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Costa Rica is a fishing paradise with its vast coastline, crystal clear waters, and abundant marine life. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced angler, the country offers something for everyone. From deep sea fishing to fly fishing on the rivers, you can find the perfect spot for your next adventure.
We created this guide to give you details about what you can catch in every area of the country, the best time of year, great fishing charters we suggest, and just some things you should know before angling in Costa Rica.
So, let’s get to it!
Types of Fish in Costa Rica
The easiest way to organize this is by area of the country. So…
Marlin (November – March), tuna (August – October), wahoo (May – August), mackerel (all year), roosterfish (November – March), sailfish (May – August), dorado (May – October), snapper (all year).
Marlin (September – November), tuna (June – September), wahoo (June – August), mackerel (all year), roosterfish (June – October), sailfish (December – April), dorado (May – October), snook (September – November), snapper (all year)
Marlin (August – December), tuna (August – December), wahoo (June – August), mackerel (all year), roosterfish (all year), sailfish (January, February and May – July), dorado (May – October), snook (September – November), snapper (all year)
Tarpon (May – October), wahoo (February – June), mackerel (all year), dorado (all year)
In other words, all year round is a good time to enjoy a fishing experience. Both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts are great for catching some bucket-list fish. You’ll just be targeting different things. But, there is always something to catch!
Costa Rica Fishing Charters by Area
Playas del Coco – We suggest a half or full-day trip with Captain Roberto on his Boston Whaler.
Flamingo – We suggest booking your trip with Captain Jorge on the Barrileta.
Tamarindo – We suggest booking your trip with Captain Noah of Sea Breeze Fishing.
Bahia Rica Adventures is our favorite fishing tour company in the area. Captain Thomas will take you out for a half-day adventure. This area is amazing for Roosterfish, but you can also expect to maybe catch Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Jack Crevalle, Needlefish, or Cubera Snapper.
Herradura – If you are staying at Los Sueños resort in Herradura, we suggest booking your trip with Captain Jorge on the Barrileta.
Jaco – We suggest a half or full-day trip with Captain Alejandro. Also, he previously lived in the US, so he speaks great English.
Soleil Sport Fishing is also an excellent option.
Alternatively, we really love the mangrove fishing experience with Mangrove Fishing Tours. It’s a fun tour that people of all ages will likely enjoy.
Puerto Jimenez – We suggest booking your half or full-day fishing tour with Captain Gerry.
Golfito – Take a full offshore or inshore fishing trip with Pesca Passion.
Sierpe – We suggest a full-day offshore experience or an inshore trip to Isla de Cano with Tours Sierpe CR.
Tortuguero – If you are interested in fishing we suggest booking your trip with Captain Primo along the Tortuguero rivers.
Freshwater and River Fishing
Costa Rica is usually a more popular destination for saltwater fishing, but there are some freshwater fishing opportunities as well. Our favorite place for this is on Lake Arenal near La Fortuna.
We suggest booking your trip with Captain Marc on his 19’ Sea Pro boat. He’s the best and I guarantee you’ll have a great time.
Or if you prefer kayaking, you can book your trip here.
A fun river experience we like is fly fishing in Guanacaste on the Tempisque and Corobici rivers. This tour can be organized with Captain Estaban at Guanacaste Fly Fishing.
Fishing from Shore
Fishing from the beach or rocks is really popular with locals in the country. Usually, you will see people with a spool of line and a hook on the end fishing just before sunset.
If you want to try this method, just head to any shop that sells fishing gear (you can find a place in all bigger beach towns) and they will be able to get you set up for just a few dollars.
Thomas is all about some fishing (as in, he is obsessed). So we have had many, many, many experiences.
Typically, Thomas sticks to fishing from the shore because it is definitely the most affordable option.
However, he also frequently goes out on boats for fishing trips when the opportunity arises.
There is definitely a price and quality range as far as boats and equipment go. But, I would say that even the more budget-friendly charters we have been on have been decent.
Thomas has never had a “bad” experience. But, there have been a few times in which he was a bit disappointed by the crew or certain actions.
He once experienced a captain trying to fish in a protected area just to ensure that the guests caught something. Which, I understand, that particular captain wanted to ensure his guests had a good time and figured they wouldn’t know that they were in a protected wildlife area. But, it was still not cool.
Thomas has also experienced the crew taking most of the caught fish and barely giving any to the paying customers who caught the fish.
But, on the other side of that, he has also had some really amazing inshore and offshore fishing experiences. There are always those boats with excellent equipment, captains and crew who are just great people, and charters with drinks and food that make the whole day even more enjoyable.
Anyway, point is, not every fishing charter will be perfect. However, we tried to only recommend fishing experiences that we have really enjoyed or have come highly recommended to us by other people.
Also, on that note, if you have an experience you really love (or didn’t) please tell us about it in the comment section below. It helps us to keep this website content fresh and accurate.
You need a fishing license in Costa Rica only if fishing from a boat. If you are booking a charter, your boat crew will take of this for you. Although, I’ve never seen anyone actually checking this.
As far as I know, fishing from shore is allowed without a license needed.
What to Bring/ Wear
We suggest wearing a long sleeve-breathable shirt that provides UV protection, breathable shorts, flip flops (in our experience we’ve always been told to take our shoes off on boats here, but maybe double-check with your captain regarding footwear), a hat that provides full coverage, sunglasses with a strap, a fishing scarf, and tons of SPF 50 sunblock.
It can be hot out there, but the sun is also so strong. If you will be spending several hours on a boat deck you will want as much sun protection as possible.
We suggest bringing a waterproof backpack, a bottle of water (usually the boat should be fully stocked with drinks, but just in case), any of your favorite fishing gear that you would like to use, your phone or camera for pictures with your catches, a plastic waterproof case for your phone, cash for leaving a tip, and motion sickness pills.
Also, you might not need it in on the boat but we always pack some gallon-size zip lock bags or some Tupperware. This takes up almost no space in your luggage and is so useful when transporting food between places.
For example, if you cook up some of your freshly caught fish and then move on to another destination the next day, you will need a way to transport it to your next VRBO or hotel.
Cooking Your Caught Fish
After catching some fish there are a few different ways you can prepare it. I’m sure your boat captain will provide tons of advice.
For white fish, we like to prepare a traditional Costa Rican ceviche.
This is done by cutting your uncooked fish into cubes and soaking it in lime juice. The lime juice will turn the fish white and basically “cook” it. Then add sliced red bell pepper and red onions.
Garnish with cilantro. In Costa Rica, we have found that a lot of people add a few drops of Sprite. Yea, I know it sounds weird, but it works to add a little sweetness.
For tuna, we like to make sashimi. To do this, slice the fish into cubes or thinly shaved pieces and eat it raw. We usually make a dipping sauce of soy sauce, sesame oil, and a dash of lime. I like some sesame seeds with it as well.
There is also this salad that I am obsessed with from Banana Beach Club in Santa Teresa that uses cubes of raw tuna which you could replicate. Sadly, it seems they recently updated their menu and no longer serve it.
But, it consisted of cooked quinoa that had been cooled off, fresh mint, and leafy greens topped with sashimi tuna. The dressing was very light and seemed to be a mix of soy sauce and sesame oil.
If you are not staying in a place with a kitchen, you can usually find a few restaurants in whichever town you are staying in that will be happy to cook the fish up for you. Ask your boat captain, I bet they can point you in the right direction.
If you sometimes get seasick, it is definitely best to load up on motion sickness pills before going out on a boat here.
Personally, I no longer go on fishing trips with Thomas. I get way too sick and can not find the experience enjoyable.
I find that when the boat is moving I am fine, but when the boat is just sitting while the actual fishing is taking place, I just can’t hang.
You can buy motion sickness pills at almost any pharmacy and even usually at the grocery store in Costa Rica. If you need to buy them at the grocery store you will usually need to ask at the checkout counter because they are kept behind the register.
Typically these are sold as individual pills rather than a full pack.
In our experience, usually Gravol is the motion sickness pill that is carried.
Or, go ahead and order some now and bring them with you.
Budget Friendly Fishing
If you are interested in going fishing but are not willing to pay the high price tag that comes with a tour, there are a few alternatives.
Sometimes Thomas likes to find a place where he can rent a kayak for a few hours and then goes out with his own poles.
This is easiest if you have a portable pole that you can bring on the plane.
Another option is to try your hand at fishing like the locals and try the shore fishing techniques I mentioned in this post’s “Shore Fishing” section.
If you don’t plan to go fishing, but would like to enjoy eating some fish there are plenty of opportunities for that. A few of our favorite ways to eat fish here are; whole red snapper fried up (like pictured above), tuna eaten raw as sashimi, and white fish prepared as ceviche.
Safety While on Board
On most boat tours in Costa Rice you will be required to wear a life jacket, but typically with a fishing charter, it is not required. We suggest familiarizing yourself with the location of flotation devices when you get on board, for your own safety.
Definitely keep an eye on the weather. In our experience, most boat captains pay careful attention to the forecast and check in on the weather frequently, but you never know. Especially during the rainy season, rain storms can creep up quickly.
No Fishing Zones
Fishing in national parks is not allowed. Keep in mind that a lot of national parks in the country are not just land, they extend out into the water. There are also “no take” zones in Guanacaste near Bat Islands or Catalina Island.
And that is all for fishing! Whether you are an amateur or professional fisherman looking for a unique experience away from home, Costa Rica is a great fishing destination. We feel that with the diversity of both coasts as well as the river and lakes in the middle of the country, Costa Rica truly has it all!
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help!
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Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know
🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?
Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will allow you to visit more off-the-beaten-path destinations and will allow you to take fun day trips on your own.
☀️ Should I buy travel insurance for Costa Rica?
Yes, travel insurance is always a good idea. It is not just for illness or injury, but also lost luggage, delayed trips, and more!
We like Heymondo for Costa Rica travel insurance.
✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?
Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).
🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?
🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?
The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.
💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?
The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas
🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?
Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.
🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?
Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.