5 Best Locations for Snorkelling in Costa Rica

Explore the best places for snorkelling in Costa Rica's crystal-clear sea for an unforgettable underwater adventure.

Snorkel Guide for Costa Rica

Vibrant marine life, pristine coral reefs, and warm, glassy waters make snorkelling in Costa Rica a real pinch-me moment on holiday. The country’s awe-inspiring geography, above and below land, is well-protected thanks to passionate conservation efforts. Costa Rica has always been forward-thinking when it comes to eco-tourism, and its bids to preserve its magical landscapes have paid off, with a thriving underwater ecosystem for visitors to enjoy. To help plan your trip, we’ve put together a list of our favourite snorkelling spots.

Best Snorkelling in Costa Rica

Both sides of Costa Rica have some of the best snorkelling in the world, with the Pacific offering more biodiversity, such as whales and coral reefs, while the Caribbean is more remote with calmer waters. Most snorkelling in Costa Rica can be accessed right off the beach, making it easy for swimmers of all abilities to join in, but some places require a boat trip. Whether you’re a first-time snorkeller or mega-fan, here are our favourite places in Costa Rica, tried and tested by Scott Dunn’s travel experts.

Golfo Dulce


Best for: Families and beginner snorkellers, thanks to the calm, shallow waters, and snorkelling reached directly from the beach.

Golfo Dulce is part of the Osa Conservation Area. It is a tropical fjord separating the Osa Peninsula from the Costa Rican mainland and an unspoilt, biologically diverse region full of amazing species. This protected cove is relatively off-the-beaten-track compared to other snorkelling spots, so doesn’t get too busy. Plus, its sheltered location – with a backdrop of rainforest – defends the sea from strong currents making it ideal for families and beginners. Warm, clear waters are home to parrotfish, angelfish, rays, sea turtles and sometimes even dolphins, whale sharks and humpback whales (from July to September). You can snorkel right off the beach here or head further out by boat or kayak in search of sea life.

Cahuita National Park


Best for: Confident swimmers who are keen to see extraordinary fish. As snorkelling here requires a boat trip, it is better for older children 8+ and adults.

Snorkelling in Cahuita National Park requires a guide and a boat to reach the best areas, but once you’re there, you’ll find some of the best snorkelling in Costa Rica. Underneath the calm water, there is a cacophony of colour waiting for you. Look out for incredible tropical fish, spindly, fluorescent lobsters and starfish hiding among the rocks, endangered hawksbill and green turtles, as well as nurse sharks, which have been allowed to thrive in their natural habitat thanks to Cahuita National Park’s ‘no-take’ zone. The best time of year to snorkel in Cahuita National Park is March, April, early May, August, September and October, the rest of the time the visibility can be poor.

Isla del Caño


Best for: Nature enthusiasts and eco-warriors, particularly teens and adults who are happy to venture out on the water all day.

As with Golfo Dulce, Isla del Cano is part of the protected Osa Conservation Area and is just northeast of the Corcovado National Park. The conservation status has allowed the waters around the island to develop one of the most extensive and healthiest coral formations on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Beneath the ocean, sea beds are decorated with beautiful reefs, turtles swim and seahorses play, and it’s become a breeding ground for humpback whales between July and October. Some of the best snorkelling in Costa Rica is found here, particularly for sighting larger sea creatures. The island is reached by boat (1-2 hours from Corcovado National Park) and limits the number of visitors it’s allowed, making it even more sublime when you’re there.

Manuel Antonio


Best for: Casual snorkelers and families who don’t want to spend an entire day at sea.

In the south of Costa Rica is Manuel Antonio National Park, near Quepos. Thought to be one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in Central America, the park towers over several beaches, including Playa Manuel Antonio. Fringed by a rainforest where sloths and monkeys swing from the trees, the beach is one of the most accessible places for snorkelling in Costa Rica. You can dive in straight from the beach, which is a 20-minute walk from the park’s entrance. Visitors are limited to 600-800 per day, so it’s worth arriving early. The waters are calm but can lose visibility when it rains. When it’s clear, the shallow rocky beds are filled with colourful fish including:

  • Yellowfin surgeonfish
  • Cortez rainbow wrasse
  • Pufferfish
  • Butterflyfish
  • Angelfish


Best for: Mixed-ability swimmers due to the choice of shallow waters or heading out further. Papagayo is a popular place for honeymooners who will enjoy travelling out to the secluded spots, while families will prefer hovering near the shore just off the beach.

Located in Guanacaste province in the northwest of Costa Rica, the exclusive Peninsula Papagayo – a private sweep of nature-rich coastline that’s home to a collection of luxury hotels – has over 31 islets and coves in total. While you will see plenty just off the coast, the best snorkelling in Papagayo happens further out by the secluded beaches. A boat trip out with a guide will take you in search of dolphins, turtles, reef sharks, sting rays and humpback whales with their calves (July to November). These tranquil waters are in the driest part of Costa Rica, making the visibility better than in other areas.

Costa Rica Snorkelling Tours

For ocean lovers, there could be nothing more magical than adding a Costa Rica snorkelling tour to your trip. Discovering the vast array of animals darting and diving under the water, amongst the colourful coral, is a captivating way to see wildlife in its natural habitat. For inspiration on where to start planning your Costa Rica holiday, browse our example itineraries below:

1 - 5 of 5 Tour Ideas
13 nights
Epic Costa Rica

Epic Costa Rica

Central Valley, Tortuguero, Puerto Viejo, Pacuare, San Jose

Famed for its amazing wildlife, adrenaline-inducing activities and gorgeous beaches, Costa Rica makes for tropical tour holidays packed with unforgettable moments. See monkeys, sloths and turtles, learn to surf, kayak through the jungle, cycle along the palm-fringed coast, and sip cocktails while enjoying the most spectacular sunsets.

Beach Couples Eco/ethical tourism Wildlife

SGD $11,000 pp

10 nights
Costa Rica with Kids

Costa Rica with Kids

Central Valley, Tortuguero, Arenal & Papagayo

Share an adventure with family on a luxury Costa Rica tour. Wander through diverse landscapes and take in wonderful wildlife, majestic volcanoes and beautiful beaches. Enjoy adventurous activities suitable for everyone, from lagoon boat trips to canopy walks, before finishing up with a splash of relaxation on the sun-kissed Pacific coast.

Adventure Wildlife Beach Eco/ethical tourism

SGD $7,400 pp

13 nights
Family Fun in Costa Rica

Family Fun in Costa Rica

San Jose, Pacuare, Osa Peninsula, Arenal & Papagayo

Explore the stunning natural diversity of Costa Rica. Sample the very best activities on this action-packed and fun-filled family adventure with an escorted tour across the jewel of Central America. Stay in jungle lodges inspired by Robinson Crusoe and go kayaking with dolphins, or try your hand at rafting, tubing and paddleboarding.

Adventure Wildlife Beach Eco/ethical tourism

SGD $12,600 pp

11 nights
Extraordinary Costa Rica

Extraordinary Costa Rica

Central Valley, Osa Peninsula, Arenal, Guanacaste

A luxury tour of Costa Rica is an amalgamation of thrilling activities, incredible scenery, tropical temperatures, unusual wildlife and gorgeous beaches. Spot monkeys and sloths as they peer at you from the treetops. When you're ready to recharge, savour delectable cocktails and enjoy dramatic sunsets at some of the country’s most exclusive...

Beach Couples

SGD $11,300 pp

12 nights
Ultimate Costa Rica

Ultimate Costa Rica

Central Valley, Arenal, Osa Peninsula & Manuel Antonio

Experience the very best that Costa Rica has to offer with this luxury tour. With verdant coffee plantations, active volcanoes, wildlife-rich jungles and adrenaline-fuelled activities, your stay is guaranteed to be unforgettable. To top it off, you'll enjoy effortlessly chic accommodation and authentic cooking experiences.

Eco/ethical tourism Wildlife Adventure

SGD $22,700 pp

1 - 5 of 5 Tour Ideas
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