As you can imagine from the name, Marino Ballena National Park is one of the best places to go whale watching in Costa Rica. Humpback whales are commonly seen out in the waters as both Northern and Southern humpback whales pass through this area, giving Costa Rica the longest humpback whale watching season in the world.
Even though it is one of the youngest national parks in the country, Marino Ballena National Park is a beloved place for locals and visitors to enjoy the beautiful beaches and scenery. It also has one of the most special and unique characteristics of all the national parks in Costa Rica, a Whale Tail formed by the union of two beaches!
If you’re visiting the South of Costa Rica, Marino Ballena National Park is one not to miss. It’s one of the top things to do in Uvita and Dominical! Here are our tips for visiting this park.
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- About the park
- Hours and Fee
- Whale’s Tail
- Tips for visiting
- Where to Stay
- Best Time to Visit
About Marino Ballena National Park
Established in 1990, Parque Nacional Marino Ballena contains 110 hectares of land, 5,400 hectares of water and the largest coral reef in the Pacific coast of Central America. With over 14 kilometers of coastline, there is plenty to enjoy at any of the beaches.
There are four different entrances to the national park: Playa Uvita, Colonia, Ballena and Pinuelas. Uvita is more popular and from the entrance, visitors can park in the lots (for 2000 colones) and walk to the beach. There is a path that goes to Playa Uvita and you can walk to the whale’s tail from there.
Playa Uvita is a gorgeous beach and one of the best beaches in Costa Rica!
Marino Ballena National Park Directions and Locations
Marino Ballena National Park is in Puntarenas province, 16 km south of Dominical and 180 km SW of San Jose. To the Playa Uvita entrance, enter Uvita town and drive all the way west to the entrance near Dolphin Tours. If you are using Waze, just enter Marino Ballena National Park and select the Uvita sector.
Marino Ballena National Park Hours and Entrance Fee
The entrance fee is 1000 colones ($2) for local Costa Ricans with a cedula and 3000 colones ($6) for foreigners. Hours of operation are 6AM – 4 PM, closed Monday. If you want to see the sunset which is around 5-6 PM, you must be in the park before 4 PM.
Things to Do in Marino Ballena National Park
Besides humpback whale watching, visitors can enjoy the beach or do some water activities such as kayaking, SUP, swimming, yoga and boating. The waves are quite calm, perfect for bathing and gentle enough for little ones to enjoy. During certain times of the year, Olive Ridley and hawksbill sea turtles come to this national park to nest and lay eggs.
You can also try snorkeling Marino Balleno National Park in low tide, the water is clear but be very careful about rip tides. Snorkeling at this park isn’t the best, if you really want to do good snorkeling in the South Pacific, you must head to Cano Island. Many tour companies operate this tour from Uvita and they depart from the national park. You can also go scuba diving there as there isn’t great scuba diving at Marino Ballena National Park.
The park is very big so you can spend a couple days in different places inside the park. Most of the visitors we saw were near the whale tail or lounging around in the shade. You can also walk along the whole shore and enjoy the scenic views since even during dry season this area is lush and green!
Marino Ballena National Park Whale Tail
During low tide, the water recedes to reveal a marvelous formation of rocks and sand in the form of a tail. It’s been affectionately named the Whale Tail as it is the best humpback whale watching place in Costa Rica and visitors come to this national park just to see this marvelous feat of nature.
If you take a local flight on Nature Air/Sansa at the right time during low tide, you can fly over the Uvita Whale Tail and see it in all its glory!
Everything about this park is stunning – the whale’s tail, the formation of land, the coral reefs, the mangroves, the beaches and the wildlife. You can see why so many fall in love with this park, especially with its empty beaches. It’s easy to have a whole vacation centered around this national park itself and enjoy the beautiful South Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
If you are looking for beaches enveloped by a deep green jungle, wildlife and no crowds, this is the national park to go to Costa Rica.
Tips for Visiting Marino Ballena National Park
- There is another entrance that doesn’t cost any money but you’d have to walk all the way down the beach to get to the whale tail since it’s on the other side. You can go through Playa Arco or Hermosa on the other end. If you go through Playa Arco, you have to go at low tide.
- If you drive, there are a couple parking lots at the entrance in Uvita that cost 2,000 colones ($4) a day.
- Bring a waterproof backpack or plastic bags in case it starts raining.
- There are several parking lots right outside the park entrance.
- Bring snacks and water (no drinkable water available). Bathrooms available near the ranger station.
- If you want to walk to the whale tail, you must go during low tide so check the tide chart.
- Bring lots of sunscreen and water, this area is really hot and humid.
- If you look under the leaves of the trees on the beach, you may spot a bat!
Where to Stay
There are several hotels and hostels outside Marino Ballenna National Park in Uvita. We recommend Manoas, a glamping and villa rentals resort right outside of Uvita or Flutterby House which is in town near the entrance. For honeymooners, Oxygen Jungle Villas is a top choice. We have discounts for both hotels so make sure to take advantage of our great deal!
Best Time to Visit Parque Nacional Marino Ballena
Anytime of the year is a great time to go as this national park doesn’t get super crowded. Plus it is very big so even if there are a lot of cars in the parking lot, it won’t seem like that in the park as everyone is spread out.
If you visit end of November after Thanksgiving to mid-December, there’s a good chance you’ll be the only one at the park as that is a very low time for tourists. Same with most of May!
Best weather: Dry season. Generally end of December to end of April and it’ll be sunny and hot. However, this area can still rain in January and February.
Whale watching: August and September are the best months. They hold the yearly Whale Festival in Uvita during the last couple weeks of August. But you can also see whales during January – April. Whale watching tour companies operate almost all year long due to the great humpback whale watching opportunities in the Uvita area.
Check out our aerial video of Marino Ballena National Park to see the beach and jungle from the sky!
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Read about other national parks in Costa Rica here!