A Quick summary

Accessible – Uvita is a long but easy drive from San Jose or Monteverde as the roads are in great condition. You can also get here by bus or shared shuttle.

South Pacific – Uvita and the Marino Ballena national park are the gateway to the South Pacific and specifically, a stopover before heading to Corcovado national park.

Surfing – There are great surf beaches along the Pacific coast, making this a great surfing destination.

Unique – the Marino Ballena national park located in Uvita reveals the “Whale’s tail” at low tide; a unique feature of this national park.

Between the tides at Marino Ballena National Park

Top Things to Do

1. Explore Marino Ballena National Park and walk the Whale’s Tail

    Uvita is home to the Marino Ballena National Park, a marine park celebrated for its extraordinary formation — the majestic whale tail. This distinctive formation emerges during low tide when converging waves craft the silhouette of a whale’s tail, a spectacle that unveils its true form when witnessed from above. As the tide recedes, a sandy pathway emerges between the waves, guiding visitors to the rocky end, also known as Punta Uvita. There are various access points but most popularly, Uvita beach is the main access.

    Cost: $6

    Timings: Open from 7am to 4pm every day

    Tip: While Uvita may not be considered the most picturesque beach town on the Pacific, it holds popularity as a base due to its strategic access to the Marino Ballena National Park. The town is quite spread out with restaurants and cafes sprinkled throughout the town.

    Tip: When exploring the Marino Ballena National Park and walking the Whale’s Tail, it’s advisable to bring a waterproof bag or cover to carry your belongings. Leaving personal items on the beach is not secure, as theft is relatively common in Costa Rica.

    2. Enjoy the view of the Whale’s Tail from Mirador Don Roger

    While you may not be able to witness the Whale’s Tail at eye level, head on over to Mirador Don Roger for a lunch and an incredible view of the Whale’s tail from atop. The restaurant is popular for sundowner cocktails if this is more to your liking.

    Tip: Plan your visit to the Marino Ballena National Park during low tide, as it allows you to stroll along the iconic Whale’s Tail formation. Check the tide schedule the day before your visit to plan accordingly. Arriving approximately 1.5 hours before low tide offers the opportunity to enjoy Playa Uvita and then explore the Whale’s Tail.

    View of the infamous Whale’s Tail from Mirador Don Roger

    3. Visit Nauyaca Waterfalls

      Costa Rica boasts an abundance of waterfalls, and the Nauyaca Waterfalls easily secure a spot among the top 10 in the country. Just a 20-minute drive from Uvita, these breathtaking multi-level cascades are accessed through a short hike in the lush rainforest.

      There are two entrances to the Nauyaca Waterfalls. The Don Lulo entrance doesn’t require a 4×4, while the newer Nauyaca Waterfalls Nature Park entrance, though more recent, is accessible by a muddy road and requires 4×4 vehicles. Beyond hiking, two alternative ways to reach the waterfalls include hiring a 4×4 truck or enjoying the scenic journey on horseback. Keep in mind that the hike follows a steep path, taking around 1.5 hours to reach the spectacular waterfalls.

      Cost: Depending on which entrance you take, $10 (Don Lulo) or $27. Prices for the 4×4 truck and the horseback riding are $32 and $80 respectively

      Timings: 7:30am to 3:30pm everyday

      4. Visit Dominical

      Dominical is a laidback beach town with a distinct charm about 15-20 minutes from Uvita. Playa Dominical is known for its amazing waves, drawing passionate surfers to the town. Additionally, you can also visit Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary which is a haven for rescuing and rehabilitating injured and/ or abandoned wildlife.

      Tip: Club the visit to Dominical with the Nauyaca waterfalls which is a short drive from the town.

      5. Surf in Uvita or Dominical

      The renowned Pacific coast of Costa Rica stands as a surfing paradise, and nestled within this coastal haven are Uvita and Dominical, boasting some of the Costa Rica’s best surf beaches. With surfing schools dotting the shoreline, both beginners and seasoned surf enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the thrill of the surf culture, making Uvita and Dominical prime surfing destinations.

      6. Go beach hopping along the coast

      For the avid beach seeker, the coastal wonders near Uvita extend beyond Playa Uvita and Dominical. Discover hidden gems like Playas Arco and Hermosa within the Marino Ballena national park. The variety of beaches in the area, including the likes of Playa Pinuelas and Playa Ventanas, ensures that every beach lover can find their own slice of paradise along this picturesque stretch of coastline.

      The coast along the Marino Ballena National Park

      7. Hike to Uvita Waterfall

        Just a brief 5-minute drive from Uvita, lies the Uvita waterfall. There are two entrances to the waterfall- one is the older Catarata Uvita entrance and the other, much newer is the Catarata Esmeralda Uvita entrance. From the entrance, it is a relatively short hike to the waterfall. Keep in mind that the path to the waterfall is rocky and slippery. Upon arrival, you’ll find a small pool at the base of the waterfall, providing a perfect spot for a refreshing swim.

        Cost: Depending on the entrance you choose, the entrance fees for Catarata Uvita is 1500 CR ($3) and for Catarata Esmeralda Uvita is 2000CR ($4)

        Timings: 8am to 5pm

        8. Visit Cascada el Pavon

        Just a half-hour drive from Uvita, you’ll discover Cascada el Pavon, a smaller and less-known waterfall that offers a perfect swimming spot. Tucked away in the lush rainforest, this hidden gem provides an ideal escape to the wild and untouched side of Costa Rica. Notably, there’s no entrance fee to access this waterfall. Consider combining your visit with a trip to the nearby town of Ojochal, yet another lazy beach town along the coast.

        9. Go whale and dolphin watching at Marino Ballena

        Catch a glimpse (or maybe more!) of the famous humpback whales that swim along this coastline. Numerous tours set sail from the national park, venturing along the picturesque coastline with the sole purpose of encountering whales and dolphins along the way.

        Cost: starts at around $80

        View of the palm swanked beach at the Marino Ballena National Park

        10. Do a mangrove tour at Sierpe

          Embark on a captivating boat tour through the mesmerising mangroves of Sierpe, an hour’s drive from Uvita. Witness the richness of Costa Rica’s wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, and vibrant birdlife like macaws. The highly popular Kokopelli Sierpe tour offers three daily departures at 9 am, 1 pm, and 5 pm, each providing a scenic boat ride lasting approximately 3 hours.

          Cost: around $80

          Timings: Tours at 9am, 1pm or 5pm

          Tip: Consider making Ojochal your base, a small town just 15 minutes from Uvita, where you’ll find a variety of more affordable accommodation options. Another excellent choice is Dominical, a great beach town that also serves as a convenient and attractive base for your stay.

          Day Trips from Uvita

          1. Isla del Cano

          Situated off the coast of Costa Rica, the Cano Island Reserve is a small yet vital biological reserve renowned for its captivating coral reef. A hotspot for snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts, tours typically commence early in the morning and conclude by mid-afternoon. The cost of these tours, accommodating up to 20 guests, ranges between $100 and $200 and these usually include lunch and snorkel gear.

          Cost: $100-$200

          2. Manuel Antonio National Park

          Manuel Antonio, one of Costa Rica’s most stunning national parks, boasts numerous hiking trails through dense rainforests and along pristine beaches. Popular among tourists for good reason, this national park is approximately a 1-1.5 hour drive from Uvita, making it a perfect day trip if you don’t plan to visit the park separately. Explore the rich biodiversity and captivating landscapes that have made Manuel Antonio a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.

          Cost: entrance fee is $18

          Timings: 7am to 4pm everyday except Tuesdays

          3. Corcovado National Park

          Corcovado National Park proudly shelters 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity. Despite its remote location, this national park is often considered a day trip for those pressed for time or lacking a 4×4 vehicle (which is required for Corcovado).

          To reach Corcovado from Drake Bay, a boat transfer serves as the gateway to this remote wilderness. The park features several ranger stations, with Sirena being the most popular. I recommend booking your tour in advance due to the limited number of visitors allowed, ensuring an intimate and environmentally conscious exploration of Corcovado.

          Cost: One day tours usually cost anywhere between $100-$150 and includes the entrance ticket to the national park

          Tip: If you’re heading to Corcovado from Uvita, keep in mind that a 4×4 is necessary to reach Drake Bay. However, if time is a constraint or you don’t have a 4×4, consider opting for a tour from Uvita to explore Corcovado. Various tour options are available, including popular one-day tours as well as extended 2 or 3-day tours.

          Dreamy sunsets along the coast

          How to Get to Uvita

          The nearest airport is in San Jose (Juan Santamaria- SJO). The best way to get to Uvita is by car. The roads (Route 27 and 34 from San Jose and Monteverde side) are in excellent condition and you definitely do not require a 4×4 to drive on them. From San Jose, Uvita is roughly 4-4.5 hours and from Monteverde, it’s roughly 5-5.5 hours. I highly recommend the route along the coast (Route 34) as it’s well paved, even though you’ll have to pay tolls (around $5).

          There are also several minivan and shared shuttle options from San Jose. They start at around $60 and take approximately 4-5 hours. There are usually 2-3 departures each day. Private shuttles start at around $300.

          The best bus route to get to Uvita from San Jose is by boarding a Tracopa bus or a Blanco Lobo bus from their respective terminals in San Jose. You can ask for almost any bus that is heading along the Costanera Sur highway but always be prudent to check if it will stop at Uvita. The bus journey takes about 4 hours and costs around $10 or slightly more.

          Best Time to Visit

          The best time to visit this area is from December to April during the dry season. If you’re keen to go whale watching, the optimal time would be from July to April.

          A quick dip in the Pacific

          Sample Itineraries

          1 day in Uvita

          If you have just one day in Uvita, consider dedicating it to explore the Marino Ballena National Park, with the timing of your visit influenced by the tides. Depending on the tide schedule, you can plan to visit Nauyaca Waterfalls either before or after your time at the national park. To round off your day, include a short trip to Dominical.

          2 days in Uvita

          I recommend dedicating your first day to Marino Ballena national park including the whale watching tour and a sundowner drink at Mirador Don Roger. On the second day, kick off your morning with a visit to Nauyaca Waterfalls. Following this, head to Dominical for a nice lunch, and then spend your afternoon either beach hopping along the coast or enjoying a surf session.

          3 days in Uvita

          If you have an additional full day in Uvita, I recommend doing one of the day trips mentioned in the list above.

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