Are There Sharks in Costa Rica? 7 Shark Species You Will Find

The waters that run along the coast of Costa Rica are home to an eclectic display of marine wildlife. However, the one most people come to see is the range of sharks in Costa Rica that call this tropical underwater paradise home, with wildlife numbers peaking around Cocos Island between June and October.

Although for some it is their greatest fear, there are the few travellers who are ready to take the challenge and look these beautiful creatures in the eye. Many prefer to stick to the land and play a round of golf instead on some of the ultimate tropical fairways. However, if this is the experience you are after we recommend you head on a boat to Cocos Island, famed for the hundreds of sharks that school in its waters. This UNESCO World Natural Heritage site is un-paralleled and offers it neoprene covered visitors the opportunity to dive with some of the largest number of predators in the world.

Want to know what is lurking in the waters along the coast of Costa Rica? Let’s get started.

Scalloped Hammerheads

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

The Scalloped Hammerhead is one of the most recognisable species of shark found in the waters surrounding Costa Rica. They are extremely common and can often be found in schools of over 300 around nutrient-rich seamounts. The unique ecosystem of Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica provides critical nursery habitat for scalloped hammerhead sharks. This is key as this species of shark is fished in large numbers worldwide, making them officially endangered.

Silky Shark

A large Silky shark
Silky shark surrounded by divers and fish, these sharks can be found in Costa Rica, Image credit: Envato Elements

The curious Silky sharks feed on that bait balls of jacks and other pelagic species that live in the open ocean surrounding the Cocos island. Gaining their name from their sleek appearance as they carve through the water. They are similar in nature and size to the Galapagos shark, growing to around 11 feet, and have an inquisitive nature – often approaching divers before turning away.

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Bull Shark

Group of sharks swimming in the ocean, often the ones responsible for shark attacks
Group of sharks swimming in the ocean, often the ones responsible for shark attacks, Image credit: Unsplash

During the spring season is the best time to catch a glimpse of these notorious predators, who are infamously known for attacks and are one of the dangerous animals in Costa Rica. Just a short distance off the coast of Santa Rosa National Park is there usually feeding ground, which provides divers the opportunity to interact and find buried shark teeth.

Tiger Shark

Tiger shark swimming in the ocean, these sharks can be found in Costa Rica
Tiger shark swimming in the ocean, these sharks can be found in Costa Rica, Image credit: Envato Elements

The waters of Cocos Island are home to the beautiful species that is the tiger shark. Reaching up to 24 feet, they are less frequently seen near the mainland however are fairly safe to dive with if unprovoked. Tiger sharks are nocturnal hunters, waiting until the sun sets to hunt out sea turtles and other marine life. Spotting or diving with tiger sharks can be an immensely memorable experience. Shark attacks in Costa Rica are extremely rare, especially when unprovoked however a Tiger shark may attack if you are swimming or diving and it feels threatened.

White-Tip Reef Shark

White-tip Reef shark hiding under rocks for protection, these sharks can be found in Costa Rica
White-tip Reef shark hiding under rocks for protection, these sharks can be found in Costa Rica, Image credit: Unsplash

The most common shark found in the is the white-tip reef sharks which can often be seen in large groups lying in the sand or under rocks for protection. This small species only grows to a maximum of 7 feet. On both sides, the Pacific and the Caribbean, of Costa Rica divers have a good chance of swimming with these sharks throughout the year. They are fairly safe creatures, especially when unprovoked and are not known to attack humans.

Nurse Shark

Group of Nurse sharks swimming in the ocean, these sharks can be found in Costa Rica, Image credit: Pixabay

Much like the reef sharks, the Nurse shark are often seen swimming along both coasts of Costa Rica, and can grow to a length of around 10 feet. They often spend their time on the sand searching for skates and smaller fish and are timid unless provoked. These beautiful creatures often inhabit sandy areas in Costa Rica where they rest during the day and hunt at night and are not generally considered dangerous to humans if unprovoked. However, a nurse shark attack is not unheard of in Costa Rica, although attacks are very rare.

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Whale Shark

Whale shark swimming in the ocean, sometimes these sharks can be seen in Costa Rica
Whale shark swimming in the ocean, sometimes these sharks can be seen in Costa Rica, Image credit: Pixabay

As the largest fish in the ocean, it is no surprise that the Whale shark is a must see for a Costa Rican tourist who travel to this tropical paradise to hope to catch a glimpse. While there are not overly common there have been sightings. All rights reserved, these gentle giants are can be intimidating as they can grow to around 40 feet in length and weigh a massive 21 tonnes. Divers and swimmers have nothing to worry about though as they feed on the smallest of sea creatures, plankton, and are not responsible for an shark attacks.

People Also Ask

Is it safe to swim in Costa Rica?

Along this coastline, there are plenty of bays with much gentler conditions that would be better served for safe swimming, such as Biesanz Beach Manuel Antonio. Costa Rica’s beaches are famous for their big waves and strong currents, with some famous spots perfect for surfing, however not so much for gentle swimming. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Caribbean on the other, there are over 700 miles of coastline in total.

Are there great white sharks in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica’s tropical waters tend not to be the favorite habit for Great White sharks. The largest predatory fish on Earth tends to prefer a much cooler water and climate. The Great White shark, weighing up to 5000 pounds and growing up to an average of 15 feet, is believed to be responsible for around fifty percent of shark attacks annually according to recent data.

Are there tiger sharks in Costa Rica?

Tiger sharks are often spotted around the Isla del Coco, and are among the most dangerous species in these waters. If unprovoked they are unlikely to cause harm to divers however it is always best to avoid swimming alone and keep out of the water at night when they are most active. They had not been seen around the island in over 30 years however their population started growing in 2021.

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