15 Things To Know Before Visiting Marino Ballena National Park

Marino Ballena National Park is the most attractive location for tourists in Uvita, Costa Rica. However, visitors still have an unsatisfied experience here due to half-baked information before visiting. To have a fantastic time in this park, you need to know the best route to the landmark, things to do, the entrance fees, the payment method accepted here, and the kind of tours that are worth your time in the park. 

Many reviews of Marino Ballena National Park say it’s an awesome place with lovely beaches. The first thing I learned upon visiting is that I ought to pay $6, and they only take credit cards.

However, the payment method is just one of the many surprises that visitors eventually discover when they get to the park, which often alters their tremendous experience. In this post, I’ve attempted to include all the relevant information about this touristy location so that you’re equipped with all you need to know before and during your visit. 

If you don’t have all the time to read this article, here is a summary of what you’ll learn in this post: 

Key Takeaways

  • Marino Ballena National Park entrance fee: $6 for foreign visitors, free for children 12 years and under, and $2 for nationals. 
  • The best things to do in Marino Ballena National Park are snorkeling, hiking, birdwatching, and whale watching. 
  • Best time to visit: dry season—from December to June
  • What to bring along: Swimwear, reef-safe sunscreen, Snorkels (masks, snorkels, and diving fins are not allowed), Drinking water and hiking shoes
  • What time does Marino Ballena National Park open? 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

This park is located on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The main reason people come here is to watch humpback whales. You can also see other sea animals, like different kinds of whales, dolphins, and sea turtles.

Continue reading to learn more about this park. 

1. Taking the tourist shuttle is the easiest way to get to the park. 

There are different ways to get to Marino Ballena National Park; however, using the tourist shuttle is the easiest way for many first-time visitors. 

In Costa Rica, you can easily reserve a shuttle from any hostel or travel agency in popular tourist spots. For instance, you’ll find shuttles from Manuel Antonio to Uvita without much trouble. I looked into these options before deciding to rent a car for our trip.

These shuttles are really convenient because they pick you up from where you’re staying and drop you off right at your next accommodation in Uvita! They’re quick, simple, and safe.

Just remember, they can be a bit pricey (we found it cheaper to rent a car than to shuttle everywhere), but if you prefer not to drive, they’re a great choice.

If you’re driving from San José, you have a few route choices, but not all are equally good. Some might seem shorter on the map, but they wind through the mountains, which can make the road twisty. 

If you’re driving from Manuel Antonio, it’s a simple one-hour drive along Route 64.

Otherwise, first follow National Highway 27 all the way to Coyolar. Then, switch to the Pacific Highway Fernández Oreamuno/National Primary Route 34, which will take you to Uvita. This way, you’ll be driving by the coast, which is much smoother.

2. Tickets to Marino Ballena National Park cost $6.

Foreigners can visit Marino Ballena National Park for $6, and kids under 12 are free. Local visitors pay $2.

Your ticket includes access to all park areas for the entire day, so you only need to buy one ticket.

If you’re going on a whale-watching tour from Uvita, you don’t need to pay the park entrance fee. You’re just passing through the park to reach the boat.

3. Marino Ballena National Park opens every day at 7:00 a.m.

Marino Ballena National Park welcomes visitors daily from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., but the last entry is at 4:00 p.m.

To make the most of your visit, aim to come during low tide. That’s when you can explore the Whale’s Tail sandbar. 

I always encourage visitors not to miss out on the park’s stunning sunsets. Staying until closing time guarantees a memorable end.

4. There are two seasons for whale watching here. 

You must have heard that Marino Ballena National Park is the place to be if you’re eager to see whales during your Costa Rica trip. 

However, whale watching happens in two seasons. The first season runs from December to March, with January and February being the best months.

In Costa Rica, the rainy season runs from May to November. During this time, there are fewer visitors to the park, but you might encounter rain or cloudy weather. 

From December to April, it’s the dry season. This means more people visit the park, but you’ll likely enjoy clear, sunny skies.

5. You need a guide for the best wildlife experience. 

Unlike some sloth viewing destinations where self-guided tours would do, a guided wildlife tour is highly recommended in Marino Ballena Park if you’re interested in seeing animals.

Guides receive training to identify wildlife more accurately than we do. I remember when I went, our guide spotted bats, monkeys, iguanas, and more in just a few seconds—things we wouldn’t have seen on our own.

You can even book a guided walking tour of Marino Ballena National Park in advance. This particular tour lasts for 3 hours. A local guide will lead you through the park, helping you identify various animal species and appreciate the park’s natural beauty.

6. Nobody may tell you, but come prepared. 

You’re coming for outdoor activities here. So to come prepared, you have to know what to wear and what to bring. I have created the table below to explain my recommendations better. 

What to Bring Reason
Swimsuit Bring your swimsuit because there’s lots to explore underwater!
Snacks and Water Plan to stay for a while and bring snacks and water to keep you energized. There aren’t any food establishments in the park, but there are a few nearby.
Snorkel Gear Near the Whale’s Tail, there’s a beautiful coral reef where you can see marine life. If you don’t have gear, you can rent some in Uvita Town.
Binoculars Take binoculars for whale-watching and bird-watching. They allow you to see things far away without disturbing the animals.
Insect Repellent Bring insect repellent to keep mosquitoes away, especially in the evenings.
Hat and Sunscreen Wear a hat and sunscreen to keep the sun off, especially if you’re walking on the whale’s tail. There is a lot of sunshine and heat.


7. There is no restaurant inside the park.

Another thing you need to know as you come to the park is that there isn’t a restaurant inside. 

However, there are plenty just outside the entrance where you can get tasty Costa Rican dishes just outside the entrance. I recommend the Las Delicias Bar & Restaurant nearby. 

You can also park your car on the road, and guards will watch it. Restrooms are available for you to use. 

8. Caño Island is the popular scuba-diving spot.

Marino Ballena National Park has reefs close to the small islands that are away from the shore. This means it’s a perfect place for snorkeling. 

You can join a half-day tour to snorkel there. Most of the companies that take people whale-watching in Uvita also offer snorkeling trips.

However, the ultimate cache is to take a full-day tour to Caño Island Biological Reserve, which is about an hour and a half away from Marino Ballena. 

You can see many different kinds of sea creatures there. Caño Island is also famous for scuba diving and is a great spot for snorkeling in the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

9. Visiting during low tide is best.

Take note of the tides! High tides may bring natural debris like logs, large leaves, and occasionally floating palm trees to the beach.

Low tide is the best time to visit, and the whale tail is only visible and accessible during this period.

You can use MagicSeaweed to track the tides or you can ask a surfer who is always keeping an eye on the tides.

10. The marine park only accepts credit cards.

You can only pay with a credit card at the marine park, not with cash. So, remember to bring your credit card or debit card with you. It costs between $6 and $7 to get in.

Once you buy a ticket, you can leave and come back on the same day. 

When you get to the National Park, make sure you watch your essentials, like phones and cameras. Although it’s usually safe here, if you’re not careful, it can sometimes lead to theft.

11. Things are expensive here.

You can find almost everything you want to buy in the nearby shops. But be prepared, because some things may be more expensive than you expect. 

For example, a regular-sized tube of sunscreen could cost more than $20 at the local market.

So again, make sure you come with your essentials instead of buying them in the park. 

12. Marino Bellena Park’s contact information

13. Choose your guided tours wisely. 

If you want to go on a guided tour of Marino Bellena, you must be vigilant about the tour company you choose. 

In my case, I hired Dolphin Tours to guide us, and for three hours, we watched mother humpbacks with their babies—we saw at least forty pairs! We saw baby whales jumping out of the water, the famous whale tails coming up, and the spray from their blowholes.

If you want to go whale-watching, there are lots of tour companies in Uvita. Prices and what they offer may differ.

Our hotel recommended the Dolphin Tours I went on, and they were great. They were very professional; their facilities were excellent, with showers and private changing rooms; and their staff was friendly and knew a lot about the whales.

14. The main attraction of Uvita Beach is its Marino Ballena National Park.

Uvita Beach is famous for its Marino Ballena National Park, which is the top place in Costa Rica to watch whales. 

From August to November, lots of tourists from around the globe, as well as Costa Ricans and scientists, visit this spot. During these months, you can see thousands of whales coming near the shore. 

It’s straightforward to watch them up close because many boats offer tours for whale-watching. From January to April, another good time to see whales.

15. There are four entrances.

This national park is the best place to see humpback whales. There are four entrances to the park. 

If you’re driving a sedan, you can use the Waze app and enter “Cabinas Gato.” From there, it only takes about 5 minutes to reach the national park, and you don’t need a 4×4 drive car.

When the tide is low, you can see a stunning formation of rocks and sand that looks like a whale’s tail. 

Make sure to check the tide schedule for the day so you can walk along the length of the whale’s tail.

Rate this post


Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

Leave a Comment