Marino Ballena National Park is located on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast. About an hour south of Manuel Antonio, this marine sanctuary is home to empty beaches, coral reefs, and a ton of marine life. The park protects a diverse ecosystem that includes humpback whale breeding grounds, mangrove forests, and important nesting sites for sea turtles. The park hours are from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m every day and the price is $6 for a non-resident (as of May 2023). You can buy tickets online here.
The entrance to Marino Ballena Park
Getting to Marino Ballena National Park
Marino Ballena National Park is located near the town of Uvita. The journey takes around 4-4.5 hours by car from San Jose or 1 hour from any of the best hotels Manuel Antonio. Once you reach Uvita, follow the signs to the park entrance. There are a few easy parking areas right outside of the park entrance that cost around ₡3000-₡5000 for the day.
Don’t forget this wireless phone charger if you’re using a navigation app. It’s not too hard to find but Waze can be helpful in finding the main gate and GPS can drain your phone battery quickly. See the Google Map below for directions from Tulemar, one of our favorite hotels EVER.
Only an hour driving from Manuel Antonio
Easy and safe parking near the entrance
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
The park’s coral reefs and diverse marine life make it an ideal destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. Among the colorful underwater inhabitants, you may encounter sea turtles, manta rays, and a variety of tropical fish. Several local tour operators offer guided snorkeling and scuba diving excursions, providing you with an opportunity to explore this underwater paradise up close.
Whale and Dolphin Watching
Marino Ballena National Park is renowned for its humpback whale population, which migrates to the area for mating and calving from July to October. During these times, you can witness these gentle giants from a safe distance on guided whale watching tours. Additionally, you might spot playful dolphins in the park’s warm waters. Pick up one of these waterproof phone cases if you’re going on a boat to make sure you hold on to your device.
Exploring the park’s beaches
Marino Ballena National Park is home to several pristine beaches. These palm-fringed shores offer soft sands, warm waters, and a tranquil atmosphere perfect for sunbathing, swimming, or simply taking in the breathtaking scenery. At low tide, the iconic Whale’s Tail sandbar emerges at Playa Uvita, creating a unique, whale tail-shaped formation that you can walk on and explore.
Anna exploring the empty park
The Whale Tail on a low tide
Tips for Visiting
Check the tide schedule
To experience the Whale’s Tail sandbar, plan your visit during low tide. Make sure to leave the sandbar before the tide rises to avoid getting stranded.
Bring the essentials
Pack some reef-safe sunscreen, insect repellent, water, and snacks for your visit. There are a few little markets outside of the main gate if you need to buy any last minute items. Check out our complete Costa Rica packing list here.
Practice sustainable tourism
Help preserve Marino Ballena National Park. Minimize your environmental impact by staying on the marked trails and disposing of trash responsibly. Pack it in and pack it out!
Respect the wildlife
Maintain a safe distance from animals and never feed them. There may be crocodiles near the river mouths, so stay on the trails!
Be sure to check the tides first!
You can’t miss Marino Ballena National Park if you’re in the area. Whether you’re a water person, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply seeking a tranquil escape, Marino Ballena National Park is a must-visit destination on your Costa Rican adventure.
Are you staying in Jaco, Quepos, or Manuel Antonio? Don’t miss our guide to Manuel Antonio National Park.