If you’re visiting the Costa Ballena in Costa Rica, Marino Ballena National Park is one of the top things to do in Uvita. This national park has some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, including a unique feature of a beach shaped like a whale’s tail, formed by the union of two separate beaches.
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 sectors and are open everyday from 7 AM to 6 PM. Ballena is open everyday from 7 AM to 4 PM for those who want to visit Playa Arco (must go in low tide only). Sector Piñuelo is temporarily closed.
The entrance fee is $6 USD + tax for adult foreigners. Children under 12 and senior citizens (65+) 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
The Uvita Sector is the main sector and 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 2-4,000 Costa Rican colones (~$4-6 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 love 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 are parking lots there for around 2-4000 CRC a day and some small food stands outside the entrance.
There aren’t any facilities inside the park.
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 (1.2 miles) 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 the national park beaches are so vast, 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.
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.
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. There are many restaurants and food stalls outside the park.
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 which is a 2 minute walk to the Colonia Sector. Budget small apartments with a kitchen, pool, close to a supermarket and next to a couple 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!
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