Cocos Island - A Guide to the Dive sites of Cocos Island, Costa Rica

Manuelita Island:
Lying just off Cocos' north east corner that makes up part of Chatham Bay. It has a steep sloping north side leading to deep water and a shallow gently sloping south side. The south side provides Cocos island's most famous night dive, famous for the chance to see hoards of hunting white tip reef sharks. By day, it is a excellent reef dive, with a chance to see the same reef sharks, marble rays, frog fish as well as some colourful corals and large schools of fish.

The steep wall dive on the north side of the island bottoms out at around 40 meters. This side of the island and the channel between Cocos, is the best location for seeing tiger sharks, whale sharks, hammerheads, mantas and marble rays.

Bajo Alcyone: Another of Cocos's famous dive sites it is a great opportunity to see schooling hammerheads in their hundreds as well as large schools of jacks, silky sharks, yellow fin tuna, white tip reef sharks, marble rays and the occasional oceanic black tip shark. The site is an underwater seamount which can have strong currents, which is why there is a permanent shot line to the middle of the viewing area.

Once you have completed your descent you have several areas to choose from for opportunities to see schooling hammerhead sharks. If the current is strong then it is a good idea to stay close to the shot line.

Dirty Rock: Probably Cocos Island's most famous site for good reason since it is an excellent location to see hammerheads schooling, Galapagos sharks, eagle rays and green turtles. These species and others accumulate at the cleaner stations found at this location. On arrival you can see where this site gets its unfortunate name from. It's brown and white appearance is the result of passing sea birds bombing it with their guano. On your descent you head in an easterly direction towards a viewing area at 30m.

To maximise the chase of seeing the hammerheads up close be sure to get down close to the rocks and remain relatively still and calm while you wait for the sharks to come to you. After watching the hammerhead show you may then decide to swim westwards towards the island's pinnacle. Here you have the ability to see a small cave full of lobsters, eagle rays and turtle cleaning stations.  Octopus and large schools of fish can also be found here.

Silverado: This small underwater pinnacle can be found just south of Chatham Bay close to one of Cocos islands spectacular coastal waterfalls. It had a sandy bottom and a maximum depth of 13 metres. This site is probably the best location for viewing silvertip sharks.

On top of the small pinnacle, which is around 2 metres high, is a silvertip shark cleaning station. Keep a careful look out as you approach because these sharks can be shy and will move off when divers approach. As this is a shallow dive you will have plenty of time to relax on the bottom and wait for the sharks to arrive. As the sharks arrive one by one, they will stay close to the pinnacle, but as they grow accustomed to your presence become more confident and make closer swim bys. These are impressive looking sharks and if you have the opportunity to go here it is highly recommended. 

Dos Amigos, Grande and Pequeña: These two islands lie west of Cocos island's shoreline, a few hundred metres apart and offering similar underwater topography. A great place for scalloped hammerhead sharks, yellow fin tuna, schools of fish, marble rays and the occasional whale shark. You start your descent in the swell close to the island where you make a rapid descent to 30m. On Dos Amigos Grande there is a huge underwater arch capable of allowing a whole dive group to pass through at a time, often surrounded by hundreds of fish.

Submerged Rock: Viewed from the surface on arrival, this is a small rock appearing and disappearing under the swell. Once under the water the rock appears as a small stack on top of an underwater seamount. You descend down the steep sides of mount until you reach 30m. Then dependent on current or swell, you swim either clockwise or anti clockwise around the mount. As you navigate around you will come across a small arch swim through that is full of fish. This is a beautiful dive site.  Keep an eye out for whale sharks, hammerheads and yellow fin tuna. Located on the south side of Cocos island.

Punta Maria: Located on the central western coast of Cocos, Punta Maria is another underwater sea mount that had is a long spine of rock, with a steep drop off to one side and a shallow incline on the other. You descend by shot line on the shallow side of the ridge where you can take a peak over the top for schooling scalloped hammerheads and eagle rays. Keep watch over your shoulder for Galapagos sharks which can reach 3 - 3½  meters here.

Viking Rock: located at the northern limit of Wafer bay, Viking Rock is usually the third dive in a schedule since its best is in shallow water between 10 - 20 metres.  This is a good place to see rays, white tip sharks and pufferfish. If you are lucky you may spot a passing hammerhead or even a whale shark.

Pejora Island: Located between Wafer bay and Chatham Bay, the reefs of Pejora Island is very close to Cocos Island. This is also a shallow dive typically starting off the island itself over sand from which you head across a channel between Pejora and Cocos island. It is a favourite with rays due to the high current producing ideal conditions for plankton and fish.

Lone Stone: This site is great large schools of scalloped hammerheads, huge schools of fish, manta rays and the occasional whale shark. You start the dive by first descending to a ledge at 20 metres and then to 30 metres swimming clockwise or anti-clockwise around the stone.

Other dives sites include:

Lobster Rock
Manta Corner
Bajo Dos Amigos
Cabo Artevida
Cabo Barcelo

Photographs kindly provided by Robert Alcock, Avi Klapfer, Fred Garth, Ofer Ketter, Howard Hall, Shmulik Bloom, Thomas Reich & Philip Link

Scalloped Hammerhead

Frog Fish

Whale Shark

Silvertip Shark

Tiger Shark

Galapagos Shark

Manta Ray


White Tip Reef Shark

Scalloped Hammerhead

Green Sea Turtle

Silky Shark

Eagle Ray


Red Footed Booby

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