Located in Uvita, Costa Rica, Marino Ballena National Park is most famous for the unique land formation that resembles a whale’s tail during low tide. Curiously, this area is also home to the best place to go whale watching in Costa Rica. Isn’t nature amazing?

If you are planning to visit some of Costa Rica’s best national parks, Marino Ballena has to be on your itinerary. Here is a complete guide so you can plan the perfect visit to the breathtaking whale’s tale. 

About Marino Ballena National Park

Marino Ballena National Park is located in Uvita, Puntarenas. It was established as a national park in 1992 to protect the Humpback whale migration in the area. Hence its name of Ballena National Park (ballena is the Spanish word for ‘whale’).

The national park is large with an area of 12,800 marine acres. In addition, it has the largest coral reef in the Pacific Coast of Central America. Adding to the area of the national park is 420 terrestrial acres covered with exuberant jungle-like vegetation. 

It is not only one of the most picturesque places in Costa Rica thanks to its more than 14 kms (~8.5 miles) coastline, but also, because the union of its two separate beaches forms a whale’s tail land formation during low tide.

Guide Marino Ballena National Park
Sunsets at Playa Chaman

When is the best time to visit Marino Ballena National Park

Whale watching in Marino Ballena National Park has two seasons:

  • Mid-July to mid-November: the whales migrate north to the West Coast of the United States and southern British Columbia, where they feed. 
  • Mid-December to April: the national park is visited by migrating Humpback whales who come to breed to warm tropical waters.

We definitely recommend coming during the annual whale festival during September to enjoy the best season for whale watching.

Contact Epic Costa Rica Tours to arrange the best tours at Marino Ballena National Park and all around Costa Rica.

How to get to Marino Ballena National Park

The national park has two main entrances where you can buy your entry tickets. The main entrance is in downtown Uvita, and you can search it under Parque Nacional Marino Ballena on your GPS. The other entrance is on the south side of the national park, and you can search it under Playa Chaman Parking on your GPS.

Guide Marino Ballena National Park
Lush jungle in Marino Ballena National Park

Tickets for Marino Ballena National Park

Tickets are bought only with credit or debit card in the two main entrances of the national park.

  • Tourists: $6
  • Nationals and residents: ¢1200

There are other entrances to the Marino Ballena National Park, but make sure you get your tickets at one of the main entrances beforehand.

Opening hours

The official visiting hours to the national park are from 7am to 4pm, but you can stay past sundown (around 6pm).


Both entrances have parking lots just right outside the national park. They cost ¢2000 (about $3.50) per car for the whole day. The main entrance has a normal road and the Playa Chaman entrance is a dirt road, take this into account if you are planning to drive there.

Guide Marino Ballena National Park
Chill all day under the palm trees

Facilities at Marino Ballena National Park

The only facilities available inside the park are bathrooms and showers next to the main entrance. The water is not potable here. Just outside the national park you will find some restaurants for nourishment and some shops to get souvenirs.

Guide Marino Ballena National Park
Low tide is the best time to visit Marino Ballena National Park

Things to do at Marino Ballena National Park

Walk the whale’s tail: If you want to go see the whale’s tail, the best option is to enter the park through the main entrance, the walk will be a lot shorter than entering from the Playa Chaman entrance. Be sure to go at low-tide to be able to walk the entire tail. 

Spend the day at the beach: Throughout the beach you will find spots to lay down in the shadow and spend the day reading your favorite book, and soaking in the chill water.

Guide Marino Ballena National Park
Find a spot and lay all day

Kayak & SUP or Whale Watching: We recommend you booking any type of tour or activity with Epic Costa Rica Tours.

Surfing: It is a great place to learn how to surf.

Whatever you do, remember to bring loads of sunscreen and water. 

Guide Marino Ballena National Park
Calm waves and sunset at Marino Ballena National Park

How to get to Uvita, Costa Rica

The best option to getting to Uvita, is to fly into San José (airport code: SJO) and then to drive down the Costanera Highway (Highway 34). The drive takes approximately three hours, depending on traffic. The coastal highway is well-maintained and you will pass by the beach towns of Jacó and Manuel Antonio. You can also choose to get to Uvita through the mountains of San Gerardo de Dota and San Isidro de El General, but keep in mind that this drive will take you at least one more hour.

Another option is flying from Juan Santamaría International Airport into Palmar Sur Airport or into Quepos La Managua Airport, both are about a 40 minute drive away from Uvita. For more information check our Flights to Costa Rica Guide (coming soon).

Where to stay near Marino Ballena National Park

We offer a great number of exclusively available vacation rentals in and around Uvita, Costa Rica. There are quite a few options to choose from here. Take a look at our vacation rentals and let us know if you have any questions. We also take any special requirements (handicapped accessible, etc). We also offer a full range of custom travel services and concierge services.

Dharma Bum Bungalow (check availability here)

Casa Sedona (check availability here)

Casa Big Sky (check availability here)