Cocos island is a renowned uninhabited island lies 550km (342miles) off Costa Rica's Pacific coast. This island was formed during a volcanic upheaval about two-and-a-half million years ago, a rugged landscape covered in tropical moist forest ecology, this World Heritage Site is the spectacularly beautiful crown jewel of Costa Rica's many National Parks.
Surrounded by deep waters with counter-currents, Cocos Island is admired by scuba divers for its populations of large marine species such as innumerable white tip reef sharks, schooling hammerheads, tiger sharks, dolphins, mantas and marbled rays, giant moray eels, sailfish, and of course the occasional whale shark and even humpback Whales. Other common encounters are large schools of jacks and tuna, silky sharks, silver tips, marlin, Creole fish, green turtles and octopus...etc. Which make this area a first class diving destination.
Cocos Island is also home to at least 27 endemic fish species including the exotic rosy-lipped batfish. The terrestrial life at Cocos also exhibits a high number of endemic species. The island is home to 70 of the 235 identified vascular plant species in the world, some 25 species of moss, 27 species of liverwort and 85 species of fungus. There are upwards of 87 bird species, including the famous Cocos Island cuckoo, finch and flycatcher. There are 362 species of insects, of which 64 are endemic. And two native reptiles are found only on the Island.
Cocos island receives an average of 7.5m (25 feet) of rainfall per year, resulting in a covering of lush green foliage. Waterfalls abound, of which there are up to 70 falls of varying sizes during the peak of the rainy season. This makes the climate in the island humid and tropical with an average annual temperature of 26°C (79.9 °F), there is always a slight chance of precipitation during any trip there, although lower from January through March and slightly lower during late September and October. The best diving season is from late June to November, one of our crazy friends/divers who went Cocos for 9 times in different season told us he thinks August - September has the largest populations of hammerheads and big action. Although during Jun to Oct has slightly less visibility, is actually the best time of the season to dive. This is due to the nutrient upwells that it causes which attract unbelievable large schools of hammerheads, other sharks and large rays.
As there is absolutely no overnight stays allowed on the island, the only way to dive there is by liveaboard. There are only few boats have permits to operate diving trips to the Cocos National Park, and all of these vessels depart for minimum 10-day long trips from Puntarenas on mainland Costa Rica. Guests should stay one night in San Jose before the trip departure date to ensure they do not miss departure. Cocos is a one and a half day sail from port, so guests should be prepared for lengthy open sea crossings.
You can have a look at our Dive and Cruise Cocos Trip Report and to get an idea of what diving is like here ;-)
Typical dive sites in Cocos Island
Alcyone : Depth: 27 - 36m
This legendary seamount is probably one of the most incredible dive sites in the world. No words can describe what you will see at Alcyone: hammerheads, white tips, black tips, whale sharks, marble rays, eagle rays, mobula rays, manta rays, turtles, yellow fin tuna, marlin or sailfish, wahoos, dolphins...etc. Just come and witness it for yourself.
Dirty Rock : Depth: 6 - 39m
This island is one of the main reasons why divers keep coming back to Cocos, the most spectacular rock formations where vast amounts of very diverse creatures generate the most dynamic dives one can imagine: Hammerheads, white tips, black tips, marble rays, eagle rays, mobula rays, jacks, turtles, dolphins, and whale sharks.
Manuelita : Depth: 18 - 39m
There are several cleaning stations around Manuelita. Manuelita is located on the northeast corner, a gradually descending slope, it contains huge boulders where divers can easily hide to watch the hammerheads be approached by cleaner fish. Most of the action take place between 18 to 40 meters. Here you can encounter countless Hammerheads, black tips, white tips, eagle rays, manta rays, yellow fin tunas, turtles, jacks, and whale sharks.
Manuelita Coral Garden (Bird Island, Chatham Bay) : Depth: 6 - 21m
This site is facing the calm waters of Chatham Bay, it's a well protected dive site with only little currents. These calm conditions support a beautiful shallow garden, a macro-photographers heaven. Where you can encounter Whitetips, marble rays, manta rays, eagle rays, turtles, black tips, garden eels and the most recent addition: Tigers Sharks!
Punta Maria : Depth: 24 - 36m
A seamount rise from a deep sandy area up to 27m on the main rock and with two pinnacles reaching up to 19.8m and 22.8m below the surface, which can only be visited when the current permits. It has a cleaning station for hammerheads as well as galapagos sharks.
Viking Rock : Depth: 15 - 39m
A small island on the northwest corner of Wafer Bay, where one can see both small creatures and large pelagic species, the southeast slope attracts schooling Hammerheads and sometimes even tiger sharks.
Big Dos Amigos : Depth: 18 - 36m
The largest rock on the exposed southern side of Cocos Island. There is an arch underwater, is a wonderful shelter for a great number of lobsters, yellow snappers, rainbow runners, big eye jacks and many colorful creatures. Bring your underwater lights as you would not want to miss any of this sites beautiful secrets.
Small Dos Amigos (Little Dos Amigos) :Depth: 18 - 36m
The southernmost part of the island, Dos Amigos Pequeno, is not always accessible during the rainy season due to the rough surge around this exposed site. When accessible it is well worth the visit because this is where the open sea current first reaches the island, can encounter exciting surprises such as Hammerheads, white tips, mobula rays, eagle rays, whale sharks, silkies, dolphins.
Bajo Dos Amigos : Depth: 27 - 39m
A seamount shaped like a king's crown, located off the southeast side of Cocos Island. It's the only place where black coral colonies can be watched at safe depths (30 - 39m), it is not an easy place to dive, due to the strong currents normally present on this site, liveaboards usually only visit here during the dry season.
Lobster Rock : Depth: 12 - 33m
On this finger-like rock, divers can easily approach large white tips lying on the bottom in great numbers. In the deep sandy area surrounding it, the elusive rosy-lipped batfish can be found between 27m and 37m.