The spatial and vertical structure of the water currents and its relationship with the tidal cycles were studied using current meters in the Gulf of Nicoya. In the upper gulf, the vertical marine current differences increase as the depth increases. The water column at the station near Chira Island (upper gulf) shows the smaller changes in currents and in temperature. The flow at the station between San Lucas Island and Puntarenas (middle gulf) is the most stratified in this region. Currents with magnitudes over 100 cm/seg were measured during spring tides. Changes in the lags of the surface and bottom tidal flows were measured on the order of 100 minutes. In general, in this upper region the flows are toward the head of the gulf when the tide is flooding and toward the mouth when the tide is ebbing. In the lower gulf the circulation is more complex. Along an axis between Tárcoles and Negritos Islands, changes of velocity vectors are identified between surface and bottom. The current rotates in a different way in the water column in this region and their patterns cannot be explained only by the tidal cycles predicted for Puntarenas. These results demonstrate that the spatial and vertical variation of the marine currents of the Gulf of Nicoya is not only related to the thermohaline structure, but also to the tidal cycles and tide ranges that take place in this estuary.
Keywords: estuarine currents, Gulf of Nicoya, tidal cycles, sea water temperature, Costa Rica