Cocos Island Dive Sites
Scuba diving in Costa Rica includes the fantastic Cocos Island, which is in the top ten dive destinations in the world. A liveaboard cruise reaches this shark diving destination.
Cocos Island dive sites are some of the best in the world. The National Marine Park that protects this island is sometimes called the Little Galapagos. The comparison is due to its diversity and marine life resulting from the climate and position.
At 550km from the Costa Rican mainland, it is only reachable by a liveaboard cruise. They offer some of the best shark dives in the world with encounters with many varieties of sharks are guaranteed here. Divers can expect to see in the correct season whale sharks, Galapagos and silky sharks. During one of the scheduled night dives, hundreds of reef sharks gather in the one location.
The Costa Rica diving along the coast and especially the Cocos Island dive sites have nutrient-rich deep water. Thus attracting a diverse pelagic life making it a world class dive destination in the blue open Pacific ocean. Hundreds of hammerheads school here along with manta rays, whale sharks and reef sharks making it a must for any shark lover.
An unusual experience for guests on a Cocos liveaboard can be to join one of the deep water submarines. Explore depths beyond recreational diving of over 500m and the extraordinary marine life on the deep seamounts found at Cocos Island. Species are still being discovered in this incredible environment that can be a once in a lifetime experience.
Take a look at the Liveaboard Cruise options below.
Cocos Island Dive Sites - 4 LIVEABOARDS
Okeanos Aggressor II Liveaboard in the Cocos
The luxurious Cocos Island liveaboard, the Okeanos Aggressor I in Costa Rica.Book Now
Okeanos Aggressor I Liveaboard in the Cocos
Scuba diving in Costa Rica and the Cocos islands from the liveaboard Okeanos Aggressor.Book Now
This dive site is located 1.5 km from shore and is a seamount that is the best place to see schooling hammerheads around the island. The top of the site is at 25m and has a permanent descent line to use in currents then find an area to wait for the hammerheads to arrive in their hundreds usually swimming below the thermocline. Other pelagic here are mobula, manta, marble and eagle rays, Galapagos, white tip, black tip reef, silky and oceanic black tip sharks. There are often whale sharks seen here giving this site not only huge numbers but a great variety of shark life to see.
The reef itself has a lot of life if you look away from the blue water with mating octopus and the strange mottled soapfish.
On the safety stop you are likely to have schools of jacks and the yellowfin tuna for company.
Dirty Rock gets its name from the appearance of the site as you arrive, where the brown island in the north is covered in seabird droppings. This does not detract from it being one of the most popular dives around the island due to the large population of scalloped hammerhead sharks at around 25m of depth.
The nutrient-rich water also brings in white tips, black tips, marble rays, eagle rays, mobula rays, jacks, turtles, dolphins, and whale sharks.
To maximise time with hammerheads divers should stay close to the rocks remaining still and calm for the sharks to come towards the rock, the hammerheads and marble rays will then come around, above and below.
To the west is a pinnacle with a cave full of lobsters and a turtles and eagle ray cleaning station. The area between these forms a vast canyon with schools of silver snapper and marble rays.
Large shoals of bigeye jacks, bluefin trevally, tuna and blacktip reef sharks will circle the boulders, and whale sharks have been spotted here too.
Safety stops are often completed with turtles and bottlenose dolphins.
Punta Maria is a seamount with at 28m depth that has two pinnacles that can be dived when currents allow. There is a cleaning station for Galapagos and hammerhead sharks.
It is 500m from the main island and has a permanent mooring line for the decent where divers look over the rocks to the deep water waiting to glimpse the sharks, Galapagos sharks can reach 3.5m and found alone or in groups feeding on octopus and fish.
Blue striped snapper, rainbow wrasse, grunts and other fish life are close to the rock formation with Jacks and whitetip reef sharks in the blue.
The occasional Manta Ray will also appear to use the cleaning station.
West Cocos Island
Dos Amigos, Grande and Pequeña are two islands on the west side of Cocos which have similar topography.
Dos Amigos Grande
Dos Amigos Grande has a large archway which allows whole groups of divers to enter at any one time, surrounded by marine life. Often filled with snappers and sharks this arch at 30m is the start of the dive that goes into boulder formations.
Hammerhead sharks are often seen schooling close by with eagle rays, tuna and white tip reef sharks joining.
Marble rays are found in the sandy area on the bottom and tiger sharks often also make an appearance.
Dos Amigos Pequeña
Dos Amigos Pequeña is a site with strong surge and volcanic slopes that is home to the hammerhead sharks where close encounters are a frequent occurrence. Divers can hang out here and wait for the schooling hammerheads to approach from all directions in the excellent visibility the site offers.
Eagle rays and blacktip reef sharks are also common along with snappers and wahoo and the occasional whale shark.
Manuelita Island is a 492ft (150m) long islet, lying to the north of Chatham Bay, off the northeast corner of Cocos Island.
The deeper west side called Manuelita Deep, or Outside, is one of the prime spots to dive with hammerhead sharks.
The alternate site is Manuelita’s Garden or inside which is one of the best night dive locations worldwide.
Manuelita Deep or Outside
Manuelita Deep or Outside is a boulder dive going down to 40m that is home to several cleaning stations for hammerheads and more recently tiger sharks have been known to frequent this site.
The channel is the best area to spot these huge sharks that even dwarf the hammerheads in size by comparison.
Other marine life here is black tips, white tips, eagle rays, manta rays, yellowfin tunas, turtles, jacks, and whale sharks.
Manuelita Garden or Inside is a sloping reef and is the site of the famous night dive to see schooling white tip reef sharks hunting.
Protected from the currents the area is known as a nursery due to the variety of Pacific reef fish found here, butterfly fish, boxfish, puffers, parrotfish, rainbow runners and turtles are all found here.
At night the reef changes with the usual daytime active species trying to hide and the nocturnal ones coming out.
Eels search for food along with the smaller crustaceans and lobsters.
The white tips in their hundreds accumulate on the site searching for food using the diver’s torchlight to find prey. Tiger sharks sometimes appear here too, hunting the white tips.
Silverado is a small pinnacle dive in shallow water that is the only site at Cocos Island that has a cleaning station for silver tip reef sharks, it is found just south of Chatham Bay close to one of Cocos Island's spectacular coastal waterfalls.
These shy sharks are wary of divers, but do come in to be cleaned in the shallow water once they become more confident.
The corals also home mantis shrimp, snake eels, jawfish and the red-lipped batfish.
Bait Ball is named after the formation of the phenomenon when the baitfish are being hunted and form this spinning silver ball of activity in an attempt to confuse their predators. If this happens between the surface and the hunters the seabirds can join in the action. Look for the jacks, rainbow runners, Silky and black tip reef sharks, dolphins and tuna.
There are two sites reachable by submarine in Cocos that can be purchased on your trip on some liveaboards.
Everest only reachable by submersible craft as it is 80- 90m of depth is a truly magical and unforgettable experience. Mobula rays, schooling hammerheads, silky sharks, tuna and giant groupers are seen around the seamount
The unusual red-lipped Cocos batfish is found in the deep water.
The experience of ascending up an underwater volcanic mountain to its summit is unique.
The Wall is 300 to 500m deep and as such has no natural light once the shallower levels with mobulas passing by. The topography is vertical walls and ledges with overhangs and steep sandy slopes.
The fish, corals and marine life are unique in this dark environment and include jellynose fish, the goosefish, prickly shark plus some unidentified species.
This is a 2-hour dive that will be entirely unlike anything you will have experienced before.
Day trips to the uninhabited islands can be arranged during your liveaboard cruise where only park rangers are staying to guard them.
Previous visitors were pirates who left stone carvings and buried treasure that has never been found.
The island has tropical rainforest cover that has never been logged and some natural hiking trails with unusual flora and fauna and amazing waterfalls.
Cocos Island Marine Park and Conservation
The Cocos Island National Park set up in 1978 is an area of 530km, with the Island itself being the only land mass included.
Its isolation contributes to its success, and in 1997 the area became a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in 2002 this area was extended to 1997km2 and included wetlands of international importance.
In 2009 Cocos was shortlisted to become one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
The only inhabitants of the island are the park rangers set up in two encampments, and no one is allowed to camp or stay on the island.
No person is allowed to take any organism or artefact from the park. Fishing and hunting are not allowed, and everyone is barred from looking for fossils or buried treasure.