Superyacht Destination Guide: Costa Rica

With thanks to Jimmy T's Provisions, Nautica Shipping Agents and Marina Pez Vela

According to those who know it best, Costa Rica is a dream superyacht location.

It may not be one of the first places you think of when planning a cruise, but given its vast array of luxurious qualities there’s no reason why it shouldn’t feature towards the top of your must-visit list.

With clear waters that are perfect for diving, some of the best sportfishing in the world and secluded beach anchorages where your footprints in the sand look as though they are the first to be there, no-one can resist the inimitable charm of Costa Rica.

Aerial view of Marina Pez Vela

When to visit Costa Rica aboard a superyacht

The best time to visit Costa Rica is between November and April as it’s the driest part of the year and temperatures tend to hover around the 28-degrees mark.

However, Costa Rica boasts great weather most of the year, which allows for extended cruising and safe marinas. The country’s rainy season sees the most heavy rain falling in September and October, but it’s not as bad as you might think. During this period it’s common for the mornings to be sunny and the afternoons slightly more unsettled – so as long as you’re prepared for a potential mid-afternoon shower you’ll be fine.

What to do in Costa Rica

The abundance of wildlife, on land and in water, is one of the country’s USPs. Whale breaching is a regular – and rather breath-taking – occurrence, as is catching a glimpse of mega pods of dolphins swimming and playing together without a care in the world. With giant tuna also commonly seen, as well as marlin, sailfish and numerous other species, you’re never short of sealife to sit back and admire when you go for a dive or if you have a particularly good vantage point on board.

In the jungles, monkeys of all types will climb right on to your boat if you let them, while sloths are often found in trees and slowly meandering through the streets of Manuel Antonio park.

The birds, meanwhile, are constantly on the move. Scarlet macaws feast on almonds right above your head as you walk through the car park to play golf at one of the country’s world-class resorts.

If bird watching is something you enjoy, it’s definitely worth booking Rio Esquinas Mangrove-Ocean Kayaking. One of the largest and most pristine river systems in Costa Rica is just a few short beaches away. The river mouth mangroves lead to picturesque views of the forest and remote farms. The diverse terrain allows for some of the best bird watching in the area, especially at sunrise and sunset.

Away from the wildlife now, but not the amazement. A trip to Costa Rica isn’t complete without viewing Arenal Volcano in the centre of the country. A helicopter can take you alongside the natural wonder for a closer look. At night you can rest in hot springs and view the volcano under moonlight, which is pretty hard to beat as far as experiences go! There are a number of hot springs of varying temperatures around Arenal Volcano and the lake.

Costa Rica also offers some of the best warm waters found anywhere in the world. This makes it the perfect place to for kite boarding, surfing and general fun aboard your yacht’s water toys.

Jimmy T's Provisions in Costa Rica

Cruising permits and yacht clearances

Yachts travelling within the country must obtain a cruising permit from one of the following official marinas of entry: Marina Papagayo, Marina Paz Vela (Quepos), Marina Los Sueños (Herradura), Marina Bahia Golfito, Fish Hook Marina (Golfito), Banana Bay (Golfito).

All requested documentation should be submitted at least 48 hours before arrival. After the clearance in is complete, the agent takes the captain to the customs office to process the cruising permit (which allows the yacht to remain in Costa Rica for 90 days). A charter law has been approved, along with a yacht stay extension, which will allow yachts to remain in the country for up to 2 years, but as of now (May 2021) this law is still not in place.

If the captain decides to take the yacht outside of Costa Rica, the permit can be suspended for the length of time the yacht is out the country and renewed upon re-entry.

Cruising permits allow the yacht to go to different destinations within Costa Rica but once the captain wants to take the yacht from one marina to another, a local clearance is required. The agent can process it with at least 24 hours notice.

For international clearance, 48 hours notice is requested.

To visit Cocos Island, Caño Island or Murcielago Island, reservations must be done in advance due to capacity restrictions. Fees for anchorage, admission and diving apply for each island.

Superyachts berthed at Marina Pez Vela

Yacht berths in Costa Rica

Marina Pez Vela – Quepos

There are a number of marinas dotted around Costa Rica. The country’s newest and largest full-service marina – Marina Pez Vela – is located on the central Pacific coast in Quepos, near Manuel Antonio National Park. It boasts 195 custom-built slips catering to yachts up to 60 metres (200 feet) LOA with a 4.27-metre (14-foot) safe operating depth and a custom designed Coffer dam system which has created a tranquil basin for the protection of clients and their vessels.

The state of the art, floating concrete docks allow for seamless access to vessels regardless of the tides and are built to international standards. The marina has also just completed the installation of fibre optic to all 195 slips becoming the first and only marina in all of Central America to offer direct connections to each vessel, along with direct IPTV connections to allow for high quality entertainment.

The marina offers all facilities in a Plaza area, including retail units, restaurants and bike rentals, with water sports and superb fishing in the surrounding waters.

10 luxury villas on the top floor of their commercial plaza offer an unbeatable combination of luxury, convenience and exclusivity in the heart of this new marina.

The Yacht Yard at Marina Pez Vela offers haul out up to 200 GMT via Marine Travelift, with service and repair options as well as dry storage for boats up to 11.8 metres (38 feet) LOA/12 GMT via Hoist fork lift, and additional services upon request.

Marina Pez Vela with superyachts berthed

Marina Papagayo

Marina Papagayo is suitable for clearance in if yachts are coming from the North Pacific. Surrounded by wonderful beaches and the spectacular Papagayo Bay, the marina is also within walking distance of high-end hotels and restaurants. A fuel dock is available and there’s a wide variety of tour activities to visit. It’s very quiet too, making it the perfect place for those looking for privacy.

Marina Bahia Golfito

Located in a privileged zone of Costa Rica, surrounded by lush mangroves and rainforest with very quiet waters, Marina Bahia Golfito is an ideal marina for clearance in/out from and to Panama. It’s a very private and quiet marina and it has a fuel dock available.

In April 2021 it was announced that president Carlos Alvarado had signed law no.9977 entitled ‘Promotion of Tourist Marinas and coastal Development’ which, according to the Costa Rican government, would improve the operating conditions of marinas and improve the country’s ability to attract nautical tourism.

Fuel docks can be found in Puntarenas, Los Seuños Marina and in Golfito. Deeper draft boats (1.8 metres) are advised to visit the well-equipped, easy-on/easy-off dock at Los Sueños rather than trying to negotiate the shallow channel on the back-side of Puntarenas. Local advice is to call ahead and schedule an appointment should your yacht require more than 100 gallons of diesel.

Plan your trip to Costa Rica

Is Costa Rica ticking most of your boxes? It’s time you start planning your trip!

It’s worth noting that plenty of talented technicians have setup business to assist should you be in need of maintenance, and the close proximity to the USA means that if you need to fly an expert in or source parts that are not readily available then this can be achieved relatively easily.

Search for specialist yacht charter companies and yacht agents who help you source a vessel, obtain clearance and develop a tailored itinerary.

Discover more key superyacht cruising locations in our library of Destination Guides


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