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’s 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.
Marino Ballena National Park
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About the Park
Established in 1990, this park 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!
Location and directions
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.
Hours and 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.
Marino Ballena National Park is one of the cheaper national parks in Costa Rica.
Besides whale watching, visitors can enjoy the beach or do some water activities such as kayaking, SUP, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving 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.
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’s 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!
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’s Tail as it is the best humpback whale watching place in Costa Rica and visitors come to the 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 Whale’s Tail and see it in all its glory!
It was hard to believe that it took me two and a half years to finally make it to this national park, I fell in love with it the minute we stepped in. Everything about this park is stunning – the whale’s tail, the formation of land, the coral reefs, the mangroves, the beaches and the wildlife.
It’s less crowded than some other ones in the country and the beaches are lovely. You can have a whole vacation centered around this national park itself and enjoy the beautiful South Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
Tips for Visiting
- Bring snacks and water (no drinkable water available). Bathrooms available near the ranger station
- If you want to walk to the whale’s tail, you must go during low tide so check the tide chart
- Bring lots of sunscreen, it is really hot and humid
- If you look under the leaves of the trees on the beach, you may spot a bat!
- There are many hostels/hotels in Uvita if you want to stay near the national park. 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 cohice.
- If you drive, there are a couple parking lots at the entrance in Uvita that cost 2,000 colones ($4) a day.
Video of Marino Ballena National Park (aerial video)
Read about other national parks in Costa Rica here!
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