Off the coast of Costa Rica, some 300 miles out into the Pacific, Cocos Island is one of the last, best places in the diving world. Schools of hammerhead sharks beyond count (especially during the rainy season, June through October), manta rays, and even the occasional whale shark are prime attractions, but probably in the back of every diver’s mind is that a gold doubloon might just be waiting around the next coral head.
For Cocos Island National Park, rich in natural history, is also steeped in legends of buried treasures. The names of ships carved into rocks at Chatham Bay date to the 1600s, and it was a favorite way station for pirates – who reportedly buried loot worth millions.
Today, as it was for the buccaneers, the only way to get to Cocos is by boat. Divers, who make up the vast majority of visitors, usually arrive on live-aboard dive boats (a 9- or 10-day trip from the port of Puntarenas). If they go ashore, it’s usually only to dry out for a spell. But exploring the 14-square-mile, virtually uninhabited island that Jacques Cousteau once called the most beautiful in the world isn’t really a hardship. There are other Cocos Islands in the world (near Guam, Australia, and Mauritius to name a few), but there is only one “Shark Island. ” That’s a good thing, right?