Costa Rica’s Whale Coast – La Costa Ballena

Travel Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s famous Whale’s Coast, or Costa Ballena, is located in the South Pacific Coast of Puntarenas Province. The 35 km (22m) stretch of pristine coastline encompasses stunning beaches and the small towns of Dominical, Uvita, and Ojochal. Picturesque verdant mountains rise from the shoreline and are the location of many boutique hotels and retreat centers.

Costa Ballena is so named because the waters along the Pacific Coast are part of the migratory routes of numerous whale species. Humpback Whales are the most prolific and can be seen in the area from July through October and December through March.

It’s no surprise that whale watching and dolphin sighting tours are among the top local attractions. The whale’s come to breed and nurture their young in the warm nutrient-rich marine waters close to shore. Females and their offspring are known to charm sightseers virtually year-round. Among the other species frequenting the area are humpbacks, pilot, and Bryde’s whales; spotted and bottlenose dolphins; manta rays, and even sharks.

Getting to know Costa Rica’s Whale Coast

Traveling by rental car is the most recommended form of transportation when visiting Bahia Ballena. There are a handful of charming small towns and pristine beaches in the area that are definitely worth visiting. Getting from place to place without a car can get expensive and time-consuming.

Adobe Rent a Car has offices near the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San José, Uvita, and nearby Quepos, as well as 13 additional offices throughout the country. A bilingual Adobe agent can help you choose the right type of vehicle to match your itinerary and travel needs.

To rent a car from the Adobe SJO Airport office visit  www.adobecar.com or email: info@adobecar.com. An Adobe shuttle bus will transfer you from the airport gates to the office in less than five minutes. Operating hours are from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time; tel: (506) 2442-2422, WhatsApp:+506 8494-5956.US & CAN Toll Free: 1-855-861-1250 (8 am-5 pm Central Time)

Prereserve your car at the Uvita office at  www.adobecar.com or email: opsuvita@adobecar.com. The office is located next to Banco Nacional de Costa Rica in the main Uvita shopping center. Operating are from Monday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time; tel: (506) 2743-8102, WhatsApp: +506 8494-5956.

You can also take an in-country flight to nearby Quepos and rent or pick up your vehicle from our Adobe Quepos office. Contact  www.adobecar.com or email xqp@adobecar.com. The office is located in front of the soccer field entrance in the center of town. Operating are from Monday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.local time; tel: (506) 2777-4242, WhatsApp: +506 8494-5956.

Getting to Costa Ballena by car

From San José and the Juan Santamaria International Airport, take Route 27 west towards Orotina. The highway is a toll road and requires around $7 total in local currency.

Just after the fourth toll on Route 27, take the Jaco exit onto Route 34 south, also known as the Costanera Highway. The road is in great condition and passes numerous towns and deserted beaches lined with palm trees and wild almonds. The drive takes about 3:30 hours and covers 225 km.

Another option is to take Route 2 from San Jose through the mountains of Cartago Province to San Isidro de General and Route 243 to Dominical. This option takes a little over 4 hours and covers 175km.

Visitors are recommended to rent a 4WD vehicle if they are planning on lodging in the mountains. The incline from shore to peak can be steep and the extra traction will be welcome.

Things to do in and around Marino Ballena National Park

Visitors should not miss a visit to the Marino Ballena National Park located in Uvita. Marino Ballena is one of the few marine national parks in Costa Rica. The park asks a $6 entrance fee for foreigners and $2 for locals; children under 11 and the elderly enter for free.

The park entrance fee also includes entrance to the nearby Playa Ballena, Colonia, Arco, and Pinuela beaches. So, hold on to your receipt and you can visit them all. Ask the ranger for a map of the Uvita and Bahia Ballena area to facilitate getting around.

The park’s most notable feature is the impressive whale’s tail-shaped sandbar that juts into the Pacific Ocean at low tide. You can walk to the tip of the tail and swim in the calm, protected waters. Picnickers and nature seekers can pass the entire day exploring the park’s beautiful beaches, estuaries, and quiet coastal forests.

The picturesque Ballena and Tres Hermanas islands in front of the park are also home to coral reefs and a colorful array of marine life. Kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving are popular day trips for visitors looking to explore the protected waters.

Costa Ballena Favorites – Surfing and water sports

Experienced and beginner surfers alike will be glad to know that the Pacific Region has a break just for them.

Playa Hermosa, Chaman, and Dominical are the area’ most Pura Vida beaches worth visiting and are rarely packed. During peak season and on weekends you can rent surf and boogie boards as well as kayaks to enjoy the popular waves. The sweeping shorelines also invite long walks and exploration.

Playa Ventanas (Windows Beach) near Ojochal is must do.  The small horse-shoe shoreline is bordered by steep coastal cliffs and ocean caves that can be explored during low tide. The beach also has plenty of shade to escape the midday rays and local vendors sell snacks and cold drinks on the weekends. It’s also possible to see wildlife in the forest area along the shoreline, including white-faced Capuchin monkeys, iguanas, and even scarlet macaws.

Favorite Bahia Ballena Costa Rica Tours – Hiking, horseback riding, and canopy tours

Further inland, horseback riding, hiking, and canopy tours are all local favorites and a great way to see the diverse wildlife inhabiting the tropical habitat of the surrounding hills.

One of the most acclaimed tours is a visit to the Nauyaca Waterfalls. Visitors can choose to make the trek by horseback, on a guided hike, or solo. Ask for directions to the trailhead at your hotel or a local travel agency if you plan on going alone.  The breathtaking river drops over 60 meters (200 ft) from two sets of falls into cool and refreshing pools for swimming and sightseeing.

Tesoro Escondido Eco-Reserve near Uvita is a great place for hiking and seeing the local flora and fauna. You’ll also be treated to some amazing overlooks of the whale’s tail sandbar and the islands dotting the southern Pacific.

Hacienda Barú Wildlife Refuge near Dominical offers 7 km of hiking trails and guided tours. Visitors can arrange for a night tour to experience the fascinating nocturnal world of the rainforest and even stay overnight in the reserve’s lodging.

Dining and nightlife

You’ll find fabulous dining options all along the Costa Ballena. From eclectic international fare to traditional local eateries, the choices are plenty.

Uvita costa rica map

Uvita is where you’ll find the largest grocery store, pharmacy, and other amenities as well as a couple of popular restaurants. While dominical offers pizzerias and other beachfront restaurants and bars, souvenir shops, and tour providers. Lastly, Ojochal is well known for its fine dining options set near a gurgling river in the small town.

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