Mal Pais, Costa Rica

In Malpais, on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, pelagic fish are often close to the shore. The Nicoya Peninsula juts far into the ocean and the sea bottom drops within a few nautical miles to over 1000 meters depth.

Hammerhead Sharks
Hammerhead Sharks

The east central Pacific in front of Costa Rica belongs to one of the world’s most biologically diverse marine ecosystems. The tropical climate and the convergence of major marine currents support a high level of nutrients affecting the migration and distribution of many species.

Only few reefs and corals are present, but maritime life is far more diverse and populated than anywhere in the Caribbean. The colder waters on the west coast nurture immense plankton blooms that feed large schools of fish, soft corals and mollusks.

Malpais Diving

Many rock and reef formations have their own eco-system with an intensive aquatic life. Every fish on the food chain is represented – from tiny blennies which inhabit small holes and cracks to majestic angelfish, moray eels, cleaner wrasses, surgeon and angel fish, colorful puffer and parrot fish to reef sharks.

Sea Turtle Costa Rica
Sea turtle

In the waters off Malpais there are white tip reef sharks, blacktop reef sharks and nurse sharks, as well as manta- and eagle rays, schools of tunas, jacks, barracudas and dolphins. From December through October, watch humpback and pilot whales migrating both from the Antarctic and the northern Pacific past the Malpais bay.

Costa Rica also hosts some of the world’s most important breeding sites for olive ridley sea turtles, green sea turtles and the endangered huge leatherback sea turtles.

Manta Ray
Manta ray

The underwater world at Malpais, next to Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve is still uncontaminated and provides lots of surprises for divers.
Those without diving equipment can also find great snorkeling spots and tide pools within easy reach of Malpais and Santa Teresa.

In dry season (December to May) the visibility can be 60 – 100 feet. During heavy rains, plankton and river sediments pour into the ocean and reduce visibility.