Visiting Cocos Island – Costa Rica’s Galapagos Islands
Cocos Island became a National Park in 1978 and was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. It is located about 550 km from the Pacific Coast and takes roughly 36 hours to reach. The fantastical atmosphere made Isla del Coco the island double for Isla Nublar in the Jurassic Park movies. For the tourists, it can prove a worthy competitor for the famous Galapagos Islands. This is not a trip for amateurs! It is a favorite amongst the serious scuba divers.
Isla del Coco is one of Costa Rica’s top destinations for the experienced scuba divers. Its large population of Giant Manta Rays, Whale Sharks, Dolphins and other marine species is truly out of this world. This is one of the very few places in the world where hammerhead sharks assemble by the thousands; many scientists believe today that they are coming to the region to breed. Typically, diving takes place from boats like Zodiacs or other small aluminum boats. With up to 20 divers per boat and a maximum of 3 dives per day. Some divers are sometimes offered a chance for a night dive according to their experience and specialties. There are no less than fifty-nine species of fish, ninety-seven mollusks and fifty-seven crustaceans in the waters surrounding the island.
Costa Rica’s Galapagos Islands
Don’t just visit the island to explore the deeps. The island itself is a stunning, thick jungle filled with life. The climate is fill on tropical so prepare for very hot and very humid weather. For the birders, there are seven species of land bird, but there are up to seventy-four species of visiting marine birds including the endemic Isla del Coco Finch, Isla del Coco Cuckoo, and the Cocos Island Flycatcher. The most stunning of them all must be the Espiritu Santo, or White Tern. A beautiful small white bird that does not seem to mind flying right above people’s heads.
The island features some incredible waterfalls and exudes a real feral and Jurassic charm. From massive cliffs to subterranean caverns, Cocos Island is a photographer’s dream and a haven for those looking to explore a piece of something that feels unspoiled.
A real-life Treasure Island
Isla del Coco is not just a stunning island and valued scuba diving location. It is also a real-life treasure island! The most valuable treasure that is said to have been buried on the island, is the Treasure of Lima. The Spanish had had control over Lima since the 16th century. In the following centuries, the Catholic church had gathered a huge and immensely valuable treasure in the city of Lima. By 1820, the war for independence gained momentum and the church felt the need to protect its riches by transporting the; to Mexico. Captain William Thompson, commander of the Mary Dear, was charged with this mission. Unable to resist the temptation of the enormous wealth they were transporting, Thompson and his crew succumbed to piracy. Cocos Island is said to be the location where the Treasure of Lima is buried. The belief in the truth behind this legend is so great, that around 500 treasure expeditions have been organized. So far, nothing has been found.
Visit all year round: Costa Rica has a dry season from December until May and a rainy season from June until November. But for scuba diving, you can visit any time you like.
Prepare for tropical weather: The weather on Cocos Island will be full on tropical. Dress light and bring enough for a tour that can take around 10 nights.
Not for the amateur diver: This trip is not a one-day diving experience. This is only for the committed and experienced diver.
Inform yourself about shark behavior and consult your guides: In 2017 and 2018, there have been two shark attacks, one of them lethal. 2012 marked the year that the Tiger Shark made its way to Isla del Coco. Although attacks are not that frequent, it would always be better to be as prepared as you can be for such a situation.
Tours to Cocos Island
Getting to Cocos Island is only possible with a tour. There are touring companies that can arrange these for you that include transfers from San Jose to Puntarenas. Keep in mind that these tours are very expensive, some of around 6000 USD, for a 10-night trip to the island. The boat trip itself would take around 36 hours. This trip is only for those fully committed to getting the most out of it and have experience in diving!