Galapagos, Cocos, Revillagigedos and Malpelo – high up on the bucket list of almost every diver. How do those places compare I have been asked many times. Which one is the best?


Where are these places?

Galapagos: 19 islands, 900 km from mainland Ecuador, airport on Galapagos, 16 hours boat ride to the most famous dive sites Wolf and Darwin
Cocos: One island, around 550 km (25 hours boat ride) from mainland Costa Rica
Revillagigedos: Four islands, around 400 km from mainland Mexico (24 hours boat ride)
Malpelo: One island, around 400 km from mainland Colombia (25 hours boat ride)

(the duration of the crossing to all of the islands can take much longer under bad conditions)

roca partida

What are these places?

What the islands have in common is their remote locations off the coast of south and central america. Eventhough the islands lie on different tectonic plates and differ in their age in millions of years the underwater world does have some similarities.

All islands are primarly rocky without or only with little coral. All four destinations normally get good visibilities which can drop drastically and strong currents.
All four destinations are best visited on a liveaboard (land based diving is only possible on Galapagos) and are only recommendable for experienced divers.


Marine Life – Similarities

Sharks including galapagos, hammerhead, white tip reef, silky, silver tip, dusky, tiger, whale sharks (seasonal)
Abundance of fish including tuna and schooling jacks

hammerhead and fish
The marine animals of all these marine parks are not shy towards humans, therefore very close encounters with various species are possible.


Marine Life – Differences

What makes each place special
Galapagos: Gets the highest variety of wildlife besides the sharks; eagle rays, mola molas, penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions, flightless cormorants, sometimes orcas and mantas
Cocos: Sharks, sharks, sharks – huge schools of hammerheads at Alcyon, oceanic black tips, tiger sharks, sometimes whales and mantas. There will be loads of sharks during every single dive. White tip reef sharks can be observed hunting during the night dives.
Revillagigedos: The most friendly giant oceanic mantas and bottlenose dolphins, seasonal humpback whales
Malpelo: Schools of hammerhead and silky sharks, like in cocos it’s all about sharks and they will be seen during almost every dive

silky sharks

So, which one is the best?

It depends what your interested in. You will get close encounters with large marine animals in all of these destinations and this is for sure all world-class diving.

For sharks, especially large schools of hammerheads Cocos or Malpelo are the best choice. Galapagos offers the highest variety in different animals and it is possible to extend the stay to see the land animals. To dive with the friendliest mantas and dolphins or to see humpback whales go to the Revillagigedos.


Have you been to any of the destinations? Which is your favorite one? I would love to read more about it in the comments section below