Fishing in Costa Rica is no joke. Both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica boasts excellent fishing and many locals still make their living off of fishing. Costa Rica offers all types: sport fishing, freshwater fishing and inshore fishing. The sport fishing is so good that the country receives more than 5 Grand Slams each year during tournaments!
Here is our guide on fishing in Costa Rica so you can plan your trip accordingly if you want to take a fishing trip.
Best Fishing in Costa Rica: Places
Here is a map of the best places to fish in Costa Rica.
Gulf of Papagayo
The Gulf of Papagayo is only 30 minutes from Liberia International Airport,, making it the most easily accessible fishing spot for visitors. You can take an inshore or deep sea fishing trip to catch mahi-mahi, tuna, sailfish and more. The Papagayo Marina is in Culebra Bay and fits up to 180 boats!
Tamarindo and Flamingo
Drake Bay, Puerto Jimenez, Zancudo and Golfito
All three places are great fishing destinations. Zancudo is particularly good for marlin and sailfish. Zancudo Lodge puts together great in and offshore fishing.
Quepos, the main town near Manuel Antonio has a large marina called Marina Pez Vela and is a great place for sailfish.
Herrdura is home to the Los Suenos Marina which holds up to 200 boats. Ideal for those who want to fish in style as it caters the needs of luxury travelers. Good place for marlin and sailfish. This is where you’ll depart from if you’re staying in Jaco.
The Caribbean coasts offers different types of fish than the Pacific. You can catch species such as Snook, Tarpon, Spanish mackerel, barracuda, king fish tripletail and mahi-mahi.
North Caribbean (Parismina)
Rio Parismina is one of the best for giant tarpoon and snook, a favorite for fly fishermen.
Samara offers decent deep sea fishing.
Both places offer good fishing, particularly local fishing since they are small fishing towns.
Costa Rica Fishing Calendar
Here are the best times of year for certain fish in various parts of the country.
Northern Pacific (Tamarindo/Flamingo/Gulf of Papagayo)
- Marlin: Peak season is November – March.
- Sailfish: Peak season is March – August.
- Tuna: Peak season is August – October.
- Mahi-mahi: May – October.
- Roosterfish: Peak season is November – March.
- Wahoo: May – August
Central Pacific (Jaco/Quepos/Herradura/Puntarenas)
- Marlin: September – November.
- Sailfish: December – April.
- Tuna: Peak season is June – September.
- Mahi-mahi: Peak season is May.
- Roosterfish: June – September.
Southern Pacific (Drake Bay/Puerto Jimenez/Zancudo/Golfito/Golfo Dulce)
- Marlin: August – December.
- Sailfish: December – March.
- Tuna: Year round.
- Mahi-mahi: May – October.
- Roosterfish: Year round.
- Wahoo: Peak season is May – July.
- Tarpon: Peak season is December – May.
- Snook: March – May season, peak season is September – November.
- Fat Snook: November – January.
- Atlantic Sailfish: Year round.
- Wahoo: Year round.
- Tripletail: Year round.
Deep Sea Fishing in Costa Rica
Bill fish are plentiful in Costa Rica and you can catch marlin, sailfish, roosterfish and more on a deep sea fishing trip. The most popular places to go deep sea fishing in Costa Rica is Flamingo, Herradura, Quepos, Golfo Dulce/Golfito, Drake Bay and Gulf of Papagayo.
Half day sport fishing charters starts at $800 and full day can go over $2600. These boats are equipped with bathrooms, include all fishing gear and equipment and crew.
You can still catch plenty of fish on an inshore fishing trip. Wahoo, snappers, grouper, mahi-mahi and tuna are just a few fish that roam around closer to shore. Some of the best places to go inshore fishing in Costa Rica are Gulf of Papagayo, Caribbean, Quepos, Samara and Tamarindo.
Half day inshore fishing charters start at $400 and full days can go up to $1000. For inshore fishing, you can keep the fish you catch for the most part. We’ve caught mahi mahi, tuna and snapper before and took them all home to eat which was awesome!
If you’d like to try inshore fishing but the local way, you can hire a panga instead of booking through a big company. Pangas are small (15-22) foot outboard hull boats with center consoles.
It’s pretty much a small boat that locals use for inshore fishing and it’s a very nice way to experience local artisan fishing. Fishing companies don’t use these but if you go to any fishing village like Coco, Quepos, Samara, Tamarindo, etc. you can ask the locals to see if anyone offers fishing trips with their panga.
Half and full day trips run around $200-500, much cheaper than other charters since the boats aren’t big and don’t have bathrooms. However, the price should include fishing equipment and the fishing license.
The first time we went fishing on a panga wasn’t very good. We caught one small snapper and that was it! The second time was a bit better and more fun since we had more people and an actual fishing captain (first time was with a friend who had a boat for fun).
Yeison used to go kayak fishing in Playas del Coco which you can read more in the link.
You will still see locals shore fishing during certain times of the year and places. When we used to live in Playas del Coco, we saw a lot of locals shore fishing with just a line and hook! Although we never had any luck, we have seen some local fishermen catch big snappers right from shore!
It does need to be during the right time of year when the fish are close to shore however. It’s not good all year round and it’s not as plentiful as it used to be.
You can also try your hand at freshwater such as lake and river fishing in Costa Rica. There are a handful of rivers and a few lakes where freshwater fishing in Costa Rica is very good. Lake Arenal, Coto Lake, Cano Negro Lagoon and Savegre River are a few of the best places.
You can catch rainbow troust, bass, mojarra, bluegill and many other types of freshwater fish. Some hotels even offer these activities such as the Springs Resort & Spa (they have their own trout lake and river).
Fly Fishing in Costa Rica
Surprisingly, fly fishing is quite good. It’s not as popular as ocean fishing but there is a company that specializes in fly fishing trips, Fly Fish in Costa Rica. They put together special itineraries and all inclusive Costa Rica fishing packages!
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If you plan to go fishing in Gulf of Papagayo (Ocotal/Coco/Hermosa/Panama) or Tamarindo/Conchal/Flamingo, please feel free to contact us for recommendations! We also have a friend who runs inshore fishing, surfing and snorkeling trips from Coco.