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Dive Review of Ocotal Beach Resort in
Costa Rica/Guanacaste

Ocotal Beach Resort, Nov, 2006,

by Richard Himmel, CA, USA . Report 3098.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving Hawaii, South Pacific, Caribbean, Southern California
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy Seas calm, surge, currents
Water Temp 76 to 80 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 15 to 20 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Signal divemaster at 1000 PSI, begin ascent with no less than 750 PSI, 3 minute safety stop at 15 feet on all dives.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments Ocotal's dive boats were set up with a fresh water tank for cameras. The thick plankton in the November water made it challenging to get good underwater photos.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 4 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments We were concerned about previous negative comments about this resort and their dive staff, but ultimately chose Ocotal Beach Resort due to the great off-season prices. We were not disappointed in any way and thoroughly enjoyed the resort and the diving. We didn't have to lug our gear once during our 5 days of diving. Every member of the dive staff at Ocotal was nothing less than completely helpful and professional, not to mention cheery and happy! In regards to "accidentally" dropping gear (2003), the only time this occurred was when I accidentally dropped a weight pouch at the surface while removing it from my BC at the end of a dive. Mauricio, one of the two divemasters on the boat, immediately dove down to the bottom (80 fsw) to retrieve it for me, cheerily handing it to me when he returned several minutes later. Not one staff member on the boat said anything negative or even frowned while waiting for him. At some dive operations, I would have been told, "Sorry, you can buy a new pouch back at our shop," for a stupid mistake like this or perhaps lectured by a 20-something divemaster with an attitude, as we've encountered in the Cayman Islands. To the Ocotal staff, this was no big deal, which I greatly appreciated.
We dove in mid-November. At this time of the year in Costa Rica's Pacific Northwest, the mornings are beautiful and sunny, with huge rainstorms moving in during the late afternoon and evening hours. The water was thick with plankton, limiting the visibility to 20 feet or less on all of our dives. Both my wife and I wore 3mm full suits with hoods, and were glad we did - there were lots of tiny jellyfish in the water and any exposed flesh got lots of small stings, especially when swimming against the current. We saw lots of porcupine fish, box fish, parrot fish, white-tipped and nurse sharks, eagle rays, moray eels and other assorted life. No whale sharks, unfortunately! We took the 90-minute boat ride to Bat Island (for an extra charge) in the hopes of seeing some bull sharks, but saw none. It was still worth the ride anyway for the beautiful coastline and surface intervals spent swimming in the turquoise water. At one dive site, a stone's throw from the beach and the thickly forested hills, we heard the throaty roar of howler monkeys!
Above the water, it never got below around 74 degrees Farenheit, even when it was raining. The mosquitos were ferocious after dark and, in the rain forest, even attacked during the day. Bring DEET and use it generously.
Our standard room at the Ocotal Resort was very nice, with a flat-screen HD TV and an iPod-ready clock radio. We drank the tap water with no problems whatsoever. The buffet breakfast (included) was fantastic, almost as good as the view from the dining area. Pappa Rooster's Bar & Grill, a short walk up the beach, had great ceviche (give some to the cat!), food and Pina Coladas at great prices.
Upon checking out of Ocotal, we had no surprises whatsoever - no exchange rate tricks, no hidden taxes or charges, nothing. The resort staff, like the dive staff, were always cheerful, helpful and professional. When I asked Priscilla at the front desk where we should spend a Friday night we intentionally left open, she recommended the Hotel Borinquen, about a two hours' drive away in the Rincon De La Vieja National Park. The Borinquen turned out to be a gold mine of a resort and another fantastic bargain.
A few travel tips for Costa Rica: The internet car rental rates are amazingly cheap, but when you arrive, you find out about the $28 per day mandatory insurance required by law. This brought our cost of renting a compact 4X4 to around $50 per day. Local drivers are very aggressive and like to pass you if you're not doing twice the posted speed limit. Drive carefully, though - there are very few police and virtually no paramedics or fire departments in the rural areas; if you get in a wreck, you will be on your own. The resort areas have lots of uniformed security guards to keep an eye on things. Outside the resorts, you should keep your eyes open, as there is a distinct absence of police. We flew from Houston to Liberia, Costa Rica on Continental with no problems. There is a departure tax of $28 US per person to leave the country. Knowlege of Spanish is helpful, but not required, as most Costa Ricans speak a little English.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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