Whale & Dolphin Watching

Being soaked-to-the-skin is probably not your idea of a good time while boating… unless you are whale watching! When that 40 ton mammal leaps out of the water and splashes you with its gigantic tail, you have been close enough to witness the incredible power of that majestic animal, the humpback whale. Nor will you forget their haunting singing as they call to one another through the water.

Humpback whales come to the Costa Ballena in two different seasons. The whales from the northern hemisphere appear from December to April, while those from the southern hemisphere come in July to October. The best dates to spot a whale are during February and March around Marino Ballena National Park, Isla Ballena (Whale Island), Las Rocas Tres Hermanas (Three Sisters Rocks), Cavernas Ventanas (Windows Caves), and the Tómbolo (whale’s tail) of Punta Uvita. The migration of these whales ends with the birth of their calves in the waters around Coronado Bay, Drake Bay, and Caño Island. When the whales are caring for their calves, the mothers’ first responsibility is to show the calves how to breach (swim up to the surface and breath.)

Ballena National Marine Park is an ideal location for whale watching because it lies in the Costa Rica Thermal Convection Dome. This dome provides shallow, oxygen-rich warm water layered over much colder water with less oxygen. This shallow upper layer is rich in marine life, the whales’ food supply, and brings the whales and dolphins closer to the surface where we can observe them.

Humpback whales can grow to weights between 24-48 tons, and sizes up to 16-17 meters. When they leap out of the water and slap their tails, any boats (and passengers) nearby may get soaked. It’s quite amazing to watch the agility and playfulness of these enormous ocean mammals. Humpbacks do not have exclusive use of the Costa Ballena, occasionally, you may see Bryde’s whales, orcas, false killer whales, Sei and pilot whales.

Snorklers and divers will observe dolphins, turtles, bi-color parrot fish and dozens of brilliantly colored tropical fish. Catching a large pod of dozens of bottle nose, spotted, common or spinner dolphins performing acrobatics is simply breathtaking – all of these species are residents to the Uvita coast.

The beauty of whales and dolphins is celebrated each year at the annual Dolphin and Whale Festival in Uvita. This event is held over two weekends each September – last year’s event attracted an estimated 7,500 visitors. Other activities include common fair rides and food, performances from local schools, and the sale of local arts and crafts. Deep discounts of close to 50% are offered on whale and dolphin watching tours during the festival.