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?
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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)
Bare drysuit trek boots designed for rocky shore entries, boat decks, and boat ladders
The Sony SEL90M28G FE 90 mm f/2.8-22 Macro G OSS Standard-Prime Lens for E (NEX) Cameras.
GoPro HERO6 Black Camera
Compact scuba diving finger spool with 150ft of white line and a 4-inch brass double-ended clip
Scuba diving 4ft neon yellow surface marker signal tube with “Diver Below” print
DUI heavy duty dry suit gloves with yellow liners available in sizes: S, M, L, XL
Bare SB System Mens Full Under-layer
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
Mini blue scuba diving tank key ring with brass pick tool and o-rings
Canon Macro Lens EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM – non Image Stabilised
The Hydra 5000 WSRU is an all in one photo and dive light with wide, spot, red, and UV modes
Flexible Lightweight Portable Tripod for Projector DSLR Cameras and Go Pro
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
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.
Compact underwater scuba diving hand reel with a 150ft of white line on the spool
Ikelite photography strobe DS161 with NiMH rechargeable battery pack
Black scuba diving turtle fins
13-inch inflatable dive buoy with a 12 by 11-inch scuba diving flag surface marker
Ikelite aluminum digital camera tray with dual handles
Ikelite TTL dual flash sync cord attaches two strobe’s to the underwater camera housing.
Black Mares Dragon Scuba Diving BCD
Capture amazingly smooth GoPro footage in the air with the GoPro Karma Drone
Black Mares Cruise Roller Tauchen bag, perfect for scuba diving and traveling
Bare drysuit drawstring scuba gear bag the perfect alternative for transporting a dry suit to-and-from the dive site
Dry glove lock system that accommodates all hand sizes
AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod and Bag with adjustable-height legs and rubber feet
GoPro dual battery charger conveniently charges two HERO6 Black, HERO5 Black, or HERO camera batteries simultaneously
Suunto Vyper Novo wrist scuba diving computer with USB
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.
Diving lens filter kit for GoPro HERO 5/6 which enhances colors for underwater video and photography conditions
Ikelite Canon EOS 100D Rebel SL1 underwater camera housing in white
If you’re not quite ready for the expense of big lights, this little video light goes perfectly with any GoPro setup
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Bare Sports 5mm men’s wetsuit made with elastek full-stretch nylon-2 and neoprene celliant liner infrared technology.
3PC curved armband glow in the dark slate.
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Sony Alpha a6500 24MP mirrorless camera with a 16-50mm lens, able to shoot 4K movies.
Ikelite compact ball arm for quick release handle
Suunto SK-8 wrist compass with bungee straps, faster stabilization, and enhanced readability
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.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens