San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Two Oceans of Fish Thrill Divers in Costa Rica

Two oceans of fish is a lot of fish, and two oceans are what we have here in Costa Rica. Divers can do the Caribbean, Pacific or both, and both together mean you will see a lot of different kinds of marine life. You can swim with hundreds of different species of fish, many as colorful as the most fantastic birds of the rain forest. You just need to put on a mask and take a look beneath the surface to start checking off your lifetime fish list.

Here are a few of my favorites from each coast.


The Pacific’s productivity provides big fish in big numbers. There is a lot of meat swimming in these waters. On the Caribbean, barracudas are normally spotted one at time, while on the Pacific, divers swim with them by the hundreds. The giant schools often darken the water like clouds passing overhead on a sunny day. The Pacific barracuda, also known as the pelican barracuda, is very interactive.

If you are free-diving and hold your breath and swim down to five or 10 meters, these barracudas may approach and swim a speedy, tight circle around and above you.

Another favorite of mine and many other divers in Costa Rica is the Pacific whitetip shark. Though swimming with dolphins is now illegal in Costa Rica, for now you can still swim with sharks. Whitetips swim with divers at most Pacific dive sites. Their classic shark looks, sharp teeth and all, always thrill.

They are not very dangerous, though they often become so when spoken about during after-dive stories.


The Caribbean’s diversity of small, colorful fish complements the Pacific’s productivity of big stuff. The colors found on Caribbean fish are sometimes hard to believe. The queen angelfish shines like a neon sign. When this fish appears, you can often hear people ooh and ah out loud into their snorkels or scuba regulators.

Another of my Caribbean favorites provokes exclamations and excitement from most divers: the juvenile yellow-tailed damselfish. This deep electric-blue fish with blue spots has a transparent tail when young.As it grows, it slowly loses its distinctive body color and gains a yellow tail. This fish reminds me of the blue morpho butterfly of the forests as it splashes blue around the reef. In Manzanillo, on the southern Caribbean coast, we call it the disco fish.

Climate change keeps a-changing. To the surprise of many, diving at the beginning of November was excellent all over the country. At the time of this writing, a massive weather system producing big wind and rain had stopped diving on the Caribbean, but that will likely have changed by the time you read this.


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