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Diving Trips to Isla del Coco

This little island in the middle of the ocean, located some 480km (300 miles) off the Pacific coast, was a prime pirate hideout and refueling station in the old days. Robert Louis Stevenson was said to have modeled “Treasure Island” on Isla del Coco, and it was also the inspiration for Isla Nublar, the setting of “Jurassic Park.” Jacques Cousteau called it the most beautiful island in the world. Sir Francis Drake, Captain Edward Davis, William Dampier, and Mary Welch are just some of the famous corsairs who dropped anchor in the calm harbors of this Pacific pearl. Some visitors reportedly left troves of buried loot, although scores of treasure hunters over several centuries have failed to unearth more than a smattering of the purported bounty. The Costa Rican flag was first raised here on September 15, 1869. Throughout its history, Isla del Coco has provided anchorage and fresh water to hundreds of ships and has entertained divers and dignitaries. (Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited it three times.) In 1978 it was declared a national park and protected area.

The clear, warm waters around Isla del Coco are widely regarded as one of the most rewarding dive destinations ★★★ on the planet. This is a prime place to see schooling herds of hammerhead sharks. Other denizens of these waters include white- and silver-tipped reef sharks; marbled, manta, eagle, and mobula rays; moray and spotted eels; octopi; spiny and slipper lobsters; hawksbill turtles; plus squirrel fish, trigger fish, angelfish, surgeon fish, trumpet fish, grouper, grunts, snapper, jack, tangs, and more. Two of the more spectacular underwater residents here include the red-lipped batfish and the frogfish.

Most diving at Cocos is relatively deep (26–35m/85–115 ft.), often with strong currents and choppy swells to deal with—not to mention all those sharks. This is not a trip for novice divers.

The perimeter of Isla del Coco is ringed by steep, forested cliffs punctuated by dozens of majestic waterfalls cascading down in stages or steady streams for hundreds of feet. The island itself has a series of trails that climb its steep hills and wind through its rainforest interior. Several endemic bird, reptile, and plant species here include the ubiquitous Cocos finch, and the wild Isla del Coco pig.

With just a small ranger station housing a handful of national park guards, Isla del Coco is essentially uninhabited. Visitors come on a variety of boats. It’s a long trip: Most vessels take 30 to 36 hours to reach Cocos.

Both Aggressor Fleet Limited ((tel) 800/348-2628; www.aggressor.com) and Undersea Hunter ((tel) 800/203-2120 in the U.S., or 2228-6613 in Costa Rica; www.underseahunter.com) regularly run 10-day dive trips to Isla del Coco from Puntarenas, beginning at $5,299 per person.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.