15 Things To Know Before Going Whale Watching In Uvita

Going whale-watching is one of the best activities that draw tourists to Uvita in Costa Rica. However, the experience can be dissatisfactory if you don’t know the best times to visit, what to bring along, how much to budget, the best tours to hire, and even where to live during your short stay in Uvita. 

During my recent trip to Uvita to watch whales, my husband and I went with the Bahia Aventuras tour option, and it was fantastic. 

What’s remarkable is that all the boats communicate, so if there are whales around, you’re likely to spot them no matter which company you’re with.

I chatted with someone about fishing there in March, and he said March isn’t the best time for whale watching. In other words, certain times of the year are better than others for spotting them. 

The local tour operators may claim to have seen whales yesterday just to get you to book with them.

This, among many other things, was what I gathered as lessons learned during my trip. I’ve created this post to ensure anybody visiting Uvita next for whale watching will have the necessary heads-up to have a fantastic time there. 

Key Takeaways

  • Marino Ballena National Park is the actual spot and gateway to an epic whale-watching experience in Uvita. 
  • Choosing the wrong tour company can ruin the fun. Companies like Bahia Adventures have had a good reputation so far. 
  • Pack along sunglasses, sunscreen, a waterproof camera and bag, and flip-flops for the trip. You’ll need them. 
  • Be careful of hidden costs. However, depending on the tour company and the inclusions in the package, the whale-watching tour typically costs at least $80 per person.
  • After the tour, most tour companies will drop you off at the beach. Explore the beach. You might regret it later if you don’t. 
  • As for the best place to stay in Uvita, I totally recommend the Tropical Beach Hotel and Oxygen Jungle Villas.

Read on to learn more about the details of visiting Uvita for whale watching, as well as what you should know before going. 

1. Marino Ballena National Park is the ultimate place for whale watching in Uvita.

Uvita is located around 20km south of Dominical, sitting beside the Río Uvita, forming part of the “Whale Coast” or Costa Bellena.

To catch sight of whales in Uvita, your best bet is Marino Ballena National Park. Established in 1989, this park safeguards a significant stretch of ocean and coastline below Uvita, primarily due to its impressive coral reefs and its role as a breeding ground for humpback whales.

The park protects the coastal beaches and Punta Uvita, a former island now joined to the mainland by a sandbar resembling a whale’s fin.

The park provides access to four beaches: 

  • Uvita
  • Colonia
  • Ballena
  • Piñuelas

Each beach has its own ranger station offering information about the park and nearby picnic areas. Although most entrances offer basic shower and toilet facilities, their staffing may fluctuate.

Marino Ballena National Park operates daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the entry fee of $12 grants access to all four entrances for the day.

2. Whale watching in Uvita is best enjoyed from late July to late October.

First of all, Costa Rica experiences two whale migration seasons.

During the first season, which spans from late December to late March, whales travel from the Oregon Coast to Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. 

While January and February offer the best chances to see whales, this migration is more minor compared to the second season.

The second season, from late July to late October, sees a larger whale population migrating through. This makes spotting whales in Uvita more likely, which is quite impressive.

Apart from that, this season provides opportunities to see whale calves. 

3. The tour company you choose can make or mar your whale-watching experience.

It hurts me that I have to warn you about choosing the right tour company based on an experience I learned the hard way. 

First of all, there are plenty of small tour businesses in Uvita dedicated to whale watching, and they often communicate with each other to ensure everyone has a chance to spot whales. 

This collaboration makes the experience fantastic. Many visitors have had great days out with these tours, finding them well worth it.

However, if you want to go whale-watching in Uvita, it’s wise to pick a well-known tour company based there and book your trip ahead of time. 

These tours often use small boats and are famous, so booking early is a good idea.

Some of Uvita’s best whale-watching tour companies include:

  • Bahía Aventuras: They offer friendly and professional trips for whale-watching, snorkeling, and even sea kayaking in the national park.
  • Uvita Information Center: The staff can help you book various tours, both on land and on the water.
  • Uvita 360: They provide excellent whale-watching tours, surfing lessons, stand-up paddleboarding tours, and equipment rentals.

Friendly Advice:

  • Many tourists have had negative experiences with Uvita 360 and Bahia Ballena Kayaks due to mechanical issues with the boats. So, it’s wise to check reviews before booking.

4. Budget at least $100 per person for the whale-watching tour itself. 

Whale-watching trips usually range in price from $80 to $100. Make sure to budget at least $100 per person to avoid any stranding at the park.

Meanwhile, the value you get for this ticket price is opportunities for snorkeling, and they usually provide the necessary gear. 

If snorkeling is something you’re interested in, make sure to confirm with your tour operator beforehand.

Meanwhile, whale-watching tours from Uvita typically use smaller boats that can accommodate 15 to 25 passengers. 

These trips usually last about three hours and come with a knowledgeable guide who will tell you all about the national park and its unique marine creatures.

So, for many people who ask, “How much for whale watching in Uvita Costa Rica?” the actual answer is to budget at least $100 per person. 

5. You’re likely to spot an array of dolphins as well.

While you’re on a whale-watching tour in Uvita, you’ll see not only whales but also a variety of dolphins, including bottlenose, spotted common, spinner, and rough-toothed dolphins. Keep an eye out for turtles and rays, too.

The tours mainly concentrate on humpback whales, although Bryde’s whales are also quite common. 

6. They don’t say it enough. but come prepared. 

Even the tour companies’ websites don’t prominently mention the things that you should bring along. And then, when you arrive at the park and see others with their gear, you regret not bringing something along.

So, to have a great time watching whales and dolphins, here’s what you should bring:

What you should bring along Reason 
Binoculars They allow you to easily spot whales and dolphins and get a closer look at them.
Sunscreen Even though it might feel more relaxed on the water, you can still get sunburned, so bring sunscreen.
Waterproof camera It’s not necessary for taking pictures of whales, but it’s handy if you plan to snorkel and see marine life in Marino Ballena National Park.
Swimwear Many trips include snorkeling, so it’s a good idea to bring swimwear. You should get your snorkeling gear, too.
Waterproof bag Uvita beaches have a significant number of theft cases. While it’s not a major concern, you should bring a waterproof bag you can comfortably carry around to protect your valuables.
Wear flip-flops or sandals. If you wear trainers or sneakers, they will most likely get wet. 


7. Using bus service makes it easy to move around Uvita. 

Getting around Uvita can be tricky because it’s spread out and not well-connected. 

If you’re not staying close to the Bahia neighborhood, you’ll need to figure out how to reach the national park. 

It’s about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the central part of Uvita, and even farther if you’re staying near the Uvita Waterfall.

If you can’t afford a car, you can take a bus to Uvita. Buses leave from San Jose and Quepos for Uvita. 

These buses make it easy to explore other nearby places like Dominical, San Isidro, and Quepos, which is the entrance to Manuel Antonio National Park.

8. Most tour companies are located in the village of Bahia.

Once you’re ready to experience whale watching in Uvita, head straight to Bahia Village, because that’s where most tour companies are. 

But since the goal is to book a tour, you have three choices:

  • I got to Bahia and asked about rates in person.
  • Book online in advance.
  • When you arrive in Uvita, book through your accommodations.

If price matters most to you, staying in Bahia and looking for deals the day before might be a good idea. 

For everyone else staying in Uvita or nearby, I suggest booking online or following your accommodation’s recommendation.

If you’re in Costa Rica and Uvita for a short time, booking in advance is a good idea.

Some offices might let you show up in the morning without a reservation, especially during quieter times, giving you a discount. 

But during the busy season, from December to April, it’s risky because boats are often full.

9. Watch out for hidden costs in whale-watching tour ticket prices.

Always remember that the cost of a tour can change depending on whether it includes rides to and from your place and if entry to the national park is part of the deal.

For example, if you stay far from the park entrance and pay $65 per person for a tour through your hostel, it will likely cover a private taxi to and from the hostel as well as the park entry fee.

But on local tour agency websites, prices are usually around $80 to $90.

When we talked to tour companies in Bahia, prices varied from $55 to $80 per person, not counting the entry fee.

So, if you’re watching your spending, consider walking around and negotiating in person.

This might help you find a better price.

10. After the tour, take time to enjoy the beach (many first-time visitors usually wish they did).

After the tour ends, almost all the tour companies will drop you off at Uvita Beach.

After reading many reviews online, I noticed how many visitors chose to leave the park and go back to Uvita for another activity.

But since you already paid to get into the National Park, it’s a good idea to enjoy its beautiful private beach.

If you’re hungry, you can leave the park to grab lunch at one of the nearby restaurants. 

When you’re ready to return, just show your ticket to the guard at the ticket office, and they’ll let you back in.

11. There are alternative places to Uvita in Costa Rica for whale watching.

Besides Uvita, there are a few other places worth considering for a whale-watching experience. 

I totally recommend Drake Bay. I’ve seen humpback whales here, so it’s definitely a good spot. 

You can join specialized tours, such as the National Geographic six-hour tour, and the whale season matches Uvita’s.

I’ve also heard good things about tamarindo. From August to October, whales visit near Tamarindo. 

There aren’t many specific whale-watching tours, but if you’re sailing during these months, you might catch a glimpse.

Ultimately, as far as alternatives go, Manuel Antonio is definitely a great spot for this activity. Whale-watching tours are available here from July to September.

12. Watch out for the annual whale festival. 

From August to October, Uvita turns into a hotspot for whale watchers. 

Humpback whales migrate to Costa Rica’s warm Pacific waters during this period for mating and birthing.

To mark this occasion, Uvita hosts the annual Whale Festival on the first two weekends of September. 

It features live music, art exhibitions, and educational activities about these incredible creatures. 

13. Where to stay near the Uvita

In Uvita, you can find different places to stay that match what you want and what you can spend. 

The best part is that many of these spots have fantastic views of the ocean, forests, and whale tail.

I absolutely recommend the Tropical Beach Hotel Restaurant & Bar as one of the best places to stay in Uvita. 

It’s comfortable, not too expensive, and has everything you need, such as Wi-Fi and restaurants. You can relax by the pool or visit the nearby beach.

Check availability for the Tropical Beach Hotel in Uvita.

If you want fancy accommodation, consider Oxygen Jungle Villas.

It is surrounded by trees, and there are fantastic views of the ocean. They offer cool stuff like tours and yoga classes, but it’s only for adults.

Check availability for Oxygen Jungle Villas in Uvita.

Among others, Bungalow Ballena is another option. These little houses come with a kitchen, a pool, and a playground. Plus, there’s free parking.

14. At high tide, the whale tail is invisible. 

Remember, water covers the Uvita Whale Tail (in Marino Bellena National Park) during high tide, so you might not always see it.

When planning your visit to Marino Ballena National Park, which is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (but you can stay until 6 p.m.), make sure to check the tide schedule. 

Pro Tip:

  • It’s best to visit during low tide to see the whale tail.
  • You don’t have to wait until the lowest point of the tide to see the tail. 
  • It started showing a few hours before that. 

Usually, you can spot it 2 to 3 hours before the lowest point, but it depends on how much water you’re okay with walking through.

Even after low tide, you still have an hour or two before the tail disappears again. 

15. False orcas can ruin the fun. 

When you go to Uvita and book a tour with the hope of watching whales, that expectation can be cut short due to false orcas. 

Your tour may not have any luck spotting the whales because there can be false orcas around. 

These predators scare away humpback whales, so they tend to avoid areas where orcas are present. 

It can be really disappointing, but that’s just how it goes sometimes when you’re trying to see wild animals. 

However, when this happens, your tour guide will usually ensure you get to watch the False Orcas jump and play in the water, which can be really adorable.


I hope this information gives you enough heads-up to plan your trip to Uvita for whale watching. 

If you have any observations or information about Uvita that would help make this guide more helpful to first-time visitors, feel free to share them in the comment section below. 

Thanks for reading.

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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!

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