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Catalina Islands. Marked as Santa Catarina on some maps, the Catalina Islands, as they are known locally, are a major destination for dive operations based all along the coast. These barrier islands are remarkable for their diversity, and appeal to different levels of divers. On one side, the islands have 6- to 9-meter (20- to 30-foot) drops, great for beginners. The other side has deeper drops of 18 to 24 meters (60 to 80 feet), better suited to more-experienced divers. The top dive sites around the Catalina Islands are The Point and The Wall. From January to May, when the water is colder, you are almost guaranteed manta-ray sightings at these spots. Cow-nosed and devil rays are also spotted here in large schools, as well as bull and white-tipped sharks, several types of eels, and an array of reef fish. Dive operators from Playa Hermosa south to Tamarindo offer trips to these islands. Reserve through your hotel. Potrero.
Costa Rica Diving. This well-established dive shop has been specializing in Catalina Islands dives for more than 18 years, with two-tank, two-location trips limited to four divers (maximum of five for families) and costing $85 per person. The German owners are also the guides and are noted for their precision and high safety standards. They offer diving courses too. 1 km (½ mile) south of Flamingo on the main hwy., next door to Banco de Costa Rica, Potrero. 2654-4148. www.costarica-diving.com.
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