Southwest of Liberia, the snorkeling at Islas Catalinas is known for sea turtles and rays. Also known as Catalina Islands, you may encounter the olive rudely sea turtles, spotted eagle rays and manta rays, which are attracted to the numerous cleaning stations. Keep in mind that there may be surges and strong currents. The La Pared dive site at Islas Catalinas is known...
Southwest of Liberia, the snorkeling at Islas Catalinas is known for sea turtles and rays. Also known as Catalina Islands, you may encounter the olive rudely sea turtles, spotted eagle rays and manta rays, which are attracted to the numerous cleaning stations. Keep in mind that there may be surges and strong currents. The La Pared dive site at Islas Catalinas is known for white-tipped reef sharks and cow-nosed rays. The La Punta dive site at Islas Catalinas has the manta ray cleaning stations.
Islas Catalinas snorkeling dive sites are all boat-accessed. To reach the snorkeling in Costa Rica by air, you can fly into either Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) on the west side of San Jose or Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LIR) near Liberia. If you are going to stay in one resort and do little traveling, it is highly recommended to use the resort shuttle bus or a private shuttle bus to avoid driving yourself (this tip will save your vacation). Otherwise, make sure to read the extensive notes below about driving in Costa Rica. When leaving Costa Rica, there is a $29USD cash departure tax per person. It may now be included in your airline ticket, but you will want to confirm since the lines could be quite long. Here are some basic notes on driving in Costa Rica for the tourist. There is a myth about the quality of the roads and of VW bus sized pot-holes. This may have been true years ago, but on the main routes, this is no longer true. With that said, there are still numerous challenges for first time drivers in Costa Rica. First, do not expect much out of so-call “highways”, like the InterAmerican Highway. The fancy name makes the uninitiated think this is a major 4 lane divided, restricted access road. Well, yes, about 1% is. The rest is two lane (marginally), undivided, rural roads with tons of traffic constantly stopping, turning, passing or driving slowly. Like every other road in the country, you can expect to see on the road numerous unexpected cows, cyclists, pedestrians, bus stops, school crossing zones, dogs, mud slides, police check points, unannounced one-lane bridges, missing manhole covers, and, of course, a never ending stream of semi-trucks driving erratically fast. What you do not find on any roads is much signage. There are infrequent signs indicating the distance to the next town, and even more infrequent are road names or numbers (if at all), including even within major towns. To make matters worse, signs that used to exist are disappearing due to deterioration or theft. Also, do not expect drivers to use their head lights, even in a heavy rain shower, unless it is really dark. This makes passing in rain a game of roulette since you can't see the oncoming traffic. Speaking of dark, do not drive at night since the roads in some areas can be ruled by those under the influence of alcohol. When picking up a rental car, make sure to check all the tires for wear, check the spare tire pressure, check the tire jack, and make sure to test the lock on the spare tire. It would be wise to quickly purchase a can of Fix-A-Flat. A GPS unit can be helpful when navigating roads, however, the maps in Costa Rica were created using a special map datum. This datum is not usually available on GPS units but the road base maps were created with it. Therefore if you use the default WGS84 datum with a base road map on the GPS unit, you will always show a position being about 0.5 miles to the north of the road base map. If you have to drive through San Jose, make sure to do it at dawn to avoid the horrendous traffic all day long, including weekends. Keep in mind several maps show highways passing through San Jose. This is not true. They end abruptly on the outskirts of town and you have to slug it out in a crazy stop-and-go traffic and many unmarked turns to get to the other side all day long. There are unsigned so-called by-pass routes around San Jose, but finding them can be a challenging game of trial-and-error, and they are only marginally better. If you have to drive on the Nicoya Peninsula, you can expect to find generally better roads with better signage. However, there are numerous unmarked eroded road sides, especially over stream culverts. Do not drive at night. Watch out for the iguanas sprinting across the road.
Overall, Islas Catalinas is the 18th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 21 snorkeling dives in Costa Rica. Several of the better snorkeling spots are nearby Islas Catalinas including Playa Conchal, Playa del Coco, Meros, Tamarindo, Playa Hermosa and Punta Gorda.
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