Playa del Coco Snorkeling Spots

A Few Recommended Spots to Snorkel

There are various ways of exploring Costa Rica; by land, by air and by sea. Living in Costa Rica for a month has given us the chance to explore this country in all those different ways but our favourite always remains exploring by sea. 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 snorkeling a few times a week.

Dad, Joey and Ali Take a Snorkeling Group Picture
Snorkeling with a Stingray in Costa Rica
An Overview of Playa del Coco Beaches
A File Fish in the Water of Playa del Coco
A Freediver's Spearfishing Catch in Playa Ocotal
Dad, Joey and Ali Going into the Ocean to Snorkel
Ali Snorkeling with a Stingray

Picking a Snorkeling Spot

Any seasoned snorkeler or scuba diver will know that some of the best places to find an abundance of aquatic wildlife is 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.

Ali and Joey on the Playa Flamingo Beach, Costa Rica
Joey Walking to the Secret Beach near Playa del Coco
A File Fish Swimming Away on our Snorkel
Snorkeling around Playa del Coco

Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of the snorkeling spots worth checking out around Playa del Coco.

Snorkeling Playa Hermosa Beach

Do not get confused by the fact that there are 2 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 neighbours. Surrounded by 2 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.

Playa Hermosa Stats:

 

Ruler

Depth:

3-12 feet

Snorkel Mask

Number of Times we Snorkeled this Site:

2

Bottom

Bottom Composition:

sand, rock, sea grasses

Temperature

Water Temperature:

28-32°C

Eyes

Notable Wildlife Sightings:

stingray, blennies, wrasse, pufferfish, sponges, small corals, urchins

Rating

Overall Rating:

✩✩✩✭✭

Playa Hermosa Map

Snorkeling Playa Ocotal Beach

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 spear fishing. 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 make it a great spot for relaxing and working on that tan.

Playa Ocotal Stats:

 

Ruler

Depth:

3-30 feet

Snorkel Mask

Number of Times we Snorkeled this Site:

6

Bottom

Bottom Composition:

sand, rocks, sea grasses

Temperature

Water Temperature:

28-32°C

Eyes

Notable Wildlife Sightings:

stingray, blennies, wrasse, pufferfish, moray eels, triggerfish, angelfish, cornetfish, pufferfish, guineafowl, urchins, sea stars, sponges, small corals, parrotfish, sergeants

Rating

Overall Rating:

✩✭✭✭✭

Playa Ocotal Map

Snorkeling Secret Beach

Though we are 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 found Secret Beach while my Mom and Dad were visiting. Getting there 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 slightly off the grid, don’t expect to find restaurants or washrooms in the vicinity, luckily we brought a nice picnic lunch to break up the day. We only explored 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.

Secret Beach Stats:

 

Ruler

Depth:

3-15 feet

Snorkel Mask

Number of Times we Snorkeled this Site:

1

Bottom

Bottom Composition:

sand, some rocks

Temperature

Water Temperature:

28-32°C

Eyes

Notable Wildlife Sightings:

blennies, wrasse, pufferfish, cornetfish, sponges, small corals, sergeants, moray eel

Rating

Overall Rating:

✩✩✭✭✭

Secret Beach Map

Snorkeling Playa Panama Beach

We had a little bit of a hard time making our way from Playa del Coco to Playa Panama. The road signs in Costa Rica are not very good. We accessed this snorkeling site via rental car. What should have been a 20 minute trip turned into a good 45 minutes trip. Because we had timed our snorkel with the outgoing tide we arrived an hour or so before sunset. The smooth sand made for a nice walk to the snorkeling spot on the right hand side and we made use of the many low hanging trees to hang our clothes. It was a short and sweet snorkel and we made it out in time to enjoy the brilliant sunset.

Playa Panama Stats:

 

Ruler

Depth:

3-12 feet

Snorkel Mask

Number of Times we Snorkeled this Site:

1

Bottom

Bottom Composition:

rocks, sand

Temperature

Water Temperature:

28-32°C

Eyes

Notable Wildlife Sightings:

stingray, blennies, wrasse, porcupinefish

Rating

Overall Rating:

✩✩✩✭✭

Playa Panama Map

 

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 pick the northern part of Costa Rica as a snorkeling destination per say, we did have tonnes of fun, as always, in the water.

Ali's Snorkeling Face Underwater
Dad Jumping in the Waves of Playa del Coco, Costa Rica
A Funky Rock Fish Spotted While Snorkeling

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 rating may have been affected.

Happy exploration fellow snorkelers!!

RELATED POSTS
Dive Buddies 4 Life Logo