Uvita, Costa Rica is a small village in the South Pacific, famous for the Envision festival and being one of the best places in Costa Rica for wildlife and nature. It’s a favorite destination for those looking for a quiet getaway in nature as it’s not as developed or touristic as the North Pacific.
Although the beaches in this area aren’t that typical, “white sand Caribbean style” beach, Uvita is incredible and gorgeous in its own way. Every visitors falls in love with the peaceful and picturesque dark sand beaches and lush mountain jungle. We absolutely love visiting Uvita, it’s the perfect escape for us when we want to visit a less crowded beach town in Costa Rica.
Below you’ll find our Uvita guide and you can click to skip to the section.
- Location and Directions
- The Town
- Marino Ballena National Park
- Activities and tour companies
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
Location and Directions
Uvita, Costa Rica map
Uvita is in the South Pacific of the Puntarenas province, located in the area known as the Costa Ballena. The Costa Ballena consists of Dominical, Uvita and Ojochal. Uvita is 223 kilometers from San Jose via the Costanera Sur and 180 kilometers via Cerro de la Muerte road.
How to get to Uvita from San Jose
San Jose Airport is the best international airport to fly into for visiting Uvita. Then from San Jose, you can drive, take a shuttle or the bus. There are no local airports in Uvita.
There are two routes you can take from San Jose to Uvita: via the Costanera Sur (route 34) or Cerro de la Muerte (route 2). The best one to take is Costanera Sur. Even though the distance is longer, it is actually faster because it’s all on a flat, well paved highway. The Cerro de la Muerte is a very narrow, windy road from San Isidro de Perez Zeledon.
Via the Costenera Sur, it takes about 3.5 hours. Via Cerro de la Muerte, it takes about 4-4.5 hours from San Jose to Uvita.
From San Jose, there is a bus two times a day with Empresa Tracopa leaving from Calle 5, Ave 18-20 at 6 AM and 3 PM. This route costs 5,695 colones. There is a bus from Uvita to San Jose every day at 5:30 AM and 1:30 PM and it takes 7 hours.
There are also other Tracopa buses that stop at Uvita leaving from the same San Jose station. You can take the San Jose to Golfito, David, Sierpe, Canoas and Laurel buses and get off at Uvita. However, they do make you pay the full price which ranges from 5790-11340 colones.
Easy Ride CR has 3 shuttles a day from San Jose to Uvita for $59 per passenger at 5 AM, 9 AM and 2 PM.
Getting around Uvita, Costa Rica
Getting to Uvita is not difficult and the drive is very nice since it’s on a well paved highway. Likewise, Uvita is a small town that is easy to get around. The town has the main entrance to the national park and the beach, there are several restaurants, info centers and tour companies and the cheaper hostels and cabinas.
So for someone who isn’t renting a car, you can stay in town with no problem.
However, if you would like to explore the area or if you’re staying at a hotel or vacation rental somewhere else, then renting a car in Costa Rica is absolutely necessary, particularly a 4×4.
There is only one bus that goes up and down the Costanera Sur highway multiple times a day but not to any of the attractions. Roads up in the mountains require a 4×4 as well as many of the beaches, restaurants, waterfalls and other points of interest. Additionally, if you book a tour, most tour companies don’t include transportation (you will have to pay a fee or they don’t offer it at all).
If you’re staying more than a couple nights in Uvita and really want to see the area, then renting a car is the only way to do it. (PS. Get our Costa Rica car rental discount to help you save $$!)
Uvita may be small but it has all the basics such as supermarkets, pharmacies, local restaurants, banks and gas stations.
Thanks to the well paved Costanera Sur highway, Uvita’s popularity as a top tourist destination in Costa Rica has grown immensely the past decade. Local tour companies have had to expand greatly to accommodate the increasing number of tourists this area receives every year. Additionally, Uvita has become a popular spot for North American and European expats, immigrants and snowbirds.
Furthermore, thanks to the surrounding jungle, rich waters and sweeping mountains on the outskirts of town, this area is teeming with wildlife. Sloths, Scarlet Macaws, toucans and monkeys are just a few of the animals you will commonly hear and see in Uvita on land. In the water, the prized animals to see are humpback whales, dolphins and turtles. (We’ll talk about the whales more in a bit).
The South Pacific of Costa Rica is much more humid (which is why there is more wildlife). It experiences typical tropical weather with dry and rainy season but it can even rain in January or February, the start of the dry season months. When we visited for a week in February, it poured for 4 days straight!
Average temperatures are mid 80’s (29 Celsius) during the day and cools off at night. Humidity is always high in this area so make sure you bring clothes that wick away moisture and dry fast.
Marino Ballena National Park
The highlight of Uvita is most definitely Marino Ballena National Park and the Whale’s Tail. This park was specifically created to protect the marine life such as coral, turtles, dolphins and humpback whales.
Additionally, Uvita is the best place in Costa Rica to see humpback whales. That fact was not lost on Mother Nature as the national park also has something the locals call the Cola de la Ballena, or Whale’s Tail.
The Whale’s Tail is an incredible formation of two beaches coming together to create one. During low tide, the rocks appear, creating what looks like the tail of a whale.
Visitors can walk all the way out to the tail to walk on the rocks, see the tide pools and enjoy the beach. If you take a local flight during the right time of day, you can even see the Whale’s Tail from the plane!
Things to do in Uvita, Costa Rica
Besides relaxing, Uvita has a handful of fun things to do. The abundance of nature and wildlife offer the best outdoor activities in Uvita.
Envision Festival is one of the biggest festivals in the world and draws thousands of people. It’s a 4 day festival on the beaches of Uvita, dedicated to awakening the inner self to a higher consciousness. There are concerts, meditation, yoga classes, fire dancing, food and performances. Always last week of February (in 2019, it is February 28 – March 4th.)
If you plan to attend, make sure to buy tickets ASAP. It gets sold out fast!
Humpback Whale Watching
Since Uvita is the best place to see humpback whales, you can’t miss out on taking a humpback whale watching tour! The best time to go whale watching is August and September but the season in Uvita is from December – April and July – November. To be honest, you don’t need to go far to see whales, in peak season sometimes you can even see them from shore!
Mom and babies are commonly seen as the warm waters are perfect for mothers to nurse their babies and teach them to swim, breach, hunt and play.
Cano Island Snorkeling
Cano Island is a biological reserve that has supposedly the second best snorkeling and scuba diving in Costa Rica. It’s about 32 miles (52) kilometers off the shores of Uvita and it is a must for anyone who loves snorkeling. We went at the end of January and saw turtles, manta rays, huge schools of fish and much more. The visibility was incredible!
Catarata Uvita and Other Waterfalls
Thanks to the mountains and nearby volcanoes, there are many rivers and waterfalls in the South Pacific. You can hike to Nauyaca waterfalls, slide down Uvita Waterfall or go to the local Cascada El Pavon.
You can read about other things to do in Uvita here.
Recommended Tour Companies
For waterfall tours, Rancho DiAndrew or Paddle 9 are two excellent options. They take you to hidden waterfalls deep in the jungle. Highly recommended for adrenaline junkies as they offer waterfall jumping tours!
For snorkeling at Cano Island, kayaking in Uvita, Sierpe Mangrove boat tour, Corcovado National Park day hike, there are a few companies. Bahia Aventura is a great one, we went with them for snorkeling. Ballena Info Center and Ballena Aventuras are two other ones that run tours.
Recommended Uvita, Costa Rica Hotels
Thanks to Uvita’s increasingly growing popularity the past few years, there is now a greater variety of hotels. You can find some of the most luxurious boutique hotels in this area, all with stunning mountain and jungle views, extraordinary architecture and excellent service.
On the other hand, you can also find basic hostels and cheap cabinas amid the lavish selection of hotels. Most of the cheaper accommodation are located in town, making it the ideal place to stay if you’re on a budget or don’t have a car.
If you’re visiting for a romantic escape, then you’re in luck. Uvita is a top honeymoon destination in Costa Rica!
Here are our recommended hotels.
Oxygen Jungle Villas (get 15% off!)
This adult only boutique hotel has 12 glass villas with ocean or rainforest views. It also has an incredible infinity pool with view of the Whale’s tail and a short trail to their own waterfall.
Manoas (get 10% off!)
Go glamping at Manoas as they have 4 huge fully furnished glamping tents. It even has bathrooms with hot water! It’s only 2 kilometers from town but up in the mountains. They also have two rivers on the property, apartment rentals and pool.
This quiet hotel right off of the Costanera Sur highway offers beautiful rainforest views and cozy elegant rooms. It also has a pool, restaurant and a couple of sloths who live on the property. Great for a mid-range hotel that’s close to town and beach.
This is an excellent budget option that is right in town. Great place for solo travelers to meet people as they have a common area and kitchen, yoga decks and a bar. Their dorm is actually a treehouse and they also have nicer private rooms.
For a luxury true escape in the jungle, head to the adult only Kura Design Villas. With only 8 luxury suites, a breathtaking ocean view, gorgeous infinity pool and gourmet meals, it’s one of the nicest luxury boutique hotels in all of Costa Rica.
La Cusinga Lodge is an excellent choice for modern elegance and comfort. It’s right on the water with a beautiful ocean view, has spacious and clean cabinas and suites, onsite restaurant and a spa. Not too far from Uvita off the Costanera Sur highway.
If you are a yogi or looking for luxury wellness retreats, Vista Celestial is the one to go to. They have only 5 villas, a beautiful infinity pool and offer yoga and wellness retreats.
This adult only luxury boutique resort sits high up in the mountains of Uvita with the utmost privacy. They have villas, suites and treehouses, so you can choose the perfect room for you to immerse yourself in nature.
Airbnb and Vacation Rentals
Since there are a lot of foreigners and snowbirds in Uvita, you can find plenty of vacation rentals. You can rent a fully furnished ocean view house up in the mountains, by the beach or in the local neighborhoods. Get $20 off your Airbnb reservation here.
Recommended Uvita, Costa Rica Restaurants
- Mosaic: Nice wine bar and restaurant by Uvita Waterfall.
- Los Alemendros: Good local Costa Rican place.
- The Baker Bean: Cafe and pizzeria
- The Dome Drive through: Good place for sandwiches, wraps, coffee, etc.
- Sabor Espanol: Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine.
- Carlitos Restaurant: Mexican. Yummy brunch and drinks.
- Los Laureles: Excellent Costa Rican restaurant.
- El Hornito: Argentinian Empanadas, pizza, sandwiches.
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Read Our Other Costa Rica city guides below!
La Fortuna, Costa Rica: The small farming town by Arenal Volcano
Jaco, Costa Rica: The developed surfing beach town 1 hour from San Jose
San Jose, Costa Rica: The country’s capital city
Bijagua, Costa Rica: The rural mountain town by Rio Celeste
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica: The surfing hub of the Nicoya Peninsula
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica: The South Caribbean party town
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