Fishing has always been an important part of Costa Rican coastal culture. In fact, the easy-going lifestyle of fishing families and the consumption of fresh fish were considered by author Dan Buettner in his famous book, The Blue Zones, as some of the most important factors contributing to Costa Rica’s high number of centenarians. All of that fresh air, sunshine, connection to nature, and a vitamin-rich diet continue to promote longevity amongst the coastal inhabitants.
Nowadays, anglers from all over the world travel to Costa Rica to dip into its fountains of youth and try to reel in a big one. Costa Rica has become known for its year-round fishing, well-trained local captains, and the exciting possibility of catching (and releasing!) one of the country’s famous sailfish or marlin.
Read on to learn about the best places to go for a fishing adventure in Costa Rica.
Does Costa Rica have good fishing?
Yes – Costa Rica has great fishing! The economic activity around sportfishing provides 2.13% of Costa Rica’s GDP and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. It also provides stable employment for coastal families who work in the industry. As a result, Costa Rica tries to keep fishing as sustainable as possible through licensing and catch-and-release laws, ensuring for a long future of fishing in Costa Rica!
Where is the best fishing in Costa Rica?
There are over 800 miles of coastline in Costa Rica and so plenty of ocean to explore. However, some of the main destinations for fishing are below:
Playas de Coco (local fisherman and charter fisherman)
Playas de Coco is located in the northwestern part of the county, 30 minutes from the Liberia airport. It is a small-ish beach town with lots of local fishermen and charter opportunities.
Puerto Jimenez (Very diverse fish species)
Puerto Jimenez is located in the southwestern part of Costa Rica on the western side of the Golfo Dulce. It can be quite a journey to arrive – either 6-8 hours overland from San Jose or a 50-minute domestic flight – but once the journey is over, you have found yourself at the threshold of one of the world’s richest regions for biodiversity – Corcovado National Park.
Puerto Jimenez itself is a small town with moderate accommodations and restaurants, but it provides access to some of the most exclusive resorts in the country. Local fishermen have long since known the wealth of the fish species that inhabit this area, but it is becoming a more common destination for foreign anglers as well. The gulf itself is the only tropical fjord in the world and includes reefs and mangroves.
Tamarindo (Charter fishing opportunities)
Tamarindo is a party-friendly beach town in Guanacaste province. It has lots of charter fishing opportunities available and its location makes it a great place for offshore fishing, as it is only 10-15 miles from the “blue waters” where it is more common to find Costa Rica’s famous billfish.
Quepos (Great for Sportfishing)
Quepos is located in the Central Pacific beside Manuel Antonio and has become one of the most popular areas for sport fishing, due to the construction of the Pez Vela Marina in 2010. Quepos is an historic fishing community and so most of the boat captains are local Ticos who have been out on the ocean most of their life and bring a lot of knowledge and well-honed intuition to their craft.
Lake Arenal (Kayak fishing and other water activities)
Lake Arenal is a lake at the base of the active Arenal Volcano in the north-central highlands of Costa Rica. It is the largest lake in Costa Rica (33 square miles) with depths between 100-200 feet. Kayak fishing is popular and the lake is populated by rainbow bass and machacas. There are lots of other water activities available at the lake such as stand-up paddling, windsurfing, kite surfing, and bird watching.
What are the common fish species in Costa Rica to catch?
Costa Rica’s marine life is just as rich and diverse as its land fauna. Below is a list of the most common and sought-after fish species that you can hope to catch in Costa Rica:
- Yellowfin Tuna
- Mahi Mahi
- Snapper (Cubera, Yellow, Rose, Mullet)
- Jack crevalle
How much does it cost to go fishing in Costa Rica?
A fishing charter trip can cost anywhere from $500 for a one-day, 5-person boat to thousands of dollars for multi-day overnight charters on sleek yachts.
Most charter trips include an insured and licensed boat, bait, fishing gear, safety equipment, cold drinks, and snacks or even a meal.
A fishing license is required for anyone who wishes to fish in Costa Rica. It is available at this link and should be purchased ahead of time to avoid any complications. However, some of the more popular fishing destinations and marinas do have representatives from INCOPESCA (Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Agriculture) on site who can process the application. The license costs $15 per person for 1-8 days of fishing and $30 per person for 30 days.
Marinas & Fishing Resorts
While fishing charters are available all over the coasts, marinas provide more variety in the type of charters available. The two most important marinas in Costa Rica are:
Marina Pez Vela
Located in Quepos, next to Manuel Antonio, Marina Pez Vela is a smaller marina, but it hosts lots of championships and activities that bring fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. (On a personal note, we like the fact that Marina Pez Vela has done a lot to integrate into the local community and has several social responsibility programs like sponsoring the JovenSalud life-skills program in local schools!)
Los Sueños Marina
Located in Playa Herradura, just north of Jaco on the Central Pacific coast, Los Sueños is a large facility that is part of the Los Sueños Resort and next to La Iguana Golf Course.
When to go fishing in Costa Rica?
There is no specific fishing season in Costa Rica. However, planning a trip during the dry season (January-May) reduces the likelihood of fishing in the rain. Learn more about the best times to visit Costa Rica.
Due to conservation regulations, all billfish are protected by catch and release guidelines. This means that you can catch the fish, but if the captain identifies it as a protected species, you have to release it back into the water within 60 seconds. The NOAA provides some excellent recommendations to ensure that catch and release practices do no harm to the fish.
Plan a Fishing Trip to Costa Rica
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John Rabenau has been working in the eco-tourism & adventure travel industry in Costa Rica since 2002. He has worked in a variety of capacities from Outdoor Educator & Principle Guide to Itinerary Design Manager & Business Owner for numerous organizations. He has grown Costa Rica Escapes into one of the most reputable Costa Rica travel agencies since its creation in 2006, hosting more than 5,000 people with custom vacation itineraries.