Fishing In Costa Rica: An Offshore & Inshore Anglers Paradise

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Costa Rica is one of those Central American countries blessed with two coastlines. Between the Pacific and the Caribbean sides of Costa Rica, there aren’t many saltwater fish species you can’t go fishing for! 

With so much coastline on offer and such a big difference in the species available on each, knowing where to start when it comes to fishing can be a little overwhelming. However, with some guidance and insider knowledge, I can narrow down the best spots for your fishing adventure in this amazing country. 

Having fished on both shorelines on many occasions, I will cover everything you need to know about fishing in the country, including the top fish species you can catch there, where and when to catch them, and who to book a charter with. 

Key Takeaways

  • Diverse Fish Species: Costa Rica’s waters are home to various fish species, offering anglers opportunities to catch billfish, marlin, sailfish, roosterfish, snook, mackerel, snapper, and more. The country is mainly known for its excellent billfish population.
  • Prime Locations and Seasons: The Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica provide different fishing environments and species. It’s essential to research the best times of year and locations for the specific type of fishing you’re interested in.
  • Inshore vs. Offshore Fishing: Costa Rica offers inshore and offshore fishing. Inshore fishing can yield species like roosterfish, snook, and barracuda, while offshore fishing is where you’ll find big game fish like marlin and sailfish. Each type of fishing offers a unique experience and requires different techniques and equipment.

What Fish Can Be Caught In Costa Rica? 

The saltwater fishing in Costa Rica is quite incredible, and it’s known to have some of the best offshore fishing in the world, but it also has some amazing inshore fishing. 

You’ll be able to go after all the trophy fish you might find in the Pacific and the Caribbean seas on the same trip, making Costa Rica quite a unique fishing destination. 

To simplify things, I will split the fishing between the two coastlines, as you might only go to one when you visit. 

Best Fish To Catch On Costa Rica’s Caribbean Side 

Dorado Fish
A beautiful dorado caught on the Caribean side

The Caribbean side of Costa Rica has fewer species to offer than the Pacific side, but there are still pretty incredible fish to catch. These include: 

  • Jack Crevalle
  • Snook
  • Tarpon
  • Dorado

Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline is most famous for its tarpon fishing, and the size and huge numbers make a day on the water action-packed and adrenaline-fuelled. 

Best Fish To Catch On Costa Rica’s Pacific Side 

One of my amazing Roosterfish caught while inshore fishing in Costa Rica

The Pacific coastline of Costa Rica is home to a very diverse list of incredible fish species that most anglers only dream of catching, and these include: 

  • Blue Marlin
  • Black Marlin
  • Striped Marlin
  • Sailfish 
  • Dorado
  • Wahoo
  • Yellowfin Tuna 
  • Roosterfish 
  • Jacks 

As you can see, offshore giants like marlin dominate the best species to catch on the Pacific side. However, don’t forget about the inshore fishing for roosterfish, as they are quite incredible predators and very special fish to catch. 

Tip: The Roosterfish has a unique “rooster comb”; it has seven very long spines on the dorsal fin, which makes it one of the easiest fish to identify. 

Where To Go Fishing In Costa Rica?

With such an extensive coastline (over 800 miles), finding the right fishing spot isn’t as easy as in most other countries. There are hot spots that should be fished and dead zones that need to be avoided. 

Having an extensive knowledge of both coastlines is crucial in saving time and making the most of your trip, especially if it’s your only chance of going there; I will give you my ultimate line-up of destinations on each coastline. 

Where To Go Fishing On Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coastline? 

Fishing At Tortuguero

Tortuguero sits on the northern tip of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline and is slap bang in the middle of an estuary system and Tortuguero National Park

If you know anything about fishing for tarpon and snook, then you’ll understand why Tortuguero is such a hotspot for them. Snook and tarpon love estuarine systems and tend to hang out around them, and in Tortuguero, you’ll find a lot of tarpon and snook, and big ones, too. 

Tortuguero is also home to an amazing number of turtles and amazing beaches, and the diversity of wildlife in the national park is nothing short of mind-blowing. So, even though you’ll spend your time fishing there, your days off will be quite incredible too. 

Fishing At Manzanillo 

Manzanillo lies on the southern tip of Costa Rica’s coastline, just near the border with Panama. It’s a lush tropical paradise where the jungle meets white sand beaches and the lush blue waters of the Caribbean. 

Swimming just offshore from the beach are some huge tarpon, snook, triggerfish, and dorado, making for a day of exciting and diverse fishing. 

The array of fishing environments in Manzanillo is incredible, too. You can head into the deeper waters searching for tarpon and dorado, walk the reefs at low tide looking for triggerfish, or head into the lagoon to target snook and tarpon in a mangrove-lined estuary. 

Where To Go Fishing On Costa Rica’s Pacific Coastline? 

While the entire Pacific coastline of Costa Rica is home to amazing fishing, it would require a book to write about all of them! So, I will focus on two of the best for you in this article: Los Suenos and Golfito. 

Fishing At Los Suenos 

Los Suenos is famed as the offshore fishing capital of the entire country, and for good reason. There isn’t an offshore species in Costa Rica that you can’t target and likely catch from the Los Suenos Marina, and thus, it’s also home to some of the best offshore boats, skippers, and crews in the country. 

Whether you want to catch 20 sailfish in a day, target blue marlin on a fly rod, or have fun near the shore chasing roosterfish and jack crevalle, Los Suenos has everything to offer. 

Another great thing about Los Suenos is its location, as it’s just a 2-hour drive from San Jose, making it an easy transfer from the international airport. The facilities at Los Suenos are also world-class, and you’ll find everything from world-class restaurants to golf courses, which you can enjoy while not fishing.

Fishing At Golfito 

Golfito lies on the southern end of Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline, and it’s quite a unique area as it’s part of a large peninsula with a vast bay that offers some amazing inshore fishing for roosterfish, snapper, snook, and jack crevalle. 

It’s not far from the offshore species either, and within a short run out to sea, you’ll find yourself in areas packed with dorado, yellowfin tuna, sailfish, and marlin. 

If you’re looking to fish for inshore and offshore while your here, then Golfito is one of the best destinations to choose from. 

When To Go Fishing In Costa Rica? 

Most countries with such a large number of fish species worth catching usually have multiple different seasons of when it’s best to be there to catch them. But Costa Rica is a little different as their weather patterns mean that there is one time of year when you can catch them all. 

Between the months of December and April, Costa Rica has its warm and dry seasons on both coastlines, and this is when all the species are on offer at the same time. The tarpon fishing on the Caribbean side lights up from January to April, and the offshore and inshore fishing goes off on the Pacific side from December to April. 

If you want to do something particular, such as target blue marlin on the fly (which I highly recommend), then you’ll want to be on the Pacific coast and in Los Suenos between June and August. During this time of year, the seamounts some 70 miles offshore are packed with smaller blue marlin that are perfect for catching on a fly rod. 

Best Methods To Catch Fish In Costa Rica 

When fishing in Costa Rica, you can target the inshore species with spinning or fly rods. When offshore fishing, trolling or teasing and switching to a fly is the way to do it. 

All the lodges and charter boats will have all the gear you need, so there is no need to travel with your equipment if you don’t want to. 

If you have never fly-fished for billfish, tarpon, or roosterfish, I highly recommend throwing a day of it into the mix while you’re in Costa Rica. Nothing is like feeling a big fish eat the fly while holding the rod in your hand. 

Where To Book Your Costa Rica Fishing Trip? 

Zancudo Lodge fishing
Zancudo Lodge charter – One of the best lodges!

Having been a saltwater fishing guide for multiple lodges in several countries, I assure you that Costa Rica has some great options.

Booking your fishing trip to Costa Rica couldn’t be easier. The below links will take you to all the information needed for an unforgettable fishing charter in Costa Rica. 

If you want to head to the Caribbean side, contact Tarponville Lodge for fishing out of Manzanillo. Tarponville Lodge is the best, but you can expect to pay between $3700 and $ 4200 per person for 4 or 5 fishing days (not including rod rental, tips, etc.)For non-fishing guests, they have a vast range of other activities, including hikes, dolphin tours, and bird-watching.

Head to Jungle Tarpon Lodge for fishing out of Tortuguero; this area is out of the way, so be prepared for less of the normal home comforts. The lodge is small and can accommodate up to 12 anglers.

If the Pacific side is more your vibe, then Zancudo Lodge is the best place to be around Golfito, and for Los Suenos, I personally recommend booking with Maverick Costa Rica, who run and build some of the best charter boats in the marina. 

Contact one of the lodges I have recommended in the links above. Based on my visits over the past few years, I highly recommend these few options.

Costa Rica Fishing Regulations

Anyone fishing in the waters of Costa Rica must have a fishing license, which can be easily obtained through the Costa Rica license Inccopesca website for a small fee. If you are booking with a lodge or charter boat, they will have organized this for you, but it’s worth reconfirming before you arrive.  

Costa Rica takes protecting its environment very seriously (25% of the country is protected rainforest), so be sure to follow the rules while you’re there. 

Winding Up 

Thanks so much for reading my article about fishing in Costa Rica. I hope it’s inspired you to start planning your trip there. From a personal experience, it’s one of my top offshore and inshore fishing destinations worldwide.

Costa Rica is an exciting location for fishing, and the species you will catch will make it a wild, fishy adventure! 

You can find more in-depth articles on over 40 destinations worldwide, including other parts of the Americas, Asia, and Europe.

Jamie Melvin