Fishing in Costa Rica

Where is the Best Fishing in Costa Rica?

Fishing for Marlin on Fly | Tico Travel

For billfish the best fishing in Costa Rica is on the Pacific coast. For Tarpon and Snook the East Coast of Costa Rica is the best place to go.

Even though Costa Rica is a small country,  it is world famous for its fishing and is a top destination for any fisherman. Whether you are looking to catch sailfish and marlin or tarpon and snook ( maybe both) finding the right place and the right time in Costa Rica is something that requires expertise and many years of “local knowledge.

Who wants to risk an entire fishing trip or vacation for that matter, on out dated information?  So, before you go looking for Costa Rica Charter and in order for you to make the best decision, I thinks its best to first take a look at the different areas for fishing in Costa Rica so you can decide what area would be the best for you!

I will cover the major fishing areas in Costa Rica and do my best to describe the fishing opportunities, the facilities available and the most productive time to fish those areas.

Fishing the North Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

Can you imagine what a sight it must have been? A million or so years ago when the volcanoes blasted out of the ocean floor piling rocks and lava for hundreds of miles creating what is now known as Central America.

This also created an underwater maze of formations that many species of sport fish call home or frequent to feed during their migratory routes.

The entire western shore of Costa Rica is made up of these spectacular coastline works of nature. They are home to an untold number of varieties of snappers and groupers.

The finicky and celebrated “sport fish,” the roosterfish hangs out in this area along with several varieties of jacks, rainbow runners and sharks.

Going a little further offshore the volcanic activity has formed pinnacles that rise hundreds of feet out of the ocean floor, attracting baitfish that start the “bigger fish eats littler fish” chain of life. Marlin, Sails, Tuna, and Dolphin fish take advantage of the feeding opportunities here.

One of the exciting things about fishing the Pacific in Costa Rica is that all these popular species can be taken year round but that being said there is still a seasonal migration where the fish in Costa Rica move up and down the coast and during one time of year a certain area will be excellent for several months but then again slow during the others.

Generally speaking fishing on the Pacific in the central coast of Costa Rica is from December through April where the major bite of migratory species will be in the center of the country and south.

The rest of the year, May through November the best bite will be to the north. There are exceptions to every rule, of course.

Like the tremendous marlin run off of Playa Carillo the last couple of years and the bad boy “El Nino” that had most of the world in a tailspin but those are typically the guidelines I recommend to people when asking where and when should they go fishing on the Pacific. Now let me give you some more details:

Bat Islands to Cabo Blanco

Fishing in Costa Rica along the Nicoya Peninsula in the province of Guanacaste offers traveling anglers a diverse selection of fishing opportunities.

Flamingo is the center of activity and is home to the largest marina in Costa Rica. There are as many as 30 charter boats operating out of the marina ranging from 23 to 47 feet in length.

There you will find modern facilities able to accommodate boats to 70 feet in length. The Costa Rica hotels in the area are luxurious and most have pools and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.

Although the main Costa Rica fishing season is considered April through December, in the months of January and February the waters off Nicoya produce some of the best marlin fishing to be found anywhere in the world. Most of the fishing there is out of Playa Carrillo to escape the Papagayo (bring your dramamine) winds that often blow that time of year.

The Catalina Islands

These islands are a short run out of Flamingo and produce the same inshore species as the Bat Islands but not in the numbers as the islands to the north. At times they have a great run of wahoo that stop at the island to feed during their migratory runs

The Bat Islands

They are a long run from Flamingo, but Fishing Boats like “the Fandango” can make the run in about an hour out of Playas del Coco.

The volcanic underwater structure of the islands make for great haunts for a variety of species to prowl the fertile waters.

Because of the little fishing pressure in this area, inshore species like roosterfish, snapper, grouper, amberjack, wahoo and dorado are readily available.

Anglers have even been surprised with marlin and sailfish hook-ups fishing for other species.


An excellent spot to stay while on a blue water quest. It used to be a  little more laid back than Flamingo but now there are luxury hotels as well as inexpensive but comfortable lodging to found.

You can check here to  see out all the options out there today.  There are several American captains in Costa Rica fishing out of Tamarindo with over 20 years experience fishing these waters  and the Charter boats in this area, during peak fishing time range from 22 to 38 feet and on up.

You will also find a few boats working a little further south out of the towns of Nosara, Punta Guiones, Garza, Samara, and Playa Carrillo.

As I mentioned earlier the number of boats increases from December through March when the unpredictable Papagayo winds blow to the north.

Fishing the Southern Pacific Of Costa Rica

Costa Rica Marlin Fishing | Tico Travel

This southern region, including the Osa Peninsula, Golfo Dulce, and south to Punta Burica offers some of the best possible fishing opportunities to be found anywhere on earth.

Drake Bay and Cano Island

Drake Bay is most commonly accessed by way of boat traveling the Sierpe river, but an airstrip capable of handling six passenger planes is now in place. The mouth of the Rio Sierpe is surrounded by a lush mangrove estuary system that offers fishing for snook, snapper, and corvina.

Between the island and the mainland, outside the protected area is a massive volcanic rock reef system. Trolling in this area often produces tuna, wahoo, and an occasional sailfish or marlin.

What the reef is famous for is giant Pacific cubera snapper. These “freight train” of a fish often go over 50 pounds and several world records have been broken fishing the reef.

Along the coast of the mainland several volcanic structures attract many varieties of snapper as well as roosterfish. The most popular hot spots are Corcovado rock and the Plates. The Plates are a series of underwater rock plates that resemble dominos that have toppled over.

Golfo Dulce

There are quite a few Lodging and fishing choices out of Golfito like the Fish Hook Marina Hotel or Zancudo, and Jimenez on the Golfo Dulce. Boats running offshore have easy access to the blue water species and the gulf offers excellent fishing as well.

entire eastern shore is volcanic structure, holding several types of grouper and snapper and the Esquinas river in the northeast corner of the gulf produces some big black snook. Rio Coto at Zancudo is also a snook producer.

This mangrove lined river also holds big snapper, but the underwater roots of the mangroves make for a convenient escape route. Probably the most famous structure in this region is Matapalo Rock.

Just outside the mouth of Golfo Dulce, the structure is home to good numbers of amberjack, snapper, and roosterfish. Occasional surprises in this shallow water have been sailfish, wahoo, dorado, and mako sharks.

An ideal fishing trip if you can talk one of the local operators into it is a run down to Punta Burica, the southernmost tip of Costa Rica at the Panama border.

Because of the contour of the coastline the voyage from Punta Banco to Punta Burica takes you through a section of blue water on the way to the rarely fished rock structures at Burica.

This offers anglers a chance to tangle with sails, tuna, dorado, snapper and roosterfish in one day of fishing.

Fishing The Costa Rica Central Pacific Coast

Costa Rica Fishing Charters

Puntarenas, Punta Leona, Jaco Beach, and Dominical all have small fishing operations on the central west coast of Costa Rica but the nucleus of the fishing action is Quepos.

In the height of the season it is possible that over fifty boats of all sizes will be charter ready ranging from $450 to $1,200 a day.

This may seem like a large number of boats but in January and February it is difficult to find an available boat. Several of the more popular captains are booked more than 100 days in a row.

The National Park at Manuel Antonio

Many families with non fishing members enjoy the park, rafting or horseback riding while the fishing members test their skills against the blue water species that roam the waters just offshore.

Manuel Antonio offers four different beaches with hiking trails along the beach as well as a trail that runs along the cliffs with a spectacular view of the Pacific and nearby islands.

It is common to see white face monkeys, iguanas and other types of wildlife while walking through the park.

Quepos Fishing

The best fishing in Costa Rica is from December through April which makes many American anglers happy to escape the “great white north” for a hot tropical climate with some of the best fishing in the world.

On a typical day trolling out of Quepos, anglers can expect to have 10 to 20 sailfish up in the baits and possibly a marlin. Depending on the experience of who is setting the hook, releasing 10 or more in a day is more on the common side than something spectacular.

In late September of last year, six weeks before the normal Costa Rica fishing season begins, boats were seeing 15 or more billfish everyday.

In the prime season, numbers were way down and anglers were lucky to see 10 fish a day. In late April, boats were raising 20 to 30 fish a day, which is unusual for that time of year.

Although the target for most anglers are the billfish, Quepos waters hold good numbers of dorado and tuna also. Some tuna caught are up over 200 pounds and the dorado sometimes reach 60 pounds.

Inshore fishing can be very good around the rock formations and at the river mouths. Roosterfish and cubera snapper are the main attraction but snook are also abundant in the area.

In fact they had a run of snook in 1999 that hasn’t been seen in years. Forty pounds were common and the numbers caught were phenomenal. The world record black snook came from these waters (57 lbs. 12 oz.) and bigger fish are there to be had by record seekers.

Every river mouth in the central Pacific region holds snook and many can be fished by surf casting.

Final Thoughts

Costa Rica offers world class fishing–some of the best there is to offer so I will leave you with one expression that I have been told by many of the old time captains.

If you’re too busy to come down and test the waters, you’re just too busy!”