Visitors to Costa Rica are often surprised to learn the countries marine territory is more than double the size of its terrestrial side. The combination of warm waters filled with nutrients attracts thousands of marine species on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country. A few of the most abundant species are sea turtles with several beaches protected for their nesting, along with dolphins, humpback whales, and manatees. All year long the country is surrounded by an incredible array of both permanent and migratory marine life species.
Not far from the Conchal coast lays the Catalina Islands in the Guanacaste region, home to a variety of stingrays, including the Pacific Giant Manta Rays! The stretch of 20 volcanic islands is considered the most beautiful places to dive in all of Costa Rica, surrounded by clownfish, octopus, eels, parrotfish, and angelfish. Snorkeling is also a popular activity.
Looking to dive with sharks? Experienced divers willing to venture out to Cocos Island, southeast of Guanacaste, will experience a dream diving destination in one of the few hammerhead shark habitats, one shark encounter few will have the chance to experience. Other species that call this region of the Pacific Ocean home include tiger, guitar, black tip, and silver tip sharks. Best time of the year to dive with hammerheads, are during the rainy months between June and December.
One of the world’s most popular mammals, the humpback whale, continues to be listed as an endangered species since the whale population was decimated due to whaling. Thanks to conservation efforts, the global population has been on the rebound. These gentle giants are the most often spotted whales in Costa Rica. While the whales are most often present, the peak months take place between August and April. The warm tropical waters are a favorite breeding ground where mothers come to give birth. A mother and its calf may be spotted anywhere along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. We recommend taking a whale-watching excursion, though tourists often spot them while out fishing or diving.
Not long after the new moon arrives, the sea turtles emerge from the waters in hundreds and thousands to nest and lay their eggs like many generations of turtles before them. These areas of the beaches are protected wildlife refuge. If you want to see this array of sea life come ashore for this monumental event, plan your visit just after the new moon during the rainy months. It is highly recommended to book a local guide through the national parks, as this is often the only way to legally view these turtles at a safe distance to not disturb them. All sea turtles return to the same beach where they were born. The Leatherback species is one of the largest, with some growing to 6 feet in length and weighing close to a massive 1,500 pounds!
From the largest of humpback whales to the most colorful fish, Costa Rica has an array to offer those seeking to explore the life swarming below the water. 90 species of the over 6500 native to Costa Rica are unique on the planet. Whether you prefer a relaxing afternoon snorkeling or the adrenaline thrill of diving with hammerhead sharks, the marine adventures are plenty and waiting for you in Costa Rica!