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Dive Costa Rica

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Map of Costa Rica Dive

Costa Rica ("rich coast" in Spanish) lies between Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. The country is often referred to as the Switzerland of Central America due to it's comfortable lifestyle, peaceful democracy and it's compelling natural beauty.

Costa Rica is one of the world's prime eco-tourism destinations being one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. The nation shelters 5% of the world's existing biodiversity. Its wide range of habitats, ranging from rainforests and beaches to volcanoes and mangrove swamps, support a fascinating variety of wildlife, with over 25% of its habitats now protected by a national conservation system.

Tourism revenue is one of the reasons Costa Ricans – or Ticos, as they are generally known – now enjoy the highest rate of literacy, health care, education and life expectancy in the Central American isthmus.

Costa Rica's richness also lies on the cultural diversity of the people. The country's population is largely of Spanish origin, although there is a substantial community of English-speaking Costa Ricans of African origin around the Caribbean coast, along with 65,000 or so indigenous peoples. People of Asian ascendance, as well as people from the American continent have interacted among them, enriching the cultural backgrounds in the process.

A visit to Costa Rica will have you experiencing "la pura vida" - the pure life or real living!

For by far the best diving in Costa Rica, head out to the Cocos Island Marine Park located over 500km southwest of the mainland.

  • Geographical Information

  • The Republic of Costa Rica covers a total area of 51,100 square kilometres. It consists of a mountainous backbone ranging from approximately 1,000 to 2,000 metres above sea level, rising to its highest point at 3,819 metres at the summit of Cerro Chirripó. The Guanacaste Mountain Range, Central Mountain Range, and Talamanca Mountain Range are the main mountain ranges extending the entire length of the country. There are several active volcanoes and many National Parks. The country has 1,290 kilometres of low-lying coastline in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as a number of rivers, streams and waterfalls.

    San Jose is the nation's capital and is the main gateway for international flight arrivals and departures. Nowhere in the country is more than a 9 hour drive from San Jose. The surrounding Valle Central is the country's agricultural heartland and coffee-growing region. It is home to several of Costa Rica's finest volcanoes including the steaming crater of Volcán Poás and the largely dormant Volcán Irazú with its strange lunar landscape above the regional capital of Cartago.

    The broad alluvial plains of the Zona Norte features the active Volcán Arenal and tourist town of La Fortuna, and the rich jungles of the Sarapiquí region with its dense rainforest harbouring monkeys, poison-dart frogs and countless species of bird, including the endangered great green macaw. The seasonal wetlands of the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Caño Negro, by the border with Nicaragua, provide a haven for water birds and groups of lounging caiman.

    The rugged Zona Sur is home to Cerro Chirripó, the highest point in the country, and further south on the Osa Peninsula is Parque Nacional Corcovado, protecting the last significant area of tropical wetland forest on the Pacific coast of the isthmus; a haven for serious hikers seeking out some of Costa Rica's more exotic wildlife.

    The cattle-ranching province of Guanacaste in the northwest is often called "the home of Costa Rican folklore". Cowboy culture dominates here - rodeos and large cattle haciendas dot the hot, baked earthed surrounding the regional capital of Liberia. This is the driest region of Costa Rica, also featuring some of the most spectacular beaches along the Pacific Coast. Sámara and Nosara on the Nicoya Peninsula are a photographers delight without the crowds of other areas.

    Limón Province, on the Caribbean coast, is the complete opposite to the more traditional ladino Guanacaste. Home to the descendants of the Afro-Caribbeans who came to Costa Rica at the end of the 19th century to work on the San José–Limón railroad, their language (Creole English), Protestantism and West Indian traditions have been kept to this day. Parque Nacional Tortuguero is home to three species of marine turtles that lay their eggs on its beaches each year.

    Puntarenas (known as the Pearl of the Pacific) is the largest province of Costa Rica. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is the country's number-one tourist attraction. Further down the coast is popular Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, with its impressive white sand beaches, blue Pacific waters and hundreds of hectares of rainforest where spider monkeys still live; plus the equally pretty but more surf-oriented beach towns of Montezuma and Santa Teresa/Mal País on the southern Nicoya Peninsula.

  • Costa Rica Activities

    There is much to draw the visitor to Costa Rica - wildlife such as howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, the resplendent quetzal and toucans can be spotted with the naked eye. Humpback Whales pass Costa Rica on their annual migration. Leatherback and green turtles nest on the beach. Hiking and wildlife spotting in the cloud forest of Monteverde is a popular activity. You can explore the active Arenal Volcano or choose to relax by one of the many beaches. Both the Pacific and Caribbean coastlines offer fishing, surfing, diving and snorkelling opportunities and for adrenaline junkies there is zip lining over the forest canopy, river kayaking and white water rafting.

  • When to Travel to Costa Rica

    Costa Rica is located 8-12 degrees north of the equator and has a tropical climate with many micro climates throughout the country - the highlands are chilly, the cloud forest is misty and cool, San José (the capital) and the Central Valley have a never ending spring climate, and both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts are hot year-round, with more humidity on the Caribbean side. The “drier”, or summer, season lasts from December to April whilst the rainy, or winter, season lasts from May to November. During the rainy season, rivers can start to swell and dirt roads and tracks can get muddy, making it more difficult to travel. Visitors should consider the focus of their holiday when deciding when to travel as, for example, prime wildlife and surf seasons will vary.

  • Scuba Diving in Costa Rica

    There are many islands, reefs, caves and rocks off the coast of Costa Rica that provide areas to explore. However, visibility will vary with the season and location. Heavy rainfall causes the rivers to swell and muddy water then flows along the coastline and well offshore.

    Most of the Caribbean reefs have been destroyed by the banana plantations and their run off. On the Pacific side, Isla del Caño, Bat Island, and the Catalina Islands offer the best diving options. Here you can spot manta rays, moray eels, white tipped reef sharks, a large number of smaller reef and coral species.

    During the greater part of the year, water temperatures range between 26ºC to 28ºC. In extreme conditions caused by currents or thermocline, the temperature may drop to 19ºC.

    For the ultimate in a Costa Rican dive experience, join a dive liveaboard charter to the remote Isla del Coco located nearly 550 kilometres off the Pacific Coast. Here you will find the best scuba diving that Costa Rica has to offer, famous for it's big fish action and healthy and abundant marine life.

Guide to Costa Rica

  • General Details
  • Entry & Visa Requirements
  • Medical & Health Requirements
  • Currency
  • Baggage
  • Duty Free
  • Weather
  • Clothing
  • Electricity
  • Banking
  • Language
  • Religion
  • Water
  • Shopping
  • Tipping
  • Diving
  • Departure Tax

General Details

Costa Rica is located in Central America between the countries of Nicaragua and Panama. The Pacific Ocean lies to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east.
The international country code for Costa Rica is +506. 
Costa Rica is 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Entry and Visa Requirements

(subject to change)
Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, United Kingdom are amongst those who can travel to Costa Rica without a visa for a period of up to 90 days. Check with your closest Costa Rican Consulate for current entry requirements.

Medical and Health Requirements

Costa Rica has some of the best health care in Latin America. Recompression chamber locations include San Jose, Golfito,  and Puntarenas. Costa Rica has some malaria and dengue fever. Ensure you have had vaccinations for Hep A, Hep B, typhoid and rabies. Protection from mosquito and sand fly bites is essential to avoid insect borne diseases and infections. Some medications can make you sun sensitive, so take extra care ensure that skin is protected from sun burn. Please check with your physician for the best precautions to be taken. (For further details contact Travel Vax on 1300 360 164).

Currency

The currency of Costa Rica is the Colon. In most tourist towns, larger stores and restaurants accept US dollars. Credit cards are widely accepted but expect a transaction fee. 
1 AUD =  approximately 375 Colones (May 2016) 

Baggage (International flights Ex Australia)

United Airlines: 1 bag 23kg. 2nd bag for a fee of US $100.
Qantas: 2 pieces (max. 23kg per piece).
Delta Airlines:  2 pieces (max. 23kg per piece). (Subject to change without notice)  

Duty Free

Alcohol: 3 litres of wine or liquor. Tobacco: 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 500 grams of tobacco. A reasonable amount of perfume for personal use.

Weather

Costa Rica has a tropical climate with many micro-climates throughout the country. The “drier”, or summer, season lasts from December to April whilst the rainy, or winter, season lasts from May to November. It is always hot on the coast but the highlands can be cool.

Clothing

Cover yourself decently when visiting cities. Swimming trunks, bikinis and other beachwear are acceptable at coastal resorts. Bring long pants and long sleeved shirts for protection against mosquito and sand fly bites. Warmer clothes are required if visiting the highlands. Sun protection is absolutely essential.

Electricity

Costa Rica uses 120-volt AC at 60 hertz cycles. Plugs are type A and B, same as USA and Canada. Some electrical outlets are still the 2 prong type so bring a converter. (For further details refer to  http://www.iec.ch/worldplugs/).

Banking

Banks will change US dollars and some will change Euros and British Pounds. USD travelers cheques can be cashed with a commission of 1-3%. ATM’s are becoming increasingly common. Banking hours are Monday – Friday 9am to 3:30pm. Lines can be long. 

Language

The official and dominant language of Costa Rica is Spanish. There are at least 5 local indigenous languages also spoken. Most Costa Ricans in the tourism industry speak conversational English.  

Religion

The national religion is Catholicism. Approx. 90% of the population is Roman Catholic, the remainder being mostly Protestant. Every village, no matter how small, has a church facing east, on the west side of the central plaza, and its own patron saint’s day, which is usually celebrated with secular fervor.

Water

It is safe to drink the tap water in most of Costa Rica. In some remote areas, you will see warning signs of “Agua No Potable.” In the tropics it is important to drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids to avoid dehydration.

Shopping

Retail stores tend to be open from 9-10 am to 6-7 pm Monday to Saturday. Many shops and businesses close between 12-2 pm for siesta.

Tipping

Most restaurants include 10% service in the bill. Tip the bellhop/porter (US$1 to US$3 per service) and the housekeeper (US$1 to US$2 per day) in top-end hotels, less in budget places. On guided tours, tip the guide US$1 to US$10 per person per day. Tip the tour driver about half of what you tip the guide. Tips should depend upon quality of service. Taxi drivers are not normally tipped, unless some special service is provided.

Diving

Ensure that all equipment is serviced and in working order prior to departure. You will need to bring a DIN converter for DIN regulators.  3-5mm wetsuits are recommended (check season). Dive operators supply tanks, weight belts and dive guide services. There will be an extra charge if equipment hire is required.

Departure Tax

A local tax of US$28 for all outbound passengers is payable at the airport.

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