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

Ocotal Beach Resort, May, 2008,

by James Filipczak, MD, USA (Reviewer Reviewer 4 reports with 1 Helpful vote). Report 4079.

No photos available at this time

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 2 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments 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. It’s 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 didn’t 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. I’d probably only sign up for 5 days of dives, reserving one mid-week day for an extended land tour (available through Ocotal). If you’re inclined, the resort offers guided fishing. Ocotal recently received a Sustainable Tourism Award. It’s a nice place and we had a great eastern Pacific dive experience.

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

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, surge, currents
Water Temp 75-85°F / 24-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 1
Water Visibility 30-80 Ft/ 9-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Divemaster leads underwater, return to boat with 500 PSI
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 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
UW Photo Comments Camera rinse tank built into boat, camera handed to/from diver in the water
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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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