Monday, July 15, 2024

Cocos Island Liveaboard Diving


Cocos Island Liveaboard Diving is part of the Ultimate Guide to Liveaboard Diving

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The undisturbed waters of Cocos Island welcome divers to a thriving marine ecosystem!

The island is located 342 miles southwest of Costa Rica’s mainland. It is only accessible by liveaboard, so you can only imagine the pristine diving conditions and an array of marine life awaiting you after a two-day voyage to the island. 

Cocos island has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1997, and in 2002 an additional area of 2000 square kilometers of the ocean around the island was added to the UNESCO world heritage site.

Here divers will be welcomed to nutrient waters filled to the brim with a vast diversity of marine life. When you think you’ve seen it all, a Cocos Island Liveaboard can impress even the most seasoned scuba addicts!

Cocos Island Liveaboard Routes

With a voyage that can take up to two days, liveaboard itineraries can last up to ten days on Coco Island, where all the diving will occur.

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Some of the more popular dive sites surrounding the island are:

Manuelita Coral Garden

Manuelita is usually the first dive site that divers will be introduced to on Cocos island. The calm and easy conditions allow divers to climatize and get used to their dive equipment before embarking on more action-packed dives. This coral garden is also considered as one of the most pristine in Costa Rica.

Bajo Alcyone

Bajo Alcyone is well known to be one of the best places on the planet to encounter hammerhead sharks! To witness shivers of hammerheads circling above you has become an iconic underwater photograph representing diving around Coco Island. 

Schooling Hammerhead sharks off Cocos Island while Scuba Diving in Costa Rica
Schooling Hammerhead sharks off Cocos Island while Scuba Diving in Costa Rica

Dirty Rock

Dirty rock is characterized by volcanic boulders and rock pinnacles that rise just above the water. It’s a busky reef where apart from diving with hammerheads, you get to encounter marble rays, white-tip sharks, Yellow Amarillo snappers, and green and hawksbill sea turtles.

The action is tied together by dense schools of jacks occupying the outer ledges of the reef system. To wrap up the perfect dive, perhaps you will be graced by the presence of bottlenose dolphins while you finish your safety stop!

You get to see some incredibly vibrant fish while on a Cocos Island Liveaboard
You get to see some incredibly vibrant fish while on a Cocos Island Liveaboard

Dos amigos (Grande & Pequena)

Dos Amigos is a formation of two protruding rocks a distance from each other, forming a small channel in the middle. Generally, this dive will include a mild drift with the flow of the current leading to either Dos Amigos Grande or Dos Amigos Pequena.

Dos amigos grande is the larger part of a twin rock formation.

At a depth of 30m, you will find motionless hammerheads being cleaned by cleaner fish. Apart from the hammerheads, there is a big variety of other marine species to marvel at as well. This includes eagle rays, white-tip reef sharks, and schools of snapper jacks.

Dos amigos Pequena is the smaller rock. Descending to the reef could be choppy; however, arriving at depths could result in calmer conditions. Here you can marvel at another action-packed dive site filled with hammerhead sharks from various directions and pelagic fish species!

Fish Schooling at Cocos Island
Fish Schooling at Cocos Island

The Best Times To Visit On A Cocos Island Liveaboard

When planning your Cocos Island liveaboard, take into account the best times to visit:

  • December-May is the dry season. During this time of year, the sea is often calmer, and the visibility is at its best!
  • June-December is the rainy season; this time of year, the surface conditions are often rougher, and the visibility can be less; however, this is a good time to encounter Whale sharks and Manta Rays!

Year-round, the water temperature varies between 24-30°C and stays at an average of 27°C.

There can be strong thermoclines at depth, so a 5mm suit is advised for this trip.

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Marine Encounters While On Cocos Island Liveaboards

Cocos island is well known for its abundance of marine biodiversity. It mainly attracts divers for the shark species and bigger pelagics; however, the beautiful underwater landscaping is also not to miss!

Shark species you can encounter while on a Cocos Island liveaboard are schooling scalloped hammerheads, silky sharks in significant numbers, tiger sharks, Galapagos sharks, white tip reef sharks, and black tip and whale sharks. Other memorable encounters are giant marble rays, moray eels, guitar sharks, and abundant numbers of schooling pelagic fish such as barracudas and various jack species.

How Many Dives A Day?

Usually, you will do three dives a day. On some days, there will be an optional night dive.

Types Of Cocos Island Liveaboards

The boats used to travel to Cocos Island are mainly single-hull expedition-type motor yachts. These boats are optimal for such a long crossing through the open ocean. They are designed for guests’ comfort with spacious decks for relaxing, a well-set dive deck, and comfortable inside dining and relaxing areas.

Cuisine Onboard Cocos Island Liveaboards

The food served on board is mainly western orientated, and you will also get a taste of some typical Costa Rican dishes! Some liveaboards even have a BBQ on board! If you have any dietary preferences, notify your liveaboard agency or company in advance to be sure that the chef will have something tasty prepared for you too!

Dive Certification Requirements

If you plan to do a liveaboard to Cocos island, ensure you will have at least your advanced or equivalent certification since most dives are only accessible to experienced divers.

Most of the more exciting dive sites are deeper than 18 meters. On the dive sites where you will look for bigger marine life like sharks and pelagics, you can expect moderate to strong currents; the surface conditions at Cocos island can also be challenging. It is advised to bring your Nitrox certification as some liveaboards offer Nitrox.

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Other Useful Information For Cocos Island Liveaboard Diving

Entry into Cocos Island

When you travel to Cocos island, you will fly into San Jose, Costa Rica, where you will stay for one or more nights before transferring to Puntarenas, from where the liveaboard to Cocos island will depart.

Upon entering Costa Rica, you will receive a visitor visa up to 90 days from arrival. Be sure to have your valid passport with at least one blank page; also, make sure that you have proof of an outbound or onward flight exiting the country within the timeframe of your stay.

To enter Cocos island, you must pay a park fee of $490 USD per person – this fee must be paid onboard in cash.


The local currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colon (CRC), and U.S. dollars are also widely accepted.

Getting Around

Transfers to and from the airport and to the liveaboard are included in your trip. If you would like to explore the Costa Rican mainland before your Cocos island trip, the most used modes of transport are rental cars, taxis, and buses.


Tipping your boat crew and dive guides at the end of your stay on the Cocos Island liveaboard is customary.

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