Famous for sea turtles, Costa Rica’s stunning blue waters are popular with snorkeling enthusiasts. The best places to snorkel in Costa Rica are near national parks. During rainy seasons, run-off from local banana plantations destroyed coral reef near the shores. For a spectacular snorkeling experience, venture farther away from shore near deep volcanic crevices. Visit during the dry season from December to April for optimal underwater visibility.
Cahuita National Park
Six hundred acres of shallow reef are home to the Caribbean’s most colorful fish at Cahuita National Park. Find parrotfish, angelfish, damselfish, and octopus. This area is fantastic for beginners since access to the coral reef is simple. Wade out onto the beach and swim out to where the water darkens.
There is no fee to enter Cahuita National Park. Rent equipment from your hotel or shops in Puerto Viejo or Manzanillo.
Coco Island was the backdrop for Jurassic Park. This uninhabited island is formidable to visit and isn’t for beginners. Hammerhead sharks, barracudas and manta rays inhabit the waters. But for serious snorkeling, don’t miss Coco Island. Rare corals and crustaceans are below the surface and there are over 200 waterfalls.
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It’s $15 to enter Coco Island. Various tours are pricey since it takes over 36 hours to reach Coco Island. Most tours last at least ten days. Leave out of Puntarenas.
Cano Island Biological Preserve
Five platforms of coral reef provide plenty of backdrop for snorkeling. Cano Island is popular with whales and dolphins. The biological preserve is an archaeological site of the pre-Colombian Diquis tribe. Tours originate in Drake Bay and include snorkeling, a hike on Cano Island and lunch.
It’s $10 for foreigners to visit Cano Island. Tours vary by operators.
Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge
The beaches of the Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge are protected nesting grounds for four species of endangered sea turtles. Snorkeling here is rich in coral, crustaceans and sea fans. Atlantic tarpon frequent these waters.
There’s no fee to enter the refuge. Tours, equipment and guided nature walks are extra but highly recommended.