There are many different ways of exploring Costa Rica; by land, by air and by sea.
And after having “unofficially” been living in Costa Rica for a month, we have had the chance to explore this country in all those different ways. Of all the different exploration activities, it should come as no surprise that our favorite always remains exploring by sea.
The small town of Playa del Coco is one of the oldest beach communities in Costa Rica’s province of Guanacaste. The region is also one of the fastest growing areas of tourism in Costa Rica, as is evident by its many travel condo buildings and vacation homes.
Playa del Coco’s coastal nature and proximity to the ocean was one of the main reasons we ended up here.
As avid scuba divers, Joey and I never miss an opportunity to dive into the watery world.
We did a couple of scuba diving adventures at Bat Islands and Catalina Islands during our stay in Playa del Coco, but wanted to spend more time in the water so we got in the habit of heading out to nearby beaches and snorkeling a few times a week.
The snorkeling scene around Playa del Coco was not nearly as great as the diving, but we still saw some pretty neat things and had a heap of fun on those balmy 30°C days.
Any seasoned snorkeler or scuba diver will know that some of the best places to find an abundance of aquatic wildlife are along rocky formations and outcroppings. Ideally along dramatic drop-offs where the cold productive waters from the deeper parts of the ocean are forced upwards by current and wave action.
For the most part, Playa del Coco had a sandy beach on an open bay – not ideal for snorkeling. It took some asking around at the local dive shop and even more driving around to find some of the recommended sights but in the end, we managed to find a handful around this region to fill our snorkeling craving.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of the snorkeling spots worth checking out around Playa del Coco.
When your first looking for a spot to go snorkeling, Playa Hermosa is a good place to start.
But do not get confused by the fact that there are two beaches in Costa Rica that are called Playa Hermosa. The 2-kilometer snorkeling beach that you are looking for is in the province of Guanacaste.
Wedged in the middle of Playa del Coco and Playa Panama, the long grey sandy beach of Playa Hermosa is seldom as busy as its neighbors. Surrounded by two scenic mountains, this fabulous snorkeling getaway has relatively calm water and some good rock formations on the bays right side.
On top of snorkeling, this area also offers activities such as; sport fishing, swimming, diving, windsurfing, and sailing.
Known as one of the cleanest and quietest beaches in the area, the waters of Playa Ocotal are the best place to strap on your mask and snorkel for a swim.
The small town of Playa Ocotal is located about 3 kilometers outside of Playa del Coco and can be accessed via golf cart for those with limited means of transportation. The calm bay and rocky surroundings of this pocket beach make it a spot worth snorkeling, to hunt for little sea critters.
Keep an eye on the tide tables as sometimes the incoming tide can affect visibility. While some people recommend snorkeling the left side of the bay from our experience both sides have lots of great sea life to see. If you keep your eyes open you may even see some of the locals out spearfishing.
The good news about Playa Ocotal is if diving underwater is not for you, the salt and pepper sand tones of this beach and the shaded area offered by the tree’s making it a great spot for relaxing and working on that tan.
Though we are still not 100% certain, we think the secret beach we found for snorkeling is called La Penca.
Perched on the uninhabited peninsula between Playa del Coco and Playa Hermosa, we discovered Secret Beach with my Mom and Dad.
Getting to Secret Beach involved tactical driving, dirt roads and a short hike down to the beach. When we arrived an oasis of white sand and blue water was waiting for us. At this completely natural snorkeling site which is slightly off the grid, don’t expect to find restaurants or washrooms in the vicinity. It is very isolated. Luckily we brought a nice picnic lunch with us for our beach day.
In terms of snorkeling, we only explored underwater on the left side of the bay, although after having visited the beach, I can tell that the snorkeling would have been similar on either side. The visibility at this spot was by far the best we had seen.
We had a little bit of a hard time making our way from Playa del Coco to Playa Panama.
We accessed the Playa Panama snorkeling site via our rental car, but what should have been a 20-minute trip turned into a good 45-minute trip. The road signs in Costa Rica are not very good and we got a little lost trying to figure out which dirt road turnoff to take.
Because we had timed our snorkel with the outgoing tide, arriving late meant that we got there an hour or so before sunset. The smooth sand made for a nice beach walk to the snorkeling spot, which was situated on the right-hand side. We made use of the many low hanging trees close to the snorkeling site to hang our clothes.
It was a short but sweet snorkel before dark and we made it out in time to enjoy the brilliant sunset.
If you are a snorkeling fanatic and have your equipment on hand you can look into tour companies for your fill of vitamin sea, or you can check out some of these great spots for FREE.
Although I would not think of the northern part of Costa Rica as a snorkeling destination per se, we did have tonnes of fun in the water.
Having mainly a volcanic rocky landscape both above and below the water, the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica is open to the rough waters of the Pacific meaning that visibility can be poor. To maximize your chances of good visibility this region is best visited in the countries dry season from December to April. It is important to note that Joey and I snorkeled all of these sites in the months right after the rainy season and at times the visibility was not ideal so our overall snorkel experience may have been affected.
Happy exploration fellow snorkelers!!
Have you been to the province of Guanacaste in Costa Rica? What was your favorite snorkeling sites and where were they located?
Bat Islands are a collection of volcanic islands off the coast of Costa Rica with some pretty unique diving.
The sea life was plentiful at the Catalina Islands. It was the perfect spot to introduce Dad to Costa Rica's underwater playground!
La Fortuna is a small city with a big personality. This tourist hot spot has some unique outdoor places that are a must-see.
Hidden in the jungles of Tenorio National Park, the Río Celeste proves time and time again that it is a favourite waterfall among Costa Rican tourists.
Read about our trip to Ostional and find out about the prime sea turtle nesting beaches in Costa Rica.
The Miravalles Volcano Tour gave us a the best overview of some of Costa Rica's highlighted activities.
Step up your scuba diving game by jumping into the volcanic crater of Nicaragua's Laguna Apoyo.
Slipping into the Pacific waters off Costa Rica for a snorkel is a relaxing way to spend the day. Here are the best places around Playa del Coco.
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.
Ikelite TTL dual flash sync cord attaches two strobe’s to the underwater camera housing.
If you’re not quite ready for the expense of big lights, this little video light goes perfectly with any GoPro setup
Bare SB System Mens Full Under-layer
Sony Alpha a6500 24MP mirrorless camera with a 16-50mm lens, able to shoot 4K movies.
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.
Bare drysuit drawstring scuba gear bag the perfect alternative for transporting a dry suit to-and-from the dive site
Black Mares Dragon Scuba Diving BCD
An elegant lead-free wine glass with a shark figurine anchored inside. The perfect gift for wine and shark lovers everywhere.
Compact scuba diving finger spool with 150ft of white line and a 4-inch brass double-ended clip
Flexible Lightweight Portable Tripod for Projector DSLR Cameras and Go Pro
Scuba diving 4ft neon yellow surface marker signal tube with “Diver Below” print
GoPro HERO6 Black Camera
Bare drysuit trek boots designed for rocky shore entries, boat decks, and boat ladders
The dive guide Bonaire is a comprehensive dive guide for use by divers and snorkelers at all skill levels. It describes more than 100 dive sites along with underwater maps and stunning photographs. This all-inclusive dive guide is your handbook for endless diving and snorkeling enjoyment.
Diving lens filter kit for GoPro HERO 5/6 which enhances colors for underwater video and photography conditions
Ikelite compact ball arm for quick release handle
Black scuba diving turtle fins
Reef Safe SPF 30 sunscreen for protection against broad-spectrum UVA and UVB.Water-resistant for 80 minutes of swimming or activity. It contains our potent antioxidant blend of Green Tea, Tulsi, Wakame and Olive Leaf.
DUI heavy duty dry suit gloves with yellow liners available in sizes: S, M, L, XL
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.
Reusable scuba diver tea infuser for use on loose teas. Easy to fill, empty clean and dishwasher safe. Tea infuser comes with a silicone raft drip tray.
3PC curved armband glow in the dark slate.
13-inch inflatable dive buoy with a 12 by 11-inch scuba diving flag surface marker
The waterproof scuba diving egg helps keep valuables dry while in the water. The egg is suitable for storing sunglasses, car keys, money and etc.
The inside diameter is 2.07″ and the inside length is 5.04″.
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.
This new second edition of The Great Lakes Diving Guide is the most comprehensive guide ever written about exploring Great Lakes shipwrecks.
Canon Macro Lens EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM – non Image Stabilised
Filled with more than 350 images from National Geographic, 100 Dives of a Lifetime provides the ultimate bucket list for ardent scuba divers and aspirational travelers alike.
Ikelite Canon EOS 100D Rebel SL1 underwater camera housing in white
A one-piece dive hanger construction for strength and durability with non-corroding plastic resin. The hanger can support up to 20 pounds.
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.
Mini blue scuba diving tank key ring with brass pick tool and o-rings
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)
Suunto SK-8 wrist compass with bungee straps, faster stabilization, and enhanced readability
A 16″ x 16″ sequins blue mermaid decorative throw pillow cover. Perfect for the sofa, chair or bed. The cover does NOT come with a pillow insert.
Bare Sports 5mm men’s wetsuit made with elastek full-stretch nylon-2 and neoprene celliant liner infrared technology.
Suunto Vyper Novo wrist scuba diving computer with USB
Ikelite photography strobe DS161 with NiMH rechargeable battery pack
Compact underwater scuba diving hand reel with a 150ft of white line on the spool
With marine biologist Dr. Alexander Mustard as your guide, you can learn all you need to know to explore the amazing creatures and landscapes that exist underwater.
Aveeno zinc oxide mineral sunscreen with SPF 50. An environmentally-friendly sunscreen that is oil-free, fragrance-free, hypoallergenic and water-resistant.
Capture amazingly smooth shake-free video with the GoPro Karma Grip
Fireproof Lipo Charging Safe Bag is a medium size flame retardant bag that safeguards your batteries during charging, transit, and storage.
Size: 20cm X 15cm X 15cm
The Hydra 5000 WSRU is an all in one photo and dive light with wide, spot, red, and UV modes
GoPro dual battery charger conveniently charges two HERO6 Black, HERO5 Black, or HERO camera batteries simultaneously
Bare 7mm thick elastek dry suit hood
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
Rechargeable Ikelite NiMH battery pack compatible with Ikelite’s DS125, DS160, and DS161 strobes.
AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod and Bag with adjustable-height legs and rubber feet
SHOOT 6″ Underwater Dome Port for GoPro Hero 6/Hero 5/Hero(2018) Black Camera Diving Lens Hood Housing Photography with Waterproof Case Accessories
Ikelite aluminum digital camera tray with dual handles
Black Mares Cruise Roller Tauchen bag, perfect for scuba diving and traveling
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
Capture amazingly smooth GoPro footage in the air with the GoPro Karma Drone