Snorkeling in Costa Rica is a great way to see the rich andabundant marine life found in Costa Rica's coastal waters, anda logical first step before scuba diving. But not every beach in Costa Rica is good forsnorkeling, so read on for some help planning.
I worked as a divemaster out of Playas del Coco in thenorthwest province of Guanacaste for one year and snorkeling tourswere one of our most popular trips.
And I have some incredible underwater memories. Probably one ofmy greatest experiences snorkeling in Costa Rica was when Iwas with a baby whale shark - and by baby I'm talking about14ft/4.5m. I took pictures of the gentle giant thatwere used by www.whaleshark.org to help identify the shark as anewcomer to the area. You can see my pictures posted on theirwebsite.
Another amazing experience was when I went snorkeling withtwo humpback whales, a mother and its calf. And let me tellyou, it is one thing to see a creature like that from the boat, andan entirely different experience to see it underwater. It is quitehumbling.
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 ifyou don't have your own
Wear socks to prevent blisters from your fins, and if fins area size to large
Wear lots of waterproof sunscreen, I've been burnt too manytimes to count
Wear a rashguard (lycra swim top) that is spf rated -- providesprotection from sun, scrapes and jellyfish
Spit in your mask, rub it around, and rinse it out to preventfogging
Bring an underwater camera
River runoff can disturb visibility, so snorkeling is oftenpoor after it rains making the dry season better for snorkeling inCosta Rica
Calmer water usually means better visibility
Before you can begin snorkeling in Costa Rica you need to rent orbuy snorkeling equipment.
My recommendation for both convenience and comfort is to buysnorkeling gear. I always bring my own so that I don't have todeal with shoddy, worn-out, or cheap equipment, and so I don't haveto worry about returning my mask, fins and snorkel before therental shop closes.
Most people who love water sports and wildlife will fallin love with snorkeling, and if you go snorkeling in Costa Rica afew times the investment will have paid for itself.
Besides, it is nice to have new equipment that is wellmaintained and actually fits you properly -- also you can snorkelanywhere you want, this is especially nice when you have a rentalcar.
Otherwise, snorkeling equipment is almost always available atdive shops or tour boat companies, both of which often runsnorkeling tours. The shop where I worked in Playa del Coco, calledSummer Salt Dive Center, rents their snorkeling gear for $15 aday and charges around $40 for a snorkeling tour, whichis about average.
If you decide to buy equipment for your self I recommend that youdon't buy the cheapest thing on the market, as you often find atlocal sporting goods stores. You can get a high-quality maskwith a silicone skirt and tempered glass for a really reasonableprice that will fit your face well.
These qualities are essential if you plan to not just gosnorkeling in Costa Rica, but also try scuba diving in Costa Rica. Tempered glass is needed tostand up to the water pressure at depth without breaking. There area number of online retailers from which to choose.
You will also need a snorkel. There are three types tochoose from: a regular J snorkel, a purge valve snorkel, and a drysnorkel. Of these I recommend the purge valve, because itmakes clearing out a flooded snorkel easier and keeps water out ofyour mouth better. A dry snorkel has a stopper that doesn't allowwater into the snorkel. This is great if you plan on staying up atthe surface, but if you do any free diving, or diving deepunderwater on a breath-hold this type of snorkel creates anuncomfortable suction in your mouth caused by the difference inpressure inside and outside the barrel as you submerge.
To complete your ensemble for snorkeling in Costa Rica you need aset of fins. If you have any interest in scuba diving, you mightwant to buy adjustable heel fins, which allow you to use them withneoprene booties. Otherwise, full foot fins are perfectlyreasonable 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, theCaribbean side boasts a much larger variety of corals and small,colorful, and beautiful marine life. The Pacific side has lesscorals 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 fornew ones on your Costa Rica adventure vacation!
Caribbean Costa Rica Snorkeling
Puerto Viejo -- There are a few scuba diving and touroperations that will take you out snorkeling here.
Manzanillo -- This beach is a lovely hour long bike ride fromPuerto Viejo, to the south.
Cahuita National Park -- The offshore reef lies between PuntaCahuita and Puerto Vargas. You have to swim out to the reef fromthe Punta Vargas side, or you can get a local to take you fartherout by boat. Aside from the reef, there are also two wrecks hereabout 22ft / 7m below the surface. One has two cannons and theother shows 13.
Pacific Costa Rica Snorkeling
Playas del Coco -- This is where I worked, and here you canaccompany dive boats out to the Tortugas islands or north aroundMonkey Head rock where I swam with humpback whales, or south aroundPunta Gorda where I took pictures of the whale shark.
Playa Hermosa -- This is just north of Playa del Coco and youcan accompany a dive boat from here to go snorkeling at the placesI named above.
Playa Ocotal -- This is a nice beach with a dive company thatcan take you snorkeling, or on a clear day there is some snorkelingalong the rocky right hand edge of the bay.
Playa Azucar -- This just north of Portrero, which liesdirectly north of Playa Flamingo.