If you’re visiting the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Marino Ballena National Park is one of the top things to do in Uvita and an absolute must see. This national park has a unique feature of a beach shaped like a whale’s tail, formed by the union of two separate beaches. As this national park was created for the sole purpose of protecting the humpback whale migration, the Whale’s Tail is a spectacular masterpiece of Mother Nature.
If you plan to visit Marino Ballena National Park, here is our guide to plan your trip.
Marino Ballena National Park Hours and Entrance Fee
There are 4 different entrances to the park: Uvita, Colonia, Ballena and Piñuela. The Uvita and Colonia sectors are the most popular entrances as they are the easiest to access and are open everyday from 7 AM to 6 PM. Ballena is also open to those who want to visit Playa Arco (must go in low tide only).
The entrance fee is $6 USD + tax for adult foreigners. Children under 11 and senior citizens are free. Ticket prices are the same for every sector and allow entry into the four different park sectors, per day, per person.
How to Get to Marino Ballena National Park
This is the most popular sector of the national park as it is the closest to the main attraction, the Whale’s Tail.
To get to the Playa Uvita entrance, enter “Parque Nacional Marino Ballena” and look for “Entrada sector Uvita” if you’re using Waze. If you use Google Maps, enter “Parqueo Bahia” as your destination. To get to the Uvita sector, you do not need a 4wd or 4×4.
You will see a couple parking lots right as you pull up to the entrance. They charge around 4,000 Costa Rican colones (~$6 USD) for the day. We like the very last one as their parking lot is completely covered.
Inside the park, there are no facilities.
This sector is more popular among locals and surfers as the beach it goes to, Playa Colonia has good surfing waves. Most surf schools in Uvita go to this beach for lessons.
We loved this beach as well and it’s a bit less crowded than the Whale’s Tail. If you want to get your steps in, you can walk all the way to the Whale’s Tail from there. On Google Maps, you can look for “Playa Chaman.”
There is not really a parking lot so you have to park on the street. There are no facilities. From the Uvita sector, Sector Colonia is a 10 minute drive.
Things to Do in Marino Ballena National Park
Marino Ballena National Park in Uvita is one of the best national parks in Costa Rica for beaches. The best thing to do in Marino Ballena National Park is to enjoy the beach. Swim, stand up paddle, surface snorkel, walk, lounge, watch the sunset. You can spend all day at this beach and have the most relaxing day.
The main beach, Playa Uvita is a gorgeous beach and one of the best beaches in Costa Rica!
If you swim, be extremely careful and keep an eye out for rip tides.
And of course, you must walk to the Whale’s Tail during low tide!
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, paying homage to the fact that it is the best humpback whale watching place in Costa Rica.
From the Uvita sector entrance, it is about a 2 kilometer walk to the Whale’s Tail one way, around 30 minutes.
Everything about this park is stunning – the whale’s tail, the formation of land, the coral reefs, the mangroves, the beaches and the wildlife. As this area is not overly touristic and due to the size of this national park, it never feels crowded here. Even in the busiest times of the year, you will have plenty of space to lay down a towel and enjoy a peaceful day at the beach without many others around.
We made a video of our visit to Marino Ballena National Park in July 2022. Check it out below!
Marion Ballena National Park is actually one of the best places in Costa Rica to see humpback whales. So if you’re visiting December – March or July – September, then you must take a whale watching tour to see humpbacks breaching, babies playing and mothers nursing.
Caño Island Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
Unfortunately, snorkeling at this park isn’t the best all year round. So if you want to do good snorkeling in Uvita, you must book an excursion to Caño Island Reserve which is about a 1 hour or so boat ride from the national park.
This reserve is known as the second best place for snorkeling and scuba diving in Costa Rica! Tours include guide, snorkel equipment, lunch and is full day. If you’re a scuba diver, you definitely need to dive there to see turtles, manta rays, dolphins and more animals.
Please contact us if you’re interested in booking a whale watching or Cano Island snorkeling tour!
What to Know About Visiting Marino Ballena National Park
- Weather: This area is extremely humid and is prone to rainfalls, even during the dry season (December through April). We visited once in February and it poured rain for 4 days straight. Make sure to bring appropriate gear, clothing and equipment for rain.
- Bring snacks and water (no drinkable water available). Bathrooms available near the ranger station. No facilities inside the park.
- If you want to walk to the whale tail, you must go during low tide so check the tide chart. If you go at high tide, you won’t be able to walk all the way down as the sand will be covered.
- Bring lots of sunscreen and water, this area is really hot and humid.
- Do not leave your belongings unattended and be aware of petty theft.
- We recommend to spend the day at the park. If so, you will need to bring food, water, snacks, sunscreen, towels and wear your bathing suit. There are no services or facilities in this national park except at the ticket office, there is a bathroom and a hose.
Marino Ballena National Park Hotels
There are several hotels and hostels in Uvita near the park entrance within walking distance such as Hotel Canto de Ballenas, Yubarta Lodge and Karandi Hostel, all budget/mid range options. There are more hotels outside Uvita and in the area like Cabinas Los Laureles which we really liked.
We stayed at El Tecal Cabinas and Camping which is a 2 minute walk to the Colonia Sector. Mid range price, close to a supermarket and restaurants.
If you have a car and would to splurge, there are a ton of luxury hotels and vacation rentals up in the mountains outside of Uvita. They require a 4×4 to get there.
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 May, June, September, October and end of November after Thanksgiving to mid-December, the park is extremely empty because those are the least busiest tourism months of the year. These months coincide with rainy season and it can get quite rainy so bring a rainjacket or umbrella. Usually it’ll be cloudy and dry in the morning and then have on and off rains from noon until night. The rainiest month is October.
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 the first few days of September. However, you can also see whales January – March.
Read about other national parks in Costa Rica here!
Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Tenorio Volcano National Park (Rio Celeste)
There are affiliate links in this post.
Mr. Kevin Robert Sink says
Hi! LOVE your content. It’s been invaluable in my trip planning. Thank you for what you’re doing!!!
I would like to get some drone shots at this park, and was wondering if drones are allowed here?
Also, I’m traveling several places in Costa Rica, and could you give me some suggestions about flying my drone here?
Drones aren’t allowed in any national park…but you can find a nice quiet spot outside the park and fly it in…just make sure you are not going down low to disturb people or wildlife or to be seen.
Hello! I’d like to see the whales tail but how do I know when low tide occurs? Also what activities are available at the park without booking the prior to the visit? Do you know if I can bring my drone to take some shots?
You can check the tide chart (just google Costa RIca tide chart) and they should be able to give the low/high tides of the day.
DRones are not allowed inside national parks
Hello! Where do the whale watching tours leave from in Uvita? In the second half of March, are they running on Thursdays and if so, what is the typical start time? Looking to book accommodation and want to make sure we can get to the start of the tour in time, especially since we will not have access to our own car. Thank you for your help!
They leave from downtown Uvita and then the boat departs from Marino Ballena National Park. They run tours on Thursdays and the morning meeting time is around 8 AM.
Park is closed Wednesdays. Uvita sector is open 8 AM to 33PM. They have had to change hours due to COVID
Leon Snitka says
Have you heard any information on when the park hours might change, or what they might change to?
What were the park hours before covid? On the website it says 7am-4pm, but I have learned to verify anything on a website in this country.
We are very keen morning swimmers! Thanks for the great website.
Muriel Russell says
I think the music is superfluous!
Great place but where is the best place to see the whales? How long does it take to walk up and down to the tail? Can we hire kayaks from the beach?
The best place to see whales is in the national park, there are whale watching boat tours that take you off the coast to see them. From the parking lot, it’s about a 20 minute walk or so to the tail. I am not positive about the kayaks to be honest.
Was here 3 years ago and heading back soon. A picture taken from the Whale’s Tale is on my desktop at work, so I see it every day. Excited to see it again in person!
Evelyn bloom says
So, regarding the Whales Tale in Uvita- cool shots u have with drone. Can u meet us there and send up your drone- or is there another option? Or can we rent a drone. You have us hooked. We leave from states on 22Jan, in Manuel Antonio 24-28.
Evelyn Bloom, Laurie Hayden
Hi, they don’t rent drones in CR, the only way to use one is to bring one yourself or look online to see if anyone is willing to rent out their drone for the day.
Duke Stewart says
Wow guys! That place looks awesome! I really want to visit this part of Costa Rica someday. It’s interesting that the whales come through a place that resembles a part of their bodies. Haha, cheesy I know but still enticing for visitors. Thanks for sharing this!
Isn’t nature so perfect sometimes? Hope you can visit one day 🙂
Doreen Pendgracs says
I haven’t yet been whale watching in Costa Rica, but I’ve sure had fun exploring other parts of it! If you have a minute, please drop into my blog and share your thoughts on some of the discoveries I’ve made. Cheers, and happy travels!
Ryan Biddulph says
Wow! Classic looking Costa Rican beach. When I see any beach in CR it looks similar to Manual Antonio, both the sand, the water and the terrain beside the water. Not every one actually but most of them. I loved our stay there, for a month, and would go back in a second. Stuck in Bali now for 5 months – that’s a joke of course – but CR is always on my travel list and if a house sit or other attractive opportunity avails itself we gotta be in. Fab pictures! I imagine seeing the whales breaching and working through the water is a sight of sights, and I can’t wait to see it.
Tweeting from Bali.