June 21, 2024

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Santa Cruz Costa Rica Fishing Guide: The Complete Guide

Reading Time: 10 minutes

From the tranquil waters of the Tempisque River to the pristine shores of Playa Tamarindo, Santa Cruz is a charming canton in the breathtaking province of Guanacaste. You can start your day by surfing world-class waves and then explore lush tropical forests in the afternoon. Whatever you opt for, you’ll get to take in the authentic beauty of Costa Rican culture and tradition. However, one thing definitely stands out. Fishing in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica, is an experience no one should miss out on.

This beautiful corner of Costa Rica is surrounded by the mighty Pacific Ocean, serving as a getaway to some incredible beaches and rivers. Anglers from all over the world come to this sun-kissed province to hunt for trophies and experience game fishing like never before. Of course, it’s not just about large catches and bragging rights. Fishing in Santa Cruz is so much more.

In this guide, we’ll talk about what makes the “National Folklore City’s” fishing so special. You’ll learn about the most popular fish species and productive techniques, as well as must-visit spots and peak seasons. Let’s dive in…

Top Catches in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica

So, you’re ready for a real Costa Rican adventure. It’s only natural to wonder what the local fishing scene has to offer for both novice and seasoned anglers. The good news is, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone here. Inshore, offshore, freshwater – whatever you feel like doing, the chances are endless. Here are the most sought-after fish, ordered by their fishery.


If you’re up for getting to know the coastline, you’re up for a treat. An inshore fishing expedition is a relaxing experience, although challenging battles aren’t as uncommon as one might think. Let’s begin with two superstar catches:

Roosterfish and Snook

Roosterfish are powerful, wonderful-looking swimmers that typically patrol the surf and rocky shorelines. Snook, on the other hand, feed on small fish and crustaceans in mangroves, estuaries, and river mouths.

A group photo of a man and two children on a fishing boat in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica on a sunny day, with the man holding a Roosterfish, with the water behind them on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Rhino Charger Sport Fishing

If you’re after Roosterfish, check out the shallow areas around cliffs. A typical technique to land these fish is trolling or drifting with live bait, along with casting surface lures towards the shore or structures. They tend to follow the bait and strike midway. And here’s a fun fact! Roosterfish can jump when hooked. So you’d better get ready for a real tussle.

When fishing for Snook, locals often concentrate on bridges, piers, and near the shore. The fish bite best during changing tides, especially if you catch a falling high tide near coastal shores or the mouth of large rivers. Similar to Roosterfish, trolling usually does the job. Locals often use bright and flashy lures, as well as live bait.

Jacks and Mackerel

Costa Rica’s Pacific inshore waters are also home to gorgeous Jack Crevalle, Horse-Eye Jack, and Spanish Mackerel. Both Jacks and Mackerel are active feeders and, while you can catch them throughout the day, the best bite happens in the early morning or late afternoon.

Two men standing on a fishing boat in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica, holding a Mackerel from each end with the water behind them on a sunny day
Photo taken by Sport Fishing El Gato III

But when is the best time to target these species? The waters are normally calmer and clearer during the dry season, from December to April. Consider checking out Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero, and Playa Tamarindo for both species at this time.

Look for areas with structure, rock formations, reefs, and submerged logs. Some locals use the same equipment to target Jacks and Mackerel, sticking to a medium–heavy spinning rod and reel combo, a 30-pound test line, and a wire leader. However, you can always experiment!


A lot of thrill-seeking enthusiasts head out to the deep sea for some offshore action. The bountiful Pacific Ocean is home to a myriad of bigger game species, no offense to Roosterfish and Jacks. Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo, Rainbow Runner, and Mahi Mahi are all on the menu here. Plus, on your way to the bluewater, you can always stop at the reefs and target Snappers and Groupers.


Billfish need no introduction to any serious angler. They’re the ultimate game fish. And here, Blue, Black, and Striped Marlin, along with Sailfish are available for those who are up for a challenge. The dry season usually brings the best action, so if you’re after one of these monsters, consider planning a trip from December through April.

A view from behind of two anglers battling a Marlin as it leaps out of the waters in the Pacific Ocean out of Costa Rica, caught on a line on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Talking Fish – 38′ Topaz Express

While Marlin patrol the deeper waters, Sailfish can sometimes be found pretty close to shore, daring anglers to overpower them. It goes without saying that if you’re ready to pursue Billfish, you’ll need a first-class vessel, top-notch gear, and a knowledgeable crew. Booking an offshore billfishing trip with a local captain is the best idea.

Fast-paced trolling is usually the name of the game when it comes to tackling these brutes. However, light tackle can work well when targeting Sailfish. When it comes to the best spots, a lot of Santa Cruz anglers head all the way to the deeper and cooler waters of the Catalina Islands, or “Islas Santa Catalina, as they’re known in Spanish.


Everyone loves some Tuna. And that means everyone will love Santa Cruz, Costa Rica! Yellowfin and Bigeye are among the most sought-after catches in the offshore waters of Santa Cruz. These fish are next-level players – true gymnasts that put your skills to the test. And yes, we mean it. It’s never a bad idea to use a harness when reeling Tuna in. If you’re lucky to hook into one, that is!

Four anglers, two male and two female, holding up a Yellowfin Tuna aboard a fishing charter out of Santa Cruz, Costa Rica, on a sunny day with the water behind them
Photo courtesy of Capullo Sportfishing

From December through April, pack your high-speed trolling equipment, prepare all the necessary chumming bait such as squid, and head to one of the local honey holes. The best part is, you don’t always have to go too far out to target Tuna, which is one of the advantages of fishing in Santa Cruz.

For instance, the Tamarindo and Potrero Beaches are good spots for those who don’t feel like traveling offshore. The Papagayo Gulf is another excellent spot, especially for Yellowfin. If you have the whole day, head to the Catalina Islands for both Yellowfin and Skipjack.

Mahi Mahi

No Costa Rica top catch list would be complete without Mahi Mahi. Known as Dorado in these parts, these gorgeous creatures are among the most frequently caught fish species around. In fact, they hardly need an introduction.

One male and two female anglers holding a large Mahi Mahi at an angle, while standing on a fishing boat out of Santa Cruz, Costa Rica on a day with sunny intervals, with the water behind them and the wake of the boat visible too
Photo courtesy of Salt Hunt Charters

Fishing for Mahi Mahi in Santa Cruz is a real pleasure. These opponents are stubborn but aren’t too picky when it comes to bait. A lot of anglers have their own tips and tricks when it comes to enticing the bite, so, once again, consider booking a trip with a local captain. Trolling is the most common method to catch Mahi Mahi, especially around offshore structures.

Mahi Mahi bite best during the wet season, which typically runs from May through November. That just shows you that there’s always a prized species biting in Santa Cruz’s offshore waters.

Where can I go fishing in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica?

An aerial view of a marina in Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica, on a sunny day, with a concrete road visible in the foreground and the ocean in the distance

As a large canton, Santa Cruz offers a myriad of spots for you to discover. Check out our list of top locations to get you started:

  • Playa Tamarindo. This popular tourist location offers incredible inshore fishing, along with beautiful beaches. As well as fishing for Roosterfish, Jacks, Snapper, and Mackerel, you can check out the Tamarindo estuary for some light tackle and fly fishing action.
  • Playa Flamingo. Another popular inshore fishing spot, Playa Flamingo is a luxurious beach town with a full-service marina. Roosterfish and Snapper bite inshore, although you can venture out to the offshore grounds for a healthy dose of anything from Wahoo and Mahi Mahi to Billfish.
  • Playa Potrero. Playa Potrero is much quieter and less crowded than the two spots we’ve already mentioned. However, anglers will be kept busy with excellent fishing. The menu here includes the usual Roosterfish and Jacks, along with Snapper and Grouper.
  • Playa Conchal. Clear waters, rocky reefs, and unique white shell sands aren’t the only things Playa Conchal is known for. Inshore fishermen enjoy the area’s opportunities for Roosterfish, Snapper, Grouper, and many other species.
  • Playas del Coco. Home to numerous fishing charters and lively nightlife, Playas del Coco is an excellent place for a Costa Rican getaway. Launch out to the offshore waters to battle Sailfish, Tuna, Marlin, and more.
  • Playa Hermosa. Playa Hermosa offers an ideal habitat for Snapper, Grouper, Roosterfish, and Amberjack. As well as that, it’s also a peaceful beach to relax on.
  • Playa Ocotal. Playa Ocotal is located just south of Playas del Coco. It’s relatively small and secluded, offering great inshore fishing and nice offshore opportunities.
  • Playa Grande. This stunning beach is part of the Marino Las Baulas National Park. As well as that, it’s also home to nesting leatherback turtles! However, anglers come here to pursue the crème de la crème of inshore fishing.
  • Catalina Islands. Islas Santa Catalina are a group of volcanic islands located just a few hours’ ride from the Santa Cruz coastline. This spot is known for its excellent Billfish action, far away from fishing pressures.

How to Go Fishing in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica

Now that you know what to target and where to start, it’s time to discuss how fishing in Santa Cruz is actually done. We’re not going to dive deep into the techniques, though – there are various methods to entice every fish species to bite! Instead, let’s talk about what types of fishing is popular in the area:

Charter Fishing

A view along the deck of a boat towards an angler sitting in a fighting chair, battling it out with a fish in the water, while holding a bent rod on a sunny day in Costa Rica's Pacific waters
Photo courtesy of Sea Breeze Fishing & Adventures

The Santa Cruz charter fishing scene is impressive. You can find a suitable crew anywhere from Tamarindo to Coco and Playa Flamingo. Booking a trip with an experienced charter operator is essential if you want to feel at home here.

Why? One of the reasons is that Costa Rican fishing charters in general are among the best in the world. This is especially true for deep sea fishing. Local captains have an intimate knowledge of the area, having mastered the waters for decades. Plus, you’ll most likely get a full-service experience that includes a boat, all the gear, and an expert crew – and sometimes even food and drinks!

Santa Cruz has a range of charter options available. You can book anything from half-day inshore trips to check the bite or a full-on multiday extravaganza with accommodation included. A lot of captains also offer customizable packages, such as nighttime fishing. Reach out and tailor your trip to your desires. 

Shore Fishing

A view across a beach at sunset with a silhouette of a man fishing at sunset in Costa Rica with clouds setting in

If you happen to be in Santa Cruz on vacation and are just looking to wet a line, shore fishing is an excellent option. We’ve already familiarized you with the area’s inshore fisheries and productive coastline, so finding a suitable spot shouldn’t be a problem. Plus, you can practice your fly fishing skills!

Playas del Coco is a good place to start. You’ll find a lot of anglers with their fishing setups right on the sandy beach, with some of them battling Roosterfish or some other impressive target.

Roosterfish aside, there are many other fish species that you can catch right from the shore in Santa Cruz. These include Snook, Jacks, and many others. Just be sure to get familiar with the local rules and regulations ahead of time, and get all the necessary permits to cast from shore.

Panga Fishing

A view across the water towards a panga boat in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica, with downriggers and outriggers fitted for trolling the waters on a cloudy day
Photo courtesy of Go Fish Costa Rica – 26′

Fishing from a panga is a unique way to get to know the local traditions. This type of fishing is typically reserved for the calm inshore grounds. Traditionally, pangas are narrow, wooden, and open, ranging from 18 to 28 feet in size, although there are modern versions available made of fiberglass.

Hop on a panga and explore the backcountry or the bays. Fish like the locals, take in all the beauty of the coastline and the crystal clear waters, and target whatever’s in season. Note that pangas aren’t the most stable vessels available, so make sure you avoid the choppy waters.

When is the best time to fish in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica?

Anytime is a good time to fish in Santa Cruz! This tropical gem offers great opportunities throughout the year, although there are several factors to consider before you head out.

An aerial view across the water towards Tamarindo, Costa Rica at sunset, with a large catamaran and several other boats visible in the foreground and the sun setting behind the town in the distance

First of all, the dry season, which lasts from December to April, is the busiest time of year for tourism. The area can get pretty crowded with visitors from all over the world. If you’re planning to book a charter during this time, make sure to check your options in advance.

However, fishing outside the busy season isn’t bad at all. Anglers are very busy between May and September, chasing whatever’s biting with fewer crowds around. Keep in mind, though, that afternoon showers are common during these months.

Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Roosterfish, and Billfish are available all year round. The best time to catch these species may vary, so make sure to check with your fishing guide for the best season. If Snook is your priority, visit Santa Cruz between November and February when you can find them around brackish wetlands river mouths.

Note that you’ll need to obtain a fishing license, whether fishing alone or with a charter. Learn more about all the permits on offer via the INCOPESCA website or ask your captain to help you out.

Santa Cruz, Costa Rica, Fishing: Central America’s Finest Angling

An aerial view of Playa Tamarindo with a peninsula sticking out into the water at the top of the image and water crashing into the beach from the right

Fishing in Santa Cruz is simply amazing. There are so many spots to choose from and so many fish species to chase. When locals call it a fishing paradise, it makes perfect sense. With Tuna and Billfish all year round, beautiful Roosterfish close to shore, and everything else in between, what else could you possibly fish for? Fish from the beach, hop on a panga boat, or book a luxury charter… in Santa Cruz, everything is possible.

Have you ever been fishing in Santa Cruz? What’s your most prized catch? Do you prefer inshore or offshore fishing? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Santa Cruz, Costa Rica, Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: Santa Cruz, Costa Rica, Fishing: The Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/santa-cruz-costa-rica-fishing/
Published Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2023 12:37:39 +0000

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