One of the most popular tourism destinations in the Osa region is the Parque Nacional Marino Ballena.
Known in English as the Marino Ballena National Park, this beautiful landscape consists of over 5,510 hectares of beach, mangrove estuary, lowland rainforest and marine habitats.
Marino Ballena National Park is very safe, and is a great choice for families visiting the area.
But, there are a few things that travelers should know before visiting this lovely national park of Costa Rica.
From the international airport in San Jose, it is about 214 kilometers and a 4 to a 4.5 hour drive along the Route 34 highway to get to the Marino Ballena National Park.
There are several ways to get to the region from the airport: by car, by bus, or by domestic flights.
The most popular option is renting a car. There are several rental car stations at the airport.
These rental car stations will provide complimentary transfers from the airport to the rental car agencies. Be warned: you might have to pay extra for car insurance, even if you have paid for insurance online.
The government mandates an extra insurance coverage that is usually not listed online. Renting a car can be expensive (ranging from $20-100 a day depending on availability and the season), but it will allow flexibility and freedom of mobility.
There is parking at the Chaman entrance of the National Park that costs 2mil colones per day, or roughly $4 USA per day. But, with paid parking, you have someone watching over your car and your valuables inside your car; so it is definitely a good idea.
At the other entrance, informally known as the “Flutterby” entrance, you are welcome to park outside the entrance. However, since it is unpaid, there will not be an attendant available.
The other option for getting from the airport to the national park is by bus.
Buses run from San Jose to Uvita in the mornings and afternoons from the main station located in San Jose.
The name of the company is Tracopa, and the bus schedules and routes tend to be quite reliable. They even provide bus services all the way to Panama.
Just note that buses in Costa Rica do not have air conditioning, only windows. There are many private shuttle companies that can also get you to where you need to go, if a long bus ride is not your thing.
The last option for getting to Uvita is by domestic flights. There are a few different domestic airlines to choose from.
Sansa Airlines tends to be the most reliable. You can take domestic flights from the international airport to Quepos, which is about 50 minutes to Uvita by car or bus.
Taking a domestic flight saves the long drive, which can be very exhausting after a long day of travel.
However, domestic flights can sometimes be rescheduled or canceled at the last minute due to Costa Rica’s unpredictable weather. Be prepared for the unexpected to happen!
When you arrive at the National Park, keep a close eye on your valuables, especially electronics. Although it is a very safe place to visit, there is always the odd act of theft that occurs when valuables are left unattended.
The marine park only accepts credit cards, and does not take cash. Bring a credit card or debit card with you and keep a close eye on it. The cost to get into the park is $7 US.
With a daily entrance ticket, you are welcome to leave and come back. There are many excellent restaurants right by the Playa Uvita entrance.
The Playa Uvita entrance, which is the main entrance of the national park, is where you can most easily access the famous “whale tail” of Marino Ballena.
This area is called the “whale tail” because of its unique shape that looks like a whale’s tail when viewed from the air.
As with all other areas of Costa Rica, it is recommended to bring a few essentials: sunscreen, comfortable water shoes or sandals, and a dry bag in case of unexpected rain.
The Bahia Ballena region, like the rest of Costa Rica, has two main seasons: the “dry” season (summer) that ranges from November through March, and the “rainy” season (winter) that ranges from April to September.
Although the rainy season is, of course, more rainy, it is also far less crowded than during the dry season.
During the dry season, expect to see full sunny days and stunning sunsets.
Whale season runs roughly from the months of half July to half November and from half December to April. These seasons are based on the annual migration cycle of the pacific humpback whale.
Uvita 360 provides some excellent whale watching tours. Uvita 360 can also recommend times and dates to make your experience all the better.
The park is open from 6am to 6pm. The sun sets in Costa Rica around 5:30pm. Sunrise is early; around 5:30am.
Since there is no daylight savings time in Costa Rica, the sunset and sunrise times tend to stay pretty consistent.
Be aware of the tides! Visiting the beach during high tide means that you are likely to encounter natural debris such as logs, large leaves, and the occasional floating palm tree.
Visiting during low tide is best. The whale tale is also only visible and accessible during low tide.
There are many reliable apps for tracking tides, such as MagicSeaweed. Or, ask a surfer! Surfers are always keeping track of the tides.
Whenever you decide to visit Marino Ballena, you definitely won’t regret it. It is a natural treasure, and a truly unique place in this biodiverse country.