Have you ever heard of Costa Rica’s whale tail? Marino Ballena National Park located in Uvita Costa Rica is home to one of the most unique land formations we have ever seen. During low tide in this national park, you can walk out onto a spit of land in the ocean that resembles the tail of a whale. This area also happens to be the best place to see Humback whales in Costa Rica.
The park consists of over 9 miles of coastline and over 13,000 acres of ocean.
Alright, let’s get to our guide of how you can plan the perfect visit to this unique spot!
Important Info About the Whales Tail
The national park is located in the town of Uvita. There are two entrances to the park.
The main entrance is located in the downtown area of Uvita. To get here you can input “Marino Ballena National Park” into your GPS unit.
To get to the second entrance it is best to input “Campground Poncho” into your GPS. The campground is located directly next to the park entrance.
If you would like to visit the whales tail it is easier to enter at the main entrance (less walking in the sun). The second entrance is best for spending a day at the beach because there are more places to set up your stuff in the shade.
There is a parking lot on the right side of the road just before the national park entrance. Parking costs 2,000 colones per vehicle for the day.
There is a parking attendant, but please do not leave anything in your vehicle. You never know how well they actually watch the cars.
If you opt to enter at the second entrance there is a dirt parking lot. I don’t think that you have to pay to park here, but I could be wrong. I think it all depends on if you are visiting at a busy time of year.
There is a $6 entrance fee for everyone over 11 years of age. If you are a Costa Rican resident the entry fee is 1,000 colones. You can pay this at the main ranger station.
Technically the visiting hours are from 7 am to 4 pm. However, as far as we know you are still allowed to access the beach at night. We have been on the beach in the evenings and there were plenty of other people out there as well. I think it is just that they actually collect admission from 7 am until 4 pm.
There is a bathroom located next to the main entrance, however, it’s definitely not the nicest bathroom you’ve ever experienced. There is no potable water here.
Snacks, strong sunscreen, bug spray, drinking water, and a hat.
Things to do at Marino Ballena National Park
There are so many fun things to do in the national park. Let’s go through all your options!
Walk the beach
You can walk this beautiful beach for miles. The sand is soft and the views are amazing.
Walk to the whales tail
Obviously, the highlight of the national park is walking out onto the whales tail. This can only be done during low tide. The walk is a bit rocky so it is best to at least wear some flip flops on your walk out here.
Go whale watching
The best time to see Humpback Whales here is from mid-July until early November. There are several local boat tour companies which offer Humpback Whale tours off of the national park. These tours are not cheap. You can expect to pay about $90 per person for a three or four-hour tour.
However, the absolute best time of year to see whales is during the annual whale festival. I say that this is the best time because you can go on a tour for about half the prices that it usually costs. This festival usually takes place for two weeks sometime in September.
Watch the sunset
The sunset in Uvita is almost always amazing. We like to grab a few drinks from the grocery store and sit on the Uvita beach during the sunset.
There are several tour companies which offer kayak trips around the whales tail during low tide. We personally like the company Uvita 360. They are located right before the main national park entrance.
Spend a day at the beach
The best spot (in our opinion) to spend the day at this beach is towards the southern tip. You can park your car at the second entrance (which we mention in the Directions section above). From here you can walk towards the south and find plenty of shady places to set ip your stuff.
There is a reef located at the tip of the whales tail. During low tide, you can bring your snorkel gear out here and go for a swim.
If you want a more intense experience, there are several tour companies in Uvita which offer snorkel tours in the waters surrounding the whales tail.
Look for Sea Turtles
We have not seen them here, but apparently, Olive Ridley Turtles can sometimes be seen laying their eggs on the beach between May and November. This is so cool to experience! Just don’t get too close to them or shine any lights on them. It will scare them off from laying their eggs.
Cautions for Visiting
– There are some little streams located next to the ocean. Do not swim or walk in these streams. There are crocodiles living here.
– Don’t forget that this is a national park. You are not allowed to fish here, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or fly a drone without a license. These rules are not heavily enforced (we have definitely drunk beers on the beach while watching the sunset), but just be aware.
– Make sure to watch the tide. The water can change fast. You don’t want to be stuck out on the whales tail when the tide comes back in. To check up on the tides, click here.
– The sun can be super strong here. Even if it is a bit cloudy it is best to wear strong sunscreen. The walk out onto the whales tail is not long, but it is long enough to get sunburned (we know from experience).
– Be careful about rip currents if you plan on swimming or snorkeling. It is always best to ask about the rip current situation when you buy your tickets for admission. The park employees should be able to tell you the current water conditions.
Best Time of Year to Visit
During the dry season (late December until late April) you can pretty much be guaranteed to have dry weather. However, this time of year is also the warmest. Wear all the sunscreen if you visit during this time of year.
From May through July you can expect afternoon thunderstorms like clockwork. These storms usually last for about two hours. If you visit the national park in the morning you should have great weather.
From August until mid-December the weather is more difficult to predict. We have visited during this time and had great weather but we have also visited during these months and had non stop rain all day.
What to do After
Slide down the Uvita Waterfall
That picture above is Thomas living out a dream of sliding down a waterfall. Uvita waterfall is about a ten-minute drive from Marino Ballena National Park. Just put in “Uvita Waterfall” into your GPS and you should have no trouble finding it.
The waterfall costs about $4 per person to enter. You then need to walk for about five minutes to come to the falls. From there you can swim in the water below or if you are feeling really adventurous you can climb to the top to slide down the waterfall.
Just be careful. During the rainy season, you should have no problems but during dry season there is less water on the falls and the water level can be a lot lower. If you are feeling a bit nervous, just ask at the front office when you pay the entry fee. They can tell you if the water level is safe for sliding.
Eat a meal at Los Laureles
Los Laureles is our favorite restaurant in Uvita and definitely in our top ten list for all of Costa Rica. The food and drinks are excellent (get a margarita) but the owner Cindy is the real gem of this place. She is just the absolute sweetest person. By the time we left the restaurant after lunch, I felt like Cindy had been my friend for my whole life.
Los Laureles is located just down the street from Uvita waterfall so you could stop here after your waterfall adventure. It’s very casual. You don’t need to worry about looking nice after swimming and stuff.
Check out other nearby beaches
There are tons of beaches to the north and south of Uvita. I suggest heading south and stopping at Arco Beach and Playa Ventanas. You do need to pay a small entry fee for playa Ventanas, but it is a cool spot.
There is this open land archway here (it looks like a cave) which you can walk into out t the ocean. It’s pretty cool.
Go mangrove kayaking
There is a company just down the street from the entrance to the national park called Uvita 360. This company offers mangrove kayak tours during high tide. It is a really unique and fun experience. You can find out more on the Uvita 360 website.
For more ideas of fun things to do, the best hotels in the area, great restaurants, and more; check out our complete guide to Uvita.
Let us know if you have any questions about visiting Marino Ballena National Park in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out! Also, if you have visited this place and have tips for other travelers we would love to hear those as well!
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