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Dive Review of Ocotal Beach Resort in
Costa Rica/West Coast

May, 2008, an Instant Reader Report by James Filipczak, MD, USA
Reviewer   (4 reports, with 1 Helpful vote)
Report Number 4079
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
All Carribean, Leeward and Windwards, Florida, East Coast US, Hawaii
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, dry  
calm, surge, currents  
Water Temp
75   to 85    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
30   to 80    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Divemaster leads underwater, return to boat with 500 PSI  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  1 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  2 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  4 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
5 stars  
Camera rinse tank built into boat, camera handed to/from diver in the water
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  
2 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars   
5 stars    
Two of us took in an early May week of Costa Rican west coast diving at
Ocotal Beach Resort on the Gulf of Papagayo  with reduced rates during the
spring green season.  Three airlines have direct flights into Liberia
that now make this an easy trip.  Its about 40 minutes by rental car from
the Liberia airport to Ocotal, over bumpy country roads and village
streets; transfers can be arranged by the resort.  Ocotal perches on a high
hill overlooking the gulf and its rocky islands; if you want the view, try
to get a room in building 4 or 5, also close to a beautiful fresh water
pool & spa.  Rooms are pleasant, outfitted with A/C, comfy beds,
110VAC, cable TV, balconies, and hot water.  Breakfast (a great buffet of
eggs, local hot dishes, fruit, and freshly baked breads) opens at 6:30AM
and is included with the room. Dinner is a bit pricy ($15-25), but includes
well-prepared local specialties  both are served in the beautiful hill-top
restaurant.  Lunch is available at the beach bar, with a variety of salads
and sandwiches ($10-12/person). Oh, the diving. We signed up for 6 days of
2-tank morning dives and were assigned to a 32 twin-diesel boat (5
available) holding no more than 10 divers, with 2 dive masters and a boat
captain.  The office checked C-cards, ignoring logs.  Dive gear is
available (package, $25/day); dive courses and Nitrox are available.  Boats
depart at 8AM for local dive sites within 20-30 minutes of the beach. Trips
to the Bats (1-1/2 hours) and Catalina (40-50 minutes) leave at 7AM.  On
the shoulder of the rainy season, our weather was perfect: air temps 85-90,
wispy cloud, bright sun, flat-calm water in the gulf, and water temp over
84 degrees.  Local boat dives take you to the tumbled undersea cuts, coves,
and deeps of rocky off-shore islands, led and followed by a dive master. 
Dive plans here generally accounted for 50-60 minutes (tanks pumped to
3,000 PSI), following the underwater profile to 60-80 feet (a couple at 100
feet +) and ascending as you navigated the site (at times around the entire
island).  Currents and surge were often strong, with 75 degree water at
depth and reduced visibility (sometimes 20-30 feet).  Profligate air users
returned with a dive master while the others finished the dive, tank
pressure at the ladder checked for 500 PSI. Underwater animal life was
dizzying in both species and numbers. Camera buffs stopped shooting the
variety and profusion of moray, spotted, and zebra eels lurking in cracks
and crevasses; an octopus on about every dive.  Smooth and spiny puffers
lazed around in schools. Manta Rays were seen on the surface, but on most
dives, eagle, southern, and a gaggle of smaller spotted rays fed with
abandon or hid as best they could.  Vast schools of jacks, grunts, pork
fish, and hamlets, hunted, hid out in the sheltered coves, or balled up as
white tip sharks whipped by in the current.  Daily, you found a frogfish,
stonefish, or scorpion fish hugging into a rocky buttress; coronet fish
glided serenely along; seahorses gripped tightly onto shallow sea grasses
while turtles munched languidly nearby.  While the white tip was ubiquitous
on most dives, we took the out-island trips to the Bats ($65 extra) and
Catalina Islands ($29 extra) to locate the more elusive bull shark.  Save
for a couple of shadows, we struck out at the Bats. The Catalinas didnt
yield bull sharks either, but my dive log says, Too many white tips, too
close to count.   Dive masters and boat crews rinsed, stored, and returned
your gear to the boat daily.  Fresh fruit, drinks, and other snacks were
abundant on the boat, which maintained all safety gear and a built-in
camera rinse tank.  While I thought our dives were super, I missed some of
the cloud forest and volcano activities of past trips.  Id probably only
sign up for 5 days of dives, reserving one mid-week day for an extended
land tour (available through Ocotal).  If youre inclined, the resort
offers guided fishing.  Ocotal recently received a Sustainable Tourism
Award.  Its a nice place and we had a great eastern Pacific dive
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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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