off a 10-foot high platform can understandably be scary in the first
few minutes. But all you need to do is relax and enjoy the moment. You will
eventually conquer your fear and hesitation and will feel more comfortable
zipping through treetops. While gliding, you will be treated to unparalleled
views of the dry forest, waterfalls, the shimmering sea and the sunset. The
waterfall, in particular, is best seen during the rainy season, when a
larger and more consistent amount of water cascades through it.
Witch's Rock Canopy can be quite challenging and scary for some people, who
originally thought that it is just one of the normal tourist attractions.
Just in case you become one of those rare visitors who don't feel like
finishing it, you're free to stop and go out through one of the five exits
located along the tour route. Take note that this canopy adventure lasts for
approximately one and half hours. Aside from the original zipline tour,
Witch's Rock also came up with another one-hour zip-line and rappelling
tour, especially designed for children and older adults, who cannot do the
original bigger scale more demanding tour.
Witch's Canopy Tour management can provide transport to guests coming from
various nearby spots like Liberia, Playas del Coco and Playa Hermosa. You
may also reach the site on your own. Luckily, the canopy is close to Daniel
Oduber Quirós International Airport - just before the Allegro Papagayo
Before taking on this canopy tour, take note that you will need to be in
good physical condition. You will also be provided with safety gear and
receive a short training on ensuring safety while completing the tour.
Signing up for the tour gives you the opportunity to be assisted with a
guide, who will also give you an overview of the dry forests including the
flora and fauna inhabiting it.
zip-line canopy tour may be the center activity at the Witch's Rock
property, but it is not the only one. They also offer horseback riding on
Costa Rican Criollo horses that highlight the beauty of the luscious
environment and the presence of varied forest animals such as wild pids,
iguanas, deer and monkeys. Another heart-pumping attraction that may
interest you is Wild Bill's ATV Off-road Tour, hailed as one of the best in
Spending most of the day zipping from one tree or another may very well make
you hungry. Fortunately, Witch's Rock has a dedicated coffee shop that
serves snacks and beverages. The best part of this shop is definitely the
balcony, which overlooks a beautiful forest scenery. When the trip is coming
to end, and you realize you want a token to remember Witch's Rock and the
thrilling canopy experience, just drop by the site's lovely souvenir shop.
The items sold here are made by artisans from Costa Rica.