Marino Ballena National Park offers 13,000 maritime acres and the largest coral reef on Central America’s Pacific coast. Home to Humpback Whales December through April, this destination is long on scenic beauty.

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Marino Ballena National Park spans a generous expanse of 5,510 hectares or 13,616 acres, with 110 hectares or 272 acres on land and the remainder nestled beneath the ocean's shimmering surface. The park's elevation varies from sea level to 5 meters or 16 feet, creating a rich tapestry of diverse habitats, from thriving coral reefs to pristine rainforests and idyllic beaches. Along the shore, gentle, flat hiking trails invite exploration, while boat tours, a hallmark of the dry season, offer exhilarating encounters with playful dolphins and majestic whales.

Within the heart of Marino Ballena Park, a symphony of wildlife thrives. As you meander through this natural paradise, you might encounter the lively chatter of howler, capuchin, and squirrel monkeys overhead. Sloths gracefully sway in the trees, raccoons and pizotes make occasional appearances, and elusive pumas or ocelots may gracefully traverse the landscape. Above, the skies come alive with a chorus of bird species, from roadside hawks to the regal white hawks, the vibrant chestnut-mandibled toucan, and the iconic keel-billed toucan. Sea gulls, sandpipers, and pelicans add their melodies to this avian orchestra. However, the true stars of the show are the marine mammals, featuring the majestic humpback, enigmatic false orca, and graceful pilot whales. Dolphins are regular visitors, with spotted, spinner, common, and bottle-nosed dolphins gracing the waters. You might also glimpse the gentle olive ridley turtles and the occasional Pacific green or hawksbill turtle as they glide through the park's pristine aquatic realm.

Operated and managed by the government, Marino Ballena National Park warmly welcomes visitors daily from 7 AM to 4 PM. At the park ranger station, you'll find convenient restroom facilities and the opportunity to acquire a deeper understanding of this natural wonder. The entrance fee, a mere $6 per person, supports the park's conservation efforts. Although there are no overnight accommodations within the park, the nearby town of Uvita offers a range of welcoming hotels, ensuring your stay is as comfortable as it is captivating.

Marino Ballena National Park is a year-round haven for nature enthusiasts. While dolphins frolic in these waters throughout the year, humpback whales make their grand entrances from both the northern and southern hemispheres. For the most enchanting whale-watching experiences, plan your visit between December and March, and again from August to October, when these magnificent creatures grace the park with their presence. Whether you're an avid marine lover or simply seeking an unforgettable coastal escape, Marino Ballena National Park promises a symphony of natural beauty that will resonate in your heart forever.

A whale breaches the surface

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Dolphins & Whales in Marino Ballena National Park

Marino Ballena National Park, located along Costa Rica's South Pacific coast, is renowned for its remarkable marine life, including the majestic whales that frequent its waters. The park is particularly famous for hosting humpback whales, and these gentle giants are a major attraction for visitors. Here's some fascinating information about the whales in Marino Ballena National Park:

1. Humpback Whales:

  • Migratory Marvels: Humpback whales are migratory creatures, and Marino Ballena is a vital stop on their journey. They visit the park's warm tropical waters from both the northern and southern hemispheres.
  • Breeding and Calving: The primary reason humpback whales flock to Marino Ballena is for breeding and calving. The park's protected and nutrient-rich waters offer a safe haven for these essential life events.
  • Seasonal Visitors: The best times to witness these magnificent creatures in Marino Ballena National Park are during specific seasons. The main whale-watching seasons are from December to March and then again from August to October. During these periods, you're more likely to witness their impressive displays of breaching, tail-slapping, and fin-waving.
  • Whale-Watching Tours: To observe humpback whales in their natural habitat, many local tour operators offer guided whale-watching tours. These tours provide a thrilling opportunity to see these colossal creatures up close as they go about their activities.

2. False Orcas and Pilot Whales:

  • While humpback whales steal the spotlight, Marino Ballena National Park is also frequented by other whale species, including false orcas (also known as pseudorcas) and pilot whales.
  • False orcas are known for their striking black and white coloring and resemble orcas (killer whales) from a distance.
  • Pilot whales, on the other hand, are highly social and often seen swimming together in tight-knit pods.

3. Dolphins:

  • In addition to whales, the park's waters are home to various dolphin species. Spotted, spinner, common, and bottlenose dolphins are among the frequent visitors.
  • Dolphins are known for their playful behaviors and are often seen riding the bow waves of boats, providing delightful and energetic displays for lucky onlookers.

4. Whale-Watching Tours:

  • To maximize your chances of encountering these incredible marine mammals, consider joining a whale-watching tour led by experienced guides. These tours are not only educational but also provide opportunities for memorable encounters with the whales and dolphins of Marino Ballena National Park.

5. Responsible Whale Watching:

When embarking on whale-watching tours, it's essential to choose operators who prioritize responsible and eco-friendly practices to minimize disturbances to these sensitive creatures and their natural habitat. Respectful observation is key to the well-being of the whales and the sustainability of this remarkable experience.

Marino Ballena National Park offers a unique and captivating opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring presence of humpback whales, false orcas, pilot whales, and playful dolphins in their natural habitat. The park's commitment to conservation and responsible tourism ensures that these marine giants continue to grace its waters, providing unforgettable moments for all who venture to its shores.

Elan at Ballena Beach

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Best Hotels Near Marino Ballena National Park

1. Rancho Pacifico:

Luxury Jungle Retreat: Rancho Pacifico is a luxurious jungle retreat perched on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It offers stunning panoramic views, private villas with plunge pools, and exquisite dining. The hotel is known for its impeccable service and eco-friendly practices.

2. Kura Villas:

Boutique Luxury: Kura Villas is an upscale boutique hotel offering a secluded and intimate experience. With modern design, infinity pools, and ocean-view villas, it's a perfect romantic getaway. The hotel also has a renowned restaurant serving gourmet cuisine.

3. Elan at Ballena Beach:

Beachfront Elegance: Elan at Ballena Beach is a beachfront condominium complex with elegantly appointed suites and stunning ocean views. It offers a blend of luxury and comfort for travelers seeking a tranquil coastal escape.

4. Hotel Cristal Ballena:

Tropical Paradise: Hotel Cristal Ballena is a tropical paradise set in lush gardens with ocean views. The hotel features comfortable rooms, a refreshing pool, and an on-site restaurant. It's a great option for families and couples looking for a relaxing stay.

5. Oxygen Jungle Villas:

Secluded Serenity: Oxygen Jungle Villas offers secluded serenity in the rainforest with private villas and infinity pools. The hotel's minimalist design blends seamlessly with nature, providing an eco-friendly and tranquil atmosphere.

6. The Terraces at San Martin:

Ocean-View Vacation Rentals: The Terraces at San Martin offers ocean-view condos with spacious balconies. It's an excellent choice for travelers looking for a home-away-from-home experience with modern amenities and proximity to the park.
These hotels near Marino Ballena National Park provide a range of accommodations, from luxurious jungle retreats to beachfront elegance and comfortable eco-friendly options. Whether you're seeking a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or a tranquil escape, these establishments offer a perfect base for exploring the natural beauty of Marino Ballena and its stunning surroundings.

Dinner at Kuru Villas

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The Best Restaurants Near Marino Ballena National Park

1. Bar Restaurant Los Laureles:

Local Flavors: Bar Restaurant Los Laureles is a popular local eatery known for its Costa Rican cuisine. It offers a welcoming atmosphere and a menu filled with traditional dishes, including casados (typical Costa Rican plates), fresh seafood, and tropical fruit drinks. This is an excellent place to savor authentic flavors.

2. Pizza Time:

Pizza with a View: Pizza Time is a charming restaurant that combines delicious pizzas with Italian delights. The menu includes a variety of pizza options, including vegan and vegetarian choices, making it a great spot for a casual and satisfying meal for all.

3. Ballena Bistro:

Gourmet Dining: Ballena Bistro is a gourmet restaurant known for its exquisite culinary creations. It offers a diverse menu that includes salads, burgers, and vegetarian options, all prepared with locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant's cozy ambiance and attentive service make it a perfect choice for a casual evening.

4. Soda Ranchito Dona Maria:

Costa Rican Comfort Food: Soda Ranchito Dona Maria is a cozy and casual soda (small local restaurant) that serves up classic Costa Rican comfort food. You can expect to find casados, gallo pinto (rice and beans), and other traditional dishes. It's an affordable and satisfying option for a taste of local cuisine.

5. The Bamboo Room:

Beachfront Dining: The Bamboo Room offers beachfront dining with a laid-back atmosphere. The menu features a variety of dishes, including fresh seafood, burgers, and tropical cocktails. It's an excellent place to unwind and enjoy the coastal ambiance.

These restaurants near Marino Ballena National Park offer a diverse range of dining experiences, from authentic Costa Rican flavors to gourmet cuisine and casual beachfront dining. Whether you're in the mood for traditional dishes or international fare, these establishments provide delicious options to complement your visit to this stunning coastal area.

A dolphin

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Facts At a Glance

Region: South Pacific
Closest town: Uvita
Size in hectares: 5,510 (13,616 acres)
Year established: 1990
Elevation in meters: 0 – 5 (0 16 feet)
Private managed: no
Government managed: yes
Rangers station: yes
Overnight facilities: no
Public restrooms: yes
Entrance fee: $6 per person for foreigners and non-residents. Children under the age of 11 years old are free.
Days: daily
Hours: 07:00 - 16:00
Hiking trails: yes (beach trails)
Boat tours: yes
Average temperature range in Fahrenheit: 70 - 90
Average yearly precipitation in millimeters: 3,900 (154 inches)
Habitat: coral reef, rainforest, beach

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Marino Ballena National Park Weather & Best Times to Visit

Marino Ballena National Park, situated on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica, enjoys a tropical climate characterized by warm temperatures and distinct wet and dry seasons. Here's an overview of the weather you can expect at Marino Ballena National Park throughout the year:

Dry Season (December to April):

  • The dry season is the most popular time to visit Marino Ballena National Park, with clear skies and minimal rainfall.
  • Average High Temperature: 86°F (30°C)
  • Average Low Temperature: 72°F (22°C)
  • You can expect plenty of sunshine during this period, making it ideal for beach activities, snorkeling, and hiking in the park's rainforest trails.

Wet Season (May to November):

  • The wet season at Marino Ballena brings more frequent and heavier rainfall, especially in the afternoons and evenings. 
  • Average High Temperature: 85°F (29°C)
  • Average Low Temperature: 71°F (22°C)
  • Despite the rainfall, the park remains lush and green during this time, offering excellent opportunities for observing wildlife and enjoying the vibrant flora.


  • Marino Ballena National Park experiences a significant amount of rainfall, with an annual average of around 120 to 160 inches (300 to 400 cm).
  • The wettest months are typically September and October, with the heaviest downpours.


  • High humidity is a constant feature of Marino Ballena's climate year-round, making it feel tropical and lush.

Weather Variability:

  • It's important to note that weather in the tropics can be unpredictable, and rainfall can vary from year to year. Even during the dry season, brief showers are possible, so it's advisable to be prepared for some rain.

Best Time to Visit:

The best time to visit Marino Ballena National Park for dry and sunny weather is during the dry season from December to April. This period is perfect for beach activities, whale watching, and exploring the park's trails. If you don't mind occasional rain and prefer lush green landscapes, the wet season can be a rewarding time to visit, especially for wildlife enthusiasts.

Marino Ballena National Park's climate ensures a lush and vibrant environment throughout the year, making it a captivating destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. Whether you prefer the sun-drenched days of the dry season or the lush beauty of the wet season, Marino Ballena's natural wonders are waiting to be explored.

Scarlett Macaws

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Transportation to Marino Ballena

While it's not an absolute necessity to have a rental car for your journey to Marino Ballena National Park, we highly recommend considering one. The Uvita and Costa Ballena region, though enchanting, boasts a spread-out layout, and having the convenience of a rental car can truly enhance your experience. Alternatively, you can opt for private transfers, which offer the flexibility of pick-up from anywhere in Costa Rica, or shuttle transfers from various well-traveled destinations and national parks for your convenience.

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Marino Ballena National Park Packing List


  • Lightweight, breathable clothing such as T-shirts, shorts, and swimsuits.
  • Long-sleeve shirts and pants for sun protection and to guard against insects.
  • Comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots for exploring the park's trails.
  • Sandals or flip-flops for beach and water activities.
  • Rain jacket or poncho, especially if visiting during the wet season.
  • Hat and sunglasses for sun protection.

Beach Essentials:

  • Sunscreen with high SPF for sun protection.
  • Beach towels or quick-drying travel towels.
  • Beach bag to carry your essentials.
  • Snorkeling gear if you plan to explore the underwater world.

Outdoor Gear:

  • Daypack or small backpack for carrying essentials during hikes.
  • Binoculars for wildlife and birdwatching.
  • Camera or smartphone with a waterproof case to capture memories.
  • Reusable water bottle to stay hydrated during your outdoor adventures.
  • Insect repellent to protect against mosquitoes and other bugs.

Travel Documents:

  • Passport, visa (if required), and a photocopy stored separately.
  • Travel insurance information.
  • Maps or GPS device for navigation if not using a rental car.

Personal Items:

  • Personal toiletries, including eco-friendly options to minimize your environmental impact.
  • Medications and a basic first-aid kit.
  • Any necessary prescription medications.

Money and Security:

  • Cash in the local currency (Costa Rican Colón) for small purchases and markets.
  • Credit/debit cards for larger expenses.
  • Travel wallet or money belt for added security.


  • Travel adapters and chargers for your electronic devices.
  • Power bank for keeping your devices charged on the go.


  • Spanish phrasebook or language translation app for communication.
  • Eco-friendly reusable shopping bags to reduce plastic waste.
  • Travel umbrella or lightweight rain poncho.
  • Sense of adventure and curiosity to fully embrace the beauty of Marino Ballena National Park!

Remember to tailor this packing list to your specific needs and preferences. The key is to pack comfortably and be prepared for both sunny and rainy weather, as the park's climate can be unpredictable. Enjoy your visit to Marino Ballena National Park and its stunning natural wonders! Visit our packing suggestion list for more ideas.

Fun Fact: Marino Ballena National Park is the best place in Costa Rica to observe whales from shore, though do keep in mind boat rides will bring you much closer.

Nearby Destinations

Uvita1 km
Dominical17 km
San Isidro50 km
Sierpe59 km
Manuel Antonio64 km


Latitude: N 9° 9' 24.93"
Longitude: W 83° 44' 51.22"

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