Cocos Island National Park: Costa Rica

Underwater heaven

The Skinny
Cocos Island is a slab of rock that rears from the Pacific as part of a chain of volcanic ridges, mostly submarine, that stretch between Cocos and the Galapagos to the south. Waterfalls, fed by abundant rainfall, tumble from the 300-foot cliffs that fringe the island. It is now the world's second-largest uninhabited island, but once served as a nineteenth-century prison. Cocos is also allegedly home to pirate booty, although today's gold diggers tend to be poachers hunting for black coral and shark fins.

Cocos Island National Park is considered by many as the sweetest diving spot on the planet, with myriad species on view—sharks, rays, and dolphins to name but a few. Purely for the intrepid (such as Jacques Cousteau, who shot a famous underwater special there), the island lies approximately 350 miles off Costa Rica's Pacific Coast, midway to the Galapagos Islands and accessible by a lengthy 32-hour boat ride. The trip requires that you be an experienced diver, based on the swiftly changing currents, deep drop-offs, and large shark populations. Dive packages operate from the mainland, ranging from the ultra-swanky Okeanos, complete with on-board photo lab, to the functional, less glamorous Undersea Hunter.

The Short
When to Go: June through August (it may be wet, but weaker winds will keep those swells down).
Other activities: As access to the island is restricted and you've lurched on a boat for 32 hours, you'd better be there for the diving.
Farther afield: Take a combo trip on the Okeanos, journeying on to the Galapagos after Cocos.
Best not to:

  • Leave it to the last minute, there's a two-year wait list for the Okeanos.
  • Forget your wallet—this trip is not for the budget traveler.

Published: 22 Aug 2002 | Last Updated: 18 Aug 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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