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Your Guide to Diving in Caño Island

Diving in Costa Rica's Reserva Biológica

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...Highlights: whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, shark action, dolphins, manta rays, whales, turtles, schooling fish & big pelagics...
...Diving environment: healthy reefs, beginner and advanced divers, non diving activities, off the beaten track...

Much has been written about the most renowned scuba diving destination in Costa Rica, Cocos Island, however liveaboard divers visiting 'the rich coast' can also dive El Caño Island. The diving here is very different from Cocos, but is of such quality as to be considered world-class in its own right. This amazing marine biological reserve of Isla del Caño lies a mere 10 miles (16 km) offshore from the Osa Peninsula. The reserve’s waters showcase gorgeous coral reefs with good visibility.

Scuba diving at Caño Island - photo courtesy of WayneWorks Marine
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On any given day scuba divers are treated to large schools of tropical fish, octopus, barracuda, amberjacks, wahoo, various rays, sea turtles, and maybe even marlin and dolphins. Shark species commonly seen here include white tipped reef sharks, bull sharks, whale sharks, and occasionally hammerheads. Even whales are regularly spotted around Caño Island, including humpback, pilot, sei and false killer whales.

The 740 acre (300 hectare) island is of archaeological importance to Costa Rica as a burial ground dating to the pre-Columbian era. Fauna is somewhat scarce on the island, nonetheless it is on the migratory passage for birds that fly to warmer climates from the northern hemisphere during the winter. Bird watchers will not be disappointed. The island does hold a mystery…. There are perfectly round stone, hand carved spheres found on Caño; no one knows who created them or what their purpose was.

Dive Site Descriptions

Bajo del Diablo

Considered by many to be the best dive site in this area of Costa Rica. Also known as Devil’s Pinnacle, this is a versatile spot, offering up to 3 completely different dives. This incredible site covers a vast area and has rock formations creating peaks and channels, with depths between 20 - 150 ft (6 - 45m). Diving Bajo del Diablo means immersing yourself among schools of barracuda, huge snappers, oceanic manta rays, white tips and even pilot whales.

Bajo del Diablo Deep

This is the furthest into the ocean from Caño Island, at depths of 6 - 115 ft (20 - 35m), this is where the ‘big boys’ play. Blacktip sharks, hammerhead sharks, white tips and huge nurse sharks frequent this site that is considered among the finest for lovers of big animal encounters.
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How to Dive Caño

The island is best visitied on reputable Costa Rica liveaboards to maximize dive opportunities at a variety of sites in the national park as well as those on the periphery. Our recommended liveaboards are the sister yachts operated by the well-established Aggressor fleet. They visit between January and June. Okeanos Aggressor I and Okeanos Aggressor II offer 7 night liveaboard diving tours that include 6 days of diving. All dives are made from tenders. Aggressor provide all scuba divers with personal EPIRBs and have an onboard defibrillator. These added safety measures give you an additional sense of security when you dive remote Caño with Aggressor liveaboards.

In addition to the 20 dives offered during the cruise (including 3 night dives), one of the following land tours are included in the itinerary: Corcovado National Park (San Pedrillo Station or Sirena Station), Sierpe River Mangroves, Caño Island or Drake's Bay Hiking Tour.

The Diving Season

Costa Rica is located between 8-12 degrees north of the Equator and has a tropical climate year round. The liveaboard diving season at El Caño Island is relatively short, lasting only 6 months (from January through June) each year. This occurs during the ‘summer’ period which is considered to be more dry than the rest of the year.

The tropical water temperatures range between 72 to 82°F (22-28°C), and you may experience cooler thermoclines. For a comfortable dive, 3-5 mm wetsuits are recommended.

For further reading on the climate in the south pacific coastal region of Costa Rica, visit the Costa Rica Tourism BoardOpens in a new window.

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Where is Caño and How Do I Get There?

Okeanos I and Okeanos II depart from Punta Arenas (about a 2 hour journey from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica). You will spend the night prior to departure in San Jose (preferably at one of the operator recommended hotels) in order to make the complimentary, air-conditioned bus transfer to Punta Arenas. Once you have boarded your liveaboard, the cruise the island will take approximately 12 hours.

Review our map below of Caño Island's host country, Costa Rica:

Map of Costa Rica (click to enlarge in a new window)

Reef Summary

Depth: 16 - 100ft (5 - 30m)
Visibility: 50 - 100ft (15 - 30m)
Currents: Gentle to moderate
Surface conditions: Generally calm but can be choppy
Water temperature: 72 - 82°F (22 - 28°C)
Experience level: Beginner - intermediate
Number of dive sites: ~11
Distance: 108 miles (175 km) from Punta Arenas, 10 miles (16 km) offshore from the Osa Peninsula
Recommended length of stay: 8 days

Useful References

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