The Best Diving in Coco’s Island, Costa Rica

At Coco’s Island, every dive is a shark dive. Hammerheads by the hundreds, mighty tiger sharks, imposing whale sharks, dolphins, mantas and more. It’s the ultimate destination for oceanic pelagic enthusiasts.

Coco’s Island in Pictures

A collection of photos of Coco’s Island both over and underwater.

Marine Life in Coco’s Island

The island is famed for its large schools of hammerhead sharks. There are multiple dive sites where you can see them, both swimming gently in the blue and nice and close near the reef.

For me, even more exciting are the tiger sharks populating the waters around Coco’s Island. These large macro predators are a common sight around the tiny satellite island of Manuelita. As if that is not enough, whitetip sharks are numerous, as are Galapagos sharks; and there is a decent chance of seeing whale sharks and dolphins on a dive.

Coco’s Island and its surroundings are also home to rays; on many dives, you’ll see big stingrays gliding freely around the reef and, if you’re lucky, manta, mobula and eagle rays too.

The health of the ecosystem and the rich and extensive reefs in this diving paradise attract big schools of bigeye trevallies, blue striped snappers, and other big fish – and that’s why the big guys are here.

As a rule, the dive sites are vibrant with life and action and more than a few surprises await you.

Dive Conditions in Coco’s Island

Alone in the deep Pacific Ocean, about 550 km (375 miles) southwest of the coast of Costa Rica, Coco’s Island has no protection from the coast and is subject to oceanic counter currents and changeable weather conditions.

These can cause rough seas with big swell and reduced visibility. Though not always the case – you could have a week of sunshine, calm waters and perfect visibility – the unpredictability of the environment and the depth of the dive sites make Coco’s Island a dive destination recommended only for experienced divers.

Don’t expect colorful reefs and white sandy beaches. Coco’s Island is a volcanic island emerging from the ocean, with steep walls, huge submerged rocks, and a few hard corals. Above water, the land is mountainous with rainforests and the climate is humid and tropical.

Because of its remote location and National Park status, the only way to visit and dive Coco’s Island is on a dive liveaboard.

Single dives are carried out by pangas, or skifts, that take a maximum of 11 divers per boat.

Currently, there are two dive companies operating two liveaboards each. The Aggressor Fleet with the Okeanos I and II, and the Undersea Hunter Fleet with the Argo and the Sea Hunter.

Best Time to Dive Coco’s Island

Coco’s Island’s tropical nature means that there is a wet season (June to November) and a dry season (December to May).

The best time to dive Coco’s Island is between June and November. Although this is the wet season, which means more rain and rougher seas, it’s the time to see the most marine life, with a better chance of close encounters. During this season, water temperature is a steady 25 C (77 F), although there are thermoclines that can reduce the water temp down to 19 C (66 F). Air temperature ranges from 22 to 30 C (71 to 86 F) and rainfall can be expected, especially in July through September. Visibility is between 20-30m (65-100 ft) depending on the currents.

December to May is the dry season when seas are calmer and the sun shines most days. You’ll still see plenty of activity underwater but not as much as during the wet season. During this season water temperature is a steady 27 C (80 F), air temperature ranges from 23 to 32 C (73 to 89 F) and there is less rainfall. Visibility is between 20-30 m (60-100 ft) depending on the currents, but usually better than in the wet season.

Best Dive Sites in Coco’s Island

Coco’s Island is a small island and, as they’ll probably tell you during the first dive briefing, every dive is a shark dive. Nevertheless, there are some spots that stand out from the crowd.

Manuelita Island (Isla Manuelita)

By far the best place to see sharks, the dive site on the west of the island, Manuelita Deep (Manuelita Profundo), is known for brushing up against both hammerheads and tiger sharks, whereas the site on the east side, Manuelita Shallow (Manuelita Somero) is more common for trysts with tiger sharks.

Bajo Alcyone

One of the most famous dive sites around Coco’s Island, Alcyone is a pelagic fish extravaganza. Massive yellowfin tuna hunt bonitos in the blue, bigeye trevallies congregate in teeming schools while hammerhead, Galapagos and whitetip sharks patrol the reef. A real show and a dive you can’t miss.

Dirty Rock (Roca Sucia)

This is the place to see walls of hammerhead sharks swimming in the blue. We also spotted dolphins and schools of jackfish. Swim down to 30 meters, hide behind the rocks and wait for the spectacle to begin.

Dos Amigos

Another two excellent sites to see sharks. Dos Amigos Pequeña (Dos Amigos Small) and Dos Amigos Grande (Dos Amigos Big), are both cleaning stations for Galapagos sharks, giving you a good chance to see these impressive sharks close up.

How to Get to Coco’s Island

Coco’s Island is rather off the beaten track. It is uninhabited except for the park rangers, so the only way to dive there is by liveaboard. Liveaboards leave from Puntarenas on the Costa Rican Pacific Coast, about two hours from San Jose, the capital. San Jose is serviced by many international airlines.

Good to Know

Coco’s Island, a tiny and remote island sitting 496 km southwest of Cabo Blanco and belonging to Costa Rica, was discovered in 1526 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Together with Galapagos and Malpelo it forms the well known hammerhead-triangle.

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