Best snorkelling spots in Costa Rica
Costa Rica might be small in size but it’s huge in personality! Boasting two very different coastlines, the Pacific and the Caribbean, Costa Rica offers one of the most amazing marine ecosystems in the world. To help you plan your trip, we’ve put together a roundup of our best snorkelling spots worth checking out including Cahuita, isla Chora, isla Ballena and Isla del Caño. We’ve also included Panama, as it’s very close and offers amazing snorkelling opportunities.
Travelling between locations can be a bit tricky. If you’d rather not worry about the planning, you can just leave it to us! Create your own itinerary using our bite-size trips, and one of our friendly travel specialists will put the pieces together for you. Yup – that easy.
Cahuita National Park
The Caribbean coast has a very different feel to the Pacific and its laid-back atmosphere and delicious cuisine makes for a fun and relaxing experience. It also rains more, so tends to be quieter. We love Cahuita’s National Park for its amazing coral reefs, home to over 400 fish species –including French angelfish, rock beauty and blue parrotfish. It’s also a great destination for surfing and swimming. A great snorkelling spot is just off the beach, so really easy to access.
Samara offers a relaxing environment filled with palm trees and a calm sea that slopes gently from the sand. At night you can hear the hundreds of sounds of the jungle and the roar of the sea.
We recommend staying at Samara village one night and then head off to Isla Chora for some snorkelling. An uninhabited white sand beach, Isla Chora can only be accessed by kayak and it’s perfect for snorkelling. Weather permitting, you’ll be able to spot the multi-coloured tropical fish darting past your mask and breath-taking deep red, blue and pink corals.
Not many tourists venture this far down the Pacific coast, which makes Tortuga the perfect destination to escape the crowds. Take a boat ride to Isla Ballena, the only underwater national park in Costa Rica where you’ll be able to snorkel. If you’re lucky dolphins will swim right up close to the boat. If you’re visiting in August to October, you’ll have the chance to spot humpback whales coming from the North and from December to March you’ll still catch whales coming from the North.
Corcovado National Park
Corcovado is one of the most special places in the country. The isolation of its rainforest makes it a perfect escape if you’re after off the beaten track experiences. Walk along the marked trail through the forest and spot brightly coloured toucans and large blue butterflies.
The best snorkelling spot is located around Isla del Caño (regarded by many as the best snorkelling spot in the country!). The waters are teeming with a wonderful variety of marine life to spot below the surface. Spot parrotfish, surgeon fish, barber fish, eels, snappers, barracudas and manta rays. Further offshore, whales and dolphins can occasionally be seen.
Try this! Snorkel in Panama
Travelling from Costa Rica into Panama is easy. Combining these two countries will give you an untamed adventure and a real glimpse into Central American life. Swing in a hammock on a tiny tropical island, learn everything there is to know about coffee beans and gasp at the scale of the Panama Canal.
When it comes to snorkelling, we recommend checking out the Golfo de Chiriquí. Far away from the tourist throngs is the quiet fishing village of Boca Chica, nestled amongst the Chiriquí lowlands. Grab your snorkel and dive in to discover an underwater world of tropical fish and colourful coral reefs. Visit the deserted islands of Parque Nacional Marino Golfo de Chiriquí and search for monkeys, turtles and birds of paradise.
If you’re thinking of doing a snorkelling tour in Costa Rica you might want to check out our travel advice before you leave. Check out when’s the best time to visit, what the weather be like, the kind of visa you’ll need and tips on getting around. Whether you want to travel the local way by bus or embark on your own self-drive adventure, we can help you piece together your journey from A to B.
Please note that snorkelling in Costa Rica really depends on weather conditions. If you want to make the most of it, we suggest avoiding the rainy season as marine visibility can be quite limited.