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South Pacific dive sites

South Pacific dive sites

Dive among volcanic seamounts and ravines, 80-foot walls decorated with cup and head coral, sea fans. Damsel, pufferfish, king angel fish and eels duck, dive and dart, among the rocky edifice while whitetip reef sharks, sea turtles and stingrays make routine celebrity appearances for divers visiting the south Pacific.

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The south Pacific's waters are warm, with temperatures ranging from 78 to 84 degrees and visibility is phenomenal year-round, although the sea is particularly calm and clear from December through April; great for divers and snorkelers of all experience levels. 

Cano Island, long recognized as one of Costa Rica’s premier snorkeling and scuba diving sites, has recently moved into the spotlight as one of the world’s best diving spots. Just 12 miles offshore from Drake Bay on the northern tip of the Osa Peninsula, the landmass is both a biological and archaeological reserve. While the majority of the area's underwater formations are volcanic in origin, there are some sedimentary rock protrusions closer to Corcovado National Park. Among the rocky formations, gorges and coral, divers and snorkelers can encounter whitetip reef sharks, sea turtles, rays, eels and a large variety of tropical fish.

Visit July through November for a chance to see humpback, pilot sei and false killer whales, or join a dolphin watching tour and cruise off the coast looking for spotted and bottlenose dolphins.

General Information

  • Aquatic life: Spinner, bottlenose, and spotted dolphin, blackjack, snapper, whitetip reef shark, spotted eagle ray, scorpionfish, jack, grunt, barracuda, sea turtle, king angelfish, damselfish, moorish idol, surgeonfish, pufferfish, octopus and lobster. Whale season (humpback, pilot, sei and false killer whales) runs from December through March and July through November.
  • Average visibility: 30 to 100 feet. This varies depending on the site, but it is usually no less than 40 feet and ranges to just over 100 feet.
  • Best time of year: All year, but particularly from December through April.
  • Skill level: The majority of sites are suitable for divers of all levels, with the exceptions of Paradise and Devil’s Playground.
  • Surge/current: Currents range from calm to medium in strength, largely dependent upon the weather.
  • Thermoclines: Few thermoclines (steep temperature gradients that can be felt while descending through layers of water) are present.
  • Water temperature: 78-84 degrees
  • Wetsuit recommendation: Wetsuits (2 mm spring suit) are preferred year-round to protect against stings and scrapes, but not required.

Dive Sites
Cano Island (dive sites take 45 minutes to reach from Drake Bay)

  1. El Bajo del Diablo (Devil's Playground): Overall, this is the best place to view a little bit of everything – manta rays, colorful fish, sharks, eels and sea turtles. Skill level: intermediate. Depth: 20-80 feet; visibility: 30-90+ feet.
  2. Cueva del Tiburon (Shark Cave): An all-time Cano Island favorite, this cave is home to a number of whitetip reef sharks. The cave is too small to enter, but divers can still peek inside. Depth: 30-50 feet; visibility: 20-60+ feet.
  3. Los Arcos (The Arches): Natural rock structures form two gorgeous arches. Depth: 30-60 feet; visibility: 20-60+ feet.
  4. El Barco Hundido (Sunken Ship): This dive site was named for a ship that sank here but was later salvaged. Despite the lack of a wreck it is a gorgeous site, and divers can expect to see beautiful rock formations and lots of whitetip reef sharks. Depth: 30-60 feet; visibility: 15-50 feet.
  5. Coral Gardens at Sunken Ship: Here, adventurous divers will find Cano Island's most prolific soft and hard corals. Depth: 15-30 feet; visibility 20-60+ feet.
  6. Paraiso (Paradise): Large masses of barracuda, snapper, and grunt fish reside at Paraiso. A short distance away is 'the shark's lair,' where roughly 20 whitetip reef sharks frequently rest. Divers often experience strong currents. Skill level: intermediate. Depth: 65-70 feet; visibility: 20-60+ feet.
  7. La Ancla (The Anchor): This relaxing, shallow dive is great for viewing different species of eels, lobsters and rays (and an anchor). Depth: 60 feet; visibility: 15 feet.
  8. Campanario (Bell tower): Closer to Corcovado National Park than it is Cano Island, Campanario is known for its beautiful hard and soft corals, prolific fish species and exciting tunnels. Depth: 25-45 feet.