inCostaBallena covers travel information about the Costa Ballena area, an area of 35 miles, between Dominical and Ojochal, and it’s surrounding areas.
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Discover incredible beaches and waterfalls, go whale watching and surf the best breaks on the coastline.
Home of the Whale Tail, Marino National Park is one of the only marine parks in Costa Rica, and is a haven for anyone who loves surd, sand and wildlife. The park has a string of beautiful wide beaches that back onto the iconic palm trees of the Costa Ballena region. All of the park’s beaches are a great place to spend the day with family and friends picnicking, barbecuing or simply setting up a hammock and languishing the day away. The main beach however, is where the Whale Tail is, this natural sandbar is shaped like a whale’s tail and is completely accessible at low tide, allowing you to easily walk and out explore the rocks and tidal pools at its tip.
It’s called Costa Ballena because this is an incredible part of the world to see whales. There are several different species that are regularly seen here, including false killer, Bryde’s pilot, and of course humpback whales. Humpbacks are a very common sight since they use the region’s temperate waters for breeding and for rearing their young. With two separate humpback migrations each year, each lasting a few months, whale season is almost a year-round event. You can easily see whales from the beach, but the best way to experience these gentle giants is on one of the many boat tours.
While Dominical draws the most surfers because it’s considered to have the best waves in the area, there are a couple of lesser-known beaches and along the coast that are equally worth a visit. Playa Colonia: if you’re new to surfing, this is the beach for you because the offshore rock formations mellow the waves. Playa Colonia is inside Marino Ballena National Park and offers much more manageable waves, and there are plenty of surf schools nearby if you’re looking to learn. Playa Hermosa: just North of Uvita, this beach has consistent waves for beginner and mid-level surfers, specially, when there’s bigger surf at Dominical. The best breaks on this beach are right in front of the lifeguard stand.
Costa Ballena is defined by the ocean, mountains and rainforest, with the latter two often being overlooked. This is an amazing part of the world to simply head inland and enjoy nature at its finest. With the mountains so close to the coast, it’s easy to get in an early morning hike, and make it back to the beach by lunchtime to cool off. A couple of the best places to hike and see wildlife are the Hacienda Baru in Dominical and the Tesoro Escondido Eco-Reserve in Playa Hermosa de Uvita.
Hacienda Baru, located near Dominical, is a spectacular wildlife refuge, with 7 kilometers of managed trails. You won’t have to hike far to see amazing wildlife like white-faced monkeys, king vultures and pacas. The trail network includes a magnificient lookout with views of Dominical Beach. There are also night tours, overnight jungle stays, and a zip-line tour.
Tesoro Escondido Reserve is a more secluded reserve with fewer visitors, giving you a better chance of spotting more reclusive rainforest animals like howler monkeys, peccaries, parrots, toucans, and even the odd snake. Along with the wildlife, the trails offer some incredible views, including an amazing view of Uvita’s Whale Tail. Guided tours of the reserve can be arranged through the Playa Hermosa Ecological Association.
In this incredible part of the world, there is no shortage of naturally stunning tropical waterfalls. The most famous of these is less than a half hour into the mountains. Nauyaca: this waterfall is one of Costa Rica’s most impressive with two sets of falls measuring a combined 200 feet. The upper falls have an impressive 140-foot cliff and are a great place for a picnic and to simple hang out. The lower falls feature a large pool for swimming and diving. You can easily hike to the falls, but most people get there by taking a horseback tour. Cascada Verde: this is a smaller waterfall that’s closer to town and gets a little more crowded, but it’s still great for a quick swim, jumping or sliding into the cool emerald water.
The Costa Ballena hosts many events, including surf competitions and food festivals, and even a craft beer fest. Some of the biggest happenings are:
Festival of Whales & Dolphins – Held at the height of the humpback whale migration in September, the festival features discounted whale-watching tours and a community fair with a host of local foods and vendors.
Envision Festival – As a celebration dedicated to awakening our human potential, the Envision Festival provides a platform for different cultures to co-exist in a sustainable community and inspire one another through art, spirituality, yoga, music, dance, performance, education, sustainability and our fundamental connection with nature.
Best Fest – it’s an international music festival that takes place on the shores of Marino Ballena National Park in Costa Ballena. On one side of the park lies the warm vibrant waters of the Pacific, while pristine jungle covered mountains enclose it on all others. This idyllic location makes for a one-of-a-kind venue where this Costa Rica Music Festival and nature conspire to produce epic times that will be emblazoned on your memories forever.