And Beyond

Jacques Cousteau called it “the most beautiful island in the world.” Cocos Island National Park, located 300 miles off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, is the only island in the tropical eastern Pacific with enough rainfall to support a tropical rainforest. The island’s heavy rains also sustain dozens of waterfalls and seventy-four bird species. It’s no wonder that UNESCO added the island to its list of World Heritage sites.

Cocos Island was known to mariners by the 16th Century. Its abundant fresh water, wood, and food sources made it a favorite port for pirates and whalers. The island’s history is infused with tales of buried treasure. Over the centuries, hundreds of expeditions have searched the island, with only limited success.

Today this lush oasis is uninhabited, except for a handful of park rangers who keep the fishermen away. The only way to reach Cocos is by boat; multi-day dive cruises bring passengers from mainland Costa Rica. The 35-hour voyage to the island can be taxing, but once they arrive, visitors are thrilled by the abundant marine life. Here, hammerhead sharks congregate by the hundreds. Gigantic manta and marble rays sail by like ghosts. Even humpback whales make an occasional appearance.

Because the surrounding marine environment is so pristine, the conservation-minded government of Costa Rica restricts access to the island; fewer than 2000 people have the opportunity to visit each year.

Experienced divers should be prepared for occasional strong currents and thermoclines; water temperatures range from the mid to low 80’s at the surface, but can rapidly decrease as you descend.