Snorkeling in Costa Rica is a great way to see the rich and
abundant marine life found in Costa Rica's coastal waters, and
a logical first step before
scuba diving. But not every beach in Costa Rica is good for
snorkeling, so read on for some help planning.
I worked as a divemaster out of Playas del Coco in the
northwest province of Guanacaste for one year and snorkeling tours
were one of our most popular trips.
And I have some incredible underwater memories. Probably one of
my greatest experiences snorkeling in Costa Rica was when I
was with a baby whale shark - and by baby I'm talking about
14ft/4.5m. I took pictures of the gentle giant that
were used by www.whaleshark.org to help identify the shark as a
newcomer to the area. You can see my pictures posted on their
Another amazing experience was when I went snorkeling with
two humpback whales, a mother and its calf. And let me tell
you, it is one thing to see a creature like that from the boat, and
an entirely different experience to see it underwater. It is quite
Costa Rica Snorkeling quick tips:
Think about buying and bringing your own equipment
Make sure your destination town has a dive shop to rent from if
you don't have your own
Wear socks to prevent blisters from your fins, and if fins are
a size to large
Wear lots of waterproof sunscreen, I've been burnt too many
times to count
Wear a rashguard (lycra swim top) that is spf rated -- provides
protection from sun, scrapes and jellyfish
Spit in your mask, rub it around, and rinse it out to prevent
Bring an underwater camera
River runoff can disturb visibility, so snorkeling is often
poor after it rains making the dry season better for snorkeling in
Calmer water usually means better visibility
Before you can begin snorkeling in Costa Rica you need to rent or
buy snorkeling equipment.
My recommendation for both convenience and comfort is to buy
snorkeling gear. I always bring my own so that I don't have to
deal with shoddy, worn-out, or cheap equipment, and so I don't have
to worry about returning my mask, fins and snorkel before the
rental shop closes.
Most people who love water sports and wildlife will fall
in love with snorkeling, and if you go snorkeling in Costa Rica a
few times the investment will have paid for itself.
Besides, it is nice to have new equipment that is well
maintained and actually fits you properly -- also you can snorkel
anywhere you want, this is especially nice when you have a rental
Otherwise, snorkeling equipment is almost always available at
dive shops or tour boat companies, both of which often run
snorkeling tours. The shop where I worked in Playa del Coco, called
Summer Salt Dive Center, rents their snorkeling gear for $15 a
day and charges around $40 for a snorkeling tour, which
is about average.
If you decide to buy equipment for your self I recommend that you
don't buy the cheapest thing on the market, as you often find at
local sporting goods stores. You can get a high-quality mask
with a silicone skirt and tempered glass for a really reasonable
price that will fit your face well.
These qualities are essential if you plan to not just go
snorkeling in Costa Rica, but also try
scuba diving in Costa Rica. Tempered glass is needed to
stand up to the water pressure at depth without breaking. There are
a number of online retailers from which to choose.
You will also need a snorkel. There are three types to
choose from: a regular J snorkel, a purge valve snorkel, and a dry
snorkel. Of these I recommend the purge valve, because it
makes clearing out a flooded snorkel easier and keeps water out of
your mouth better. A dry snorkel has a stopper that doesn't allow
water into the snorkel. This is great if you plan on staying up at
the surface, but if you do any free diving, or diving deep
underwater on a breath-hold this type of snorkel creates an
uncomfortable suction in your mouth caused by the difference in
pressure inside and outside the barrel as you submerge.
To complete your ensemble for snorkeling in Costa Rica you need a
set of fins. If you have any interest in scuba diving, you might
want to buy adjustable heel fins, which allow you to use them with
neoprene booties. Otherwise, full foot fins are perfectly
reasonable in the warm waters of Costa Rica.
Where to go snorkeling in Costa Rica, you ask?
Here is a list of locations where you can snorkel. In general, the
Caribbean side boasts a much larger variety of corals and small,
colorful, and beautiful marine life. The Pacific side has less
corals but instead offers you the chance to see some larger fishes,
and some larger schools of fish.
Get your feet wet at these spots and then be on the look out for
new ones on your Costa Rica adventure vacation!
Caribbean Costa Rica Snorkeling
Puerto Viejo -- There are a few scuba diving and tour
operations that will take you out snorkeling here.
Manzanillo -- This beach is a lovely hour long bike ride from
Puerto Viejo, to the south.
Cahuita National Park -- The offshore reef lies between Punta
Cahuita and Puerto Vargas. You have to swim out to the reef from
the Punta Vargas side, or you can get a local to take you farther
out by boat. Aside from the reef, there are also two wrecks here
about 22ft / 7m below the surface. One has two cannons and the
other shows 13.
Pacific Costa Rica Snorkeling
Playas del Coco -- This is where I worked, and here you can
accompany dive boats out to the Tortugas islands or north around
Monkey Head rock where I swam with humpback whales, or south around
Punta Gorda where I took pictures of the whale shark.
Playa Hermosa -- This is just north of Playa del Coco and you
can accompany a dive boat from here to go snorkeling at the places
I named above.
Playa Ocotal -- This is a nice beach with a dive company that
can take you snorkeling, or on a clear day there is some snorkeling
along the rocky right hand edge of the bay.
Playa Azucar -- This just north of Portrero, which lies
directly north of Playa Flamingo.