Diving in Costa Rica
Covering only .03% of the surface of the planet, Costa Rica has approximately 6% of the world's biodiversity and much of that can be seen beneath the seas. Seahorses, frogfish, sea turtles, giant schools of fish, and white-tip reef sharks are just a few of the exciting creatures that you are likely to encounter. But the real draw to diving in these cooler, nutrient-rich waters is the opportunity to see pelagics: schooling rays (golden cow nose, mantas, and spotted eagle), spinner dolphins, humpback whales, pilot whales and whale sharks. There are over 20 local dive sites around the Gulfo de Papagayo within a 30 minute boat ride from shore. However, for advanced divers, Bat and Catalina Islands are “must-dives.” These islands are approx. 1-2 hours by boat, but the chances of seeing “The Big Boys” - bull sharks, white-tip sharks, schools of cow-nosed rays and huge schools of horse-eye jacks are much greater. In addition, there have been sightings of schools of over 50 manta rays with 14-20 foot wingspans.
Average visibility ranges from 30 feet to 50 feet with the possibility of up to 80 feet. Dives are among volcanic rock formations and rock pinnacles. There is very little hard coral, although you will see black coral, soft coral and orange cup coral (opens up at night). Water temperature from mid-May to mid-December is generally from 75°-78° Fahrenheit at depth. From mid-December to mid-April, water temperatures vary from day to day, with thermo clines causing temperatures to dip to 70° at so make sure you bring appropriate exposure protection. Check the current weather in Costa Rica here.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Citizens of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and most European nations may visit Costa Rica for a maximum of 90 days. No visa is necessary, but you must have a valid passport, which you should carry with you at all times while you're in Costa Rica. Check the entry/exit requirements here.
Before traveling you should always check with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Culture and Customs
There are several Carnivals: San Jose on December 25th, Limon Carnival in October and Puntarenas in February.
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
The standard in Costa Rica is the same as in the United States: 110 volts AC (60 cycles). However, three-pronged outlets can be scarce, so it's helpful to bring along an adapter.
Costa Rica has an excellent phone system, with a dial tone similar to that heard in the United States. Find out international dialing code information here.
Internet cafes are gaining popularity and can be found all over San José and at most major tourist destinations in Costa Rica. Many hotels either have their own Internet cafe or allow guests to send and receive e-mail.
Although the water in San José is generally safe to drink, water quality varies outside the city. It would be best to drink bottled water and avoid ice.
Language & Currency
Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica. However, in most tourist areas, you'll be surprised by how well Costa Ricans speak English. The Costa Rican currency is called the “colon”. US dollars and major credit cards are widely accepted. Check the current exchange rate here.
Costa Rica is on Central Standard Time (same as Chicago and St. Louis), 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Costa Rica does not use daylight saving time, so the time difference is an additional hour April through October.
History, Art, and Culture
Costa Rican culture is in many ways a reflection of its racial diversity. The predominant influence has long been European, which is reflected in everything from the official language -- Spanish -- to the architecture of the country’s churches and other historic buildings. The indigenous influence is less visible, but can be found in everything from the tortillas that make part of a typical Costa Rican meal, to the handmade ceramics sold at roadside stands.
An important aspect of Costa Rica’s cultural legacy is their love for peace and democracy. The Ticos like to stand out that their nation is the exception in Latin America, where military dictatorships have long dominated politics.
They take pride in having more than one hundred years of democratic tradition, and almost half a century without an army. The army was abolished in 1948, and the money the country saves by not expending in military issues is invested in improving the Costa Ricans’ standard of living. The literacy rate is high, as are medical standards and facilities. When former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias Sánchez was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating a peace settlement in Central America in 1987, Costa Rica was able to claim credit for exporting a bit of its own political stability to the rest of the region. Read more about Costa Rica culture here.
Location and Size
Costa Rica is located in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua (to the north) and Panama (to the south). Costa Rica encompasses a total of 31,752 square miles (51,100 square kilometers) - slightly smaller than West Virginia. The highest point is Cerro Chirripo at 12,532 feet (3,810 meters).