A Full Guide To Diving in Playas-del-Coco

The underwater landscape of Playas-del-Cocos makes the area ideal for diving around Guanacaste. Due to volcanic activity, formations such as tunnels, arches, and caverns provide many places where marine life can find shelter. The calm waters and abundant marine life make diving in this region suitable for everyone. 

We made a two-week diving trip to Playas-del-Coco with my husband last year. While my husband enjoys diving, it was time for me to learn. A friend recommended Playas del Coco as the ideal learning place due to the presence of several diving schools. In this article, I share the best dive spots and resorts. 

Key Takeaways From This Article

Playas-del-Coco has some of the best dive sites in Costa Rica. With warm temperatures most of the year and some of the best diving schools, It is one of the best diving destinations. I highlight a few key takeaways on diving in Playas-del-Coco. 

  • Water visibility is higher from December to April. However, diving conditions between May and November favour the sighting of bull sharks in the Bat Islands. 
  • Playa Coco has resorts and hotels offering dive packages, including diving, accommodation, and other activities.
  • The giant ray mantas prefer cooler and murky water, which is common in Las Catalina. 
  • Most dive centres are in Playas-del-Coco, the most popular departure point for the dive sites.

7 Local Dive Sites at Playas-del-Coco

Diving in playa-del-coco

Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced diver, Playas-del-Coco provides the ideal diving base for the various locations. It has fewer people, thus giving you the space to learn diving at your own pace. Playa del-Cocos has a lot of marine life you can explore in your underwater ventures. 

There are around 20 dive sites in and around Playas-del-Coco. Apart from the Las Catalina Islands and Bat Islands, the rest of the local dive sites are about 15–20 minutes away. I highlight some of the best dive sites in or near Playas-del-Coco. 

Punta Argentina 

Punta Argentina is 80 feet deep (24 m) and gets its name from some rock formations similar to Argentina’s land mass. Because of the rock formations, the area can be challenging for new divers to navigate. You will require a guide to see various species of marine life. 

The site has schools of fish, occasionally some turtles, and the odd white-tip reef shark. If you have an experienced guide, you will spot some harlequin/clown shrimp, moorays, octopi, eagle rays, nudibranchs and sea horses. 

Punta Gorda

The site is past the Riu Guanacaste Hotel and has a maximum depth of 70 feet (21 m). The depth is ideal for both beginners and advanced divers. Once you begin the descent, expect to see colorful, small fish swimming around you. You will also likely see moray eels, green turtles, and southern stingrays. 

Deeper into the dive, you will encounter some ordinary rays, a rare white-tip shark or scores of small blenni’s hiding in the fire corals. If you reach the bottom of the dive site, you will see harlequin clown shrimp and orange, brown or yellow seahorses. 

Monkey Head (Cabeza de Mono)

The name comes from the rock formation that resembles a monkey’s head at the surface of the dive. The dive site is up to 80 (24 m) feet deep. Ideally, the rock formation should always be on your left-hand shoulder when diving. However, depending on the current conditions, your dive master can take you around the rock. 

The area is home to an abundance of marine life and coral formations. Some of the marine life you’ll encounter includes. 

Marine Life at Monkey Head Dive Site
Different ray species, with spotted eagle rays being the most common.Tropical fish species (butterflyfish, angelfish, parrotfish, and surgeonfish)
Occasional manta raysReef sharks
Different species of moray eelsSea turtles
Large schools of fish

The soft and hard corals present underwater gardens for marine life to thrive. The diverse topography at Monkey Head also offers shelter to the diverse marine life. The dive site has swim-through channels, crevices and canyons. 

Tortuga

The dive site is between 65 and 70 feet (19–21 m) deep. It gets its name from the large cement block with a turtle shape at the bottom of the mooring line. At 40 feet (12 m), you will encounter a rock formation with plenty of marine life. The most common are puffer fish, mooray eels, and scores from different schools of fish. 

When the water is warmer, you might encounter the ever-elusive white-tip reef sharks a few minutes into the dive. The sharks usually rest on a sandy patch among the rocks. Deeper into the dive, you will see rays and more varieties of fish. 

If you have enough air in your tank, your dive guide will show you a wreck you can explore. There are three shipwrecks in Tortuga: the Carolina,  Franklin Chan Diaz and Coronel Alfonso Monge. 

Sorpreso

It has a depth of 100 (30) feet west of Punta Argentina. Ideal only for PADI Advanced Divers. Sorpreso, meaning “surprise”, is a true definition, as you don’t know what to expect when diving down. The site has beautiful rock formations. 

Many marine life exists around Sorpreso, including sea turtles, eagle rays, devil rays, trevallies, large schools of spade fish and jacks. Deeper down, you’ll encounter white-tip reef sharks, lobsters, seahorses, octopus, morray eels, and nudibranchs. 

Virador (Turning Point)

It is a rock measuring 70 feet (21 meters) on the backside. Virador is a few meters from Monkey Head, a huge rock that most divers can only partially circumnavigate. Most dive masters will use a moorline just in case of a current around this site. 

As you dive around, you will see scores of barberfish or yellow butterflies hoping to get a meal when you disturb the nesting damsel fish. The barberfish and yellowfish will rush to eat damselfish eggs. It’s also possible to see scorpion fish, but you must be very keen. You can expect to see the following marine life around the Virador site:. 

  • Sergeant majors
  • Butterflyfish
  • Horse-eye jacks
  • Different species of starfish
  • Sea turtles

Meros

My diving trainer started me off on this shallow dive site with a maximum depth of 60 feet (18 m). It’s ideal for divers who prefer a shallow dive or those without experience. The bottom is sandy, with several rock formations and patches of coral. Meros has overhangs and small canyons where a lot of marine life shelters. 

You will encounter a variety of marine creatures on the sand or hiding among the rocks. The most common include seahorses, frogfish, eels, octopuses, stingrays, and tropical fish. 

Off-Coast Diving Sites Near Playas-del-Coco

Guanacaste province has three of Costa Rica’s best diving locations. In addition to Playas del Coco, the Bat Islands and Las Catalina Islands are nearby. 

Las Catalina Islands

The islands are south of Playas-del-Coco and will take around 45 minutes. Diving in Las Catalina Island is ideal from November to March. It is the dry season, and the waters are clearer. The mantas are also plentiful. 

Other marine life you will see includes tip reef sharks, eagle rays, humpback whales, dolphins, and huge schools of fish. Occasionally, orca whales and whale sharks have been sighted. 

Bat Islands (Murcielago Archipeago)

Bat Islands are part of Santa Rosa National Park, which is government-protected and has a great diversity of marine life. The primary means of accessing the islands is boat rides from Playas-del-Coco, which take 1.5 hours. Bat Islands is famous for bull sharks, whose peak season is May to November. 

Depending on the month you visit, you can hear the humpback whales singing and see them breaching. You might also spot some dolphins and turtles. Ask around the dive shops if there have been recent sightings of the whales, as their sightings are unpredictable. 

The depth of Bat Islands is around 78–90 feet (24–27 meters), and only advanced drivers can dive into this site. However, most diving companies will first take you to the Big Scare Dive Site if you’re an experienced diver. Your next dive will probably be “Black Rock.”.

Tips For Diving In Playas-del-Coco

Safety in diving is crucial to avoid accidents and keep you safe. Diving differs from other watersports as the marine life heavily depends on various conditions. 

  • I recommend you rest for 24 hours after a flight before going for diving. You need to be alert to react quickly in unexpected situations. Avoid alcohol, drugs or any medication that can affect your alertness.
  • If you are inexperienced, start with the dive sites near the shores, as they have little or no current. Familiarize yourself with the diving equipment and confirm that it is working correctly. 
  • Dive with a buddy who knows the site well or a guide. Review the dive plan with your dive buddy or instructor and have a communication plan. 
  • Respect the marine environment by not touching, disturbing marine life, or destroying the coral. 
  • Ensure you have scuba diving travel insurance and confirm which activities it covers. Read through its fine print to confirm what you can or cannot do. 

Diving Resorts at Playas-del-Coco

Because the primary activity in Playas-del-Coco is diving, you will find a lot of facilities specifically for divers. There are several dive schools and hotels in Playa del Coco. It is also possible to get hotels or resorts offering dive packages with accommodation, diving, and other activities. 

I highlighted two of the best dive resorts in Playa Coco.

Hotel M&M Beach House

Check-in: 3 PM to 10 PM.

Check out: 7 AM to 12 PM. 

The beach house is 400 m from Playas del Coco and 21 km from Liberia International Airport. Hotel M&M offers paid shuttle services to and from the airport. It’s a homely hotel a few meters from the pristine dive sites that Playas-del-Coco offers. 

Guests can choose between a double, triple, or quadruple room. Each room has a fridge, a flat-screen TV, a fitted wardrobe, towels, bed linens, and a private bathroom. Guests enjoy a continental breakfast on the hotel’s terrace or balcony overlooking the sea. 

The hotel offers a diving package with the following features: 

  • Each diver gets 12 boat dives—a trip to the Bat Islands for the advanced divers who can make quick descents. 
  • If you book for at least five days of diving, you get a free AWARE specialty course, making you a shark ambassador. 
  • Each group of four divers get one guide. 
  • The hotel has a dive shop where you can rent all your diving equipment. 

Colono Beach Hotel 

Check-in: 2 PM to 10 PM.

Check out: 6 AM to 12 PM. 

The hotel is 6 minutes from Playas-del-Coco and 25 km from Liberia International Airport. Colono Beach Hotel is next to Coco Water Taxi. Rocket Frogs Divers is about a 15-minute walk from the hotel. You can lounge near the pool or in the jacuzzi when not diving. 

Room amenities include a fridge, oven, flat-screen television, cable programming, wireless internet, a laptop-compatible safe, and a private bathroom. Guests have a choice of the following rooms:.

  • Standard Double Room
  • Deluxe Quadruple Room Sofa Bed
  • Suite
  • Deluxe double-room kitchenette. 

 You also get to enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast at the in-house restaurant. 

Colono Beach Hotel offers a diving package as follows:. 

Colono Beach Hotel Diving Package
The package offers 10 diving sessions at standard sites. You get a schedule showing when you have off-shore or boat dives.Free DAN dive accident insurance ($2500 per person).
A standard room for seven nights.You have to show your certification card on the first day of diving.
The only equipment under the package includes tanks, weights, and weight belts.The package price does not include National Park fees or premium options like night dives or particular dive sites.
One of the dive sessions will be at Catalina Island, where you will see some mantas and devil rays.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is the water at Playas del Coco clear? 

The water in Playas del Coco is clear on some days and murky on others. Low tide and high tide determine the color of the water. When the water is clear, you can see the bottom or what you are stepping on.

However, the right side of Playas del Coco has more transparent water as it has fewer activities. The center and the left side have murkier water as there are more boats, hence more pollution and pelicans. 

  1. What is the water temperature in Playa del Coco?

Water temperatures in Playas del Coco range from 82 to 86°F (28 to 30°C) in May to November. When diving, wearing a 3mm or 5mm suit is ideal. 

In January and February, the water temperatures drop to 75 to 84 °F (24 to 29 °C). 

Conclusion

Playas del Coco is where I learned to dive, and I would recommend it any time. We plan to take my kids to this beach, as it has professional diving schools and enough sites to practice. My husband will also enjoy exploring the sites for the more advanced divers.

How was your diving experience at Playa Coco? Please share your experience. 

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About 

Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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