Costa Rica is situated in Central America and borders both the North Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. The total coastline is 1,290 km, which is quite impressing for a country covering just slightly more than 50,000 km² of land. The country also borders Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the south and southeast. Costa Rica is well known for political stability, peacefulness, a high level of education among its citizens and a stable economical growth. The country has no army, just a national police force and is sometimes called the “Switzerland of Latin America”. The official language is Spanish, but English and indigenous languages are common along the Atlantic coast. The currency is called colón, not to be confused with the El Salvadorian currency by the same name.
Some of the best diving in Costa Rica takes place from May to November, since it is the rainy season. The rain brings nutrients to the water, which makes the plankton thrive. Since plankton form the base of the marine food chain, loads of plankton will attract a huge variety of other sea living creatures – from small crayfish to large dolphins.
Most of the diving in Costa Rica is concentrated to two areas, both located on the west coast – the Flamingo-Coco area (in the Gulf of Papagayo) and the southwest Osa Peninsula. The east coast is of course also filled with nice dive sites since it is a part of the Caribbean Sea, but parts of this coast were miserably harmed by pesticide runoff from banana plantations a few years ago. The health of the area is however improving and if you wish to visit the largest nesting area in the Caribbean for the green sea turtle, this is where you’re heading.
The dive sites in the Flamingo-Coco area features volcanic rock formations and soft corals. During rainy season the visibility is not that great, due to the extensive amounts of plankton. Two of the best dive sites in Costa Rica are found here; Catalina and Bat Islands, but they are only suitable for advanced divers since the currents can be strong at times. Between December and April this is the place to go if you want to see Mantas. The fauna also includes angelfish, grunts, octopus, snapper and several types of eel. Rare and shy, but still sometimes encountered here, are the whale sharks, humpback whales, orcas, pilot whales, spinner dolphins, falls killer whales, cow-nosed rays and Mobulas.
The Osa Peninsula has been described in National Geographic as ‘the most biologically intense place on earth'. This is not surprising when you take into account that about 5 percent of the worlds known plant and animal species are found in Costa Rica, even though the country cover just 3.4 percent of the earth’s surface. The Osa Peninsula is the place where mangrove trees and fresh water rivers reach the salty Pacific Ocean, creating dazzling diving opportunities. The Osa Peninsula usually enjoys calm weather since it is located south of the trade winds.
Two other popular dive destinations are the coasts of Quepos and nearby Manual Antionio. Located in western Costa Rica, this is also Pacific Ocean diving. The water is high on nutrients and visibility can vary greatly from dive to dive, usually averaging 30 feet or more. As mentioned above, the nutrients attract a huge variety of marine life, from octopuses to dolphins. While diving here you can encounter such sea dwelling creatures as the Humpback Whale, the Sea Turtle, various kinds of Eels, Reef Shark, Sting- , Mobula- and Gigant Manta Ray, Groupers, Angels, Snappers, Trumpet Fish, Moorish Idols, Jacks, Grunts and of last but not least the big schools of Barracuda. The coral formations consist of soft and hard coral, but they are not as plenty and colourful as those on the eastern coast. Water temperatures ranges from low 70’s to high 80’ Fahrenheit (from around 20 to above 30 degrees Celsius). Most people find it comfortable to use a 2 mm spring suit, but if you know that you are prone to freezing you might want to dress in a full 2 mm or even 3 mm suit instead.