It was day two after Mom and Dad’s arrival in Costa Rica, that we decided to hit the water for a day of diving at the Catalina Islands. We wanted to get our diving well out of the way before heading inland, up into the jungly cloud forest of Monteverde.
The Catalina Islands are a collection of 20 outcroppings and islands formed by volcanic activity. They are considered one of the best dive sites in Costa Rica and can be found from 3 to 24 kilometers off the Nicoya peninsula.
Strong currents and a fantastic ecosystem make this site a favorite for large schools of fish and different species of rays, specifically manta rays!
Joey and I were slightly nervous to head back out on the water less than two weeks after our Bat Island dive. Our last venture on the Pacific had been a nauseating one, and we were worried that our disastrous episodes of seasickness would come back. I don’t think I could have handled another day of almost non-stop puking so quickly after the last.
As always, Mom was looking out for us. She brought some motion sickness patches were to go behind our ear prior to diving. Unlike Gravol, which helps nausea at the price of making you very sleepy, the motion sickness patch is designed to keep the seasickness at bay without the feeling of drowsiness.
Seasickness FYI: As a diver, sometimes you get hit with seasickness. For solutions on dealing with seasickness before and during your dive check out our post about 5 ways of dealing with seasickness.
We woke up at an ungodly time of the morning, to pack our scuba things and head out diving.
The sky was a faded blue and we hadn’t even heard the rooster’s crow from surrounding farms. By 7 AM we met the Summer Salt crew at the dive shop and boarded the boat for a 45-minute ride to the Catalina Islands. Elated that our motion sickness patches were working like a charm, we listened to the dive briefing, rolled into the Pacific and dropped down to 40 feet where we would begin the dive.
Diving Catalina boasted similar species to Bat Islands. Colorful fish, octopus, and stingrays eyed us suspiciously as we entered their domain.
Piles of porous black lava rock took shape on the bottom with the occasional aggregation of coral and algae growth on it.
As we descended deeper we hit a whoopingly cold thermocline. The cold water pierced through our wetsuits like they were made of mesh. It was enough to give me instant-goosebumps. Brrrrrrrr!
In spite of the cold down below, I spend most of the dive playing detective Nancy Drew. I would scout out every little creature I could lay eyes on, and show them to my dad.
My favorite sighting was a little snowflake moray that had made a den in the crevasse of some rocks. He was white etched in a black abstract pattern. When I approached, he recoiled and reared its fangs. In moray language that was code for; get the heck away from me or I will bite. You didn’t need to tell me twice.
A couple of times, on our dives, a white tip shark cruised through the water just at the edge of our vision. Unfortunately, the shark swam by too quickly and was a little too far to estimate its size.
Our eagle-eyed divemaster also found a teeny-weeny yellow sea horse. The sea horse was anchored with its hooked tail, on some soft coral swaying in the ebb and flow of the current. It was a first for me – I had never seen a seahorse in the wild before, let alone a canary yellow one.
Just like the Bat Islands scuba diving adventure, Joey and I had enjoyed a few weeks before, several large schools of grunts came pouring into the picture.
The Pacific ocean was intent on putting on a show and we had lucked into front row seats.
The grunts came out of what felt like nowhere and encircled us like one giant tornado. Left, right, front and back… Everywhere I looked there were silver and yellow fish bodies that filled my field of vision. They were close enough that I could see every nick and scale missing on their body, yet at the same time, they danced just out of our reach.
I could have spent hours upon hours with this gigantic tornado of fish, getting lost in the maze of swimming critter.
Dad used his air up faster than everyone else in our group, so he ascended to surface early. Just below 1000 PSI, it was time for Joey and me to make our way to the surface, after a recommended 15-foot safety stop.
In total Dad, Joey and I spent 150 minutes underwater split over three dives. The time we spend beneath the surface was pure bliss.
More than just a dive site sporting the same name as salad dressing, the Catalina Islands are home to marine wildlife big and small, of which we only got a glimpse at some of its inhabitants.
The price to make your way to the Catalina Islands is not as expensive as it’s counterpart the Bat Islands, but don’t get me wrong it’s still a pretty penny.
For two dives with tanks, weights, snacks, and a bilingual guide the price is $115.00 USD. If you’re looking for more bottom time $145.00 USD will get you three dives which include tanks, weights, snacks, and a bilingual guide.
Additional scuba diving equipment is an extra $25.00 USD day rental fee.
Scuba diving the Catalina Islands is available all year round and the water temperature stays more or less the same.
The visibility is ideal from September to March (try to avoid diving right after rainy days). These months are also the best times to spot whale sharks, tiger sharks, killer whales, humpback whales, pilot whales, and spinner dolphins. The big draw to this Costa Rican island chain is for diving with manta rays. To give yourself the best chance of sighting rays stop in between the months of January and March.
Diving the Catalina Islands is a challenging dive due to currents and bathymetry making it impossible to anchor the dive boat. As such most of the dives are deep drift dives reserved for Advanced Open Water divers only. Please make sure to have your certification handy when signing up for this dive adventure.
In and around the touristic town of Playa del Coco there are lots of dive companies to choose from each with its own pros and cons.
We went with Summer Salt Dive Center and were very happy with the quality of the service we received. When in doubt speak with a reputable tourism agency for advice on which one you should select.
Have you ever traveled to Costa Rica? What is your most memorable diving adventure on this countries Pacific coast?
Not all things underwater can be seen at first glance - for some, you need to take a closer look. Macro photography is the art of close-up photography on small subjects.
Do you enjoy cold water wreck diving? This dive destination will let you experience the best shipwrecks and scuba diving opportunities on the Canadian east coast.
When diving in Nova Scotia where do you even begin? Do you start in Halifax the province's capital or do you wander beyond to see what the surrounding area has to offer?
Sometimes finding a good dive spot is easier said than done. Shore diving around Saint John, New Brunswick is a testament to how unpredictable the Bay Fundy can be.
No matter what level of diver you are, scuba backroll entries are a fun-filled way to get off the dive boat and get into the water.
Sitting pretty right next to the gulf stream, Jupiter is known as one of Florida's best shark diving location. Drift along in the current as you enjoy an up-close encounter with the ocean's apex predators.
Forget the colorful piñatas and all-you-can-eat tacos, when in Mexico's coastal town of Zihuatanejo, it's all about the scuba diving!
Becoming a PADI Rescue Diver is a great way to further your knowledge and give yourself the tools to stay safe on a dive.
From planes to cars, diving Vobster Quay means experiencing a range of underwater sights and covering a lot of ground in little time.
The day is over and the sun is setting on a day of scuba diving but is it really time to hang up your fins, or do you dare slip back into the water at night?
The Sony SEL90M28G FE 90 mm f/2.8-22 Macro G OSS Standard-Prime Lens for E (NEX) Cameras.
Dry glove lock system that accommodates all hand sizes
Flexible Lightweight Portable Tripod for Projector DSLR Cameras and Go Pro
Black scuba diving turtle fins
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD Large Aperture Standard Zoom Lens for Canon Digital DSLR Camera + 32GB Memory Card + Photo4Less Cleaning Cloth.
Bare 7mm thick elastek dry suit hood
The Cuticate floating dry box is a waterproof sports container perfect to fit money, ID, cards, keys and more. The case is small, portable, compact, and comes with a lanyard clip hook to take with you as you scuba dive.
AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod and Bag with adjustable-height legs and rubber feet
Sony Alpha a6500 24MP mirrorless camera with a 16-50mm lens, able to shoot 4K movies.
Bare drysuit trek boots designed for rocky shore entries, boat decks, and boat ladders
Bare 5mm evoke women’s full suit designed by Bare’s all-female design team. The suit has technically, innovative celliant infrared technology which increase circulation, body warmth and performance.
GoPro HERO6 Black Camera
Rechargeable Ikelite NiMH battery pack compatible with Ikelite’s DS125, DS160, and DS161 strobes.
SHOOT 6″ Underwater Dome Port for GoPro Hero 6/Hero 5/Hero(2018) Black Camera Diving Lens Hood Housing Photography with Waterproof Case Accessories
13-inch inflatable dive buoy with a 12 by 11-inch scuba diving flag surface marker
Ikelite photography strobe DS161 with NiMH rechargeable battery pack
Compact scuba diving finger spool with 150ft of white line and a 4-inch brass double-ended clip
Compact underwater scuba diving hand reel with a 150ft of white line on the spool
GoPro dual battery charger conveniently charges two HERO6 Black, HERO5 Black, or HERO camera batteries simultaneously
Dive hands-free with a diving flashlight glove. This torch holder has a universal adjustable wrist strap scuba and is made of superior nylon material, which means it’s durable and comfortable to wear.
Ikelite compact ball arm for quick release handle
Suunto SK-8 wrist compass with bungee straps, faster stabilization, and enhanced readability
Capture amazingly smooth shake-free video with the GoPro Karma Grip
Black Mares Dragon Scuba Diving BCD
Bare drysuit drawstring scuba gear bag the perfect alternative for transporting a dry suit to-and-from the dive site
If you’re not quite ready for the expense of big lights, this little video light goes perfectly with any GoPro setup
Ikelite underwater macro lens casing is comprised of an acetyl body with glass front and can hold lenses of 4.37 diameter x 3 inches (111 x 76 mm)
Diving lens filter kit for GoPro HERO 5/6 which enhances colors for underwater video and photography conditions
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
Ikelite aluminum digital camera tray with dual handles
Black Mares Cruise Roller Tauchen bag, perfect for scuba diving and traveling
3PC curved armband glow in the dark slate.
Ikelite Canon EOS 100D Rebel SL1 underwater camera housing in white
Ikelite TTL dual flash sync cord attaches two strobe’s to the underwater camera housing.
Bare SB System Mens Full Under-layer
The Hydra 5000 WSRU is an all in one photo and dive light with wide, spot, red, and UV modes
Canon Macro Lens EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM – non Image Stabilised
Bare Sports 5mm men’s wetsuit made with elastek full-stretch nylon-2 and neoprene celliant liner infrared technology.
Mini blue scuba diving tank key ring with brass pick tool and o-rings
Capture amazingly smooth GoPro footage in the air with the GoPro Karma Drone
DUI heavy duty dry suit gloves with yellow liners available in sizes: S, M, L, XL
Sigma MC-11 mount converter lens adapter (Sigma EF-Mount lens to sony E cameras). Essential photo kit contains Altura photo rapid-fire wrist strap, small lens pouch, cleaning kit, and microfiber lens cleaning cloth.
Suunto Vyper Novo wrist scuba diving computer with USB
Scuba diving 4ft neon yellow surface marker signal tube with “Diver Below” print