WHERE ARE WE GOING?

Today we are diving in Costa Rica! Heading to Catalina Islands, from the town of Tamarindo.

WHY ARE WE DIVING IN COSTA RICA AT THE CATALINAS?

The Catalinas is an archipelago of around 17 volcanic rock formations set 2-15 miles off the northwest Pacific coast of Costa Rica in the province of Guanacaste. It provides a rich ecosystem, perfect for snorkeling and diving in Costa Rica.

The marine life here is just amazing…. so, so rich! Among the species, you can find sea turtles, white-tipped reef sharks, moray eels, octopuses, sea stars, sea urchins, colored tropical fish, big schools of fish of all kinds, mobula rays, eagle spotted rays, families of whales and when we are lucky, whale sharks.

Last year in August, giant manta rays visited the archipelago almost daily but they are usually spotted from December to March. The main attraction for diving in Costa Rica at the Catalinas is the big fish, especially sharks, manta rays, and whales!

Will you need a surfing or diving wetsuit when you get to Tamarindo?

A beautiful eagle ray about to glide off in Costa Rica
A Spotted Eagle Ray. Photo courtesy of Tamarindo Diving

HOW DO WE GET THERE?

To start diving in Costa Rica, you should first get to Tamarindo. This is the main surf town on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The best way is to fly into Liberia, the capital in the province of Guanacaste. Then it is a 50-minute drive from Liberia to Tamarindo.

You can also fly to San Jose which has more connections as it is the capital city of Costa Rica. From San Jose to Tamarindo, it is a 4-5 hours drive depending on traffic.

The bus company Alfaro connects San Jose to Tamarindo and vice versa, twice daily. The bus trip lasts approx. 6 hours. Shuttle service is also available from both airports.

CATALINA ISLAND DIVE SITES

The Catalina’s archipelago has many dive sites. Catalina Grande (the main islet) has 4 diving sites: Clasico, La Paila, Shallow, and Punta Norte.

Other diving sites in the same archipelago are Roca Sucia, Cuatro Piedras, Sombrero, Roca Escondida, Elefante, and many more.

The depth of all sites varies from 12 to 30 meters. Marine life is very similar in all these diving sites. As mentioned before, it is easy to detect manta rays (December to March and in July, August), and all year round white-tipped reef sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, Mobula rays, spotted eagle rays, moray eels, big schools of barracudas, grunts, colored tropical fish, etc….

Depending on weather conditions, you could also go to Cabo Velas, a diving site closer to Tamarindo, which is more sheltered from the wind and currents. This is a protected area, with similar marine flora and fauna. The maximum depth in this location is 18 meters.

A scuba diver with a turtle in the Catalina Islands.
Sea turtles are found at the Catalinas. Photo courtesy of Tamarindo Diving

TELL ME MORE

Diving from Tamarindo will be via boat diving. After approx. 45 minutes of navigation you will reach the first dive site. The captain will decide which is the most appropriate location according to the conditions of the day.

The dive trip is usually a two-dive trip, with refreshments offered during the surface interval. Sometimes it is easy to detect during the boat trip, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and with a little bit of luck whale sharks.

The dive trip lasts approx. 5 hours leaving in the mornings. All equipment is provided and included in the price. This diving trip is for certified divers only. However, there are other trips for try-dives for non-certified people, and other scuba diving courses.

DO I NEED ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT?

Divers are provided with all of the equipment. We have 3mm shorty and long wetsuits. Depending on the season, some people opt not to wear any wetsuit, or maybe just a rashguard due to the warmth of the water (May-August).

Use this wetsuit temperature guide to get you started.

The only thing you should bring, if you want to, is your diving computer, but it is not necessary as a professional divemaster with his own computer will always be with you.

A white tip shark in the Catalinas - Costa Rica
A white tip reef shark. Photo courtesy of Tamarindo Diving

WHAT LEVEL CERTIFICATION SHOULD I BE?

Divers of all levels can dive the Catalinas. Depending on their level, they will be followed by a divemaster or dive instructor. You can also take additional certifications and courses while diving in Costa Rica.

WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS?

Conditions are mostly really good. The wind can sometimes affect the visibility and it can range from 6 meters to 20 meters.

The best season for diving is from November until March if you are keen to spot some manta rays. However, the diving here is always good with the exception of October due to the strong rains. 

The Catalina’s are not known for strong currents or drift diving.

A school of fish can be seen while diving in the Catalina Islands.
Schools of marine life can be found while diving in the Catalina Islands. Photo courtesy of Tamarindo Diving

HOW MUCH WILL I SPEND?

The diving trip for certified people (2 tank dives) costs 115 USD. 

There is a very convenient diving package of 10 dives (5 days) for 400 USD (days do not need to be consequent; you decide when you want to go diving).

For non-certified divers, we have two Discover Scuba Diving options: 1 day 159 USD and 2 days 169 USD. The Discover Scuba Diving depth limits are 12 meters.

The Open Water Diver course will cost 549 USD.

If people bring their own equipment, they can obtain a discount.

WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION IS AVAILABLE?

Tamarindo offers all kinds of accommodations. Generally, they are all good depending on the needs of each person. From fancy boutique hotels to hostels, or vacation rentals. There is enough for all pockets and tastes!

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Diving at the Catalinas is usually an amazing experience, due to its incredibly rich submarine wildlife. During February and March, strong winds may affect visibility (6 meters) and water temperature can be around 20°C. When conditions are not optimal, we might opt to go diving at Cabo Velas, a more sheltered area, closer to Tamarindo Beach.

WHAT DO WE DO ON SURFACE INTERVALS?

Tamarindo town has got so much to offer. The beach is spectacular and it is well renowned as one of the best surfing spots in Costa Rica. There is also a different beach to visit every day. They are all amazing and the region of Guanacaste is the least rainy of the Country so you can enjoy sunny days during almost all year round (except October).

Tamarindo beach is set among 2 estuaries with mangrove forests that you can explore with a boat tour of the mangroves or renting a kayak and exploring them yourself. Just make sure you are always informed about the tides!

You can also rent an ATV and with a tour guide, go exploring the jungle woods around town. Many other boat trips are available. One of the most popular is the sunset tour on one of the several catamarans moored here or on board of a charming sailing boat.

Horse tours are also very popular and there is a canopy (zipline) for the more adventurous! As far as nightlife, you do not have to worry. There are many restaurants, bars, etc… for all tastes, budgets, and for a good night out in Costa Rica!

Davide has been a dive instructor since 1999. He worked in Egypt (Red Sea – Sharm El Sheikh, Marsa Alam), and had his own diving center in Otranto, Italy. He has worked in many other places an instructor, ROV pilot and more. Now he runs Tamarindo Diving in Costa Rica where he and his team love to show people the beauty of this ocean and its marine life.

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