Whale watching off the coasts of Costa Rica

The spectacular jumps of the humpback whales

To see a whale in its natural habitat is a dream that can come true during a whale watching tour in Costa Rica. The very first sighting is an unforgettable moment but even those who have seen whales before know that every encounter with the giant marine mammals gives you goosebumps. The best chances to see whales in Costa Rica are on the South Pacific coast from Drake Bay around Isla del Caño or in the Marina Ballena National Park. 

In the morning you will depart on the boat with experienced skippers and guides out to the open sea. If you start your tour from Uvita you can expect an exciting trip along the coast past impressive rock formations and offshore islands where numerous sea birds play. Depending on the weather there is a stop at a reef for snorkeling. The skippers are in contact with each other so that the position of a sighted whale can be passed on quickly. 

The most commonly sighted whales are humpbacks which come to the warm waters off Costa Rica’s coast to give birth to their offspring. There are two defined seasons for whale watching, however, late July and September is the best time to see the humpback whales coming from the southern hemisphere. Between December and March you can find the humpback whales of the northern hemisphere. Surely you will rave about your encounter with the whales for a long time, because humpback whales are known for their “show performances” with spectacular jumps called breaching. There is also a good chance to see a baby whale with its mother. 

Of course whale watching is not a show. We invade the habitat of the animals and try to do so in a particularly considerate way thanks to very strict laws in Costa Rica. Minimum distances to the animals must be strictly observed and touching or swimming with whales is strictly prohibited. We only book responsible whale watching tour operators in Costa Rica and we test the operators on site.

Our tip: You never have a guarantee to see the marine mammals. Even if you don’t see a whale, you can enjoy the great views of the gorgeous coastline, the vastness of the sea and maybe you’ll even see dolphins and sea turtles along the way. Of course, we understand that you would like to capture the experience but don’t just look through your camera in search of the perfect photo. We recommend to put the camera aside once in a while and enjoy the moment of this extraordinary encounter consciously.

Answers to common questions

The trips from Uvita usually start in the morning around 8:30am and sometimes tours are offered in the afternoon that start around 1:30pm.

The tours last about 3.5 to 4 hours, depending on the provider. Often a snorkeling tour is included in the excursion.

Since you are going out to sea by boat, no special fitness is required. However, you should not have any problems with seasickness and if snorkeling you should know how to swim.

The skippers are experienced and the companies are certified to conduct whale watching tours in the protected areas. Of course you will be equipped with a life jacket. The boat tour is not recommended for pregnant women. Persons with heart or back problems should consult with the skippers or responsible persons on site.

Children 4 years and older can join the tour.

  • Bathing suit
  • Sunscreen
  • Sandals
  • Towel
  • Camera (preferably in a bag that protects against splashing water)

The cost ranges from about $80-90 for adults and $30-50 for children depending on the time of year. At Marino Ballena National Park the price includes the entrance fee to the park as well.

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