Around 10 km (just over 6 miles) off of the coast of playa Flamingo and playa Potrero are a collection of basalt rock formations, called the Catalinas. Thought to have been formed from lava flows around 3 million years ago. There are 7 distinctive rock outcrops giving rise to over 15 sites which make up the Catalinas. Many of the formations are pinnacles or small island outcrops of the volcanic rock, offering one or more possible sites for diving. Most of them break the surface, but there are also one or two hidden gems beneath.
One Love can also arrange dives to the Bat Islands, with the opportunity of Bull sharks. For further information regarding diving the Bat Islands/Islas Murcielagos please
catalina dive site map
= mainland/rock outcrop
5 most visited sites
Called “Clasico” for a very good reason. Situated on the west side of the Islas Catalinas north island. This site is a combination of both rock reef and sandy channels, and can be dove anywhere between 12m-25m (40ft-80ft). This site often offers an encounter with Whitetip reef sharks, and numerous schools of large and small fish. Large Pacific dog snapper patrol, with Spotted eagle rays and Mobula rays soaring above. Schools of Spottail grunts so vast you become completely encompassed by fish. And on those special dives, the sunlight suddenly dips and a shadow is cast. As you look up to see the massive gentle giant of a Manta ray glide gracefully overhead. That is why this sight is classic.
catalina south shallow/the garden
Situated on the east side of the south island of the Isla Catalinas. This dive begins over a sand and rubble bottom before progressing on to deeper parts, offering dives anywhere between 12m-30m (40ft-100ft) depending on experience. Known for sandy patches with Whitetip reef sharks resting, and plenty of boulders and vast basalt walls hiding an array of moray eels, lobster, octopus, and even the occasional baby Whitetip reef shark. With Spadefish often seen swimming off the south point as they come in to be cleaned by Barberfish. This site also offers the chance of Manta ray sightings from time to time, or a “squadron” of Mobula rays or Pacific cownose rays flying overhead.
One of our favourite sites at One Love. Called Sombrero due to it looking similar to a couple of sombrero hats side-by-side. This location constantly delivers, and it is always something different to the dive before. Starting out over a mixture of boulders and sandy patches, later dropping deeper and entering a walled channel. With a number of possible routes, the depth of dive can range between 12m-25m (40ft-80ft). This site can deliver turtles, Whitetip reef sharks, octopus, all types of rays or all manner of eels. Along with tiny Harlequin shrimp, you can also find the amazing looking juvenile Rockmover wrasse. Something awesome is always out on this site… you just never know what it is going to be.
More of a pinnacle formation. This site is the second closest to shore, of the Catalinas. Named Elephant because of a break in the rock, making it seem as though an elephant has his trunk in the ocean. This pinnacle is a multilevel sight ranging from 12m-25m (40ft-80ft), and combines rock reef, boulders and clear sandy expanses disappearing off from the base of the formation. Look for Whitetip reef sharks over the sandy areas or take in a Spotted eagle ray cruising on by. A multitude of damsel fish, wrasse, Sergeant Majors, and all types of puffer are always seen out here from top to bottom. Also a great place to spot the various types of moray eels, with Finespotted and Greens taking refuge in the rocks.
Called Dirty Rock as it is a cleaning station to much of the marine life of the Catalinas, and one of the favourite dive sites of One Love Ocean Divers. A pinnacle site with diving opportunities between 12m-25m (40ft-80ft). Watch large numbers of King angelfish and Barberfish graze Sergeant Major eggs from the rock, and perhaps the Chancho surgeonfish is also around to participate. With moray eels in the nooks and crannies, and juvenile Mexican hogfish cleaning the Bluestripped chub. There are large schools of Pacific ladyfish, with even the Manta ray swinging by for a clean. This site is always covered in a vast array of marine life. Large schools of grunts and jacks often fill the ocean on the west side of Dirty Rock.
the seasons and dive conditions
Costa Rica has only two separate seasons, the Dry season and the Green season. These seasons give rise to two very distinct sets of diving conditions. There are obviously times when the ocean delivers sights and conditions unusual for a particular season. Or if it is an el Nino or la Nina year, then the form guide takes a back seat. But for the vast majority of the time the diving conditions sit within certain parameters associated with the specific season. The Dry season (mid Nov-Apr) coincides with the tourist high season in Costa Rica, with the busiest time of year between December and February. During the Dry season there is very little to no rain, and this season is windier. The Green season is wetter, with the rains coming in the afternoon. The winds in the Dry season create a choppier ocean surface, and a greater presence of surge in the water column. The Dry season also has cooler ocean temperatures and higher nutrient levels. Due to the increase in nutrient, the Dry season offers a greater opportunity to be visited by many of the ray species such as Mobula, Pacific cownose and, our favourite, the Manta ray. Green season (May-mid November) offers predominantly warmer, clearer water and calmer ocean conditions. The truth is whichever season you choose to go diving, there is always an amazing amount and diversity of marine life to fill your dive with countless sights and memories.
Below is a table outlining typically expected ranges associated to the diving conditions of the respective seasons. It is important to note that this is merely an approximate guide.
surge and currents
The Catalinas are not generally visited by currents, although there are the occasional dives when currents make an appearance. Under the water while scuba diving the Catalinas, divers will predominately experience surge, not currents. Depending on both the season and the current weather pattern, the surge out on the Catalinas can be anywhere between ever so slight to long and drawn out. Either way the surge is nothing to worry about. The great thing about surge is that it has the effect similar to a pendulum, it will carry you to the left, then carry you to the right, then bring you back to the original position. If the surge is forwards and backwards then even better. As the surge pulls you back you will use your fins to steady where you are, then as it pushes you forward, two kicks and you feel like a flying super hero!