Diving Caño Island
I’ve lived in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, for 10 years now–and somehow had never made it to Isla de Cano until last weekend. I suppose it’s one of those things–in our treasure hunt for worldly experience, we often overlooks the gems in our own backyard. (Like growing up in Colorado and never having been to the Grand Canyon…) An Isla de Cano dive was one of several things on my ‘local’ bucket list which had been sitting there for years.
It was the end of the high season, and it was nearing the end of the dry sea
son–ie the most ideal season for diving and snorkeling in Costa Rica. Our kids were up at their grandparents, in San Joaquin. Our vacation rental homes & condos were well tended to by our reservations manager and concierge. We had nothing to hold us back.
We made our reservations through CR Dive & Surf:
Tour: Isla Cano Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
Price: $160 per person (2 dives)
Duration: 8 hours
Includes: Boat to Isla Cano, instructor/guide, equipment, drinks & snacks, national park entrance fees
What to Bring: PADI certification card (if diving), swimsuit, sunscreen, towel, ‘wet’ shoes or sandals
The dive began early–we were at the dive shop in Dominical by 6:45am. We packed into an old van and were schlepped down to Uvita (15 min), where we parked at the entrance of Marino Ballena National Park. The boat picked us up within the park–on the southern beach that formed the natural reef formation called the ‘Whale’s Tail’ (which, by the way, really does form a perfect whale’s tail, as seen from above). The boat ride to Isla Cano is approximately 1.5 hours. At first, the seas were a bit rough, and the little boat was jarred with every whitecap wave. Was it raining up ahead? Was our dive going to be dampened by foul weather?
We saw several turtles on the way, and also a pod of spotted dolphins. Such amazing creatures! They followed our boat for a while, dashing just ahead of the bow, and leaping through the air as if to show off. When they finally left, we were approaching the island, and the weather had cleared up–sunny and beautiful.
We stopped briefly at the beach in front of the ranger station–the one, lone building on the island. Hermit crabs were scattered around the shady areas, playing tricks on the eyes. Huge iguanas and Jesus Christ lizards basked in the sunny spaces. An idyllic, sandy shore was flanked by tall rainforest, and broken by outcroppings of jagged rock.
Our first dive was called the Shark Cave. Amazing! I dived a lot on Roatan, in Honduras, but saw few sharks. Here, White-Tip Reef Sharks were as common and relaxed as grouper. We saw a spotted moray eel, boxfish, puffers galore, parrotfish, triggers, jacks, snapper, a scorpion fish, wrasses, angelfish, damselfish and a slew of others. The highlight was gliding over a sandy bed of garden-eels that retracted back into their holes as one approached. It was a magical experience.
Estela hadn’t dove in a couple of years, so she was nervous on the first dive. The second dive, however, was different. The site was called the Shipwreck–named not for any wreck, but rather for the numerous sharks that inhabited the area (and caused shipwrecks?). And sharks there were aplenty–but more than this, it was a fish paradise. Fish were everywhere–everything we saw on our first dive, plus a hawksbill turtle, spider crab, a ‘crown of thorns’ starfish and a huge stingray. But the highlight was getting buried at the center of several schools of fish which numbered in the hundreds. I positioned myself such that the fish completely blocked out all of my surroundings and turned the ocean dark!
(And I never thought I’d be back in school…)
The ride back was smoother, gorgeous, and satisfying. Both the divers and the snorkelers were well sated, and enjoying the sunshine. As usual, my head felt about 2 sizes larger than normal, but slowly shrinking back to normal size and pressure. I had never expected to have such a great dive on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.
All in all–highly recommended for dive enthusiasts and snorkelers alike–especially if you enjoy a longish boat ride.
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