Snorkeling in Costa Rica – best places

Everything you want to know about snorkeling in Costa Rica

Snorkeling in Costa Rica is one of the best ideas for a trip. The great diversity of Costa Rica’s underwater world guarantees an amazing experience. Swimming with a mask and a snorkel is a must on any trip to Costa Rica.

Here you will see coral reefs, volcanic rock formations, and great sea creatures. Good snorkeling spots in Costa Rica can be found both on the Pacific coast and on the Caribbean side.

Top snorkeling spots in Costa Rica

As I mentioned, snorkeling is a great way to see underwater life without having to dive deep. Often, to see beautiful things you only need to dip your face in water. Thanks to the diving mask you will be able to admire the underwater world.

You have to try this!

A snorkel, on the other hand, will help you breathe and you won’t have to pop your head to breathe. Thanks to this simplicity, snorkeling in Costa Rica can be practiced almost anywhere where there is a water. Below is a list of the most popular places that are worth visiting.

Snorkeling on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica

Osa Peninsula.

The Osa Peninsula belongs to the province of Puntarenas and is located near the border with Panama. Beautiful beaches and rich vegetation are the hallmarks of this area. In this area you can find many species of plants and animals that can not be found anywhere else.

Isla del Caño - practical tourist information how to get there
Snorkeling – Isla del Caño

They only occur here. In this area you will find many national parks such as Corcovado, Isla del Cano and Marino Ballena. You can go snorkeling in each of them, but Isla del Caño is considered one of the best places for snorkeling in Costa Rica. Definitely worth visiting this place.

Isla Tortuga

It is a very popular place for snorkeling, because of its beautiful beach and clear water. It is an ideal place for a day trip, during which you can admire the underwater world or relax on a tropical beach.

Being on the island you can also go hiking deep into the island to see the rich vegetation of this area. In the area of ​​Isla Tortuga there are three wrecks, which are a great attraction for divers. Trips to this area start from Jaco, Puntarenas or Montezuma.

Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio National Park is a very popular place that serves thousands of tourists every year. In the park you have the opportunity to admire the amazing nature. You can often see tropical animals at your fingertips. In the park you will also find a beautiful beach with white sand.

Beach in Manuel Antonio

The second beach is in front of the entrance to the national park and it is also a great place to relax or jump into the water. Manuel Antonio is also an interesting place for practicing snorkeling in Costa Rica.


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The Guanacaste area is located on the border with Nicaragua. It is the driest and hotest place in Costa Rica. There will be plenty of sunshine here during the season, although sometimes it can be too warm. You can do snorkeling anywhere you can enter the ocean.

Each beach is different and each has something different to offer. When we are talking about popular places for snorkeling, Catalina Island should be mentioned. These are volcanic rock formations that attract sea creatures and are a great point for swimming with mask and snorkel.

The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica

Cahuita National Park

Cahuita National Park is a national park in the protected area of ​​La Amistad in Costa Rica. It is located on the southern Caribbean coast in the province of Limón. In this park you will find beautiful beaches and coral reefs under water. It is a great place for practicing snorkeling.

It is also worth mentioning that Cahuita National Park is a nesting place for sea turtles. Although the area is poorly developed, it is one of the places worth recommending for snorkeling in Costa Rica.

Where to try snorkeling?

Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge

Gandoca Manzanillo is located on the southern Caribbean coast, near the border with Panama. This park has an area of ​​over 5000 hectares and protects the waters of the Caribbean Sea, jungle and mangrove forests. On the Caribbean side, it’s one of the most popular places for snorkeling.

You can find turtles, manta rays, dolphins, lobsters and toucans here. On a beautiful coral reef you will find many species of tropical fish. Although the place is quite remote, it is definitely worth recommending.

How much for snorkeling in Costa Rica?

The best part of most snorkeling trips in Costa Rica is that you can organize them yourself. You don’t need much to enjoy the beautiful nature and tropical fish. All you need is a mask, snorkel and fins.

Most of the places I have described are accessible from the mainland and do not require transport by boat. All you have to do is pack the necessary equipment, drinking water and sunscreen and you can go on your first swimming with mask and snorkel in Costa Rica.

How much for snorkeling in costa rica?
How much for swimming with mask and snorkel in Costa Rica?

However, if you are thinking of visiting such beautiful places like Isla del Cano, then you will need to rent a boat that will take you there. The cost of such a trip may vary due to the time of year, place you are leaving from and the standard of the trip.

I can tell by our example that a snorkeling trip to Isla del Cano is a great idea to spend the whole day. The trip starts around 7am and lasts until early afternoon. Depending on the place from which you want to leave, you will have up to two hours on the boat.

The price includes entrance to the national park, snorkeling equipment, lunch and drinks, and of course the care of a guide. The cost of such a trip starts from $ 119 per person.

What snorkeling equipment should you choose?

Snorkeling equipment

As I said before, snorkeling in Costa Rica does not require complicated equipment. All you need is a basic mask, snorkel and fin set.

If you book an organized snorkeling trip in Costa Rica, the rental of such equipment should always be included in the price. If you are unsure, it is worth asking the tour operator what exactly is included in the price.

However, if you want to explore the beaches yourself and try it on your own, then you should stock up with this minimal set of equipment. Manufacturers compete in surprising us with new products and solutions that are to facilitate recreation in the water.

I can’t say which snorkeling set will be best for you. However, I have some tips that you should follow when choosing your snorkeling equipment.

Snorkeling equipment – how to choose?

First question is for how long you need snorkeling equipment?

Is it supposed to be a short-term purchase and only for a few times, or do you plan to go snorkeling more often?

If you came for a short vacation and only a few times you would like to try swimming with mask and snorkel, then there is no point in buying expensive equipment.

In this case, I would advise you to buy a simple set that will be cheap and which at the end of your holiday in Costa Rica you can simply give someone away.

However, if you plan to take the equipment home and use it more often, I suggest you choose a better quality kit. Such equipment will be more expensive, but it will also be made of better materials and will last you a long time.

Are you planning to do a diving course?

Or otherwise – a full-face mask or a traditional one? In recent years, many masks dedicated to snorkeling have appeared on the market. These masks are built differently, often cover the whole face, and the snorkel is integrated with the mask.

This is to facilitate snorkeling and simply be more convenient. Previously, diving masks were used that only cover the eyes and nose, and the lips remain outside. And here the question arises – what snorkeling mask should you choose? My advice is as follows.

Scuba diving Course

If you plan to take the next step and become a diver in the future, I advise you to buy a good diving mask. You will be able to use it for snorkeling, and later on the diving course you will already have your checked and fitted mask. If you do not plan to go this way, then consider buying a comfortable full-face mask. Read more about scuba diving in Costa Rica.


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Is it better to buy or rent snorkeling equipment?

The disadvantage of snorkeling equipment is that you have to carry it with you. If you go on a round trip and only plan to do snorkeling a few times, maybe it is not worth carrying the whole set with you? In this case, it will be better to rent the necessary equipment on site.

Snorkeling equipment in costa rica
Snorkeling equipment in Costa Rica

In our center we rent snorkeling equipment and you can choose from many models of diving masks and fins. After each use, we check, wash and disinfect the equipment, so we are sure about its safety.

Safety rules during snorkeling in Costa Rica.

You must remember that snorkeling is water activity and despite the beautiful scenery, there may be some dangers for you if you do not take precautions.

Please, read the following instructions carefully and remember them. Remember that safety is the most important thing.

Swimming with mask and snorkel – safety rules

Do not go into the water alone.

If you plan to do snorkeling in Costa Rica, always remember the basic principle of safety. Never go snorkeling alone. If you are on an independent trip, ask the hotel if anyone also wants to go snorkeling.

You can also choose places where other people are. Here, organized snorkeling trips have an advantage, because during them you are under the constant care of a guide.

Choosing a place for snorkeling.

In Costa Rica, not all places are allowed for sports. Before entering the water, make sure that there is no bathing prohibition in this area or there are no warning signs about hazards – for example crocodiles!

Entry and exit of the water.

Before entering the water, make sure you can also come back the same way, even when you are very tired. Be sure to check if you can locate this place from the water. If entering the water is not safe, look for another one.

Sea currents

Sea currents are a big threat and are able to kidnap a person doing snorkeling. Remember that the lack of waves does not mean the absence of currents under the water surface.

A strong current can draw you into a place where it will be difficult to return. If you feel that you came across electricity under water, it is better to look for another place.

High waves

If you come across rough waves, definitely give up snorkeling here. High waves can be a serious threat to your safety. In addition, when the waves are rough, visibility under water is usually poor anyway. There is no point in risking.

Muscle contraction

This is a common problem for people who have not been swimming or don’t have long experience with fins. If you get muscle cramps during snorkeling, don’t panic – first.

Try to stretch the muscle by pulling the tip of the fin. If this does not help, go back to the shore and try to massage the sore spot.

Dangerous Animals

Snorkeling is relatively safe. However, you should be careful during snorkeling and do not touch anything or stand on the bottom or on the reef. Try to stay in the water without contacting anything.

Pressure injuries

In water, the pressure increases by 1 atmosphere for every 10 m of water. Immersion under water in ABC equipment requires pressure compensation, otherwise various injuries may occur.

You will learn how to do it correctly in a diving course. And remember that snorkeling is not freediving! Going underwater without training is a straight path to an accident.

These few basic safety rules will help you fully enjoy swimming with mask and snorkel. Remember that holidays are a time of rest and you do not want to ruin them with some stupid accident.


Snorkeling in Costa Rica – summary

Sometimes it is said that snorkeling is the first step to diving. This is partly true, because by practicing snorkeling you can see wonderful things under water, but some of them will be inaccessible to us. Then you need to decide on a diving course if you want to be able to look in more inaccessible places.

On the other hand, snorkeling is great entertainment and a great way to spend a day with your family. Even as a diving instructor, I often jump into the water only with a mask and snorkel to admire the wonderful nature from the surface of the water. And this is what I wish you during your trip to Costa Rica. Hop in to the water!

Este texto también está en Español: snorkel en Costa Rica


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