Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond
Costa Rica

Diving and Snorkeling

By Patrick O’Donnell
Contributing Writer

An ideal, easy Costa Rica diving and snorkeling site. Those were the words that came to mind after I visited Cahuita National Park.Those were the words that came to mind after I visited Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica. I travel as much as I can and had been to Costa Rica twice before but had never spent much time on the Caribbean coast.

I keep coming back to this beautiful country because it’s just so easy to reach (it’s closer to the USA and Canada than people realize and I have always found affordable flights), has good infrastructure, and even after three trips, I still haven’t seen everything.

On this third, two-week trip to Costa Rica, I spent all of my time on the southern Caribbean coast: one week at Cahuita and one week around Puerto Viejo. Like most of the trips I take, my main goal was to do a lot of snorkeling and diving. Although most of the Caribbean coast in Costa Rica is not suitable for snorkeling and diving, a few excellent and easy sites south of Limon make up for this.

Snorkeling is easy at Cahuita National Park

I had read a lot about Cahuita National Park before this vacation to Costa Rica and was therefore eager to experience the coral reefs of this Marine National Park. It was established in 1970 to protect the biggest coral reef on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, was damaged by a big earthquake in 1992, and suffers from silting caused by deforestation.

With that in mind, I was prepared to see a lot of bleached coral but the damage was much less than I had expected. Since the coral reef is so close to shore, it’s sensitive and certainly has problems, but that didn’t stop me from easily viewing schools of brightly colored Angelfish, Rock Beauties, and Blue Parrot-Fish.

To snorkel on the reef, all I had to do was pay the entrance fee to Cahuita National Park ($10), and walk half an hour until I got to a great snorkeling spot. I didn’t have to take a boat and the fish were so close to shore that it was almost too easy (although I’m not complaining).

Diving tours at Cahuita National Park

I also went SCUBA diving in Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica. For this, I simply found an experienced and safe dive operator in the small town next to the national park and signed up for a tour. Since I have plenty of dive experience, I didn’t have to take any certification courses. It was nice to see that they offered that possibility, however, because I always wish that everyone could see what I experience under the water.

On my diving tour to Cahuita National Park, we took a short boat ride past my snorkeling spot out to the edge of the reef. The water was so clear and shallow that I could discern our dive objectives as soon as we carefully dropped anchor—two shipwrecks. Although no one knows for certain if these French and Spanish ships had been used by pirates, I couldn’t help but imagine swashbucklers manning the cannons that were still visible. The decks hosted schools of brilliant fish and a Nurse Shark made its home in the wrecked galley.

Cahuita Village

In addition to the beautiful coral reefs and snow white, sandy beaches at Cahuita National Park, I enjoyed my stay near the village. The relaxed Caribbean atmosphere was just what I needed for a vacation, it was a pleasure to feast every night on delicious Caribbean dishes, and the fact that I could walk to such an easy, beautiful snorkeling site was priceless.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
February 17, 2020

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