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Map of Costa Rica Cocos Island Dive Cocos Island Costa Rica

Located in the Pacific side of Costa Rica, 543 km southwest of Cabo Blanco, Isla del Coco is a real treasure to behold. The renowned Cocos Island Marine Park was established in 1978. In 1994, after several return visits to the island, Jacques Cousteau pronounced Cocos Island “the most beautiful island in the world”. In 1997, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.

Cocos Island receives an average of 25 feet of rainfall per year, resulting in a covering of lush green foliage. Waterfalls abound, of which there are up to 200 falls of varying sizes during the peak of the rainy season. Beneath the waterfalls and in the rivers, are freshwater fish that mystify scientists by their very existence. Because of its remote location and abundance of fresh water, Cocos has, throughout history, been a favorite re-supply station for pirates, whalers and sailors.

Cocos Island is home to at least 27 endemic fish species including the exotic rosy-lipped batfish. The  terrestrial life at Cocos also exhibits a high number of endemic species. Found here are some 70 of the 235 identified vascular plant species in the world, some 25 species of moss, 27 species of liverwort and 85 species of fungus. There are upwards of 87 bird species, including the famous Cocos Island cuckoo, finch and flycatcher and 362 species of insects, of which 64 are endemic. Two native reptiles are found only on the Island.

The rich coral reef, volcanic tunnels, caves, massifs and deeper waters surrounding Cocos Island are home to more than 30 species of coral, 60 species of crustaceans, 600 species of molluscs and over 300 species of fish.

  • Cocos Island Geographical Information

    Cocos Island was formed nearly two millions years ago from a volcanic eruption. The island has an irregular coastline and is roughly rectangular in shape with an area of approximately 23.85 km², about 8×3 km. Cliffs rise almost vertically from a narrow shore to heights of 200 metres. There are two bays (Bahía Wafer and Bahía Chatham) with sandy beaches. Inland, the terrain is mountainous with numerous rivers and streams, many of which plunge over the peripheral cliffs in spectacular waterfalls. Rugged, yet incredibly verdant and lush, the island is punctuated by four mountain peaks, the highest of which is Cerro Iglesias, at 634 metres above sea level. The combination of the high rainfall with the altitude of the mountain peaks has resulted in Cocos Island being the only island in the eastern Pacific to support a high-altitude cloud forest.

    To reach Cocos Island, you would fly into San Jose International Airport followed by a 2 hour scenic drive to Puntarenas and a 32-36 hour boat crossing to Cocos Island.

  • Things to do in Cocos Island

    The primary reason to visit Cocos Island is for the incredible scuba diving opportunities. It is even possible to participate in a deep sea dive on board a custom built one atmosphere submarine. Truly a unique experience! Getting around ashore on the island is tricky and is mostly limited to hiking.

  • When to Travel to Cocos Island

    The weather on Cocos Island is changeable with an average temperature of 25ºC and average annual rainfall of over 7 metres. The rain and sun intersperses throughout the day and does not affect the diving action.

    The main factors affecting diving is the calmer seas between December to May during the dry season making for more pleasant surface conditions, higher visibility, warmer water and more active reproductive behaviour to be seen underwater.

    However, during the 'rainy' season of June to November, the bigger fish and sharks such as the hammerheads, mantas and whale sharks are attracted to the higher concentration of plankton in the water caused by the nutrient upswells, making for some exciting diving. The trade off for all the action is poorer visibility, rough and windy surface conditions, stronger currents and cooler water.

    Water temperature ranges between 22 - 28ºC and can vary dramatically, dropping 3 - 6ºC during a dive due to thermoclines. A full length 5mm wetsuit with the option of hood, gloves and boots is recommended.

  • Scuba Diving in Cocos Island

    Dive Cocos Island Costa Rica

    Cocos Island has some of the most thrilling and exhilarating diving that the world has to offer. The waters around Cocos Island explode with life and exude a startling degree of biodiversity. Converging nutrient-rich currents from nearby deep water attracts plenty of pelagic action. A highlight is the large schools of hammerheads, sometimes seen in groups of hundreds! There are regular encounters with white tip reef sharks, dolphins, mantas and marbled rays, giant moray eels, sailfish, and the occasional whale shark. Other common encounters are large schools of jacks and tuna, Galapagos, silky and silvertip sharks, marlin, Creole fish, green turtles and  octopus.

    About 20 dive sites are situated around the island ranging from shallow but steep vertical walls to deep pinnacles, drift dives and blue water dives.Dive Cocos Island Costa Rica

    The only way to dive Cocos Island is by liveaboard - it takes approximately 36 hours to cruise to Cocos Island from Puntarenas on the mainland and often in rough sea conditions.    

    Due to the remoteness of the island, the water temperature and thermoclines, strong currents, surge and unpredictable sea conditions, diving at Cocos Island is not recommended for novice or inexperienced divers. The nearest re-compression chamber is in San Jose, at least 36 hours away.

    Some of the more popular dive sites at Cocos Island:

    Manuelita Coral Garden

    Dive Cocos Island Costa RicaLikely to be your first dive at Cocos, a calm and protected site good for macro photographers and one of the few coral reef dives in Cocos. Countless fish, eels, lobsters reside here. Out in the blue search for hammerheads, black tip sharks, white tip sharks and numerous marble rays. Large schools of white tip sharks can be seen feeding at dark. Also the best night dive spot. Depth: 6 - 20 metres.

    Manuelita Outside

    Dive Cocos Island Costa RicaSeveral cleaning stations are located here. Divers can hide behind huge boulders after passing white tip reef sharks, schooling snapper and marble rays, to watch the hammerheads waiting their turn to be approached by
    the cleaner fish. Beware of strong surge and currents on this dive.
    Depth: 18 - 40 metres.

    Dirty Rock

    One of the most dynamic dive sites at Cocos for the sheer volume of hammerheads and incredible bio-diversity that surrounds these boulders and rock pinnacles. Divers are engulfed by different species of sharks and rays while large schools of bigeye jacks, bluefin trevally and hunting tuna dart around the boulders. Whale sharks, turtles and dolphins also frequent this site. Don’t forget your video! Depth: 6 - 40 metres.

    Punta Maria

    This site can only be visited when the current permits. A large seamount rises from the deep up to 25m and two pinnacles rise to 20m below the surface. This site is a cleaning station for hammerheads and Galapagos sharks. Depth: 24 - 36 metres.

    Dos Amigos Grande

    Features a majestic arch rising from 30m to 20m that provides shelter for lobster, snapper and rainbow runners.  Hammerheads, white tips, mobula and eagle rays also pass through the arch. Depth: 18 - 36 metres.

    Bajo Alcyone

    One of the most incredible dives and the best place to experience  hammerheads swimming above and below you.  Pelagic action abounds at this site - expect interactions with white tips, black tips, whale sharks, marble rays, eagle rays, mobula rays, manta rays, turtles, yellow fin tuna, silkies, wahoos, dolphins. Depth: 27 - 36 metres.

  • Cocos Island Liveaboards

    Costa Rica Cocos Island Liveaboards Sea Hunter
    Budget: $$$
    Length: 33 metres
    Max # of guests:
    No. Cabins: 10
    Approx dives per day: 3-4
    Yes (included)
    Tech Dive: Yes - full oxygen, Nitrox & Rebreather support
    Costa Rica Liveaboard Cocos Island Argo
    Budget: $$$
    Length: 40 metres
    Max # of guests:
    No. Cabins: 8
    Approx dives per day: 3-4
    Yes (included)
    Tech Dive: Yes - full oxygen, Nitrox & Rebreather support
    Costa Rica Liveaboard Cocos Island Okeanos Aggressor
    Budget: $$$
    Length: 33 metres
    Max # of guests:
    No. Cabins: 10
    Approx dives per day: 3-4
    Yes (extra cost)
    Tech Dive: No
    Costa Rica Liveaboard Cocos Island Wind Dancer
    Budget: $$$
    Length: 32 metres
    Max # of guests:
    No. Cabins: 11
    Approx dives per day: 3-4
    Yes (extra cost)
    Tech Dive: No
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