Uvita, Costa Rica is one of the best places in Costa Rica for a tranquil tropical vacation. This small coastal village is a favorite destination for those looking for a quiet getaway with its picturesque dark sand beaches surrounded by lush rainforest covered mountains.
Below is our Uvita, Costa Rica guide to help you plan your trip.
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 and Envision festival, Uvita’s popularity as a top tourist destination in Costa Rica has grown immensely the past several years. In the last couple years, Uvita has become one of the fastest growing small towns in Costa Rica, with many more houses, developments and businesses being built to accommodate the many new immigrants, expats, snowbirds and digital nomads.
One of the main reasons why people love to visit Uvita is the nature and wildlife. Thanks to the surrounding jungle, rich waters and sweeping mountains, this area is teeming with wildlife such as sloths, Scarlet Macaws, toucans and monkeys. In the water, the prized animals to see are humpback whales, dolphins and turtles. (We’ll talk about the whales more in a bit).
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.
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 has something the locals call the Cola de la Ballena, or Whale’s Tail. It’s an incredible rock formation of two beaches coming together to create one and can be seen only in low tide.
Visitors can walk all the way out to the tail to walk on the rocks, see the tide pools and enjoy the beach. Sunsets here are spectacular so don’t miss out on beach sunsets in Uvita.
You can spend a day at the park swimming, soaking in the sun and walking along the long shores.
Humpback Whale Watching
Since Uvita is one of the best places to see humpback whales in Costa Rica, you can’t miss out on taking a whale watching tour! The best time to go whale watching is August and September but the season in Uvita is from approximately December – March and July – October.
Mom and babies are commonly seen. The warm waters allow mothers to nurse their babies and teach them to swim, breach, hunt and play.
Caño Island Snorkeling
Caño 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!
If you want to book the Cano Island or whale watching tour, feel free to contact us to help you arrange your excursion!
Envision Festival is one of the biggest festivals in the world with thousands of participants. 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.
If you plan to attend, make sure to buy tickets and book your accommodation ASAP. It gets sold out fast, even a year in advance.
Catarata Uvita and Other Waterfalls
Thanks to the surrounding mountains, there are many rivers and waterfalls in the South Pacific. You can hike to Nauyaca waterfalls, slide down Uvita Waterfall or go the free waterfall Cascada El Pavon in Ojochal.
You can read about other things to do in Uvita here.
The South Pacific of Costa Rica is humid and is about the same all year round. It experiences typical tropical weather with both dry and rainy seasons. Dry season is December through April and rainy is May through November.
However, being tropical rainforest, it can rain in January or February. When we visited for a week in February, it poured for 4 days straight!
Average year round temperatures are mid 80s F (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.
Uvita is in the South Pacific of the Puntarenas province, 223 kilometers(145 miles) from San Jose via the Costanera Sur (Route 34) and 180 kilometers (112 miles) via Route 243 and Cerro de la Muerte (route 2).
It is located in the area known as the Costa Ballena which consists of Dominical, Uvita and Ojochal.
How to get to Uvita from San Jose
San Jose International 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 Route 34 because it’s a flat, well paved highway that is super easy to drive. The Cerro de la Muerte is a very narrow, windy road from San Isidro de Perez Zeledon so you have to drive slowly and carefully and it is constantly foggy in certain sections.
Via the Costenera Sur Route 34, it takes about 3.5 hours. Via Route 2, 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 approximately 6000 colones $9.09 USD). 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.
Shuttles (Shared and Private)
Companies like Easy Ride offers shared shuttles for around $60 USD per adult.
The cost of a private transfer from San Jose Airport to Uvita is ~$260 USD for 1-8 passengers. The cost of a private transfer from Liberia International Airport to Uvita is $~350 USD total. Contact us if you want to book a private shuttle.
Read about the differences between shared and private shuttle services in Costa Rica here.
Flying + Driving
As there is no local airport in Uvita, if you want to fly, you will have to take a domestic flight to Quepos which is the closest airport. Then you will need to arrange transportation from Quepos to Uvita whether it’s picking up your rental car, waiting for the bus or booking a private shuttle. Quepos Airport to Uvita is a 50 minute drive.
How to Get Around Uvita
Uvita is a small town that is easy to get around as it has paved roads throughout. The town has the main entrance to the national park and the beach, there are several restaurants, info centers, tour companies and the cheap hostels and cabinas. For someone who isn’t renting a car, you can stay in town and be in walking distance to supermarkets, restaurants, the beach, etc.
Do You Need a 4×4 for Uvita?
If your hotel is in Uvita town or off the main highway and you’re only staying for a couple days, then no, a 4×4 is not required for Uvita.
However, if you would like to explore the area or if you’re staying at a hotel or vacation rental that is up in the mountains, then renting a 4×4 is absolutely necessary. If you book a vacation rental, make sure to confirm with your host what kind of car you need. Some places are fine with high clearance 4×2, some require a 4×4 with a good engine.
If you really want to see more of the area, then renting a car is the only way to do it and it is best to rent a 4wd if you want to explore. (PS. Get our Costa Rica car rental discount to help you save $$!)
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. There are also a ton of luxury vacation rentals and Airbnbs.
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!
Some recommended hotels in Uvita
- Oxygen Jungle Villas: Adult only boutique hotel with12 glass ocean/rainforest view villas. It also has an incredible infinity pool. Read our review for Oxygen here.
- Manoas: 4 huge fully furnished glamping tents 2 kilometers from town up in the mountains. They also have two rivers on the property, apartments, yoga deck and pool.
- Hotel Cuna del Angel: Hotel right off of the Costanera Sur highway with beautiful and elegant rooms. It also has a pool, restaurant and a couple of sloths who live on the property. Check rates here.
- Nature’s Edge Cabinas: A charming adult only boutique hotel just a 10 minutes outside of Uvita. Book your room here.
- La Cusinga Eco Lodge: Excellent choice for birders looking for modern elegance and comfort. Spacious and clean cabinas and suites, onsite restaurant and a spa. Check rates here.
- Bungalows Ballena: Just a 5 minute walk from the national park entrance, this hotel has 5 fully equipped bungalows, a pool and rancho. Great for families or groups. Check rates here.
- Vista Celestial Boutique Hotel: It has 5 villas, a beautiful infinity pool and offer yoga and wellness retreats. Amazing infinity pool. Click to check rates.
- Karandi Hostel: Typical hostel near town with shared kitchen, shared bathrooms and dorms. Has Wifi, parking and an attached restaurant. Clean rooms, no air conditioning.
- Hotel Los Laureles: Family owned property close to Uvita with cabins and rooms. Excellent restaurant and very peaceful. They have a secure parking lot and gate. Very sweet local family, great budget option. Check rates here.
Airbnb and Vacation Rentals
You can find plenty of vacation rentals on Airbnb and VRBO such as fully furnished ocean view houses up in the mountains, by the beach or in the local neighborhoods. There are many options on Airbnb for large groups.
Once when we visited as a group of 5, we rented out Hotel Por Que No which was perfect (4 bedrooms with private bathroom, outdoor kitchen, parking with a gate and pool).
Recommended Uvita, Costa Rica Restaurants
- Mosaic: Nice wine bar and restaurant. Really good paninis, salad, sushi and fine wines.
- La Colonial: Chill Costa Rican restaurant/bar. Has typical food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Good prices and big portions (the arroz con pollo is our favorite).
- Los Almendros: Good local Costa Rican place in town.
- The Dome Drive through: Good place for sandwiches, wraps, coffee, etc.
- Indomitus Cafe: Great place for veg food, especially veggie burgers.
- Sabor Espanol: Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine.
- Carlitos Restaurant: Mexican. Yummy brunch and drinks.
- Los Laureles: Excellent Costa Rican restaurant, especially breakfast and dinner. Their gallo pinto is one of the best we’ve ever had.
- Que Tuanis Cafe: Nice place in town for coffee, smoothies and breakfast
- Sibu Cafe: One of the best restaurants in the area with coffee, breakfast, pizza and smoothies and they have a bakery + gelato cafe
- Nativo: Great Costa Rican restaurant with huge portions and very friendly staff.
- El Crustaceo: Good Costa Rican soda with variety of seafood dishes.
- Soda Ranchito Doña Maria: Nice little Costa Rican restaurant with typical dishes.
- Five Maes: Burger joint like Five guys in the US
- Pizza time: Good place for pizza, a nice local favorite.
- Marino Ballena Restaurant: Great place for local food
- Whale Tail Brewery and Gastropub: artisan beers and bar food, occasionally has live music
- La Choza de Alejo: Fantastic Mexican food
- Bar Restuarante Kefersi: A local bar – very Costa Rican. Go for local food, cantina music and a fun atmosphere
- Le French Cafe: French restaurant with yummy breakfast and pastries
- Mystic Sushi: Good sushi place
- Bagel time: Bakery with bagels, pastries, sandwiches and other yummy bread, great breakfast and lunch spot
- Mirador Don Roger: Local restaurant that has a beautiful ocean view and great local food
We have written a couple of itineraries that include Uvita which you can find below.
Looking for ideas on how to spend your days in Uvita? Check our recommendations out. These are for people who rented a car and remember, it gets dark by 6 PM everyday.
Day 1: Arrive in Uvita, check into your hotel, go to the pool, relax, etc. Head to Mirador Don Roger for sunset happy hour and dinner.
Day 2: Check what time low tide is to visit Marino Ballena National Park and walk to the Whale’s Tail. Spend the day in the park.
Day 3: Spend the morning at Uvita waterfall. Afterwards, go back to hotel to shower, freshen up, nap. For sunset, head to Playa Hermosa.
Day 4: Go whale watching or snorkeling at Caño Island. Whale watching is a half day tour, Cano Island is a full day tour. If you want non ocean adventure, book an ATV tour that goes up the mountains, through rivers and to viewpoints.
Read Our Other Costa Rica city guides below!
La Fortuna, Costa Rica: The small farming town by Arenal Volcano. Popular tourist destination for adventure, nature and relaxation.
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.
Costa Rica Vacation Checklist
- First time to Costa Rica? Read our First Time in Costa Rica guide.
- Not sure how to move around Costa Rica? Read our How to Get Around Costa Rica guide to find the best transportation method for you.
- Click the link to get our detailed Costa Rica Packing List so you know what essential items to bring.
- Do not forget to purchase Travel Insurance for your trip to Costa Rica.
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