Marino Ballena National Park in Costa Rica

Practical information about Marino Ballena

Marino Ballena National Park stands as Costa Rica’s inaugural marine national park, located near Uvita. This remarkable region takes its name from the majestic humpback whales that annually migrate here from December to April, choosing it as a sanctuary for giving birth to their young. Witnessing these awe-inspiring whales in their natural habitat is an unparalleled experience available within Marino Ballena National Park. But that’s not all that Uvita National Park has in store.

Just imagine beholding firsthand the grandeur of these magnificent whales and their offspring. Envision observing the larger creatures patiently guiding the smaller ones on how to gracefully leap out of the water. Alternatively, picture the sheer delight of witnessing dolphins frolicking and playing, their lively presence enlivening the marine environment. Marino Ballena National Park offers all of this and much more to captivate and enthrall visitors.

Marino Ballena National Park in Costa Rica

The Uvita region holds a wealth of attractions, yet it remains relatively less crowded compared to popular destinations like Manuel Antonio. However, it is undoubtedly worth exploring this hidden gem by venturing a bit further south in Costa Rica. In this article, we will illustrate the reasons why a visit to Uvita is truly rewarding. Even if Uvita wasn’t initially on your travel itinerary, after reading this, it will surely capture your attention and leave you contemplating a visit to this remarkable place.

Where is Marino Ballena National Park located?

Marino Ballena National Park is situated on the western coast of Costa Rica, specifically in the town of Uvita. It spans across the scenic stretch between Uvita Beach and Piñuela Beach. It’s important to note that this national park was not established solely to protect the beaches but to safeguard the ocean and its inhabitants. As the first marine national park in Costa Rica and in all of Central America, Marino Ballena National Park holds significant ecological value.

Within its boundaries, the park encompasses various land areas such as Uvita, Colonia, Arco, Ballena, and Piñuela beaches. Additionally, the marine portion of the park includes notable features like the Tres Hermanas rocks, Isla Ballena, and Cola de Ballena. This rich diversity contributes to the park’s unique composition, characterized by cliffs, reefs, sandy and rocky beaches, mangroves, and lush jungle landscapes.

When was the national park in Uvita established?

Established in 1990, Marino Ballena National Park was created with the primary objective of conserving the abundant marine life found off the Costa Ballena region. This park holds immense significance for humpback whales, false orcas, and pilot whales, as it serves as a favored location for them to give birth to their young. Encompassing a total area of 5,510 hectares, the park safeguards 110 hectares of land while the remaining vast expanse extends into the ocean.

Marino Ballena National Park

How to get to the Marino Ballena National Park?

The entrance to the park is conveniently located in Uvita and is easily accessible. Along the way, you will encounter several signs guiding you towards the park, ensuring a straightforward journey. If needed, you can utilize navigation tools or simply ask locals for directions, as the park is well-known in the area. Importantly, accessing the park does not necessitate a 4WD vehicle, as the route is wide and accommodating for regular vehicles.

Opening hours and entrance fee

The primary entrance to Marino Ballena National Park is conveniently located in the village of Uvita, offering both accessibility and proximity to the renowned “whale’s fin” formation. Upon arrival at the entrance, you’ll find several supervised parking lots, a grocery store, and a variety of restaurants, making it convenient for visitors to meet their needs.

To enter the park, an admission fee of $6 per adult is required, while children and elderly individuals are exempt from payment. The park operates from 8:00 in the morning until 6:00 in the evening, allowing ample time to explore and enjoy its offerings. It’s important to note that disposable containers are not allowed within the park, so it’s advisable to bring a reusable water bottle along. Additionally, it’s always wise to stay updated by checking the park’s official website for the latest information and updates.

Best time to visit Marino Ballena

The tourist season in this area extends throughout the year, ensuring that visitors can enjoy the park’s offerings regardless of the time of their visit. Despite its size, the park remains relatively uncrowded even during peak tourist periods. It’s worth noting that there are fewer tourists during the rainy season, but that shouldn’t discourage you from coming. During this season, afternoon rainfall is common, while the mornings and most of the day remain sunny and rain-free. The dry season, which aligns with the high tourist season, commences in December. During this period, the weather is dry and hot, creating ideal conditions for swimming in the ocean.

Attractions in Marino Ballena National Park

Staying within a marine national park itself is a fantastic attraction. The park offers idyllic sandy beaches, swaying coconut palms, and inviting warm ocean waters, providing the perfect setting for a relaxing day off. In addition to the breathtaking coastal scenery, Marino Ballena National Park also boasts a diverse array of wildlife. Visitors have the opportunity to admire various bird species, fascinating lizards, and other captivating animals within the park’s boundaries.

For those intrigued by the underwater world, a range of thrilling activities awaits. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and whale watching tours are available, allowing you to delve beneath the water’s surface and witness the wonders that await. Whether you choose to explore the vibrant coral reefs or witness the majestic whales in their natural habitat, these experiences will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression.

whale watching tour uvita costa rica
Whales in Costa Rica

Marino Ballena National Park – Whale Rock

There is a prominent rock formation, often misidentified as an island, that juts out of the water in the vicinity. Situated approximately 2 kilometers off the coast, this impressive rock serves as a habitat for numerous bird species and iguanas. Surrounding the rock formation, you’ll find thriving coral reefs. It is an excellent location for engaging in activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving. Exploring the vibrant marine life and underwater ecosystems around this rock formation is a captivating experience for enthusiasts of these water activities.

Snorkeling in Marino Ballena National Park

If you’re eager to explore beneath the water’s surface, equipping yourself with a mask and snorkel is a splendid idea. You can embark on snorkeling adventures near the beach and witness fascinating sights. However, for a more extensive exploration, accessing places unreachable from the shore would require a boat.

At our dive center, we offer snorkeling in Marino Ballena, where you can discover the park’s most captivating spots. With the guidance of an instructor, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the park’s highlights while being closely supervised. We provide all the necessary equipment, ensuring a hassle-free experience. The tour price encompasses the national park entrance ticket, as well as refreshing drinks and snacks. Could there be a better plan than this?

Scuba Diving in Marino Ballena National Park

If you desire to delve deeper into the underwater realm and experience an up-close encounter with the marine world, scuba diving in Marino Ballena is an ideal choice. Whether you possess a diving certification or not, our experienced instructor will guide you to the finest diving locations within Marino Ballena. We supply all the necessary equipment, including the park entrance ticket, dive boat, and the attentive care of our instructor. To ensure a fulfilling and informed experience, be sure to peruse our comprehensive guide to scuba diving in Costa Rica.

Scuba diving in Costa Rica


Marino Ballena Whale’s Tail

The iconic whale’s tail is an emblematic feature of both Marino Ballena National Park and the village of Uvita. Its significance is evident in the logos of numerous local businesses, and rightfully so, as it represents a truly remarkable attraction. This natural formation allows visitors to embark on a unique experience by walking along the beach, which is only accessible for a few hours each day. During low tide, the water recedes, unveiling a breathtaking composition of rocks and sand that has earned the name “Whale’s Tail” due to its association with the unparalleled humpback whale watching opportunities found in Costa Rica.

What animals can be seen in the Marino Ballena?

Marino Ballena National Park is teeming with diverse wildlife. On land, you can encounter fascinating creatures such as howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, and squirrel monkeys. Sloths, raccoons, and even elusive species like pumas or ocelots may also be spotted. Among the abundant bird species found in the park are white-tailed hawks, chestnut-backed toucans, keel-billed toucans, sea gulls, sandpipers, and pelicans.

However, the primary allure of the area lies in its marine mammals. Humpback whales, false killer whales, and pilot whales are among the notable species present. Common dolphins, including spotted, beluga, common, and bottlenose dolphins, grace these waters as well. Additionally, olive ridley turtles are frequently sighted, along with occasional appearances by the Pacific turtle and Tortoiseshell turtle. Exploring the underwater realm with a mask and snorkel guarantees encounters with a plethora of captivating marine life, ensuring a continuous display of intriguing sights within the park.

Costa Rican fauna

What should you keep in mind?

When entering Marino Ballena National Park, it’s important to remember that the inhabitants are wild animals. Enjoy their presence by observing and taking photos, but refrain from touching, feeding, or startling them. Additionally, be mindful of the sun’s strength on the beach, as it can be deceptively intense. Protect yourself from sunburn and overheating by using a high-quality sunscreen and wearing a hat.

Exercise caution while walking in the water, as sharp stones may pose a risk of foot injury. Furthermore, be aware that tides can be powerful in this area. Consequently, access to the “whale’s tail” attraction is limited to a few hours each day, as it becomes completely submerged under water at other times.

As with any location worldwide, it is advisable to use common sense. Avoid leaving valuables in your car, even in supervised parking lots. When entering the water, ensure your belongings left on the beach are properly secured. By practicing caution and exercising common sense, you can fully enjoy your visit to Marino Ballena National Park while ensuring your safety and the preservation of the park’s natural environment.

Is it worth visiting Marino Ballena in Uvita?

Every national park in Costa Rica is truly worth a visit, as each offers something special and unique. In the case of the park in Uvita, the main attraction is undeniably the whales, which provide a breathtaking spectacle that must be witnessed firsthand. Moreover, it is an excellent destination for spending quality time with your family and children. If you have the chance, I highly recommend visiting Marino Ballena Park in Uvita. You won’t be disappointed!

Marino Ballena National Park – let’s recap

Costa Rica is renowned for its extraordinary biodiversity, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts. And what better way to embrace this natural wonder than by immersing yourself in the splendors of Marino Ballena National Park? This remarkable park stands as the sole national park where you can marvel at whales, dolphins, and turtles up close and personal. Missing out on such a captivating experience would be unthinkable. Therefore, I strongly recommend including a visit to Marino Ballena National Park in your itinerary. It’s an absolute must for those seeking to embrace the incredible flora and fauna of Costa Rica.

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PADI MSDT #384513


Peter "Pedro" Sawicki

My life has always been linked to sports commonly considered extreme. I once fell in love with big wall climbing, just as I am now in love with scuba diving. I climbed mountains, explored caves and took part in exploration expeditions. Through these experiences, I saw a large chunk of the world and learned a lot. Now I have been a professional diver and a scuba instructor for many years, and Costa Rica has become my second home. Check also my expedition project:

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