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Dive Review of Ocotal Beach Resort in
Costa Rica/Guanacaste

November, 2006, an Instant Reader Report by Richard Himmel, CA, USA
Report Number 3098
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
101-250 dives
Where else diving
Hawaii, South Pacific, Caribbean, Southern California
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, rainy  
calm, surge, currents  
Water Temp
76   to 80    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
15   to 20    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
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.   
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  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  
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):
4 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
4 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars   
5 stars    
     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
     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
     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
     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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