If you’re staying in the north part of the Guanacaste province around Flamingo, Conchal, Tamarindo, Grande, Potrero, Las Catalinas or Brasilito, one of our favorite things to do is scuba diving at Islas Santa Catalina (Catalinas Islands).
These set of islands are just a 30 minute boat ride from the Flamingo marina and offer an incredible experience to see marine wildlife. There are several ways to visit these islands whether you go snorkeling at Catalinas Islands or scuba diving at the Catalinas Islands.
Plan your trip to the Catalinas Islands with our guide!
Islas Santa Catalina, map
The Catalinas Islands are in the Guanacaste province off the Pacific coast.
Las Catalinas, Costa Rica Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
I have been to the Catalinas Islands five times, all for scuba diving in Costa Rica. Each time has been an excellent experience with tons of wildlife. Additionally, it’s only a 30 minute boat ride from the Flamingo marina making it one of the best scuba diving sites in Costa Rica! It’s also one of our most recommended things to do in Guanacaste for the ultimate beach vacation.
At the Catalinas Islands, it’s common to see manta rays, turtles, whitetip reef sharks, nudibranchs, octupus, eels, sea stars, urchins and tons of more wildlife. On my first dive to the Catalinas Islands in August, we saw dolphins and humpback whales breaching on the boat ride there!
Below are some photos of my Catalinas Island scuba dives.
You can also snorkel at the Catalinas Islands. If you don’t have your scuba diving certification, scuba diving shops also offer a “discovery dive” specifically for those without a certification.
Best Time to Go Scuba Diving Catalinas Islands, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s tropical climate allows for year round scuba diving at Catalinas Island. When I went in August, I was fine with a 3 mm wetsuit but in September, I wore 6 mm. I had on two 3 mm wetsuits, I felt like a penguin! But it was so worth it as I was warm.
There are some times of year when the water temperatures are colder than average such as February. However, the trade off is that it’s the best time for close encounters with the big oceanic manta rays (January to March). The best visability is September through March but visibility is fairly good year round at the Catalinas Islands.
Las Catalinas Islands Marine Wildlife
At the Catalinas Islands, you can see octupuses, nudibranchs, rays, eels, turtles, sea stars, sea urchins, giant clams, puffer fish, angelfish, parrot fish and white tip reef sharks. I saw white tip reef sharks 3 out of 5 of my dives.
Las Catalinas Islands Dive Sites
I dove at the following Catalinas Island dive sites: Punta Norte, Sombrero, Clasico and Punta Sur.
How to Book a Trip
You can do a Catalinas Islands scuba diving or snorkeling trip from Flamingo, Potrero, Brasilito, Tamarindo, Grande, Avellanas, Las Catalinas and Conchal. You don’t have to have your diving certification in Costa Rica, you can do a “discovery dive” which is specifically for those who aren’t certified.
There are also companies that go from Playas del Coco, but in Coco you have many other diving spots too.
If you are interested in booking a Catalinas Islands scuba diving or snorkeling trip from the Tamarindo/Flamingo area, please contact us. We’ll be happy to help you arrange it with the company I went with. They also offer private boat charters and can do a combination of snorkeling and scuba diving. Their boat is very nice with a bathroom and can comfortably hold groups of 25 people, perfect for a private boat charter.
Catalinas Islands, Costa Rica Scuba Diving Video
I made a just for fun short video of my first dive at Catalinas Islands. I saw the most wildlife during this dive.
We hope that you can experience the magic of Catalinas Islands on a scuba dive or snorkel trip!