Scuba Diving in Caño Island
Scuba Diving in Caño Island

While I prefer land to water, like most tree frogs here in Costa Rica, I do sometimes find myself curious enough to dip into the blue waters of my home country. While the pristine jungles of Costa Rica offer enough sights for a lifetime, I can’t help but wonder, like many other travelers, what underwater life is like. Of course, I have always explored the streams and pond that can be round throughout the national parks of Costa Rica, they certainly don’t compare to the marine life that can be found in my Central American nation. There are so many land wonders in Costa Rica that offer a wealth of paradise, but those parks and mountains are just part of my country’s beauty! Off the coastlines, underneath the waters of the Pacific and the Caribbean, lies an expansive other world that makes it no wonder that scuba diving is such a popular activity for visitors. Scuba diving is so popular here that some people even leave Costa Rica with their scuba diving certification.

While that might sound strange, it really isn’t! There are plenty of opportunities to scuba dive in Costa Rica, and that ample opportunity makes it possible for a dedicated diver to go that extra step and receive their certification.

Getting Your Professional Association of Diving Instructors certification

While getting your Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certification in Costa Rica isn’t an easy process, it is definitely an achievable process. You’ll to need to up to four days available to dedicate to your certification process, depending on which certification you’re pursuing. The process won’t be all underwater either, you’ll have to spend some of that time in a classroom. You’ll also train in pools and other types of controlled areas. Don’t worry though, you’ll eventually make it to the open water – you’ll have to complete at least four open water diving sessions in order to get certified.

While it may sound like a lot of work, getting your PADI in Costa Rica is an adventure that you’ll never forget, and that will give you stories to tell for years to come. You’ll get up close to some of the world’s most beautiful and incredible marine life, and you’ll discover so many underwater treasures. Scuba diving is of course available to any visitor, but those without their PADI will have to dive with an instructor. Those that already have their PADI, or get it during their visit, have the safety knowledge and skills they need to be free to dive and explore Costa Rica’s underwater world on their own time, at their own leisure.

Scuba Diving in Drake Bay
Scuba Diving in Drake Bay

Great Places to Scuba Dive in Costa Rica

Learning to scuba dive in Costa Rica won’t feel like a job at all. The country has duel coastlines and more marine life than you could explore in a lifetime (but that shouldn’t stop you from trying!). There are a number of great places that you could choose to get your PADI certification, and even more places that you can explore once you have it. Many of the major beaches in Costa Rica have a dive center nearby that offer repeatable instructional organizations for divers. If you do decide to go for your PADI certification during your Costa Rican vacation, you’ll be learning amidst the country’s beautiful, natural scenery, warm, clear waters, and active, abundant marine life. Here are a few of the best places in Costa Rica to learn how to scuba dive, and to explore once you are a certified diver.

1. Scuba Diving in Playas del Coco

Playas del Coco is a short drive from Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport. Located on Guanacaste province, this beach is easy to access, and well-­loved by travelers. This popular area has a lot to offer any guest, including great dining and nightlife. If you plan to stay here for your diving instruction, you’ll have to be sure you don’t get so distracted by all the amazing things to do here that you forget to go to class!

Marine Turtle at Caño Island
Marine Turtle at Caño Island

2. Blue Water Diving Off Isla del Caño

Isla del Caño is on the Pacific side, located near the Osa Peninsula at Drake Bay. This amazing area is actually a marine biological reserve, and was once a cemetery. Caño Island formed some 50 million years ago as a result of shifting tectonic plates, and now we can enjoy the surrounding waters and marine life. Here, you’ll see some of the bluest waters in Costa Rica, along with marine flora, fauna, and coral reef. The variety of fish and sharks that call this area home, including dolphins, stingrays, tuna, and grouper, and the remarkable visibility underwater, make this area one of the world’s top-rated places for scuba diving.

3. Puerto Viejo’s Caribbean Diving Access

This area, on Limon province, gives you access to the Caribbean Sea’s crystal waters. This beach town of Puerto Viejo, used to be a small fishing community, but thanks to the amazing waters, has become a fast­growing tourist hotspot. While here for your diving training, be sure to take some time to enjoy the unique Afro­Caribbean and Bribri cultures.

Large school of hammerhead sharks at Coco Island
Large school of hammerhead sharks at Coco Island

4. Stunning Diving Off Cocos Island

One of Costa Rica’s best diving spots is off the uninhabited Cocos Island. This island is one of the world's largest unpopulated areas, and it is also the furthest from the Costa Rican shore, lying 330 miles to the southwest of Nicoya Peninsula’s tip. Diving here will get you warm waters, and stunning views – including some sharks! The best time to dive off Cocos Island is during dry season.

Exploring Shipwrecks Off Uvita Island

Off of the Caribbean coast, Uvita Island is still a developing diving spot. The diving spots on this Limon Province treasure are still worth a visit; here divers can explore well­preserved shipwrecks in the warm waters, in addition to the abundant marine life.

5. Cahuita Scuba Diving

Though a smaller area, Cahuita National Park offers a lot for scuba divers. This Central American destination offers Caribbean shores that are excellent for divers. While there are great fish and other marine life to explore, you won’t want to miss the chance to explore the expansive Cahuita Reef and all that this ecosystem delivers.

Eel looking at Scuba diver
Eel looking at Scuba diver