Uvita Costa Rica: 2023 Travel Guide
Uvita Costa Rica is a relaxed beach town with a beautiful jungle backdrop.
The Uvita Costa Rica Vibes
Uvita is everything you imagine when you think of Costa Rica.
The beaches are beautiful long stretches. The forests are dense and jungle-ish. The waterfalls are plentiful. The people are the sweetest.
It is a great place if you want a relaxed vibe while exploring some amazing Costa Rican gems.
Background Info About Uvita Costa Rica
Nearest International Airport
Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose
Popular Things to Do
Best Way to Get Around
Best Time of Year to Visit
Dry season is from late December until mid-April
The nearby Nauyaca waterfall hike
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Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).
We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and have called sunny Costa Rica home since 2016.
We are on a mission to help you plan the perfect Costa Rican vacation.
Map Of Uvita
Uvita Costa Rica is located on the South Pacific coast of the country in the Puntarenas Province.
This area is also sometimes referred to as “Costa Ballena”. Ballena means “whale” in Spanish.
Uvita is located a bit south of Manuel Antonio, which makes it a great spot to stay if you would like to take a day trip to the national park, but also want to be away from the craziness.
Flights to Costa Rica
Your best option for getting to Uvita Costa Rica is to fly into San Jose International Airport. The full name is Juan Sanatamaria International Airport. And the airport code is SJO.
If you haven’t booked your flight yet, we suggest using Skyscanner. We consistently find the best rates through their website.
Driving to Uvita from San Josse
The drive from the San Jose airport will take about four to five hours depending on traffic.
You have two options for driving, you can either drive down the coastal road or through the mountains past San Gerardo de Dota and San Isidro de El General.
We 100% suggest taking the coastal road. It will be way less stress.
Your drive will start on well-maintained highways. Just be warned that the highway fluctuates between two lanes and one lane on each side. Sometimes the change can happen quickly and merging can be a bit scary.
Also, there are tolls until you exit near Jaco to drive along the coast. The toll booths don’t all accept credit cards, but they do take US dollars or colones.
If you plan to pay in dollars we suggest paying with a $10 bill to start. The attendant will give you change in colones. This will be enough colones to pay for the rest of the drive.
About an hour into your drive you will exit towards Jaco. Not long after that, you will cross a bridge over Rio Tarcoles.
We suggest pulling off and walking back on to the bridge. You can look down and see big crocodiles lounging in the sun.
You will then continue your drive along the coast until you reach Uvita.
If you need a food break along the way we suggest stopping in Hermosa (right after Jaco) or at Esterillos Center Shopping area.
We suggest these spots because there are multiple places to eat and they are easy to get in and out of without having to drive through a whole town.
If you plan to go to the Esterillos shopping center (this is my top choice for you) you can put “El Chiringuito” in Esterillos into your GPS. The plaza has about five different restaurant options.
For bathroom breaks or snacks, there are several gas stations along the whole drive. All gas stations have bathrooms. Sometimes you might need to ask for the key, but usually, they are unlocked.
If you need to get gas, keep in mind that in Costa Rica you stay in your car and an attendant fills the gas for you.
On a sunny day, this drive is absolutely beautiful. There are several places along the way where you can pull off to get a nice ocean view.
The mountain route will take you at least an hour longer than the coastal route. This route is really pretty, but the roads are a bit scary.
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Everything is paved but you can expect lots of curves and switchbacks. As someone who gets really car sick, this ride is a bit of a nightmare.
Plus, if you get stuck behind a slow-moving truck it can be very difficult to pass them.
So, do yourself a favor and drive the coastal route.
We suggest using Adobe for car rentals because they are the most trustworthy rental car company in this country (in our opinion) and we have a 10% discount for you. You can read more about renting a car here.
You will not need a 4×4 to get to Uvita if you are taking the coastal road, but you might want one once you are in Uvita if you are staying up in the hills.
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Private Shuttle to Uvita Costa Rica
If you don’t feel comfortable driving, we suggest taking a private shuttle.
This is a great way to just sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery.
We suggest Adobe’s Private Shuttle company for your transportation. They are reliable, nice, and trustworthy.
They will also be happy to stop along the way if you would like to look at Rio Tarcoles or get some snacks.
You can book your private shuttle here.
Public Bus to Uvita Costa Rica
The most affordable transportation option is to take the Tracopa bus. The bus leaves from downtown San Jose throughout the day.
It will cost about $12 each way. This bus is air-conditioned, semi-comfortable, and drives directly to Uvita.
Domestic Flights to Uvita
There is a small airport in Quepos (about 45 minutes north of Uvita).
It is possible to take a domestic flight from San Jose. The flight is really fast (only about 25 minutess). But, keep in mind that we don’t suggest this if you are scared of smaller planes.
From the airport it is easy to get a taxi to Uvita or have your rental car delivered to the airport by Adobe.
Transportation In Uvita
We usually suggest depending on a rental car during your stay in Uvita Costa Rica.
Having a car is best if you plan on doing a lot of activities on your own, need to easily be able to get to restaurants/ grocery stores, and plan on traveling to another destination after your stay in Uvita.
If you are staying at resort with activities and a restaurant, you most likely will not need a rental car.
There is an Adobe Rental Car office in Uvita. That means that if you take a shuttle, bus, or flight to Uvita you can still get a rental car for your time in Uvita.
When you make your car reservation, input Uvita as your pick-up location.
In the comments section of the rental car reservation, you can also specify that you need the car delivered to you at your hotel/ home rental in Uvita. Adobe will deliver it to you free of charge if you are within 12 miles of their location.
Pro Tip: Rent a car with Adobe through our site and you will get a 10% discount! Score! You can find out more about that here.
If you need to get around by taxi, always make sure to take a registered Costa Rican taxi. You will know an official ta because it will be red (or orange if coming from the airport) with a yellow triangle on the driver and passenger side door.
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Uvita Costa Rica Weather
Uvita follows the same weather patterns as its neighboring beach towns. You can expect the weather to be ridiculously hot and rain-free from late December until the end of April.
After that, from May until mid-August, you can expect hot and humid weather with a daily afternoon thunderstorm.
From mid-August until the end of December, the weather is kind of up in the air. Some days may be complete washouts and others may be completely fine.
Uvita is a beach town, but it is backed up by jungle and mountains. Sometimes thick fog comes in off the mountains.
Also, keep in mind that the sun sets every day between 5:15 and 5:45 year-round. We highly suggest enjoying early dinners at restaurants in the hills for impressive sunset views.
Things to Do in Uvita Costa Rica
There are multiple surf schools and places to rent boards in Uvita. The conditions are fairly safe here, so it is a great place to try out surfing for the first time or practice if you would like to improve your skills.
If you would like to take a private lesson (for all skill levels) we suggest booking a lesson with Josue. He is an excellent coach!
If you are already somewhat experienced and just want to rent a board, we suggest Surfing Uvita. They are located 100 meters from the beach in Uvita (so you don’t need to drag the board anywhere. And will direct you to the best spots based on your skill level.
Check out the Nearby Town of Dominical
The nearby town of Dominical is only about twenty minutes away from Uvita. We have a complete guide to Dominical if you’d like to know more about visiting the area.
There are plenty of deep-sea fishing companies located near Uvita. We suggest asking at your hotel. Sometimes they have connections and can direct you to the best deals.
Go Whale Watching
In the fall, it is possible to go on a humpback whale tour from the beach in Uvita. Check out our whale watching guide for more info.
Or, you can book your whale watching tour here.
Check out Nearby Beaches
There are plenty of beautiful beaches within a short drive of Uvita. One of our favorites is Playa Ventanas. This is a great family-friendly beach just south of Uvita.
The coolest thing about the beach is that there is a cave in the water which you can walk in to.
Another unique spot just south of Uvita is Arco Beach.
Visit Nauyaca Waterfall
Nauyaca waterfall is located in Dominical. This hike can be intense depending on the heat and humidity, but it is so worth it! Find out how to plan your trip with our Nauyaca guide.
Take a Day Trip to Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is the most popular park in the country. It is a great place to see sloths, monkeys, relax on beautiful beaches, and more!
Check out our Manuel Antonio guide for all the details.
If you would like a tour with transportation, you can arrange your Manuel Antonio tour here.
Go Bird Watching
The area above Uvita is a dense jungle where tons of bird species hang out. We suggest booking a tour with Pure Birding.
Through them you can almost guarantee you will see many species of birds with an experienced, knowledgeable, and nice guide
Visit the Whale’s Tail
The whale’s tail at Marino Ballena National Park is probably the most famous thing to do in Uvita.
Basically, it is a point that you can walk out to during low tide which resembles a whale’s tail from above. It costs $6 to enter at the ranger station.
We have a full guide to visiting the national park.
Slide down the Uvita Waterfall
Did you know there is a waterfall in Costa Rica that you can slide down like a slide? It’s so cool!
To get to this spot just type in “Catarata Uvita” into your GPS unit. It’s really close to the downtown area. Entry is $2 per person and there is plenty of space to park on the side of the road. Just don’t leave anything of value in the car.
The walk to the falls will only take you about five to ten minutes. There are several pools you can swim in and of course, there is also the amazing waterfall.
If you would like to take a waterfall day tour that includes this spot, we highly suggest booking the Chasing Waterfall tour with Pablo. He will take you to two falls, a beautiful beach, and you’ll end the day with drinks on a hillside to enjoy the sunset.
Walk on the Beach
The beaches on either side of the whale’s tail are called Playa Uvita and Playa Hermosa. You could easily spend a day here walking the beaches lined with palm trees and relaxing in the sand.
There are plenty of trees where the beach ends if you need some shade. Just don’t sit under any palms with coconuts.
Go Mangrove Kayaking
A mangrove kayaking tour along Paquita River is a peaceful paddle with plenty of wildlife sightings along the way. You might see reptiles, monkeys, many species of birds, and more!
Search for Secret Waterfalls
There are tons of waterfalls in the Uvita area. We heard about a cool one not too far from Catarata Uvita, but we were unable to find it.
There is also one located a bit south of Uvita called Cascada Pavon. This waterfall has a rock stuck in the middle of it, which looks really unique. It is only a short walk from the road to get there.
Let us know if you find any more unique waterfalls near Uvita so we can pass them on to our readers.
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There aren’t any fine dining restaurants located in downtown Uvita, so I selected places in the nearby towns of Dominical and Ojochal for this.
Citrus– Located south of Uvita in Ojochal, this is an amazing French restaurant. The food is excellent and the atmosphere is even better.
Cuna del Angel– A high-end gluten-free restaurant located just north of Uvita in Cuna del Angel hotel.
Restaurant Exotica– Delicious restaurant located south of Uvita in Ojochal. They serve a wide variety of food with many foreign inspirations.
Restaurant Los Laurales -The owner Cindy is the sweetest. She will help you through the menu, but as a word of advice get the fish tacos. They are perfection!
The vibe here is completely relaxed so don’t hesitate to stop even if you are sweaty from visiting the Uvita waterfall down the street. You will still be completely welcome.
Sabor Espanol – Seriously good authentic Spanish food. They are only open for dinner and this place tends to fill up fast so it is best to make a reservation. The paella is excellent and they have a great selection of tapas as well.
Pizza Time – As usual, I’ve got to mention so quality pizza. This is wood-fired pizza made perfectly. They also have a decent selection of beers (always a plus for us).
Indómitos Café – A delicious vegetarian and vegan restaurant in a garden setting. They also serve breakfast all day, which is always a win in my book!
MOSAIC – Top-notch sushi in a relaxed setting. They also make excellent cocktails.
Five Maes – If you like Five Guys you will love Five Maes. Try the southern fried chicken sandwich or any of their burgers. Yum!
Soda Ranchito Dona Maria – If you’re looking for top-notch Costa Rican food, head here! You will be so full when you leave and the prices are very reasonable.
The Bakers Bean– Relaxed cafe-style place. They are open from 5:30 am until 9 pm. They have excellent cakes and amazing Italian food.
Uvita Costa Rica Hotels
Our top choice for high-end accommodations in Uvita. Rancho Pacifico offers adult-only luxury stays at their world-class resort.
Unwind at their award-winning spa, enjoy the delicious cuisine in their restaurant, take part in fun tropical adventures, or relax by the pool and look out at the waves lapping to shore far below you.
In other words, Rancho Pacifico is a pure luxury paradise.
Use code: VIBES10 at checkout for a 10% discount on your stay!
Vista Celestial– Beautiful small resort in the jungle. Enjoy the infinity pool and delicious restaurant. All rooms also boast their own pool and small kitchenette.
Kura– Adults-only resort with a ridiculous infinity pool. The rooms and restaurant are top-notch.
Oxygen Jungle Villas– A beautiful adults-only resort located in the jungle. There is an infinity pool, spa, and restaurant on the property.
Natures Edge Cabinas– Located in the jungle above Uvita, guests will need a 4×4 to get to the property. each cabin is modern and has a kitchenette. There is a pool on-site and breakfast is included.
Hotel Marino Ballena– Nice modern hotel located off of the main road in Uvita. There is a pool and a shared kitchen on the property.
Flutterby House- This place has a hostel/ backpacker feel with decent food, craft beers, lots of socializing, yoga classes etc. It is a 2 min walk to the beach.Osa de Rio- Osa de Rio is perfect for those of you that want a more jungle-ish experience. From here you can easily walk to the Uvita waterfall. There is also a kitchen that guests can use on the property.
Vacation Rentals in Uvita
We always love renting a home or villa for our vacation in Costa Rica. This gives you more privacy and allows you the flexibility to cook your own meals.
Note: We try to only ever suggest places with good cancellation policies, but always double-check before booking.
La Libelula – A place that just feels like home. It is pure comfortable luxury. This house sleeps ten people in four bedrooms. There is a pool on the property, cleaning every two days, and a chef can be hired for a very reasonable additional cost.
Aracari Villa – If you are looking for a more modern residence, this is a great option. The home sleeps eight guests in four bedrooms.
Lattice House – This home sleeps ten guests in four bedrooms. The views here are insanely beautiful. There is a concierge and on site chef that will take really good care of you.
CASA COLA BALLENA – A 3 bedroom home that can sleep up to 7 guests. This home is located in the hills above Uvita. It has a nice outdoor pool and outdoor area to gather and relax with views of the Pacific coast.
Ocean Melody – The most budget friendly option on this list. This home has one bedroom and can sleep 4 guests. There is a pool and it is within walking distance from the beach.
Casa Vista Verde – A three bedroom home that can sleep six guests. This is the perfect jungle vibe home with a large outdoor deck.
Uvita Costa Rica Travel Tips
– One thing to keep in mind when planning your visit is the date of Envision Festival. Envision happens once a year in the early spring in the neighboring town of Dominical.
During this time a lot of hotels are sold out and the town is very crowded. Just check the dates for this festival before booking anything.
– During the rainy season, the rivers in this area are prone to flash floods. Please please be careful and don’t try to walk, swim, drive, through any water without knowing how deep it is or how strong the current is.
Packing for Uvita Costa Rica
During the dry season this area is very warm and tends to be humid. It feels like nothing ever dries here! With that in mind, we suggest bring a lot of sun coverage such as high SPH sunscreen, UV protecting shirts, and hats.
We also bring extra clothes (since everything stays wet) and a plastic bag for damp things to go in if moving between locations.
Also, keep in mind that some hotels/ villas are located in the hills above Uvita. Some of these places have a lot of steps from the parking area to the actual accommodation. For this reason, we often prefer to bring a travel backpack instead of a suitcase.
Check out our Uvita Packing List on Amazon for all the essentials.
Uvita Costa Rica FAQ
Is Uvita Costa Rica safe?
In general, Uvita Costa Rica is safe. However it is always best to keep an eye on your belongings and use caution. Petty theft sometimes happens.
Is Uvita Costa Rica worth visiting?
Yes! Uvita is a really nice beach town and the jungle behind it makes for a beautiful backdrop.
Can you swim in Uvita Costa Rica?
It is possible to go in the Pacific Ocean in Uvita Costa Rica, but there can be rip currents. Please look out for red flags and ask someone local before swimming.
How many days do you need in Uvita?
Uvita is the kind of place you could easily explore in 3 days or you could spend a longer time just relaxing and soaking in the beach and jungle vibes.
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